Wednesday, November 28, 2018

REVIEW: 'Vikings' - Rollo Returns and Has Shocking Offers for Both Ivar and Lagertha in 'The Revelation'

History's Vikings - Episode 5.11 "The Revelation"

Ivar is crowned the new king of Kattegat just in time to welcome Rollo home. Bjorn, Lagertha and Ubbe must rely on unsteady alliances to survive.

Does the reveal that Bjorn may actually be Rollo's son actually mean anything? This episode is titled "The Revelation" and that moment is the most influential of this first episode back. It appears to be a key motivator for Rollo as he returns to Kattegat for the first time in many years. He is trying to protect Bjorn and Lagertha even though he sided with Ivar in the viking civil war that absolutely destroyed Bjoan, Lagertha and Ubbe's forces. Over the years, Rollo has never been a consistent character. The only constant with him is that he would betray his fellow vikings over and over again. That is the only thing that he can be counted on doing. Sure, he has also been a formidable warrior. His return to Kattegat at the conclusion of the previous episode was a huge moment that signified that even more change was bound to come to the region. And yet, it's ultimately nothing more than a stroll down memory lane with him hopefully getting a new trading partner in the area. He uses this to his advantage as a representative for France. He is able to build on his country's standing in the world. He can expect more tools, gold and warriors from the vikings should France ever be threatened by one of its enemies. He doesn't return as a viking. He returns as a devout nobleman and diplomat. And yet, that's what makes it so strange when his personal connections to all of these characters define his story. That's a duality that makes it difficult to care about anything that he does. Sure, his time away has clearly afforded him a more level head and the ability to better strategize. He can take advantage of the situation because he has information that Ivar desperately needs. He still hasn't succeeded in his goal of killing the warrior who murdered his mother. That is the only thing motivating Ivar at the moment. Even when he gets the information of Lagertha's location, it's too late for him to do anything about it. She and her warriors are fleeing to another corner of the world. As such, this conflict is coming to an end for the moment. That means there is more importance placed on this personal revelation of Bjorn's true lineage. And yet, does it make any sense whatsoever?

Bjorn doesn't see any value to Rollo placing doubts in his mind about who his true father is. He has modeled his life after Ragnar. Alexander Ludwig has even copied the mannerisms of Travis Fimmel in order to better play Bjorn on the series. It's clear that the mindset has always been Bjorn as the son of Ragnar. That's how he is known throughout the world. Plus, Rollo doesn't know for certain that Bjorn is his son. He just believes it to be true because he is also in love with Lagertha. He wants to believe that he was the one who got her pregnant and not his brother. He was always jealous of the family that Ragnar had. Ragnar didn't even fully appreciate it. And yet, Lagertha went on to build her own kingdom and standing in the world. She didn't need support from Ragnar, Rollo or any man. She changed the world during her reign. She took back Kattegat. She returned to her home. She changed it for the better. And now, she is forced to run because she was defeated in battle. Her troops were just no match for the forces that Ivar and his allies assembled. Moreover, she had to kill her lover Astrid because she couldn't stand to give birth to Harald's child. This is such a defeating moment for Lagertha. Her remaining friends and family look to her for guidance over what to do next. Instead, the moment primarily becomes about this huge revelation as it pertains to two of the men in her life. Rollo believes that this is a connection that has always existed and that they could act upon it once more. Meanwhile, Bjorn doesn't want to give any support to this theory. More importantly though, all of this seems to come down to how Bjorn reacts to the news. There is a moment where he wants to behead Rollo but doesn't. As such, it becomes too much about his reaction even though this should be the last thing that any of them should be thinking about at the moment.

All of this is also in service to two options being presented for where Bjorn and Lagertha can go to escape Ivar's troops. They can't stay in the viking countryside forever. They will be discovered eventually. In fact, Rollo is more than likely going to tell Ivar the moment that he returns to Kattegat. He knew exactly where to find them because he has a better understanding of the history of this land and its importance to Lagertha and Bjorn. It's such a huge decision for the two of them to leave. They are suddenly becoming refugees with no place to call home and only the slightest glimpse of finding safety somewhere else. Rollo says that they can fight for him and be protected in France. That could run the threat of destroying his new trade deal with Ivar though. And so, Rollo may not be as good an ambassador as he believes himself to be. Of course, Ivar doesn't know where his enemies are sailing away to. He believes that he can hunt them down no matter where they end up. This entire civil war story was seemingly building to a huge death that would forever change the foundation of the show. That didn't occur though. It's still being dragged out because Ivar and Lagertha are still locked in this conflict. But now, they are also going their separate ways. Ivar is now the king of Kattegat who has to put up with Hvitserk and Harald who are also scarred because of the recent battle. Meanwhile, Lagertha and Bjorn decide to sail to England in the hopes that Heahmund can convince the King that they should be welcomed and not seen as the enemy despite all of the savagery that has been happening throughout the country ever since Ivar left. It's an intriguing new place to find story as well. It has been a long time since Lagertha was in England. And now, Heahmund is pledging his complete loyalty to her because she's the one woman who will make him question his service to his church. But again, Lagertha is right to fear yet another betrayal because she has survived long enough with enough allies to know that no one can be fully trusted.

