[This is a review of Vikings season 3, episode 8. There will be SPOILERS.]
If last week's outing of History's Vikings was all set up, then 'To The Gates' is a brutal response to that lull - filled with enough blood and gore to satiate any Game of Thrones fan (this reviewer included).
Except for a few pauses here and there, Vikings was nothing but all out war, with Ragnar desperately trying to breach the high 9th-century walls of Paris. Floki too felt honor bound to please his king, but his descent into madness continues to escalate. Even his wife Helga flees from the monster she sees before her eyes. Can Floki be redeemed?
Let's give credit where it's due. Creator/executive producer Michael Hirst (The Tudors) and his team have done a marvelous job with not only their storytelling, but also with set designs and special effects. The long sweeping shots of the Parisian skyline was a joy to behold, and not once were there any, "well that looks cheap" moments. History (for now) might not possess the budget of an HBO for instance, yet the network uses what it has well - perhaps better than any other non-premium network.
In terms of plot, there was very little development here outside of things we already know. Kalf's desire for Lagertha is well known to us, but her ultimatum was intriguing. Basically, Kalf can enjoy her for a time, but in the end Lagertha will have her revenge. Do you think Kalf still has another motive? Does he desire Ragnar's throne as well? Either way, there is little doubt that the lovely shield-maiden will stick to her word.
Ragnar continues to be the constant observer, as he watches many of his men and women fall to their deaths. Only when his son climbs up the ladder, does the viking king burst into action. One thing is clear: Ragnar loves Bjorn and was proud of his actions on the battlefield. Thankfully, Bjorn Ironside was once again being watched over by the gods and will live to see another day. It was funny seeing Rollo entering the medical tent, since the last time we saw him it appeared as though he was in danger of drowning. Those Lothbrok boys sure are hard to kill.
On the Parisian side of things, there seems to be a bit of a power struggle. It's hard to discern just how "religious" Princess Gisla is. Does she really believe in the supernatural power of the cloth, or is she just a brilliant leader who understands how to encourage soldiers to die for their city? Her father, Emperor Charles is a weak man, but Gisla's strength is holding him up. She is definitely the wild card in this political game. If you are into betting, put your money on her.
There are only two episodes left this season and next week looks to be another exciting ride into battle. With the season almost over, what do you think Hirst and his team will be setting us up for when season 4 premieres next year? Keep watching to see what happens next.
Vikings continues with 'Breaking Point' next Thursday @10/9c on History.