I haven’t written about Vikings in quite a while -since 2015- but I have been faithfully watching. Season Five has been an incredible disappointment, especially after the rousing ending of Season Four.
Although the series has been going downhill for some time -for example, Episode 5, when the Vikings emerge from the sewers in broad daylight in full sight of the Saxons instead of at night, which obviously would have led to the Vikings being trapped and slaughtered- I am going to direct my ire at the last two episodes -Episode 8, the Joke, and Episode 9, a Simple Story- because they are relatively fresh in mind. I watched Episode 9 yesterday and Episode 8 about a week before that.
Episode 8 – So we know what Ragnar saw in Ivar was his mind. “Use your anger intelligently, and I promise you, my son, one day the whole world will know and fear Ivar the Boneless.” And the Ivar we’ve seen to this point proves Ragnar correct. It was Ivar who devised the meticulous and unorthodox battle-plan that defeated King Aethelwulf in the first major battle between the Vikings and Wessex; and in both attempts by Aethelwulf to retake York, the Saxons failed because Ivar drew the Saxons into carefully laid traps.
Yet in Episode 8 we see Ivar arrive at the most important battle of his life without any plan at all. And then the plan he devises on the spot makes no sense. He sends Hvitserk to outflank Lagertha’s forces without scouting the terrain -his hallmark in every previous battle- which results in the Sami ambushing Hvitsek. And even if the Sami hadn’t been waiting, the flanking maneuver was done in full view of Lagertha’s forces, which made it pointless as Lagertha could have simply redeployed forces to protect her flank. And if that’s not bad enough, Ivar suddenly realizes he’s left his ships unprotected and even though it’s obviously too late to protect the ships if Lagertha has sent forces to destroy them, goes himself instead of sending a subordinate. So for no apparent reason we have Ivar go from a military visionary always several steps ahead of the opposing commanders to an indecisive neophyte who thinks it’s more important to personally protect his army’s means of retreat than command the battlefield.
None of this makes any sense. At least the twists and turns in Rollo’s character occurred in separate seasons. Speaking of Rollo …
Episode 9 – was even worse. No reason was presented for Rollo involving himself in a Viking civil war taking place in Norway, except a promise to Hvitserk that Rollo never actually made. And wouldn’t Rollo sending his ships and troops to fight for Ivar leave Rollo’s kingdom vulnerable to raids by other Vikings? It’s one thing to take artistic license with history. It’s another thing to be historically licentious. Vikings, sadly, has become the latter.
And the plot in Wessex made no sense either. There was no explanation presented for Aethelred refusing the throne and then nominating Alfred.
I used to so look forward to each new episode of Vikings. Not anymore.