One of the things that my wife and I did for Christmas was get ourselves an Amazon Prime subscription, and naturally we used it to watch all sorts of great films that we’d been promising ourselves we would catch up with …
… well, OK, we did watch one or two good things but also I gorged on what’s out so far of season “5.1” (again, it’s totally season 6; this show’s season numbering is an unacceptable pretension) of Vikings.
Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear.
Don’t get me wrong; I really enjoy Vikings. It looks great and it’s often genuinely funny. But it doesn’t … what’s the phrase I’m looking for … make a whole lot of sense.
The central theme of this season is, I guess, the developing rivalry between the Ragnarssons, with Hvitserk torn between the level-headed leadership of Ubbe and the psycho ambitions of Ivarr. Meanwhile, Bjorn is off … basically just goofing around in the Mediterranean, a subplot that works only because Alexander Ludwig is at his best when Bjorn is being a charming doofus.
Having killed off all its extraneous characters in the previous seasons, Vikings now introduces a bunch of new ones, including Nice Cousin Whatsisname, The Greek Guy, and Guthrum, who I guess was technically in it already. Guthrum doesn’t die, for a wonder, since he is a Historical Character who is presumably being set up in advance for an eventual shoeing from Alfred. We also get the discovery of Iceland, including cameos from Ketil Flatnose and Aud the Deep-minded, who must be upset that no one can seem to agree how to pronounce her name.
The other big plot is Harald Fairhair’s desire to become king of all of Norway, which is kind of confusing. For one thing, this isn’t the reason that everyone moves to Iceland, even though medieval Icelanders could barely shut up about it. For another, no one points out to him that his ambition to conquer Lagertha’s town of Kattegat is a little weird since it is in Denmark. Wasn’t Donal Logue the king of Denmark way the hell back in seasons 1 and 2?
The show seems to think that it’s best feature is its battle scenes, which is … I don’t know. They are full of energy and gore and people getting hit with axes, which I guess is fun, but the fact that they don’t make any sense tends to get in the way. Take the ambush in York, for instance. Aethelwulf and Heahmund are lured into the city, believing that Ivarr and his forces have left. They even say the ships are gone, although they are not. How they left is not clear, since it’s not like one Viking can just stand in the back and fire up the Evinrude, but leave that aside.
They go into the city, and then Ivarr springs his ambush; his men, who have been concealed inside the sewers, rush up out of the manholes and attack. Now, what this means is that some poor sod of a choreographer had to block a scene in which the Vikings clamber one by one out of a narrow opening and the English just …
… stand around like dumbasses. Like, I am not a great tactician and I do not know anything about sword fighting, but I reckon that while a guy is using both his hands to climb up a ladder and is pinned in a narrow opening is an excellent time to stab him in his stupid face. You don’t even have to get that fancy; you could just bop him on the head with a big rock. Once he’s dead, you can kick him back down the ladder and, I don’t know, just put your shield on the manhole cover and stand on it.
Once you’ve got that sorted out, it’s Warhammer 4th Edition time. As we have seen from these battle scenes, no one without a name can possibly harm Aethelwulf or Heahmund, and there are only two Vikings in the entire city with names. In the narrow frontage of the sewer tunnels, the Vikings won’t know which direction you’re coming from, and the restricted width means you can just put Aethelwulf and Heahmund at the front and mince your way through the average Vikings until you get to Ivarr and And Hvitserk Too, which I believe is his full name. Then, I dunno, into your hands, blind Justice, and may God defend the right or something. Or just walk off and let a guy who can’t stand up and a guy with a scrubby little moustache rule York from the sewers, I dunno.
My point is basically that it’s not very impressive when your devious mastermind wins the day with a plan that wouldn’t fool a babby.
Also, does Judith have ears now?! I swear she had the tops of her ears cut off for adultery way back in Season 2 or 3 and started wearing her hair down so that people wouldn’t see. Now they’re back. Did they regenerate? Does she revert to her Platonic form when we’re not looking at her?
Anyway, I don’t know what I was expecting. It’s Vikings. It’s silly fun. I find it frustrating but I wouldn’t give it up.
I miss Rollo.