Wednesday, January 1, 2020

REVIEW: 'Vikings' - Norway Prepares to Elect Its First King While Lagertha Drinks With Her Shieldmaidens in 'The Key'

History's Vikings - Episode 6.05 "The Key"

As Kings and Jarls arrive at Harald's territory for the election of the King of all Norway, King Olaf is confident of the result, but the election may not run as smoothly as he believes. Lagertha's village is a hive of activity in anticipation of a second attack by the bandits. Lagertha is relieved when Gunnhild arrives with re-enforcements. In Kiev, Ivar and Igor engage in risky subterfuge and Ivar is stunned when he encounters a ghost from his past.

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 next episode of History's Vikings.

"The Key" was written by Michael Hirst and directed by David Frazee

It's fascinating to see the split between the characters focusing on the future and those reflecting on the past. Of course, the vikings have long honored the legends of the past. Ragnar is mentioned in nearly every episode. His sons have accumulated power for themselves by building off of what he accomplished for his people. And now, Bjorn has the potential to be crowned as king of all Norway. It may just be a ceremonial achievement. But it's also a huge step that King Olaf states is something that the people of this country never thought was possible. And yet, it's important to take this step in order to scale up as a player on the world stage. Yes, certain vikings still have the ambitions to explore. However, the priority has also centered around creating a rich viking culture that is welcoming to outsiders in a way that makes this country just as valid a trading partner as any other outpost. That is Bjorn's dream at the moment. He likely has the votes to achieve this stunning accomplishment. He doesn't want it simply handed to him. These characters want power when they are put in the positions that naturally demand it. They don't want to be king in name alone. Bjorn and Ivar are similar in that way. Ivar is grateful for Oleg's hospitality in Kiev. However, he also understands that he will have to go against his new friend in order to return to Norway as the king whose rule is determined by his own desires. He doesn't want to just be a puppet for whatever Oleg wants to do with his plans for global expansion. Oleg may only look at Ivar as the justifiable means to launch this invasion and expand his territory and influence. That is enviable by so many people in this world. But it's also just as important to reflect on the lives lost along the way and the journeys taken to get to this point. The halls are full of stories of viking warriors fighting alongside Bjorn and Ragnar in Paris. Those are the men and women Bjorn is asking to receive their support. In Lagertha's village, she has found kindred spirits who also once served as shield maidens. It's like looking in a mirror to see Gunnhild and her fellow warriors arrive to offer their support in increasing the defenses of this village. These warriors celebrate each other. The drive they feel is so palpable and genuine. But again, Lagertha was trying to leave this life behind. She buried her sword. She had to pick it up again and believes she failed because Hali died. She couldn't protect her grandson. As such, she is changed as a warrior. She may not be able to do what she once did on the battlefield. However, she offers hope and a sense of camaraderie in this village. Sometimes, that's all it takes to lift one's spirit. Yes, an attack from these bandits is likely imminent. It doesn't occur yet though. That still lingers on the horizon. People are preparing for attack. They are arming themselves with information. Ivar is no longer safely hiding out in Kiev. His life is invaded personally by the return of Freydis who has assumed a new identity which once again brings her close to power. Meanwhile, a messenger returns to Kattegat to inform Ubbe and Torvi of Ivar's location. All of this holds most personal significance for Hvitserk as he is the one living firmly in the past. He is having conversations with people who have died. His mental state is not good. It's actually quite dire. The show indulges in that too much here without enough immediate payoff. Sure, it's absolutely terrifying to witness his hallucinations alongside him to show just how his reality is being warped and welcoming this destruction. But again, it's essentially the same note being hit over and over again to mess with his mind and ensure he'll never be the same even if he succeeds in killing Ivar. All of this delicate character work is engaging and exciting. But it also feels as if not a whole lot has actually progressed this season so far. The satisfaction is in the ways life can be agonizingly long sometimes even if the reward is a potential kingdom or the personal satisfaction from family. Not everyone can receive that though.