Two Historical Fiction Authors Discuss the VIKINGS Finale

All Vikings images are the property of History Channel and are used here for illustrative purposes only. Click here to go there.

All Vikings images are the property of History Channel and are used here for illustrative purposes only. Click here to go there.

 
a2alissapicIt’s been an amazing second season of Vikings on History Channel! I have so enjoyed the opportunity to live-tweet the episodes with historical fiction author Lissa Bryan, whose book Under These Restless Skies is a wonderful experience in the court of Henry VIII of England. Lissa herself is no slouch as an historian! Her insights have been vastly appreciated every week. Her comments, as always, are below in purple.
 
Lissa: Man, this episode was a challenge! My keyboard died right before the episode started, and I was Tweeting using the iPad screen keyboard, but by the time I’d pecked out my Tweet, something else had happened! It was non-stop!
 
Sandi: Technical difficulties are so annoying! Glad you were able to be there anyway. It was a wild night!​
It was, indeed. The ups and downs, the “Will he or won’t he?” tension, and fast pace made for an awesome finale episode.
 
Helga welcomed Floki home with a baby in her arms, Floki’s daughter. He seemed astonished at her perfection, an awe many new parents feel. He wants to name her Angrboða, after Loki’s first wife. He assures Helga she wasn’t evil. She was a great giantess. Helga hoped Floki would come home with her, but he ordered Helga to leave. She was hurt, it seemed, but she listened to him and left Kattegat. I think at this point, she’s used to Floki’s odd ways.
 
I thought this was a sure indicator of the plotting going down, to be honest. I figured that Floki wanted his wife and child out of the way of the coming evil. He lives in an isolated locale, and it seems that Helga gave birth away from her husband, so that made sense to me. Yes, Helga was hurt, but she loves her man anyway. ​
 
vikings_season2_episode10welcoming royaltyHorik brings his own family to Kattegat, including his wife, a famous shieldmaiden. It was a cute scene with Lagertha fangirling for a moment over her. I didn’t catch the shieldmaiden’s name, unfortunately. I was surprised Horik brought his family to Kattegat. To me, it implied a lot of trust, that they would be safe in Ragnar’s house. “Ask for bread and salt, Mrs. Shieldmaiden-Horik! ASK FOR BREAD AND SALT!”
 
I think Horik was a clear example of royal hubris, in this circumstance. He encourages the betrayal of others, over and over, yet expects to be exempt from any sort of betrayal himself. “I am the king, therefore I am inviolate” seems to be his motto. The hospitality rule does not apply in Kattegat, apparently, when Ragnar is taking revenge.
I’m teasing, but my tender sensibilities are still offended by the last example of,“Oh, hey come over for a visit. STAB!” I wouldn’t have made much of a Viking, I’m afraid. I’d at least wait until they were in the driveway getting ready to go. 😀
Remember, revenge was considered important and helped in determining the worth of a man. And though Horik had not himself struck directly at Ragnar yet  . . . he was planning it. And others knew this. One can assume, perhaps, that Ragnar has had a Behind the Scenes espionage thing happening for quite some time.
It isn’t long before Horik begins tempting Floki again. He tells Floki he wants him to prove his loyalty by killing someone who matters.
Brilliant writing. Brilliant set-up.
 
vikings_season2_episode10 fighting bjorn and porunnPorunn has a conversation with Björn in which he’s the typical insensitive teenage man. He doesn’t really know how to talk to a woman he cares about, and this is very apparent. Porunn challenges him to fight her, her way of establishing she’s someone to be respected and reckoned with, I think. She admires Lagertha and knows Ragnar respected her as an equal. She wants to establish that with Björn if there’s any hope of a relationship between them. But as their fighting turns into passion, we see Floki lurking in the bushes. Is he there to harm Björn or to protect him?
I agreed with you last night that Porunn is not a good marriage-match for Björn. I hold with that. But it was nice of Björn to pursue her and apologize for being “such a guy” (my words, lol) regarding her recent ability to make choices. However, I will also say that Porunn’s behavior is, to me, odd. She is a freedwoman, but she likely has no status of family. Did she come over with the princess last season or was she a Kattegatian?

 

I thought she was one of Aslaug’s maidens, but I’m not certain. Probably over the long wait for next season we can catch some old episodes and see if we spot her arriving with Aslaug and her baby bump, or serving at the feasts in the first episodes.
vikings porunn aloneI understand her fierce pride, but she will also need a place in her world and a home of her own. Just because the times were what they were.

 

Exactly… She doesn’t really have a reason for pride as yet. She shouldn’t let Björn walk all over her, but nor can she demand he see her as an equal when she really hasn’t established herself within their community. She doesn’t have anything to bring to the relationship, no property, no status, no fame as a warrior.
And seeing Floki lurking while the young people were making love? I really had a sense that Floki was watching over Björn. He has always had the younger man’s interests at heart.
 
Floki goes to Rollo’s bedchamber and asks Siggy how he’s doing. Will he ever walk again? Siggy says she doesn’t know. Floki offers to sit with him for a while so Siggy can rest. Siggy hesitates, but leaves, and Floki strolls over to the bed, looking like the devil himself. He reminds Rollo of the time he injured Floki, and then stuffs some mushrooms into his mouth. The food of the gods, he says. Rollo chews and swallows them, and even accepts a sip of wine afterwards to wash them down, though he starts to choke afterward. 
 
