For the last time in 2013, Lissa Bryan, author of the upcoming novel Under These Restless Skies, is with me to discuss VIKINGS, on the History Channel. She and I live-tweeted again last night, with many exclamation points and, “Noooooo!” tweets figuring in our exchanges.
We’ve had a lot of ups and downs over the course of the past nine weeks. There have been episodes we loved (most of them) and those we weren’t as happy with (well, okay, only one). With a finale, it is natural to have a love-hate relationship. And I guess maybe we do.
If you haven’t yet watched this series, but were waiting for it to be complete before you did so, get started!
Episode IX: All Change
Lissa: We’ve come to the final episode now and what a magnificent journey it has been.
Sandi: It really has. Thank you for suggesting we do this. This series has been amazing.
Lissa: Last night, I fell in love with the show all over again, torn between raging and fangirling over how many details they incorporated from the saga. The tree that doesn’t lose its leaves… Ragnar’s riddle-challenges to Princess Aslaug… Even details I wish they HADN’T incorporated. For once, I was almost hoping for historical inaccuracy!
Sandi: Gasp! lol I am not as versed in the Saga, of course, but I appreciated the story as it came at us. The riddle was well-done and I appreciated how Aslaug answered it. That dress? Uh-HUH. And the wolf was great.
Lissa: I want to hate Aslaug as a “home wrecker” but I can’t. She’s probably been waiting her entire life for a worthy suitor to come along and uniting her forces with those of Ragnar makes political sense, even if it’s painful, emotionally. She’s the daughter of a famous shield maiden… Is she a warrior herself? The show didn’t give us any indication of that.
Ragnar set out on his journey to negotiate a settlement with the rebellious jarl for Horik, but it seems this might create a schism within his own house. In trying to include his brother, he may have seen the last threads binding them together severed. Rollo finally gave into the dark side. And I don’t think Ragnar even realizes his brother was tempted. It’s going to be terrible when he realizes he’s been betrayed.
Sandi: I am still of the mind that Rollo doesn’t want Ragnar dead. Rollo doesn’t wish ill on his brother; I believe he loves him sincerely. But he feels left out when he believed that they would be equal. He feels slighted and unnoticed and for a man of his nature, that’s a powerful motivator for undertaking actions he might not otherwise consider. The actor, Clive Standen, did a great job displaying this in understated acting during the final scene with Jarl Borg. There will be a feeling of betrayal, of course, but I do hope that the brothers can reconcile. The Jarl played Rollo like a fiddle. I hope that comes to light.
Lissa: I think you’re right. I don’t think this came as an easy decision for him, despite the things he’d said to Siggy about wanting to be earl. And maybe he never ALLOWED himself to follow those thoughts to their natural conclusion. (If he’s jarl, where is Ragnar?) Even now that he’s agreed to go to war with him, he may be imagining this scenario can be solved without having to take Ragnar’s life.
Speaking of betrayal, I agreed with you that a bit of a tumble wasn’t seen as big a deal as we modern folks think of it, but I was anguished at the pain it was causing Bjorn. He’s seen his parents as a united front, passionately in love, and now, suddenly, he sees his father beginning to distance himself from his mother. Bjorn witnessed poor Lagertha begging Ragnar not to leave her during the festival, so he knows his mother is hurt by his father going off to play around with other women. It wasn’t the sex as much as it was a symptom of a deeper problem between them.
Sandi: Yes, and I am hoping this will be addressed. Relationship tension will be interesting in Season 2, but there are so many other problems to be addressed as well.
Lissa: I was impressed that Ragnar kept his vow to Bjorn, at least until he learned Princess Aslaug was pregnant. In this detail, they deviated from the sagas, because in the old stories, the princess refused to allow Ragnar into her bed until they were married. Will Bjorn reject his father if he decides to leave Lagertha?
Sandi: This is hard to say. Bjørn is close to his father and wishes to emulate him, but a boy (“man” or not, the lad’s young) is naturally protective of a mother he has seen honored and loved all of his life. He believes all the best about Lagertha. Will that filial emotion cause him to shield her from hurt or defend her or urge her from Ragnar? Something I think that has been well handled is how the death of a child, even an unborn one, can affect a couple’s relationship.
Lissa: I was glad the show didn’t go for the “low-hanging fruit” and turn it into a simple “power corrupts” story line. He didn’t start partying like a rock star when he assumed the mantle of the jarl. Ragnar has made some decisions I dislike emotionally, but he’s acted quite sensibly when it comes to ruling his people. Even his relationship with Aslaug, I think, will be decided more on what’s best for his jarldom than his own, personal desires.
Back home, tragedy has struck. The plague scenes were so well done. The smoke of the pyres hanging low, the emptiness of the once-bustling little village … Lagertha looked exhausted from tending the ill, who were packed in like sardines on the floor of the jarl’s house. Once again, she proves herself to be a fine leader, quite possibly better at the job than her husband.
Sandi: I will jump on the Lagertha Bandwagon, here. She does (and has always done, as far as I have seen) a great job with crisis. She keeps a cool head and leads her family, her people. She’s a rock, even while frightened about her husband’s mission and their relationship and his future. Just an amazing woman.
Lissa: I can’t see Ragnar cutting her completely out of his life. He truly does love Lagertha, even if he feels the gods are leading him in another direction. It remains to be seen how Lagertha will react to what’s happened, and whether she’ll accept a secondary position in his life. I doubt if Aslaug would accept the lower-status!
I was anguished for her when she lost Gyda; Ragnar is going to be shattered by the loss, and I fear it will be even more of a wedge between he and Lagertha. Siggy also lost her daughter… will this change her path? Will she reconsider her plans to topple Ragnar and Lagertha because they have both lost a daughter in the prime of life? Will she feel guilty that she was the one who brought the plague to Kattegat?
Sandi: This will be the second child that has been taken from Ragnar, even if he seems to have been successful with engendering more. I do hope that Ragnar doesn’t do something stupid. I hope he brings his strong right arm and gets his people back to a good place when he comes home. And Siggy! That threw me. What about her relationship with Rollo, in light of what has happened? Her guilt about the plague will remain to be seen. She has disrupted the whole community, without malicious intent, and this will weigh on her. Still, I hope that the Rollo/Siggy storyline isn’t abandoned.
Lissa: Rollo doesn’t really want Siggy. He wants Lagertha. And if Ragnar divorces her…
Sandi: Indeed! And wouldn’t that be interesting…?
Final Analysis from Two History Geeks:
Lissa: The costumes and sets were, hands-down, the best I’ve ever seen in a historical television series. The attention to detail was remarkable. I recognized many props that were replicas of artifacts. Except for a couple of minor you’d-never-notice-it-if-you-weren’t-a-geek flubs, the show demonstrated a real commitment to historical accuracy, and I adore them for it. I also love how they wove details from the legends into the storyline. It gets my history geek thumbs-up!
Sandi: The costumes were very good, save for a few noticeable exceptions. The scenery was exceptional and felt very authentic. The culture was presented, I think, fairly. I noticed differences between these Vikings and the Northmen I studied for my trilogy, but it is clear that a great deal of effort went in to the crafting of this series. History Channel deserves many kudos.
Lissa: Thank you for all of the wonderful discussions we’ve had. This has been great fun, and I look forward to next year’s episodes!
Sandi: Thank you! It’s been a delight, to be sure. 🙂