“The Last Ship”
Hey guys! We’re here with the midseason finale, and everything is focused on the vikings–no trips to Wessex or Rome this go around. The show starts where we left off last episode, with Ragnar and the vikings rowing up river on their floating platforms. Ragnar himself looks half mad, while everyone else looks stern and at the ready.
The French are ready for them, rowing out to meet them, with Rollo at the head of one ship. It seems we are about to see our first boat battle of the show, folks.
Meanwhile in Paris, everyone is praying, trying not to lose faith. This includes Gilsa, who is in a private chapel, praying at the feet of a Virgin Mary statue. As she implores the Holy Mother not to take her husband away, the statue starts to weep. The symbolism is heavy, but unlike the times we have seen Christ cry blood on this show, I feel less fear in the symbolism of this act, but more sadness. Brother against Brother has heavily symbolism in the Christian faith, and I don’t think that should be lost upon viewers.
We switch back over to the battle, and I have to say, the music score is pitch perfect as the battle starts. Archers are at the ready on both sides, but it seems that Bjorn is having to lead things instead of Ragnar, who stays silent, eyes training for any sight of Rollo. It’s sad to see him so diminished, but at the same time, I’m so pleased to see Bjorn stepping up as a leader in his own right. The first wave of the fight is brutal–bodies and blood everywhere. Ragnar doesn’t raise a sword at all, but instead just grips to his medicine. The vikings manage to fight off the first wave, and the French retreat.
While the French are (understandably) disheartened by the losses, Rollo gives a great, rousing speech about how this is the only moment that matters in life. I genuinely love how much Rollo’s grown as a character over this season. His time in France has changed him for the better, and while it has taken him from his brother…perhaps it had to be done. He had lived in Ragnar’s shadow for so long, he never truly knew who he could become.
Bjorn seems at a loss of what Rollo will do next and Ragnar says that Rollo will do what he always does–attack. He then takes the last of the medicine and drops the bag to the ground. It seems Ragnar is finally ready to fight. Though if he is ready for the fight is another thing entirely.
Just before the second attack starts, Lagertha asks Ragnar if the Gods favor them. Bjorn butts in and says yes, but she quickly cuts him off, saying that she needs to hear that from Ragnar–but he stays completely silent on the matter. I have no doubt that he has no faith in the Gods any longer. He’s completely lost his way; truly do the Gods matter to him, as long as he can take down his brother?
In Paris, Therese, Roland, and Emperor Charles are having dinner. In an incredible twist, Charles reveals he’s been playing Therese and Roland this entire time–that he had only been pretending to be half-mad. He literally and figuratively fucked them over. He states that he trusts Rollo fully and completely…and then kills them. I’m actually really displeased with this turn of events. Roland and Therese were a great foil for Gilsa and Rollo, and to have them so summarily removed from the show seems too neat an end. They truly only came into their own in this season, and they were removed before it was halfway over. I genuinely believe so much more could have been done with them, and killing them is a mistake on the writer’s part.
But back to the battle; it seems the Seer (still in Kattegat) can sense the battle, or ‘see’ it in some manner, and cries out each time one of our vikings is in distress. Which is quite often, given the nature of this second attack. The fighting escalates, but Ragnar still holds back, waiting to engage Rollo.
When Rollo finally steps upon the viking’s boat, that’s when Ragnar springs into action, and the fight between the two brothers starts. Few words are exchanged, but the physicality is what matters: no quarter is given, and by the end, they are simply punching the utter shit out of one another. No weapons, just fists to each other’s faces.
And what of our other vikings? Floki catches a knife to the side, and Lagertha, in her attempt to help Ragnar, goes down fighting two French soldiers as Bjorn watches, horrified. Tovi and Bjorn manage to get her onto a retreating boat. Ragnar demands to be left, to finish out the fight with Rollo, but his men grab him, and he is dragged onto ship, a broken man.
In Paris, Rollo returns, victorious, but can barely walk. Gilsa is so happy to see him–and he is so happy to see her. As upset as he clearly is over the fight with his brother, the utter joy and relief both of them have at seeing each other makes me love them all the more. I also couldn’t help but laugh that when Gilsa kissed him– she came away with blood on her mouth and she didn’t care–that woman is amazing. Emperor Charles hails Rollo as Cesare, and I really don’t think that will bode well for him.
Meanwhile, the vikings look utterly defeated.
So. This would have been an amazing place for the midseason finale to finish (more on this later). But it didn’t. Instead, we head over to Kattegat, where years have passed.
Aslaug continues to do her best Drunk Cersei (™) impression, and Bjorn is now in charge of the town (no mention of his dead daughter, so I suppose that storyline went nowhere), and he is told by a traveler of what has been going on in Wessex: that Magnus exists, and that the settlement was destroyed and Ragnar knew all along (guess killing Yidu was another wasted storyline). Through this we find out that Ragnar disappeared soon after the vikings returned and no one knows where he is.
Bjorn goes to speak to his half-brothers about these new revelations; all of them are full grown teenagers now. All of them basically feel Ragnar has abandoned and betrayed Kattegat and them, personally–save Ivar, who (as suspected) has turned into quite the little sociopath.
There is the decision that perhaps if Ragnar shows back up, they should kill him. Bjorn doesn’t weigh in on what the boys decide, but simply says that Ragnar was, “a human. Not a god, but a man.” It’s clear that Bjorn still loves his father dearly, despite his faults.
After the meeting with the sons, Bjorn goes to visit Floki; this is just to establish that Bjorn is going to travel to the Mediterranean, as he has planned to before, following his map. Again, so much of this feels like information that should be given to us in the episode after the midseason break. Not before.
And before the episode ends, Ragnar returns to Kattegat and dares anyone to kill him, as he doesn’t wish to be king any longer.
As an episode, I think this was solid. As a midseason finale, however, I felt it was highly uneven. Vikings has been known to do multiple-year jumps within an episode before, and I have no issue with that on the surface, but it is clear that as this is the first time they have done a mid-season finale, they weren’t sure how to handle it.
I feel that everything that happened past leaving France could have been shown after mid-season break, and the episode would have been better for it. It would have allowed them to extend the fight scenes, (perhaps given more time to the situation in Paris) and given more weight to the fight between Rollo and Ragnar. We could have also had time to wrap up in Kattegat before jumping forward in time: we needed to deal with Siggy’s death, with the Seer’s visions, with Lagertha’s injuries. There is a great deal that has been left out, and it seems will not be covered unless they do a flashback, and I doubt the show will do so.
Instead, we are provided with all of this expository information to catch us up with what has happened in the years after France, which, again, would have been better served after the end of the break. It didn’t feel like a natural story beat; all of the information felt like it would have come at the beginning of an episode, instead of at the end, and I think the episode suffered for it.
As for a return date…? Who knows! We don’t know yet, but I’ll let you know as soon as I find out.