It is finally here. I almost can’t believe that it’s been an entire season already. It seriously seems like just last week when I returned from the fogginess of ambiguity of life to review Vikings on my smalltime blog. It seems like just last week when I anxiously started checking my email for the first time in months for comments, replies, and commentary – the things that have kept me going through the weeks. It is seriously so surreal. Remember in Land Before Time, when Littlefoot’s mother warns him that time goes by faster as you get older but he laughs it off because he doesn’t believe her? I feel like Littlefoot. I can’t believe how far we’ve come.
Get on with it!
Oh uh. Right. So, here we are at the season finale of Vikings season 3. When we last left off, Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) has an impromptu baptism that I am sure was in complete honor of Athelstan (RIP!) and not some part of a long-con. Naturally, this turn of events leaves Rollo (Clive Standen), Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) and Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård) gobsmacked. Just what in the hell was Ragnar thinking, especially after the flack Rollo received after his lol-baptism in seasons prior?
Anyway. We start the episode in Viking Camp, where situations are – surprise! – still dire. They are approached by French soldiers, apparently sizing them up after their last encounter (when Rollo took the meaning of hulk into his own hands and proved, yet again, that he is still completely lust-worthy despite having a reputation as a horrible person. But, hey! If life has taught me anything, it’s that you don’t need to be a good person to be boneable. You can quote me on that. But, I’d rather you didn’t). They tell the Viking camp that there is loot enough to go around and that they have met the terms of their deal, so the Vikings can just go away now.
This leaves the Vikings leaders feeling fairly skeptical, even as the hordes of their brethren pry open the wooden chests filled with gold. As Rollo checks on Ragnar, it seems as though his conditions have not improved – thin and pale in the face, he looks an inch away from needing some Allegra AM-non-drowsy meds. “It makes no difference to me. I’m dying.” Ragnar chokes out as he clutches his rosary, noting that at least he will be able to see Athelstan again. Hey, you know what is a good way to alienate everyone who ever cared about you? Push them away relentlessly with your supposedly newfound religion.
Even though Lagertha doesn’t seem to believe Ragnar’s conversion, the others on the camp seem less unconvinced (as weird as that sentence sounds). It seems as if the idea of Christianity poisoning him is the general consensus in the crowd – if it is a long con situation with Ragnar, wouldn’t it be disingenuous to Athelstan to turn people so fully against his faith? It seems weird that he would respect a religion, which by all accounts he did around Athelstan, and then use it as a tool to turn people against a common enemy. Then again, Ragnar is always playing a chess game that no one can see the pieces too. This probably wraps into that.
Regardless, the seed of doubt has been planted. Everyone is talking about the Christian wails of King Ragnar. Some of his camp dwellers even entertain the thought of murdering him to save the face of their pagan religion. While I don’t think our protagonist will die by one of the hands of his own, it is telling of the general vibe that the camp has.
In Paris, Emporer Charlie and Count Odo are attending mass. Gisla is also there, with one of her telltale glares. Their city is saved (for now) and so Count Odo finds it appropriate to attempt to get to Gisla. She rebuffs his advances (shocker!), but that doesn’t mean that others aren’t vying for his attention. Bafflingly, he disregards those advances. He seems to only have eyes for Charlie’s daughter.She seems mostly disgusted at the idea of having bought off the Vikings to make them leave, but what are you going to do? You’re like, a woman in the 16th century. What sort of right do you think you have, exactly?
In the Viking camp, they’re taking the payoff as a cause for celebration. Why wouldn’t they?
Floki attempts to talk to Helga (and fails). Bjorn attempts to have a heart-to-heart with Ragnar (and fails), though Father Dearest does impart upon his son a bit of wisdom. “When the time comes, you must lead with your head, not with your heart.” which sounds suspiciously like other advice Ragnar has given him, but I will forgive him for the repetitive oversight because there is a good chance he’s hallucinating from the pain he’s experiencing. Maybe.
Meanwhile, Rollo scowls into the darkness. Menacingly.