I thought Rollo was a dead man. The whole Vikings fandom gave a collective gasp and shouted, “Floki, NO!” And lo, there was much raging and bemoaning on social media.
 
Lissa tweet dead Rollo
 
It was incredible. I got such a kick out of how invested we all were in this. I, too, thought Rollo was a dead man. But, no, we discovered that Rollo was alive and he armed himself later to help defend his home. Rollo has his issues – who doesn’t, in this show? – but he is loyal to his home and, in the end, to Ragnar.
 
Me tweet Caesar Who
 
Floki then sent a child over to give mushrooms to Torstein, after telling the child a dire and horrible tale of Loki’s punishment by the gods, bound by his son’s entrails, with a snake eternally dripping venom over his face. Floki says the same will happen to the child if he ever reveals it was Loki who gave Torstein the “gift” of the mushrooms. Torstein is given the mushrooms and eats them readily. “Thanks, random child, for the unrecognized fungi! Yum!” Torstein collapses at the table.
 

Now, here? I took issue with how frightening Floki was. Bad enough he was encouraging a child to deliver fungus to Torstein, but to tell the lad such a hair-raising story and making threats if the secret were ever brought out? My Mama-heart was all, “No! No one should tell a child to keep a secret like this. No, no, no.” I’m still thinking that was overdone on Floki’s part. Especially because, for directing purposes and all that, the recipient of the fungus clearly acknowledges Floki down the table with a look and a slight salute with said fungus.
 

 

And later, when Torstein is shown to be dead (ha!), how must that child have felt? Scarred for life, that little guy.
 

 

vikings_season2_episode10 PrayingHere, I have to point to the title of this episode. “The Lord’s Prayer”. Someone on Tumblr pointed out that the only words Ragnar spoke in the whole episode were the words of this prayer. That the rest of his amazing acting was done by looks and actions. The scene where Ragnar asks to learn one of the prayers to Athelstan’s God is very quiet. Alternating scenes showing the preparation for the Big Fight contrasted with this quiet time between the two friends. And Athelstan waiting and coaxing the final “Amen” from Ragnar was interesting and kind of sweet – showing how Athelstan was pushing this since Ragnar had asked. He wasn’t going to let the jarl off without getting to the end of it. Good interplay. And intriguing, too, that Ragnar was word-free the rest of the time.

Until you pointed it out, I didn’t realize the lack of dialogue. That’s incredible! 

 

Horik speaks to Siggy and tells her if she kills Ragnar’s children, he will marry her and make her his queen. He will give her back the wealth and status she craves. He even gave her the gift of a beautiful knife to use on the children. He seemed to know exactly where Siggy’s deepest desires lay. Would he follow through? 

 

This is HORIK. The man cannot be trusted. And it was a relief to know at the end that he hadn’t been.

 

vikings_season2_episode10 Horik and SonHorik shows his son the sword of kings and tells him all of Ragnar’s line must be eliminated. The boy reaches out to touch the sword, and Horik tells him one day it will be his. The son is at his side as they attack Kattegat, and for the first few minutes, it seems like it will be a success, and then they enter Ragnar’s hall… To discover out it was all a ruse after all.

 

I mentioned during the evening that the approach of the factions that were fighting was like a rumble from West Side Story. Seeing Lagertha lead her warriors was great. I love how Kathryn Winnick plays her character. Lagertha doesn’t have to posture; she just is that awesome.

 

Floki grins, and I grinned too. He wasn’t a traitor to Ragnar, despite the doubts and dissatifactions he had voiced to Helga. Horik tells Floki that he betrayed the gods. Floki calmy replies that he didn’t… he just betrayed Horik. Torstein is there, not dead after all. Siggy steps out and offers Ragnar the dagger with which she was supposed to kill Ragnar’s children. Horik accepts his fate but begs Ragnar to spare his son. The princeling watches as Ragnar stabs his father and then savagely beats him to death. This scene was hard to watch, because it was so raw with sheer rage and bloodlust.

 

The revelations here were not accompanied by anything but themselves, and I really appreciated that. Torstein shows up and that was enough. Everything else fell into place beautifully. Who is the sly one, now? Floki? Ragnar? Siggy? All of the above? The subsequent slaughter was hard to watch, but it had to be there.
vikings gif epi 10
There’s an awesome battle of the shieldmaidens as Lagertha and Mrs. Horik meet in the hall. Lagertha emerges victor and walks over to the bedroom where Horik’s daughters are cringing behind the furniture. Lagertha gazes at them for a moment, and I wonder if she was thinking of Gyda, who might – if circumstances were different – have found herself in a similar situation. Largertha is told that Ragnar has given orders, and so she turns away.

 

Gyda… I still miss her.

 

After the battle, Björn goes into the room where Horik’s daughters were, and sees young bodies laying bloodied on the bed, and young women weeping around them. He tells the girls to leave. But I don’t recall seeing the princeling meet his fate… Did Ragnar spare him after all? The episode ends with Ragnar sitting on the edge of a stone cliff, holding the king’s sword.

