Wednesday, December 4, 2019

REVIEW: 'Vikings' - Bjorn Contemplates What Kind of Leader He Wants to Be While Lagertha Begins a New Life in 'New Beginnings'

History's Vikings - Episode 6.01 "New Beginnings"

It's six months after the battle of Kattegat and Bjorn is now King. But as he struggles with the responsibilities of kingship, he finds he can't rely on his mother, Lagertha - she has other plans. But can Lagertha lead a quieter life and leave her days as a shield-maiden behind? Ivar falls into the hands of the Kievan Rus, and in their ruthless and unpredictable ruler, Prince Oleg, he may finally have met his match. Intrigued by Ivar's claims to be a god, Oleg decides to put him to the test.

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. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the season premiere of History's Vikings.

"New Beginnings" was written by Michael Hirst and directed by Steve Saint Leger

Can the Vikings ever truly find peace? That is the existential question being asked at the start of the final season. Many have died across the years. Sacrifices have been made in the name of expanding the kingdom and the viking way of life. Warriors have become legends. They are well known across the land. Is that enough though? Is that all they should aspire from their lives? Life could be judged by the battles won and lost. Everyone asks Bjorn what kind of king he will be. Kattegat has seen many different rulers over the course of the series. Ragnar and Lagertha had their ambitions but their people always saw them as fair and adhering to the viking way of life. With Ivar, he was a tyrant with a god complex who ruled through fear and hatred towards others. It was an oppressive regime the city has now been freed from. It's up to Bjorn to decide how the future will be decided. His leadership is now on display. His actions will inform what happens next for viking civilization. He could go off to battle once more. He is given that opportunity to do so by King Harald who has survived the injuries he sustained in battle. And yet, he is at a loss over his own identity. He no longer has the people in his life who have helped him form his identity. He can start over anew. That's the opportunity that Lagertha wants. She wishes to retire to a peaceful life as a farmer once more. She no longer wants to fight as a shield-maiden. She has won and lost. She has been thrown out of her kingdom and she has come back to reclaim her glory. So many soldiers have died for her to achieve these goals. And yet, peace doesn't have to come only through death. There should be the ability to experience in it in life too. Bjorn assumes that his mother will always be by his side to advise him on what to do. He hasn't always needed her guidance. He just always operated with the assumption that it will be there whenever he needs it. Now, that is taken away. She wishes to live an isolated existence. One that allows her to reconnect with her roots and the life she first built with Ragnar. She was happy then. She is flooded with wonderful memories now. That's what she is chasing. She no longer has anything left to prove as a warrior or ruler. Bjorn still feels that responsibility on his shoulders. He decides who lives and who dies. He has the respect and trust of the people. However, Gunnhild questions his adherence to family as the most important thing. She abides by a simplistic form of life. One that doesn't require a whole lot of overthinking. Bjorn has never seen the world the same way even though their connection is still strong. It too is one built out of trust and respect. They will stand together no matter what threat presents itself. That just makes this a very contemplative premiere. One where everyone ruminates over their potential legacy. Some of them are dwelling on the past. Hvitserk needs to get justice for Ivar killing the woman he loved. Others are capable of looking to the future. Torvi is pregnant once more. And then, the show is also explaining how Ivar the Boneless can return to power all over again. He has found a kindred spirit in Rus leader Prince Oleg. They both present as dangerous individuals who don't always believe the stories being told to them even though they are the objective truth. Ivar believes he's a god who soars above the demands of humanity. Oleg gives him the ability to do so literally here. But they may both be mad men. Rulers whose whims dictate what their people are able to do. Oleg needs to believe that there is a reason Ivar has arrived in his kingdom. It may all be random. And yet, these people don't believe in coincidences. They look to the gods for answers. That just presents itself as a dangerous new alliance. One that can bring the battlefield to Kattegat once more as the sons of Ragnar always seem destined to be fighting with one another instead of conquering or exploring new lands. That may be a little boring and unimaginative for the final season though. Fortunately, the show has enough time to explore many potential avenues for these characters still remaining.