A Bear, A Princess, and The Dead #HistoryVikings

vikings banner3.:.10

“The Dead”
written by Michael Hirst
directed by Ken Girotti

.:.

“Ragnar asked me to build him one last boat.”
— Floki

.:.

deathboat

Last week, I predicted what was to come in the Vikings finale. I have been reading the Eddas and Sagas since I was nine years old. It was an easy leap to make, especially if you factor in Michael Hirst’s track record. Here’s what I wrote:

Michael Hirst likes to pull the old switcheroo with his season finales. Remember when some people thought Floki was betraying Ragnar last season, but stabbed King Horik in the back instead?

So, I wonder, is Hirst going to instead honor Ragnar’s promise to do what his allies so far could not, breach the walls of Paris by appropriating a similar ruse perpetuated by one Björn Ironside?

From wikipedia:

…Björn found himself unable to breach the town walls. To gain entry, he sent messengers to the bishop to say that he had died, had a deathbed conversion, and wished to be buried on consecrated ground within their church. He was brought into the chapel with a small honor guard, then amazed the dismayed Italian clerics by leaping from his coffin and hacking his way to the town gates, which he promptly opened, letting his army in.

I guess we’ll have to tune in for next week’s season finale to find out.

As you have undoubtedly already discovered, my suspicions rang true.

As for the episode overall, beyond the telegraphed Björn’s Saga Ruse, I felt it was a successful season-ender, moving the players into position for a series that’s already renewed for a fourth season. In fact, from what I understand, they’re already filming.

In a finale filled with strong character moments, handled brilliantly by our principle thespians (it’s nice to see how far Alexander Ludwig has come), it was Clive Standen who particularly shined.

Hirst has struggled to find a place for Rollo. Standen has always tackled the challenge with fervor, but the writing has been chaotic at best. This is reflected powerfully by his eulogy —

“I’ve always resented you, its true. I won’t deny it. I’m sorry you’re dead, but it happens to all of us sooner or later. It’s just strange the gods took you first. I always thought the gods favored you. So did you. I guess we were both mistaken.”

Always feeling himself second to his brother, Rollo has out-shined the mighty Ragnar in Paris, and I look for to the pairing of The Princess and the Bear, but has Hirst once again set him poised to be his brother’s betrayer? I hope not. Standen has handled the see-saw nature of their relationship admirably. It would be a shame to see that hard work and sacrifice to be rewarded by his character being forced to take a step backward rather than forward.

rollo

Vikings is one of my favorite shows, but Hirst’s lack of adherence to the themes he presents, his unwillingness to see them through, leaving strained sub-plots in his wake, will eventually lead to the show’s undoing. He needs better focus, a more clear understanding of what he wants to say with these characters, and he needs to see it through.

In novel form, this sort of seat-of-your-pants writing works, brilliantly so, in fact, but when you have slightly less than ten hours to tell a season’s story, then I think a little less gardening and a lot more architecture is called for.

Regardless, it will be a long off-season as I await Vikings’ return. Does a pit of vipers await Ragnar in Season 4? Will Rollo be cast in the role of adversary once again? What machinations will Ecbert put into play in his quest to dominate all of England? And what of Floki, Killer of Athelstan?

Vikings works as well as it does because it is unconventional, but the narrative strains are starting to show and now would be the perfect time to right the ship before it is run aground…

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