March 30, 2023

Gabbing Geek

Your online community for all things geeky.

Vikings “The Last Act”

Series Finale.

Well, here we are at the end of the road for Vikings.  It was a long time coming, running as many episodes as it did for as long as it did.

You know, until the sequel series shows up on Netflix.

I’m left with some odd feelings for Vikings.  I started this “different TV show every weekday” thing ages ago with five shows, namely RomePenny DreadfulThe WireHouse of Cards, and Vikings.  Most of them were shows I knew by reputation that I more or less connected to Game of Thrones, then on hiatus between seasons.   Of them, I had gotten through the first two seasons and change for The Wire but had never seen any of the others and was curious to see how they were.  At the time I started, I thought Vikings, a show I went with mostly because Jenny kept raving about it along with some other good word-of-mouth, was easily the weakest of the five.

Fast forward to the end, and my views definitely changed on Vikings.  Yeah, it was never fantastic prestige television, but it was generally consistently entertaining if nothing else, a bit of a guilty pleasure all told.  Of the original five, I think I came to look forward to Vikings the most just for the pulpy entertainment it was.  Rome ended too quickly.  Penny Dreadful ended at the right time, but that recent sequel series was terrible.  The Wire was everything I had heard it was, but also sometimes it was hard to see where it was going (it always got it right in the end though, it was just harder to see it as it went and I generally approve of that if it ends in the right way as The Wire always did).  And House of Cards….you know, technically I never finished that one.  I got tired of that one even before they fired Kevin Spacey.  That firing just gave me an excuse not to finish the show.

Vikings, if nothing else, was always consistent in quality.  The action scenes were generally well-done, making the show out to be like a somewhat low-budget Game of Thrones.  If the characters weren’t particularly deep, many were played by actors who invested enough into them to make them more worthwhile.  That’s actually why these last few episodes have felt like such a let-down.  I wouldn’t say they were terrible or anything, but why did series creator/writer Michael Hirst think I cared all that much about the fates of characters like Ubbe. Ingrid, or Hvitserk?  Ivar was interesting, but he was a psychopath in many ways.  Ubbe, as That Asshole Floki notes, looks a lot like Ragnar, and that much is very true considering I don’t believe the two actors are even remotely related, but that’s about it.  And Hvitserk?  He never really had a personality of his own, bouncing as he did from one plot to another.

All that said, the Ivar plotline did end the way it more or less should.  There was no epic showdown between Ivar and Alfred.  Instead, Ivar spots a visibly scared Saxon soldier standing next to him with a dagger and lets the guy stab him to death multiple times with a simple “Go ahead”.  The Norsemen lose the battle and most go home.  Hvitserk stays behind and becomes a Christian, probably sincerely for once for one of these people, and takes the name “Athelstan” with Alfred as his godfather.

But given how Christian kings were often portrayed as dull and feckless, it was nice to actually make Alfred, the wimpiest-looking king for the longest time, a legit badass in the end.  Ivar comes to parlay, making the usual demands to end the Viking raid, and Alfred says “no”.  He does so in a clear, commanding voice, explaining the difference between the Vikings’ pagan faith and his own, how it comes down to death (the Vikings) vs. unending eternal life (Christianity), and even pointing out quite accurately that Ivar started all this, so why should he be rewarded for such behavior?  It was the clearest and best defense for the Christian faith the show ever did.  Even back in earlier days when Athelstan was still alive and holding to his religion, he never really defined the differences between what he believed and what the Vikings did, acting more as an audience surrogate and occasional teacher, but only to Ragnar as he was the only one even remotely interested in Christianity without actually sincerely becoming a Christian.  Athelstan was as much seduced by the Vikings and their ways as the home audience presumably was.  Alfred is here to say those days are over, both historically and for the show, and it generally worked.

“Generally worked” seems like a good way to describe everything about Vikings.  Yes, the show ran too long, the plotlines often repeated themselves, and it asks us to mourn the loss of men like Ivar and Harald despite the things we’ve seen them do onscreen.  But in many ways, Vikings lost too many of the characters from the beginning that grew on me.  Ragnar was a charming lead, and not as morally reprehensible as many of the others.  Rollo was probably the most complex in how he both loved and hated his more famous brother.  Lagertha may have been someone every character who met her seemed to fall in love with, but the character had enough of a spark thanks to Katheryn Winnick, particularly given how bland and forgettable most of these female characters were on this show.  Bjorn was maybe a bit dull, but he was steady and in many ways the closest to his father, the one who cared most for his people even at the expense of himself.  And for all that I nicknamed him what I did, there was always a kooky charm to That Asshole Floki.

Perhaps it is the most appropriate to give That Asshole Floki the last word then.  Reappearing in the end, perhaps more insane than before, he and Ubbe talk about where they will go from where they are.  Floki, having trouble remembering his own past, says it doesn’t matter and you shouldn’t dwell there anyway.  Given That Asshole Floki was always a religious fundamentalist more interested in maintaining purity toward the gods and retaining traditional ways, that seems a bit weird, but if he can let go of the past and move on, maybe the audience can too.  It’s not like they have a choice.  This is the end.

Or, it is until the Netflix-produced sequel appears.

So, with all that in mind, was Vikings ultimately a good show?  It meandered at times, ran longer than it should, and had a lot of bland, forgettable characters, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a fun ride at times.  It may not have been as deep as I would have liked, but it did its job and kept me, if nothing else, consistently entertained, and I could have done a lot worse.

8 out of 10 shield walls.

Well, I need something else now for Fridays.  There was that sequel series to The Haunting of Hill House I wanted to check out before Vikings came back.  So, let’s see about The Haunting of Bly Manor.

Spooky kids are generally worth a look.

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