Uh, I’m not sure. Because he can?
No, but Rollo staring off into the distance with an unreadable expression only means that Rollo plans on ~rebelling from his brother in some way. It’s like the look he gets when he cooks up a doomed-to-fail plot. It is not a good look.
But, hey, Rollo is good looking. That has to count for his lack of stable character traits, right?
Even the way he gazes at the silhouette of Paris is beautiful.
I think you are too biased to conduct this review.
I resent that assumption, but I will not deny it.
Meanwhile, in Paris, a woman tries to get with Count Odo. Not for the looks (surely) or the grandeur of his position (sure.), but because she appreciates all that he has done. She wants to show him how thankful he is, which is as good a euphemism as any. Sure, she’s married, but he has to test the sex-waters with her before fully committing. So, he leads her down to a……basement? Yeah, no, buddy. you’ve lost me. Sorry. You know what else has lost me? The extreme kink-factor of this relationship. Count Odo wants the lady to submit to being whipped and chained. WWWWOOOAh buddy, you at least should wait until the third date to reveal something like that.
Against her better judgment (though, who am I to judge?), the woman agrees to the terms and picks the whip that he will use against her. “It will keep my interest. Undoubtedly.” Yeah, okay, Count Odo is weird and has his kinks but not even I saw him pulling some pseudo Christian Grey bullshit.
In Vikings Camp, Helga attempts to approach Floki. My heart aches for her, because she still (obviously) cares for him, even after he’s killed someone as important (to the series) as Athelstan. He tells her that Ragnar requested one. last. boat. He obliges. This whole subplot makes me so sad. It really does. Floki has treasured Ragnar’s friendship through seasons, he’s been there for Ragnar when no one else would, and when no one else would take him seriously. It honestly makes me sad that he has been devolved into a shell of a character, a zealot that has disregarded heart and feelings for what the gods say. I don’t doubt that Floki takes everything the gods give him as fact, I just really hate to see such an interesting character boiled down to a common trait.
Anyway. About a month has passed and the Vikings have still not moved from their station on the banks. Gisla and Odo wonder why, so he ventures to get to the bottom of the problem.
Bjorn informs Odo that Ragnar is too ill to travel, so they have stayed put. Count Odo opts to see Ragnar to make sure he’s actually, really sick. Bjorn leads him into the tent and, after he’s satisfied that – obviously – Ragnar is in no shape to travel, and after Odo has promised that Ragnar will get a Christian burial after he has departed, Odo leaves for Paris. It seems as if Ragnar’s death is imminent, even though the crossbows of Paris stay loaded.
This doesn’t seem good.
No kidding. After the next commercial break, Ragnar is being loaded into a coffin.
Sudden, isn’t it? Yup. Ragnar is dead.
I just wished I believed it.
You don’t believe that he’s dead?
No. Despite the touching speeches by Rollo, Lagertha, and Floki, it is completely impossible for me to believe that he is dead. I almost wish that I believed he was dead, because the speeches were honestly touching. They were heartfelt, especially Lagertha’s.When she told him that she wanted to fight alongside him in Valhalla, I believed her I believe in her sidelined love for Ragnar. I buy it. I don’t but his death, though, so it cheapens the depth of the words spoken to him. It feels so cheap. It makes the tears that the people Ragnar has cared most about for nought.
That, to me, feels careless. In his beautifully carved coffin, he plays the people who loved him most as fools. How can I cheer for that? How can I support that when it is all part of a game of the end justifies the means?
Floki saying, “I love you with all my heart. Why do you tear me away from myself?” can relate to the series as a whole, because Ragnar has systematically distanced himself from everyone who ever knew him as a man outside of the king. Honestly, the fact that I know Ragnar is beneath that wooden sheath and is alive just makes the scene worse. I don’t understand it. I wish i did.
As per the deal, Ragnar’s coffin-laid body is brought through Parisian gates by unarmed men. He is lead to the gates of the church among bowed heads and crosses, things he is technically entitled to due to his baptism.
