4 March 2019

REVIEW: Vikings season 5B


*I do not own any of these images*

Today I'm sharing a review of History's Vikings! The first half of this post will be more of a general review of season 5B, then I'll talk about the main characters (that part will contain spoilers but I'll be sure to warn you!).

Vikings is one of my top favorite shows. It is a fantastic production totally unique in the way that it undertakes characters and story-lines. Vikings has large time gaps through-out the seasons (anything from a couple of months to 10 years) and doesn't seek to paint characters as either fully 'good' or 'evil'. For those of you who haven't heard of it: Vikings tells the story of famous norseman Ragnar Lothbrok and his family.
Although some characters have been with us the full 5 seasons we have seen many come and go, a more realistic approach to story-telling as it imitates the unpredictability of life. It has been incredible to watch these characters grow, develop and age! Many we have seen age 30+ years with a clever use of prosthetics, hair and make-up. So rarely do we get to follow a character through-out their whole lifetime, through all the ups and downs of life and not just one single important event. It's so exciting to see how the events earlier on in the seasons impact the characters now, we have much more to explore and play with! On top of that we get to see the role the characters play in Historical events in Scandinavia, Paris and Wessex.

Season 5 is on a whole new level. The main cast has been slightly reshuffled to focus on the children of the original main characters. This was a huge shock at first but all the new cast members have proved themselves. Each and every one of them holds their ground. Their characters have already been so well established and they've barely been with us 2 seasons: their body language, mannerisms, fighting techniques, morals, beliefs, their general behavior- everything is so wonderfully detailed. On top of that we never know what to expect from them, because none of the characters are fully good or bad. They all make mistakes and all of them have done questionable, even outright awful things. This is something I can really appreciate in TV series as it can be easy to fall into the predictable good vs evil plot. The series does not sugarcoat what the Vikings did. It doesn't glamourize their lives or paint them as perfect people for the sake of it. It simply tells a story, and lets the viewers make their own judgement (I could write a WHOLE BUNCH OF THINGS about this but I'll keep it short for the sake of this post). This is the kind of tv my film graduate self has always wanted. I just can't get enough.

Now let's talk about Season 5B! Beware MAJOR SPOILERS. Do not read unless you're completely up-to-date.




We waited a long time for this half of season 5, 11 months to be exact! Michael Hirst (the writer) has done an incredible job shifting the focus from Ragnar to his sons. However Ragnar remains a key figure in Vikings and if 5B has proven anything, it's that he will always be present in the series.
We get to see him again in several flashbacks as his words echo in the minds of his sons and lover.  We see what kind of world Ragnar has left behind: a world shaped by his famous deeds. His name is legend and the show honours him in a beautiful way through-out the episodes. It was enough to make me shed a few tears. Despite the omnipresence of Ragnar's character, you can't help but miss him.

We could say that the second half of season 5 was split into 3 parts: Floki and the failed settlement in Iceland, Ivar and Hvitsurk in Kattegat, Bjorn, Ubbe, Torvi and Lagertha fighting battles in Wessex with the King. The theme of the season was, once again, family. Each 'group' had their own family issues to deal with. The Iceland settlers had to overcome personal quarrels in an unforgiving landscape. The strength of the Royal family in Wessex faltered under violence and betrayal from within. And finally the sons of Ragnar had to face their own differences: the death of their father brought them together but now they are all left to find their own way in this world. They can no longer rely on a father figure or their mother to guide them. Where does that leave them?

5B really took the time to explore the character dynamics. We got to see how these vital relationships were formed and the impact they have on all parties.


A few words about the main characters:

Ubbe & Alfred

Of all the sons of Ragnar, Ubbe (Jordan Patrick Smith) is most like his father. This season illustrated his curiosity, patience and intelligence. He has his head on straight. He is like Ragnar is so many ways: the physical appearance, fighting skills and vision. He inherited all of Ragnar's best traits and seems like a pretty decent Viking! On top of that, he is likable just like Ragnar, which plays to his advantage. He succeeds where Ragnar failed: there is now a successful Viking settlement in Wessex. His honesty and drive shaped a positive relationship with King Alfred which led to political gain among Saxons and Vikings alike. I feel as though Ubbe really came into his own in 5B, he is a real leader. Hats off to Jordan Patrick Smith for such a captivating performance. There were many nods to Athelstan and Ragnar in the scenes between Alfred and Ubbe which was wonderful.
Ferdia Walsh-Peelo gave an incredible performance as King Alfred. I was in awe. Alfred is an intelligent and fair ruler, I'm interested to see how he will deal with his duties without his mother at his side. He now has the support of the Vikings and his wife, but he still is vulnerable. His own brother conspired to kill him. His illness is unpredictable. There are traitors in his court. Many of his people fear the Vikings. How will that come into play in the final season?

Hvitsurk & Ivar

I have to speak about both Hvitsurk and Ivar (played by Marco Ilsø and Alex Høgh Andersen respectively) together as their paths were so closely intwined in 5B.

