In a welcome departure from recent disdainful “who died/are they dead” cliff-hangers, Michael Hirst (creator/writer) did the unexpected Wednesday night by not leaving viewers waiting to see if a main character had died in the Vikings mid-season finale. Instead, after the showdown between brothers Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) and Rollo (Clive Standen) the historical drama jumped forward in time, at least nine years.
The jarring but genius time jump still leaves a huge unanswered question: where, oh where, has King Ragnar been? Knowing that Magnus is now 12 and Ragnar left Kattegat soon after returning from Paris, the King has been MIA for around eight years. But before we look closer at the finale, let’s recap some events that occurred since we last reconvened.
Firstly, there were no deaths that impacted me emotionally. When Ragnar abruptly drowned Yidu, my only thought as she floated away was she wasn’t dead and would return in a brilliant twist to atone for having been cast on the show.
If one of the key story lines had to be Ragnar becoming addicted to drugs, why couldn’t King Finehair (Peter Franzén) have gotten him hooked? At least that would have made sense.
Kwenthrith (Amy Bailey) was stabbed in the back literally by Judith, ending the life of the crownless Queen – did I say Judith was growing on me? I take it back. Parisians Count Odo, Therese and Roland were also murdered, if only to show the French Emperor wasn’t as dumb as we thought. Then, Torvi finally put Erlendur out of his miserable existence. After being allowed to live when the rest of his family had been annihilated, the son of King Horik tried to avenge his father, but failed abysmally.
My one gripe from this season thus far has been screen time wasted by pointless characters and plot holes – and don’t even get me going on why the Wanderer (Kevin Durand) returned – shagged half the town – then left again.
While the mad king’s mind continued its drug-addled decline, it didn’t seem to affect his intellect, and despite his chat with a severed head, Ragnar came up with the genius idea that got the Vikings around the barriers in the river. With the assistance of Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård) and a lot of hard slog from everyone, the ships were removed from the water, hoisted over cliffs, and placed back into the river on the other side. Brilliant.
As for the most memorable moment from the last episodes, Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) in a bloody and eerie re-enactment of losing her unborn child won hands down. When she allowed Ragnar to briefly comfort her, watching her sob openly in his arms and the look of sheer devastation on his face was absolutely heartbreaking. When Lagertha reverted back to hard-arse mode and told Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig) and Ragnar to piss off but they instead moved to sit behind her, that too was incredibly poignant. It served as a reminder that Lagertha is a deeply loved, respected, and powerful woman.
Viewers waited nine episodes to get to the crux of this first part of the season: the “battle” between Ragnar and Rollo. The French beat their drums and the Vikings blew their horn, and in the initial clash the French soldiers were frightened by the rowdy Northmen and ran back to Rollo.
But it was death or victory for the traitor Duke, and he gave them courage with a Braveheart-esque speech, and they attacked again. Axes and swords clanged with shields and bodies fell, and when Floki was wounded, back in Kattegat the Seer bellowed with pain. Freaky.
The Vikings put up a good fight but had no chance of getting into Paris this time, and when the brothers finally came face to face, they beat each other to a pulp. When Lagertha sustained a nasty wound to the torso, Bjorn carried her away to safety, and then Ragnar was snatched away by his men. As the Viking ships sailed away from Paris, the King of Denmark was broken. Rollo returned a hero of Pareece, crowned and hailed “Caesar”.
Mid-episode now and we return to Kattegat, no longer the small village of old. A messenger arrives to inform Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland) in a now opulent great hall about the farming settlement in Wessex being destroyed way back when, that Ragnar knew about it, and that he had a son by Queen Kwenthrith. Bjorn wants to tell “the boys” and Aslaug tells him they’re hunting up at the cabin. When Bjorn arrives there, that’s when the time jump really hits you: the boys have grown up, and are now portrayed by different actors. They have a discussion about their MIA Daddy: Ivar (Alex Høgh Andersen) admires him, Sigurd (David Lindström) and Hvitserk (Marco Ilsø) feel abandoned and would kill him if he came back, Ubbe (Jordan Patrick Smith) wants to understand him. Bjorn, who knows Ragnar best, says Ragnar remains the greatest man in the world to him.
The boys make it back to town just as Ragnar decides to return, sword in hand, sauntering into a now unfamiliar place. He’s cool as a cucumber on the outside but restraining some heavy emotions. A crowd gathers and his sons come forward.
Now King Ragnar may have been loitering about Kattegat a bit, and begins barking at the boys, asking who wants to kill him, alerting us he was privy to the discussion they had. Aside from Fimmel’s commanding presence and riveting monologue, Ivar the Boneless too is memorable in this final scene, lying on the ground while gazing up at his father with creepy glee. Ragnar then offers his sword around to see who has the balls to kill him; because that’s the only way he will no longer be king. So: Who. Wants. To. Be. KING?
Jordan Patrick Smith: Son of Ragnar
When I spoke with Michael Hirst back in February about the show’s leading Australian actors (Fimmel and Sutherland) he was quite chuffed to inform me another Aussie had been cast on the show, and was portraying none other than Ragnar and Aslaug’s son, Ubbe.
“We have the sons of Ragnar as young men in the show in season four and we’ve cast another Australian as one of the sons,” Hirst told me. “A guy called Jordan Smith. He’s going to be a big star I think.”
Many may recognise the Scottish-born Smith from Neighbours on which he played Andrew Robinson, and we couldn’t be more proud to have another Aussie join this international and stellar cast.
Part two of season four of Vikings will return to SBS later in the year. You can watch the captivating final scene of the mid-season finale below.