BUT SURPRISE!!! HE IS NOT ACTUALLY DEAD!!!
Wait, you’re not COMPLETELY SURPRISED?
Not at all. Ragnar acting as a trojan horse and Ragnar acting more stupid than he actually is has been a plot device in both season 1 and season 2, both seasons resolved with him on top of the heap without much effort. This practically reeked like a similar plan.
I agree. It felt rushed, it felt ill-timed. It feels like we have been in this plot before, hasn’t it?
Regardless, he takes this fake-out as an opportunity to hold the coward king hostage. When that doesn’t have the desired effect, he takes Gisla at knifepoint (and Charlie faints). Man, this show does WONDERS for the reputation of French nobles. Count Odo, still, obviously, quite in love with Gisla lowers the guards to allow her return across the bridge, but not before the bridge is ultimately lowered and – BUM BUM BUUUUM – a clear entryway for Bjorn and his men (his men? when did that happen?) to make it through the gates virtually unscathed.
Bjorn’s men run towards the gates with their weapons blazing, even as Ragnar collapses in Bjorn’s arms while the people who thought he was dead slowly approach in shades of “what the fuck, Ragnar?” They look at the fallen king and they walk by him. As they should. Honestly, it’s a powerful moment, but the moment the soldiers (and loved ones) realize they’ve been pawns, they can’t give enough to care. It’s too much, it’s too late. It’s a fitting fate.
Wow, you seem really bitter.
Well, okay. This is how I feel: Ragnar, once upon a time, devoted his life to his family. Over time, he gravitated to power. At times, he would include the ones he loved in those plans, but soon the quest became about more than bettering Kattegat. It became about leaving a legacy (it likely mostly was). How would you feel if an ally, a brother, a friend, a lover, revealed to you that you were only a pawn in his grand scheme? Yeah. Fuck no. I don’t care if the end is glorious, those burned bridges will not rebuild themselves. I love Ragnar as a main character (enigmatic and charming to a fault), but I can’t pretend as if his behavior towards the people who loved him would end in a no harm no foul reconciliation. It is times like these I miss farmer Ragnar.
Anyway, in Paris, Gisla meets her now-woken father. It seems as though the Vikings raided the city, took what they wanted, and left. This has left poor Charlie in a bit of a rut. Gisla has ordered her father to get up from his position on the ground (he does), but she still storms off in the end. I can imagine. She’s held at knifepoint and still her father is acting like a damsel. Sigh.
Back in Viking Camp, it becomes obvious that Ragnar’s Fake Death is not a fan favorite across the board. Of course, all eyes are turned to Bjorn, because he was the only one in the know about the new strategy of pretending you’re dead to infiltrate the enemy headquarters. Emotions are pulled taught, emotions are high, and I can’t help but feel like this is an argument that Bjorn can’t win. He listened to his father, you know? Ragnar, King Ragnar, still runs the show. It just so happens that he was running one of those 10-step plans that no one was privy to.
That said, Bjorn brings up the importance of maintaining some presence in France even if they leave in the spring as planned. Floki initially volunteers to stay (probably not wanting to return on the same boat with the same man that has humiliated him ten ways ‘til Sunday. then again, same could be said for the man who ultimately volunteers), but Rollo wins the bid to stay, along with any soldiers that opt to stand by his side. I guess, honestly, with Siggy gone, what does he have to lose? With cursory wiki-knowledge, we all know Rollo does well in France.
His staying has not gone unnoticed. You know how I know? Even Emperor Charles has noticed. Folks, that is how low the bar is set. Gisla tells her father to send for reinforcements from his brothers, but Charlie is convinced that his brothers loathe him enough to not come in his moment of aid. So! he comes up with the next best option: putting up his daughter for marriage to someone she hates. Ahh. That will work well. Man, father of the year award! Right here!
Gisla hasn’t had a chance to really develop as a character yet, but man, I am really feeling for her here. GOOD NEWS? she gets to see Rollo shirtless on the regular in (hopefully non-rapey) normal circumstances. Jealous. So jealous.
