Warning; Major Spoilers for all ten episodes of Vikings Season 6B to follow. If you have not watched the series, tune in to Amazon Prime.
Vikings’ Season 6B had a few shining moments, for which Hirst is known. He played with various philosophies and cultural influences, including a Viking who channeled Jesus Christ right before being burned alive. Hirst plays Olaf’s final moment as the image of the self-immolation of Vietnamese Buddhist monks. The image of the Christian god was given more space than the Norse gods in these last ten episodes. The theme of blue eyes meaning danger, ran through Ivar, Erik the Red, and Ubbe’s stories. However, the series ultimately suffered from an old man, who no longer wanted to wield power of the pen or make decisions. The extra 10 episodes each season were wasted on repeating storylines, blonde actresses who executives wanted to see naked on camera, and characters whose stories carried no meaning to the audience.
In the last episodes, Bjorn beats back the Rus, then dies. Ivar returns to Kattegat, attacks the English and dies. Hvitserk becomes a Saxon prince, named Athelstan. And Ubbe is left on a beach in the New World with Floki.
I’ll say my peace on a few favorite moments and be done with Vikings and 2020.
My Favorite Moments:
Bjorn Ironside is dead
We’ll just rip the band aid off on that one. Bjorn is mortally wounded at the end of episode ten. But he is alive and brought home to Kattegat. After the fight, the Rus capture King Harald and deposed King Olaf. Harald later escapes to cause more trouble.
Kattegat knows the Rus will attack soon. In a move invented by his father, Bjorn sends word of his death to the Rus. Knowing he is dying, Bjorn puts on his armor. He once again inspires the whole of Norway to join together against the Rus, something Harald could not do. Bjorn does die during the battle. But the appearance of a supposed dead man, rattles many Rus soldiers into retreat. Vikings win the last fight. This is much like Lagertha’s death. She knew she was dying, Hvitserk simply put her out of her misery.
Worse Cruise EVER
We all now know what it feels like to be quarantined on a cruise ship with no way of getting to port. Ubbe convinces Flatnose and Othere to sail with him to the promised land West of Iceland. 25% of the season is spent building up mistrust between the settlers on Ubbe’s expedition, and 50% is spent watching people suffering in a boat.
There are only two points for this story that mean anything to me. First off, Asa goes overboard in a storm. Bjorn’s entire bloodline is gone now. (Unless we believe Ingrid is pregnant with his child back in Kattegat.) Asa dies the same way as Bjorn’s first daughter, Siggy – by drowning. With all the sea voyages over the years, have Vikings not learned to tie possessions and people down during storms? Even Ragnar, the worst father ever, tied Ivar to a mast during a storm.
After much suffering the group lands in Greenland. Despite it being desolate, many decide to stay. A massacre breaks out, when Flatnose refuses to share a whale that has beached itself on his property. Ubbe’s band escapes onto a boat with no food or water. They are set adrift to get away from Flatnose. It originally seemed to be the fable of Jonah and the whale and turned into Moby Dick. Ubbe and the audience’s faith is tested with weeks of restating the obvious – ‘We have no water, no food, most likely going to die today’. I’m guessing they were on board for 40 days and nights.
Floki Makes Us Happy.
After several more deaths from dehydration and starvation, Ubbe’s group land in North America.
The local people befriend Ubbe’s group. The locals somehow know the word, “happy.” When asked who taught them that word, they take Ubbe to the “crazy man.” In a scene that feels like Frodo returning to the shire, Ubbe is reunited with the man who taught the locals the Norse word. It’s Floki. Floki lives by himself in the woods.
Eventually, peace between Native American and Viking, is lost. A Viking kills a local over lust for gold. It breaks this viewer’s heart to hear the murderer, Nad, label the locals “savages.” The English and Francs still consider the Vikings savages.
Bjorn makes an extreme decision to perform a blood eagle, to rebuilt trust. He also wishes to keep the old ways. However, it feels as if this act also taints the new world with the dark blood that Floki fled in Iceland.
The lesson learned is that coming to a new land, looking for profit, will never end well. Ragnar’s drive to discovery for knowledge it a better reason. Whenever trade is brought to a new port, violence erupts. It is better to seek new land for transformation of yourself, not the land. Floki has learned that letting go of the past, good or bad, is the best way to live.
Harald is spared by Oleg after the last battle. He seems to have escaped from the Rus, with help from Oleg’s men. Was he supposed to be a puppet for Oleg?
Harald arrives as the good people of Kattegat vote between Ingrid and Gunnhild for queen. He literally stops the vote count and takes back his position as the rightfully elected King of ALL NORWAY. Did Hirst have a crystal ball into 2020’s election?
In Kiev, Ivar learns Prince Oleg’s wife, Katya, is working with Prince Dir to free the young prince Igor. The priests at a Good Friday enactment help Prince Igor escape as well. Oleg at this point sees himself as a Christ/Martyr figure, since his rule hasn’t gone as planned, and his wives all betray him. It is never his fault.
Ivar and Hvitserk escape Kiev with Igor and are heralded as heroes. They return to Kiev and overthrow Oleg. All of Kiev wanted Oleg gone. Ivar finds his own redemption, by saving Igor from Oleg.
