Season 4b takes place some years after the end of Season 4a. The Sons of Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) are grown but Ragnar has gone missing. On his return to Kattegat, he provokes a power struggle between his sons Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig), Ivar (Alex Høgh) and Ubbe (Jordan Patrick Smith) in ‘The Outside’ and subsequently Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) and Queen Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland) join their little party afterwards. Ragnar coming back is the calamity of calamities. The King has returned and wants to go back to Wessex, but not before giving a speech on who wants to be king. Well fucking great Ragnar!
The season spent much of the time building up to the awesomeness of the final battle between the Great Heathen Army and King Aella’s toy soldiers. King Ecbert (Linus Roache) hands Ragnar over to King Aella (Ivan Kaye) between ‘In The Certain Hour Before Morning’ and ‘All His Angels.’ Ragnar promises Ecbert that he won’t suffer at the hands of his sons by doing this. Sure… but Ivar The Boneless has other plans. Even the name Ivar sounds evil. Ragnar is killed off by Aelle in a pit of snakes, as depicted in the history books. His sons want revenge. One thing leads to another and then we are witness to the blood-eagling of Aella which is one thousand times worse than Ramsay Bolton being mauled by dogs at the end of ‘The Battle Of The Bastards.’
There are moments of irony that one will only realise if you’ve been paying attention from season one episode one. One example is with everyone’s favourite Athelstan-killer, Floki. He’s that one character who prides himself on his devotion to the Norse gods: Thor and Odin. Though, he is Loki to the core, a true snake. In ‘Crossings’, he spends half of the episode in awe of a Mosque, the house of the Islamic faith. He portrays a very visible attraction to this new religion. Though previously, he killed Athelstan because he was closer with Ragnar than he ever was but more importantly, he seemingly converted Ragnar to Christianity. As viewers, we know Ragnar wasn’t completely converted, he was merely open-minded when it came to faith.
The Death of Ragnar Lothbrok was a long time coming in my opinion. I’ve been waiting for this since season three. So I’m glad that they’ve finally done it so we can see his sons develop into the legends that I’ve heard so much about from the history books, mainly Ivar becoming Ivar The Boneless because I’m in dire straits since Game Of Thrones killed off Ramsay. Ivar looks dark and sadistic enough to quench my withdrawal symptoms. Yes, like Joffrey, Ramsay was unlikable. He had no redeeming qualities but he kept things interesting and Ivar is much the same. Quite frankly, he has become my new favourite character. At least, he is my favourite character after Lagertha!!
Much akin to ‘A Game Of Thrones’ and ‘A Clash Of Kings’, the second half of season four jumps between the different members of the main family, with Ivar being the most interesting. He kills every scene he’s in. Ragnar was a new-age thinker and it seems he’s passed this gift on to Ivar, the man everyone underestimates because he cannot use his legs. Alex Høgh is haunting and has struck a fear in me that I felt when watching Tobias Menzies as Black Jack in Outlander and what Iwan Rheon achieved as the Bastard of Bolton in Game Of Thrones.
Ragnar was charismatic and a real tactician with a leniency towards realpolitik. His thinking was ahead of his time. Whilst many great warriors would think about the fastest way to take out their enemies through combat, Ragnar would be thinking long-term. He was always five moves ahead on the chessboard. Travis Fimmel (Warcraft) is a great talent and I wish him well in his future after Vikings. I can’t wait to see him in more things. Ivar seems to be going down the same route as his father but he is not afraid of doing what needs to be done, even if what needs to be done is not pleasant, for both body and spirit.
Fimmel’s last couple of episodes exhibited one of the best television acting performances I’ve seen in a while. It’s on par with my favourite scene in Game Of Thrones, Jaime and Brienne’s little chat in the bathtub. Travis Fimmel and Nickolaj Coster-Waldau are two of the best talents on television and I will defend that until the end. In both shows, we are introduced to a brutal chaotic world, with political intrigue and realism at its epicentre. And akin to Game Of Thrones’ ‘Kissed By Fire’, Ragnar’s last two episodes represent the insight that medieval-centric shows are capable of.
As we watch Raganr contemplating life, death and the meaning of his existence, it begins to make audiences think… hmmm, what if? The majority of ‘Uncertain Hour Before The Morning’ was Ragnar and King Ecbert drinking and talking like two old friends who haven’t seen each other in a long time, and that’s what it was, hence the real situations that Vikings has created time and time again. It just so happens that these two are two of the most interesting characters in the series. Their conversations through its three-season run has tackled all numbers of things, including: philosophy, comedy, politics, sex and friendship. Bravo.
Regardless of Lagertha being my favourite character in Vikings and one of my favourite characters in contemporary television, it’s Alex Høgh that stole the whole season with his phenomenal performance as Kattegat’s local sociopath, Ivar The Boneless. He has struck a yin-yang balance between the psychotic, yet sympathetic underdog. Vikings continues to one of the best shows on popular television and even without Ragnar, I have faith that it will continue to be as great as the fear that the name Ragnar Lothbrok struck into the hearts of men.