The other concerns of "The Revelation" aren't as compelling as some of the main stories. It feels like the show continues to move the pieces around elsewhere in the world in preparation for the arrival of new vikings at some point. Of course, the vikings of importance have just arrived in England. As such, they need to get caught up on everything that has happened there in the interim. Aethelwulf is no longer the king. In fact, Alfred is the king. He has already started to make major decisions as well. He has created an enemy out of the church simply because he wants all of that knowledge and wisdom accessible to the public. He doesn't think it should fall only to the most devout and trusted in the community. He wants everyone in his country to be taught of the powerful lessons of their faith. He wants that access to his citizens. That comes immediately after he makes some smart strategic decisions to protect the country from its invaders. One viking ship is sailing up the river and falls immediately into a trap. That's the way that Lagertha and Bjorn return to the country as well. They knew they would find resistance. They don't return to the settlement that they previously set up during their last invasion that saw the death of King Ecbert. They actually want an audience with the king in order to seek refuge in the country. They don't return to the settlement because it is still perceived as territory belonging to Ivar. It's not safe for them there. They don't have enough soldiers to actually launch an assault. Instead, they are hoping that Heahmund will protect them. But he is operating in the dark as well because he doesn't have a history with Alfred. He was hoping his bond fighting alongside Aethelwulf would be enough. And now, it means that Albert has another major decision to make right away.

Elsewhere, the viking community in Iceland has to decide whether or not to sacrifice Floki to the gods. That's the way this story was left off in the previous episode. It was all pointing to his demise. This was how his story was going to end. He had the optimism of creating a new community of vikings. One that devoted themselves fully to the gods and didn't concern themselves with the trivial demands from the rest of their community. But the old ways still crept back in. This was still a community that demanded an official leader and many were willing to create chaos just to prove that Floki didn't know anything that he was talking about. That is certainly true. This isn't the land of the gods. It's just another corner of the world that hasn't been settled by humans. He was willing to die for his beliefs. And now, his community doesn't allow him to make that sacrifice. That ensures that he will remain an active character this season. Sure, this conflict doesn't just immediately go away because of the vote to save Floki's life. Eyvind will still be leading up the opposition that wants him ousted from his position in this new community. Moreover, the show still needs Floki alive as long as this new settlement is going to remain a place of interest. He is the only major character of note in this place whom the audience actually cares about. Sure, Flatnose is played by Adam Copeland who has his own group of fans. But he hasn't really done a whole lot as a character. Floki is the one driving this story forward. However, it's not the most engaging aspect of the narrative either. So, something needs to happen to make this resonate just as successfully as everything else happening in this world.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Revelation" was written by Michael Hirst and directed by Ciarán Donnelly.
  • Judith is already angling to stage a wedding for her son in order to strengthen his claim to the throne. She sees it as the way that it has always been done. Kings are vulnerable if there isn't a clear line of succession. Of course, Alfred already rose to power through untraditional methods. So, he may choose to do things differently. But his mother is very concerned about what could happen to him if he creates too many enemies - which is a necessary part of the job.
  • Ivar is in the same position as Alfred as well. He is already looking at a new love interest in the hopes that she can play a role in whatever it is that he is playing. Of course, Freydis projects her independence. She is alone and likes it that way. Meanwhile, things are made more complicated with the information that Ivar can't have children. That may make him more vulnerable. But he's still going to be incredibly dangerous moving forward.
  • Rollo doesn't stay in Kattegat very long. He arrives mostly to see the outcome of this viking civil war. He touches base with both sides. He has meaningful interactions with both that will allow him to return to France in even better standing with his people. It just means the season has already disposed of him even though he's of huge importance to this specific episode.
  • Margrethe went mad during the last stretch of episodes. She put children's lives in danger because she was jealous of the relationship that Ubbe and Torvi had. She is still alive though. Ubbe decides to leave her behind because he can't kill her. He doesn't have that hatred towards her. He sees a fate condemned to Ivar as punishment enough. And yet, it's Hvitserk who decides to care for her despite how crazed she now appears.
  • Of course, all of this ends on the potent image of vikings being locked in cages and begging for the mercy of the English king. It's a position the show has featured before. Ragnar spent a lot of time locked away in a cage. However, this time is different because it's a small group of vikings. They are a family as well. That may allow some compassion. But the hatred of vikings is still rampant throughout the community. As such, Heahmund's support may not be enough.