Ivar conceives a child with Princess Katya. We won’t know if it is true. But he wants to go home, and Katya must maintain the appearance of the child being her dead husband’s. So Ivar and Hvitserk leave. Ivar’s child will be a Rus noble.
Stand by Your Man
Gunnhild is honorable to the end. When Ingrid confides that Harald raped her, Gunnhild never betrayed her confidence – even when it could have helped her win an election. Ingrid later claimed she deserved to be queen because she was carrying Bjorn’s child. Harald knows the child could be his. He decides to take both women as his wives after becoming King of Kattegat and all Norway.
Gunnhild has other plans. She refuses to marry Harald, preferring instead to swim out into the fjord and drown. She realizes in the coming years, women, even shield maidens, will again have no position without a man. That makes two women who basically committed suicide rather than live with Harald Finehair, King of All Norway.
Erik the Red
Initially Erik plays both ends, by having both of Bjorn’s widows run for queen of Kattegat. He also ends up in bed with both. Harald arrives and ends the possibility of either woman ruling. But when Harald leaves for English raids, he puts Ingrid and Erik in charge. Erik wants to rule completely. Ingrid blinds him with a spell and ultimately has him killed. Leaving Ingrid as the Queen of all Kattegat.
The only reason I give Erik the Red’s story any bandwidth is because, for some reason, Hirst has made his mannerisms like Rollo.
He is set up to betray Harald, and then doesn’t. It is similar to Rollo almost betraying Ragnar for Earl Haraldson & King Horik. Rollo was completely dependent on women many times in his life. Much like Erik becomes dependent on Ingrid after his blindness. Rollo was never called a Skogamor, but he was hated for his past deeds. We never learned Rollo’s back story or why Lagertha hated him so much. Erik was a slave trader, and murderer. He ends up paying the price when confronted with Ingrid, who was sold into slavery by Erik years before.
Not Today Ivar
Ivar and Hvitserk arrive in Kattegat to find that many men still respect their legend.
Throughout the episodes we see Ivar unable to hide his pain and weak bones. In the last episodes, Hirst goes back to the same formula that had made the “raw meat” watchers happy. The last battle between Viking and Saxon is literally launched because Ivar, Hvitserk and King Harald were bored with life, and had nothing more imaginative to do with themselves. King Alfred admonishes Ivar for his old habits. He should have been happy with the fame and fortune from past victories. Queen Ealhswith insists that her husband no longer negotiate with the Vikings. King Alfred agrees with her.
Hvitserk thinks he is fated to kill his brother. He doesn’t actually kill Ivar. But did he start Ivar’s deterioration when he mercilessly beat Ivar in Kiev?
In the last days, Hvitserk tries to save his brother from himself. He reminds Ivar whenever his eyes are deep blue as a child, his brother would warn him, “Not today Ivar.” Ivar was in danger of breaking his bones.
Several scenes reveal that Ivar’s bones have become weaker. In a parallel story, King Alfred, who was sickly as a child, also has deteriorating health throughout the last episodes.
He could not fight like other men. But Ivar, like Bjorn, is shown inspiring other men to fight for him. Ivar’s dies in the last battle with the English. In the end both Alfred and Hvitserk witness a ballet of Ivar controlling his soldier’s movements. Once Ivar falls, Alfred stops the battle, so Hvitserk can mourn his brother.
His death is the perfect metaphor for the death of the series. Ivar remains still and waits as a fresh-faced Saxon, with a small blade and no skill, feverishly batters him with a dozen small jabs. Fans have seen the series killed by a series of repetitious, shallow, cuts. In the end, Ivar’s leg bones break under his weight. The show’s underlying structure became too weak to support its own weight. Hirst hammered home the idea that doing the same action over and over for the sole purpose of profit, weakens and destroys its soul.
While with the Rus, Prince Oleg tries to lure Hvitserk away from Ivar, and gets him hooked on opium. But Hvitserk still feels his fate is with Ivar. When asked, he doesn’t need to answer Ivar, they just leave. When back in Kattegat, Hvitserk is visited by the goddess, Idun. She is the goddess of regenerations, or rebirth. She and her apples, keep the Norse gods immortal. She has chosen to leave the gods to help Hvitserk. Ivar at the same time, is struggling with him bones, and falls again – weakened.
After Hvitserk’s night with the goddess, a rain storm seems to cleanse him with a baptism. In a scene reminiscent of Athelstan being enlightened with his purpose before his death, Hvitserk falls to his knees and smiles.
Ragnar’s legacy ends where it began, with Athelstan. After Ivar falls in battle, Hvitserk converts. King Alfred is his godfather and makes him a Saxon prince in England, with the name of Athelstan. In the “Vikings’ series, Athelstan was King Alfred’s biological father’s name. Will Hvitserk become a monk, like the Athelstan who influenced Ragnar? Or will he become King Athelstan who actually reigned as a Wessex king, after King Alfred’s death?
If you’ve read this far, I want to reward you with one unanswered Vikings’ mystery. There was another son of Ragnar. I have it on VERY good authority that… Magnus, Queen Kwenthrith’s son, WAS Ragnar’s son. Their love affair was completely cut from the series.
That’s it for me. Netflix has a new Viking series that picks up the story 100 years later. I hope they have characters as compelling as the first season of Vikings.
Picture sources: Amazon Prime & Vikings