Wednesday, December 26, 2018

REVIEW: 'Vikings' - The Latest Battle Between Viking and Saxon Kills Another Major Character in 'Hell'

History's Vikings - Episode 5.15 "Hell"

Bishop Heahmund is wracked with guilt as he fights to renounce his passions. Viking will clash with Saxon on the battlefield leaving a key figure lost in the balance.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. Premieres and finales may feature longer reviews. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of History's Vikings.

"Hell" was written by Michael Hirst and directed by Steve Saint Leger

The pressure is on whenever Vikings goes to battle. These episodes have increasingly become the standouts for the series simply because of all of the melodrama and buildup happening the rest of the time. However, there is also the added pressure to make each one unique and unlike anything that has previously been done. Sure, there is the expectation that there will be a significant loss of life. Characters die during these epic confrontations. But the way in which the battle is designed has to be different. This hour succeeds in that endeavor simply because of the inclusion of fire. That's really the only thing that sets this one apart from all the rest. Sure, the audience may question why the Saxon army didn't just box the vikings in with fire and then launch the catapults at them to ensure they were either crushed or fleeing into an open flame. They determined this battlefield. They prepared for everything. Even though it seems like King Harald and his forces will be trapped here no matter what happens, they are still able to retreat when the order is given. As such, fire is just used as a cool effect to signal the overall themes that have become apparent as of late. Moreover, the major loss that occurs here is someone the audience probably wasn't expecting at all. Heahmund dies on the battlefield. That's shocking simply because Jonathan Rhys Meyers was a huge casting inclusion that promised a significant shakeup for the show. He was always billed as becoming Ivar's greatest foe. Their dynamic could have been the second coming of Ragnar and Ecbert. However, that's not what this was destined to be. Instead, Heahmund was captured by the vikings and changed his loyalties to ensure his own survival. He continues doing so even upon his return to England. And yet, he also seems to have the clarity that he will die during this battle. As such, he has to repent his sins to ensure that he isn't tormented in Hell for all of eternity. That may still be his ultimate destination because of the numerous women he slept with despite promising himself to the church and God. That was always very important for him. It's what ultimately dooms his relationship with Lagertha. He breaks up with her. That offers her the clarity that this bond was never as special as he led her to believe. He was still easily tempted back to the life that he knew before. He still dies as a hero though. Sure, he is killed by anonymous archers instead of vikings the audience recognizes. That could make it all seem pointless. However, it's much more about Lagertha's reaction. She is unable to save him in time. Moreover, she is missing by the conclusion of the episode. She doesn't return to Wessex to celebrate with the other vikings and the Saxon warriors. That's curious especially because she's a major character who deserves better. She shouldn't have to live in the ambiguity the show is hoping to create in between episodes.

Elsewhere, it's still very clear that shifting loyalties continue to plague everyone in this world. Things can no longer be described as a conflict between Saxon and viking. That's the way that the English would like to see this conflict. They are fighting against the pagans who have raided their land. And yet, King Alfred is choosing to work with some of the vikings as well. He has learned more from Ubbe about how to fight than anyone else in his life. That's a crucial skill because he heads into battle as well. It means he's torn upon learning that his own brother was also involved in the conspiracy to overthrow him. But the vikings are also torn about facing off with their own kind in this battle. Bjorn and Ubbe were leaders of the great army as well. They were the sons of Ragnar who brought the viking communities together to avenge his death. And now, a civil war has occurred which has left Bjorn, Ubbe and Lagertha stranded in this world. Ubbe presents as a negotiator but it's obvious that he is just putting his plan into motion. In fact, this battle proves that he has a cunning mind as well. He doesn't hold too closely to the ideals of his people either. He is willing to explore the world and the various identities out there. He converts to Christianity mostly because it's convenient and means so much to the people who have taken him and his family in. They had no where else to go. And now, the vikings will continue needing Alfred's protection because Heahmund is dead. That means Ubbe's connection with the king is vital. It's a bond of honesty. It's one that he never had with his own brother who is now a king as well. Ivar has become so deluded with thoughts of being a god. He is now raising monuments for himself. He is changing the identity of Kattegat. But it's becoming more and more disturbing with each passing day. Of course, he doesn't know how to fill his time either. He may have less rage because he is loved. But the audience is still fully aware of just how monstrous he is. No one should ever have any doubts about that. It's still fascinating to see what the purpose of all of this will be. Hvitserk knows that Ivar killed The Seer. And yet, Ivar is still playing things innocently to his people. That may ensure future conflict amongst the brothers. That means that Ivar will need new people to trust. But that also seems inevitable because of the power he has quickly accumulated. The vikings may still be looking to achieve world domination and the spread of their faith. Magnus presents himself as a full ally to Harald. Bjorn remains torn as well. So, the personal drama will only be magnified further upon the conclusion of this epic battle.