But, the French take this as an opportunity to give Rollo a chance for his own glory. His own land! His own wife! His own legacy! Of course, this means betraying Ragnar (is anyone surprised at this point? Rollo’s personality changes depending on the writer’s mood), but whateverrrr. Plot-wise, he’s done that at least forty times by now. What’s forty-one? Besides, tack on the marriage of a woman he’s never met, and bam. Sure. You’ve got yourself a deal. I will defend Paris against my brother. Sure. Whatever.
Gisla is less than enthused about her union with the filthy pagan. He’s more beast than man! (mmhmm, girlfriend that is not a negative).
Do you need a moment?
Anyway, she also says that he makes her want to vomit and that she would rather her virginity go to dogs. True love! SIGH. But, I will say, Rollo saying his greetings to Gisla was adorable. Ugh. Stop Rollo. Stop with your beard and broad shoulders.
That Hello. Oh my word. Oh man. So cute. Stop me. AAAAHHHHHHHH. Salut to you, too, Rollo. Man. Just…man.
This also means that Rollo is potentially betraying Ragnar. Again.
Speaking of! Let’s check in on the boats returning home. In the cloak of night, Floki watches Helga sleep from afar before he is pulled to Ragnar’s side by the King’s bidding. Wrapped in a fur shawl, Ragnar stares at his old friend before muttering “you killed Athelstan.”
And then we cut to a close.
Wow. So, that’s it…
Yeah – and wow.
How do you feel?
There were some parts of this season that I absolutely loved. Moments that I would stop, rewind, and re-watch. However, the finale as a whole felt formulaic, if only because the omnipresence of Ragnar is everywhere. Of course Ragnar knew X would fail. Of course Ragnar knew Y would happen. Of course Ragnar would not die. For that reason (for proving me right), this finale left me feeling a little cold. I don’t want Ragnar to die, because Travis Fimmel is hand-over-fist one of the best parts of the show, but at the same time his ability to plan everything 10 steps ahead feels very, very convenient in a show that relies almost completely on suspense. I don’t know. I mean, ugh. Making Lagertha spineless. Ragnar pointing out the obvious in the end. Rollo possibly betraying him again. It just feels like we’ve been here.
So…what’s your series rating?
I loved some parts of this season, I loathed other parts. I have some questions and concerns about where they are taking core characters into the fourth season, because the show isn’t giving us any time to develop attachments to new characters and spending entirely too much time devolving the beloved characters into shells. I don’t like what they did with Lagertha, I’m not fond of what they’re doing to Floki, and the ~twist with Rollo in the season finale makes me wonder when he will ever have a consistent character (that the writers will promptly ruin). Vikings has a lot of character issues and a lot of pacing issues that are really becoming apparent as time goes on. Next season really needs to iron out those wrinkles, or I feel as if the Vikings that I initially got hooked on will be completely gone. Oh, I don’t know. Seven handmade ships out of ten?
Okay, time for a real moment: every season I have reviewed Vikings, I have been astounded and humbled by the outpouring of support and kindness from every single one of my readers. You all have been there with me through the misunderstandings (woops!), the character depiction ups-and-downs, and the impromptu history lessons. Through the weaker episodes, you helped me see the stronger points; in the stronger episodes, you pointed out things that were maybe – just perhaps – questionable. Honestly, words really can’t describe how appreciative I am of the support. I’m always so speechless when this time comes around. If we don’t see each other on the way (I do plan on updating HDD with sporadic updates for television shows that I have fallen for, though I don’t have the time to do it always!), I hope that I will see you all next year for season 4. Even if I don’t, just a single reading of one review is absolutely amazing and I thank you. Seriously, thank you all so much.
On the topic of Vikings again (I can only talk about my gushy feelings for so long!), I am super interested in where you all think the series is going as it ventures into season 4. On that note, will you still be watching? Did you enjoy the season as a whole? What is your arbitrary rating for the season? Let’s discuss below!