So what an episode to have after Christmas, right? I’m not sure how I feel about it, to be honest. While the show has been really pushing a couple big ‘deaths’ this season, the person we lost tonight hadn’t really been around that long. His stay on the show has been running thin for a lot of fans despite being a big named actor–and as someone who enjoyed him when he first showed up, I can’t say that I’m sad to see Heahmund go.
Kattegat wasn’t a main focus this episode (hell, Iceland wasn’t mentioned at all), so I’ll do a quick summary: Hvitserk knows Ivar killed the Seer, and Ivar is determined to make sure people think he isn’t the one who murdered the man.
While we have a few other moments showing Ivar’s vulnerability (including him calling Freydis ‘goodness and truth’), there were no major plot movements here.
–though seriously, how is time passing, as Freydis looks pretty pregnant.
Most of this episode is devoted to the lead up to the large battle between Harald’s vikings and Alfred’s army. While I think fighting is where this show often excels, at this point most of the battles are starting to bleed into one another, both visually and emotionally. I know it has to be difficult to do something different time and time again (especially after five seasons), but things shouldn’t feel repetitive.
Prior to the battle, Heahmund apparently has a very terrible nightmare (one he considers a vision) where Christ came to him and told him he’d be going to Hell for all he’s done–as a result he decides he has to renounce Lagertha. It’s frustrating on so many levels; on the one, it is obviously just a contrivance to make his death more ‘tragic’ and to provide Lagertha more pain. On top of that, Jonathan Rhys Meyers is doing such a poor job of acting at this point, I just see over acting.
In much better scenes, we get more interaction between Alfred and Ubbe; I find their friendship truly endearing and it’s one of the real positive things to come from the Vikings being in Wessex. Ubbe tells Alfred to not only believe in him–but he needs to believe in himself. It’s clear they are giving Ubbe the ‘blue glow’ in his eyes that Ragnar used to have, signifying that Hirst (showrunner) has decided to have Ubbe be the true heir to Ragnar at this point–something I would agree with.
We also see Judith speak to her sons about taking care of one another on the battlefield, as she goes off to torture one of the assassination conspirators. Seriously–I don’t really remember Judith being this vicious, but I guess a mother will do whatever it takes to protect a child.
On the eve of battle, Ubbe goes to visit Harald to try and find some sort of compromise–or at least that’s what he says. We find out the woman I thought was Bjorn’s ex wife is actually Olavsonn’s wife, Gunnhild. Harald doubts that Alfred will be true to his word regarding the Vikings, but again Ubbe asserts his trust.
While a compromise is suggested, Harald asks for a day to think about it, and Ubbe agrees. We find out, however, that Ubbe only agreed so that the Wessex troops would have time to flank Harald’s men and surround them. It’s a pretty big dick move, and not one that I would have expected of Ubbe–but all’s fair in war I suppose, right? We also find out that Magnus has gone over to Harald’s side to fight, which is not a surprising turn of events.
I’m not interested in describing the battle in detail; nothing about what we are seeing is entirely new, though I do appreciate how Alfred’s speech is interspersed with the action, his blood-covered face punctuating the actual battle as we cut back and forth.
One interesting tactic that Alfred and Ubbe thought of was to cover certain areas of the ground with pitch so it would set aflame, not allowing for an easy attack from Harald’s men. The orchestral music swells as the battle reaches a fever pitch, and I have to credit the score for making things seem more epic than normal.
Olvasonn is taken out early in the fight, leaving Gunnhild both husbandless, and ready to seek vengeance, which comes with her having a one on one battle with Bjorn. This is clearly trying to set up some connection between them, especially since we see her as one of the captured vikings at the end of the episode. Does the man really need a sixth(?) wife/lover? I don’t think so. But I guess that’s what we’re going to get.
We also are subjected to the most overwrought death scene courtesy of Heahmund. Now, if I still cared about him, maybe I would feel differently–but the swell of music, him screaming out Lagertha’s name (guess he still cares after all), and the slow motion shots of him getting shot with arrows, Boromir-style, was just too much. Of course there are lots of close ups of Lagertha’s face as well, pained and beautiful, all in slowmo. Look, I wanted Lagertha to be happy, but make no mistake, this wasn’t some grand love story no matter how hard they are attempting to make it feel like one.
Soon Harald realizes that the battle is lost and he retreats, leaving Alfred to give a touching speech about Heahmund; he acknowledges the sacrifices the Vikings made as well for the cause, which I think will be good for them in the long run. Lagertha isn’t there, though, as she’s disappeared–what that means, I’m not sure. Hopefully she hasn’t been captured to be sacrificed by Harald and company.
Of course, things aren’t all sunshine and rainbows, as during the celebration feast, Judith tells Alfred that she’s discovered who was the leader of the assassination plot: his brother Aethelred. …so that’s not good.
Overall, this episode was good; we cut some dead weight finally, and didn’t have to go to Iceland. I’m interested to see where we’re going for the last episodes of the season now that some of the soap-opera drama in Wessex is gone.