[This is a review of Vikings season 3, episode 9. There will be SPOILERS.]
Vikings is taking an unusual approach to its final three episodes by placing King Ragnar at the rear of all the action. Much like our beloved king, the series feels like it's slowly dying before the finale next week. So, what does this all mean?
It would be easy to say that Vikings has lost its edge over the past few weeks, forgoing the tightly woven story-lines that writer/creator Michael Hirst (The Tudors) weaves together so effortlessly. There is a great story looming around the high walls of Paris, but it's difficult to find as we watch our favorite hero nearing his end.
There is no denying that Hirst and his team have assembled a stellar cast, but when Ragnar is not at the center of it, things can get awkward. Again, perhaps that is the point in this week's episode entitled, 'Breaking Point'. While the mighty Rollo and lovely Lagertha storm the gates of Paris, Ragnar lays in a fetal position as he is visited by Odin, Jesus, and Athelstan. The dying viking simply misses his friend, and by the episode's end, we realize he will do almost anything to be reunited with him.
The baptism scene was crucial, as it signified Ragnar's willingness to forgo his viking heritage in order to be reunited with Athelstan in heaven. Rollo, having been baptized himself, will most likely be the only one of his followers to understand what he is going through. Either way, this defiance by the viking king will surely have severe consequences when the attack on the Parisian city continues next week. What do you think will become of Ragnar when the curtain closes on season 3?
For you history buffs, you can study up on the Siege of Paris (845), but it's clear that Hirst is charting his own course when it comes to the legend of Ragnar Lothbrok. Back in Wessex, Ecbert continues to maneuver the pawns in his never ending quest for power. The English king is always charming and full of charisma, but his story (along with Aethelwulf and Judith's) feels disjointed, like it's part of another show. Even the short time we spend back in Ragnar's hometown is irrelevant. It's almost like it was a "here's what's going on back home"' moment, but without the payoff.
Expansion can be a good thing and Vikings has surely earned the right to do so. Hirst has rarely led us astray and this reviewer still trusts him to deliver the goods; however, this week's outing still felt messy, but again, maybe that was the point. Dying is a messy business after all, and as we continue to watch Ragnar slowly fall into madness, Vikings may well follow suit.
With the finale just one week away, how do you feel about where the series is headed? Do you like the more expanded look, or do you long for the days of when life was simpler? Stay tuned to see what happens next.
Vikings season 3 concludes next Thursday @10/9c on History.