 

A great bit of cinematography. And a silent declaration. Which History Channel made clear later.
king ragnar tweet
Someone on Tumblr pointed out that if Ragnar is king, Rollo can become earl, giving Siggy what she wants after all.

 

Part of me is relieved, but part of me is thinking that Rollo and Siggy still have their own drama with which to contend. Will he marry her? Will she seek to have power like Lagertha’s?

 

Floki’s “betrayal” was done so well. I was holding onto the hope that Floki was merely playing along with Horik, a hope which flickered and died, and then was rekindled at the last moment! I was played by the History Channel!

 

So. Was. I. All season. Thunderous applause to the writers. It all made sense in the finale and I am totally appreciative of their skills.

And of yours, Lissa. 🙂 What WILL we do until 2015?
Vikings finale gods coming

6 comments

  1. pittman66 · May 4, 2014

    More of a question than a comment… What was the reason for Floki giving the mushrooms to Rollo? I understand the writer’s misdirection (is he going to kill Rollo as the “someone important?”) But then, obviously not. Was he using Rollo as a test subject, willing to risk his life to make sure they weren’t poisonous? But then, Floki knows his ‘shrooms, right? Or, was it to kick in some super-strength to get Rollo out of bed?

    and…Holy Cow! How am I JUST now finding this blog? I love this show and have no one to talk to about it. 😦

    • Sandi · May 4, 2014

      Greetings! And welcome. lol If you do a search on VIKINGS on my blog, you’ll be able to find all of the discussions Lissa and I had for both seasons of the show. 🙂

      Regarding Floki and the Questionable Fungus: Beats me. Honestly, I can’t think of a reason for it unless there was a medicinal aspect to the mushrooms. Which was indeed possible, but I am not familiar with any mushroom variety that would impart strength. Most mushrooms had different effects that I am aware of.

      Misdirection? Oh very likely. Much plotting happened this season that the audience was not privy to, as was evidenced by the revenge enacted against all of Jarl Borg’s men earlier. The writers were clearly slanting the episodes to create doubt regarding Floki’s character. 🙂

  2. heatherdaygilbert · May 6, 2014

    I finally got caught up! I’m thinking the mushrooms might’ve been berserker shrooms Rollo and Torstein would’ve been used to. Either that or Floki knew which ones to use to make someone puke blood but not die…anyway…so glad with how it turned out! Wondering where it’ll go w/Horik’s son still alive…but we know those Vikings eventually started moving into England and settling that farmland Ragnar dreams of. Anyway, I’m glad I started watching again. That Blood Eagle episode really pushed me away from watching anymore, but I care enough about Lagertha and Bjorn, I need to keep up. Ragnar, not so much. 🙂 Anyway, great breakdown as usual, Viking gals!

    • Sandi · May 6, 2014

      I hadn’t considered the berserker ‘shrooms! If they were, they didn’t do much good in terms of the out-of-mind battle mindset, but if they DID keep Rollo from feeling his pain, then that was a help. I hadn’t thought of that. 🙂

      Horik’s son… Well. The mercy of kings has sometimes led to their detriment. We’ll have to see how that plays out. I have heard that next season will take them to Paris – per the history of Rollo, anyway – so that should be interesting.

      The Blood Eagle episode was graphic but it displayed Ragnar’s cunning and set us up for the season finale, too. Beyond the horror of the blood eagle itself. (Shudder!) I maintain that that episode was very well filmed, however, for the subject matter.

      I’m very eager to see what the writers have in store for Björn Ironside! And Lissa recently said she found a paper that said that Ivar the Boneless’s name might be a misnomer. A mistranslation. That it should have been Ivar the Cruel, instead. This makes a lot of sense. History is SO FUN. 🙂

  3. Haakon · May 8, 2014

    As a sword admirer what can you tell us of the sword used at the end.. who made it..any photos.. will it play a role in the future Vikings shows

    • Sandi · May 8, 2014

      Greetings, Haakon ~

      There’s a discussion about the runes on the sword that I found here: http://tvclub.kinja.com/vikings-finale-calling-all-anglo-saxonists-1570969416.

      The sword itself. It appears to be aiming for the famed Ulfberht swords that have recently had some air time on PBS and so on. The series begins at the end of the 8th Century and has gone into the early 9th, though, and some think that this early group of Vikings might not have had made the Ulfberht sword. But in appearance that is what it appears to be. With runes. Here is one place with more information: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/private-tour-british-museums-new-viking-exhibition-swords-skulls-booty-punk-rock-1439162

      As to next season, I checked with an interview Michael Hirst (the writer) did regarding next season and what I heard is that the sword represents the kingship, but that’s not something Ragnar ever really wanted at the beginning – but his goals are often unfocused, so it’s hard to say. I don’t know that it’s going to gain the mythic status of Excalibur, however. I am going to endeavor to take time to read some of the Nordic Sagas before next season, as soon as I finish my own Viking trilogy.

      Thank you for reading! I hope I was able to be of some use, anyway. 🙂

Comments are closed.