As the episodes progress, Hvitsurk begins to regret his decision to join Ivar. This comes as no surprise as his younger brother has taken every opportunity to belittle him and hurt those closest to him. I had wondered why Hvitsurk had left Ubbe in the first place, so I was glad to see them address this towards the end of the season with Hvitsurk admitting that he didn't really know what he wanted to achieve in life. Until now he had been quite content in following his brothers in their endeavours.
I really appreciated the character arc the talented warrior had this season: Hvitsurk matures quite a lot through his relationships with Margrethe and Thora as well as his relationship with Ivar. As Hvitsurk realizes what Ivar is capable of, he understands he can no longer live as he once did. The time has come to make his own decisions, which brings about a lot of personal growth.
I'm excited to see what his future holds for this character, although things aren't looking so good for him in the Season 6 preview. Hvitsurk now has a clear idea of what he wants to achieve but it appears he isn't looking too far ahead into the future. If he succeeds in his plan to kill Ivar, what does he want to do after that? Does he have no other ambition other than revenge? Hopefully the final season will offer some answers.
[As a quick side-note, I have to mention the Buddha episode! I really appreciated the opportunity to learn more about Hvitsurk.]


Ivar's story-line this season was focused on his tyrannical rule of Kattegat. Bjorn couldn't have said it better: Ivar was destroying everything Ragnar had fought for. Whilst Ragnar was a good ruler who listened to his people, Ivar is a dictator who rules with fear and violence. Michael Hirst's brilliant writing offers us a good explanation of Ivar's behaviour. His character is such an interesting study: there is so much to unpack. His mother was overprotective of him when he was growing up so we can assume that he rarely had to face consequences of his actions. This relationship might also explain this God-Complex Ivar possesses. With Floki, Ragnar and Aslaug gone he no longer has anyone to guide him. Is he following his own dreams, or expectations that have been thrust upon him? He has a deep need to prove himself and relies on fear to get what he wants (or what he thinks he wants). Let's not forget that it was Ragnar, his idol, who told Ivar that one day everyone would know and fear Ivar the Boneless.
Ivar truly believes he is destined for great things and appears to have little to no empathy towards his brothers. The world was cruel to him and so he is cruel to the world. He uses fear as a protective shield: not once has he shown any vulnerability in front of his people. This mindset explains his treatment of Hvitsurk this season: no doubt a way to control him whilst protecting himself. The need to constantly put him down to gain some sort of equal ground. Let's not forget how Ivar showed no gratitude towards Hvitsurk for jumping onto the boat back to Kattegat. I think that reflects his inner belief that he is right and deserves to have that support, whatever the cost.
I'm glad we saw more of an emotional side to Ivar this season: the only time we saw him be vulnerable was when he let his guard down around Freydis and opened up to her. We saw the terror and raw emotions he'd been holding onto his whole life when his son was tragically born with a facial deformity. A shocking twist that prompts Ivar to unleash a new wave of fear and violence onto the world. These events will no doubt force him to reconsider his beliefs: is he truly favoured by the Gods?

Bjorn

Bjorn is a natural born leader and truly fulfilled his destiny in 5B! He's had such a great character arc over the seasons: he made a name for himself as Bjorn Ironside and made the decision to go travelling, going further than even his father had dreamed. He is admired for his own feats, not only for being the firstborn son of the famous Ragnar Lothbrok. I really enjoyed following his journey this season. When it was revealed that Rollo may be his biological father I was pretty shocked, but Bjorn has no doubt that he is the man he is today because of how Ragnar and Lagertha raised him. He wasn't concerned in the slightest, a sign of real maturity. We should also mention that it was thanks to the loyalty of his people that he survived the attack on Kattegat. I think that says it all. What is next for Bjorn? How will he rule Kattegat? Will he seek new adventures? It'll be interesting to see how he does. He has never had this level of responsibility before.

Floki

Floki's story-line was quite slow this season but it accurately represented the situation he was in: his attempt to create a peaceful settlement in Iceland falls through. The settlers couldn't deal with the harsh environment and the challenges they faced. Their isolation and frustration eventually leads to violence and betrayal despite Floki's peaceful attempts to diffuse the situation. Gustaf Skarsgård once again gave an incredible performance. It was quite a sad story-line to be honest, I was really rooting for him but as the episodes went on we began to understand that it was an impossible feat. We don't know if he died in the accident in the cave yet but it would be a truly tragic end if he did. To discover that this land he considered beautiful beyond belief, representative of the Gods, was actually colonized by Christians? That must have destroyed him. I hope it wasn't the end, it would be great to see what impact that discovery has on him. Is the peaceful and collected Floki here to stay?

Lagertha

I truly believed that we would be saying good-bye to Lagertha this season! Thankfully she is 'not so easy to kill' and in the finale she becomes the strongest she's been in a long time. In the beautiful flashback sequence, we see her make her peace with Ragnar's death. That heart-breaking sequence offered her some closure, allowed her to overcome grief she had unknowingly been harboring for a long time. In the season 6 trailer she appears to done the armour once again. Will we see her on a throne again? Whatever the case, Lagertha remains one of the best female characters on TV and I'm SO grateful we have more to look forward to!

There are so many other female characters I need to mention: Freydis, Torvi, Judith, Gunnhild, Margrethe! Each and every one of them unique and complex. Forever grateful to have so many female characters in one season.


To wrap up this review: season 5B took us deeper into the minds of these complex characters and illustrated Ragnar's legacy. Everything is in place for the final season. Now we know more about the sons of Ragnar we can begin to speculate... but as we all know, Vikings has always been unpredictable. Who knows what will happen?

What do you hope to see in the final season?


Holly x



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