August 11, 2022

Gabbing Geek

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Vikings: Valhalla “Choices”

Season One, Episode Seven

OK, hold on…if you had told me before I started a Vikings sequel that I would have been genuinely invested in the political moves made by different characters on the show, I don’t think I would have believed you.

And yet, here I am.

So, the way I see it, the original Vikings always managed to interest me more with the battles and the, for all intents and purposes, very basic characters.  They were straightforward characters, and you generally knew where you stood with them.  It was also a lot more like a soap opera in the grand scheme of things.  That’s not what I would generally sign up for, but there was enough going on around all that to keep me invested in a show that initially didn’t impress me all that much.

Meanwhile, this sequel series comes along, and while the characters haven’t really grabbed me yet, the battle scenes have been at about the same level, but there’s a hell of a lot of intrigue going on instead.

I mean, for once, I care about what’s going on with the English monarchy.  Cnut had to go take care of some things, so he left his father to run things in his stead.  That would be one Sweyn Forkbeard.  He’s an old school Viking, one willing to stab a nobleman who asked about his section tax-exempt status in part because he helped Edmund’s father rout some invaders…who happened to be led by Forkbeard.  Then Forkbeard will give the title to Godwin because he seems both sneaky and useful.

Godwin proves that by setting up Edmund to die in a manner that looked like a horseback riding accident, a trick that doesn’t fool Queen Emma.  Then again, Emma seems more upset that Godwin did it without consulting her rather than the fact Edmund is dead.  Edmund had flashes of understanding, but he was still a somewhat foolish and impetuous boy king.  He might have outgrown that given time, but he didn’t have it.

Then again, Cnut’s first wife Ælfgifu comes by to basically demand Emma take off or else her hidden fleet will attack England somewhere.  Emma will, because she has no choice, but she manages to impress Forkbeard with her responses to his concerns.  So, while this does suggest the importance of making sure a divorce is final before you remarry, it’s also damn good drama.  Like, if I thought Vikings had intrigue at this level going on, I might have rated a show I largely liked a lot higher.

Now if only I didn’t have to cut-and-paste Ælfgifu’s name every time I want to use it with that weird vowel at the start of it.

But hey, I was impressed by the English politics in Valhalla already.  What about Norway?  Christian fundamentalist Jarl Kare has massacred most of the people of Uppsala.  He’s gunning for Kattegat next because everything that happens in this world has to happen there.  He has a new partner in Olaf, a more pragmatic sort of Christian who isn’t a fundamentalist, but he’s willing to work with one to become King of Norway, and taking down Kattegat is a good first step there.  He doesn’t try to hide that fact when he meets with Kare.  Heck, Olaf is the one who told Ælfgifu what Cnut did.  Kare doesn’t seem to mind as long as he gets to kill some pagans and build a church.  Seeing Viking treachery wasn’t exactly new, but seeing them be so upfront about it when they made their alliance of what each cared most about felt different.  No lying about the whys, and that was something I appreciated.

I just hope Harald isn’t really betraying Kattegat to Olaf.

Point is, the intrigue is rather well-done on this show compared to the original series.  Now, if only the characters were better, I might conclude this one is the better program.

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