This Vikings review contains spoilers.
Vikings Season 5 Episode 14
“I would go to hell for you, Lagertha.”
For an episode so fraught with promise, “The Lost Moment” never manages to make it out of second gear. Ivar’s further descent into darkness fails to gain much traction, the Wessex coup seemingly falls by the wayside, and though Floki finally stands up and takes charge, it’s too little, too late. Vikings offers no lack of intrigue, and the exceptional acting and production values remain, but the boldness of earlier seasons seems to have vanished, leaving viewers with a solid, but somewhat uninspiring cadre of characters. Can the sons of Ragnar Lothbrok save the day? Don’t ask The Seer.
The cold open immediately throws us back into the disturbing arena in which Ivar prepares to offer a special sacrifice, but the anticipation that built surrounding the implied threat to his brother Hvitserk quickly disappears when the king parades a woman he claims to be Lagertha before the assembly. The crowd and viewer react much the same. Of course, we know that’s not Lagertha, and while it’s not clear whether Ivar seriously believes he’ll get away with this charade, the scene marks a turning point in the early stage of his rule. Relying on the cult of personality may work for a time, but Ivar’s people stand against him and for their deposed queen. “All hail Lagertha” chants the crowd prompting Ivar to initiate the spectacle that leaves a young blonde girl hanging by her feet, throat cut, and body set ablaze.
One of the more compelling sub-plots remains the growing rift between Ivar and Hvitserk, and even though Hvitserk shows no signs that he desires the throne, his refusal to acknowledge his brother’s divinity can only be tolerated by the king for so long. Nevertheless, Hvitserk seeks guidance from The Seer, who appropriately offers a vague and cryptic message. “You’ll accomplish what others before you have failed to accomplish, but the cost will be too high.” It certainly makes sense that Hvitserk questions his decision to back Ivar during the earlier family split, but even then, he had to sense the kind of man and king Ivar would become. So what does the oracle’s message mean? Live peaceably with the English as Ragnar eventually hoped to do?
What becomes increasingly clear though is how different Ivar is from his father. Ragnar’s people loved him; Ivar’s fear and perhaps even hate him despite his delusional proclamation to the man who refuses to apologize and spits in the king’s face. “Hatred must never take the place of love.” Again, what continues to fascinate with Ivar’s character is whether he actually believes the words coming out of his mouth. The Seer’s earlier admission to Hvitserk that “everything is becoming darker” clearly refers to Ivar’s accelerated reign of terror, and while his brutal murder of the oracle comes as no surprise, it will not come without consequence. “Your path is strewn with garbage and filth.” Who will stand up to this mad king?
While Ivar and Hvitserk clash over the king’s governing methods, Ubbe and Bjorn have equally pressing matters to consider in Wessex, and while neither physically threatens the other, they clearly have significant differences of opinion regarding the Vikings’ role with the English. Though they have different mothers, these two have grown into a mutual respect for each other. Now, however, they must face not only their religious differences but their difference of opinion regarding the veracity of their alleged half-brother Magnus’ claims. It doesn’t go unnoticed that Bjorn has cut his hair and shaved his head. Did his encounter with Elsewith influence this change, and despite his protestations to the contrary, is he attempting to assimilate more into English culture?
Magnus’ introduction sets up several intriguing possibilities as he attempts to manipulate the Lothbrok brothers into doing his bidding. Apparently, Ragnar told both Lagertha and Aslaug that he did not have sex with Kwenthrith casting doubts over his claims. Interestingly, Bjorn believes Magnus and is drawn to his suggestion that the Viking exiles band with Harald and overthrow Alfred. Because of his imposing physical presence it’s easy to overlook the fact that Bjorn has his limitations, and it’s actually younger brother Ubbe who is more attuned to the future and the long term survival of their people. But Lagertha’s body language says it all as she slowly circles Magnus, sizing up the man and his story, and Lagertha is not impressed.
For various reasons, the royal coup spearheaded by King Alfred’s ealdermen and his brother Aethelred lacks the compelling nature of other active plot points, and when the plan is put into motion, the stakes are low since we know Alfred will one day become “the Great.” And though it’s interesting to watch Aethelred back down without any blows being struck, to be honest, I had hoped Heahmund would learn of the attack and with Bjorn and Ubbe’s help, put down the rebellion, further cementing their position in the king’s court. Will Alfred learn of his brother’s duplicitous behavior, and if so, how will he react? Even though we know Alfred will survive any attack, the attempt on his life and rule can still impact the narrative moving forward.
I’ve made no secret of my growing indifference towards Floki’s Icelandic adventure, and while nothing has changed my opinion regarding that, it’s still encouraging to see him to stand up and take charge in light of Thorunn’s murder. Injecting a supernatural component that allows him to learn the truth of her death works because it’s Floki, and oddly, seems to bring him some clarity about the settlement’s future. Though Eyvind’s clan is banished from the compound and forced to start from scratch, this is likely not the last we’ll see of the acrimony that permeates both families. Can Floki step down from the clouds and lead this community out of its emotional wasteland? These people deserve something good to happen.
There’s nothing wrong with a little tease and misdirection, but Vikings doesn’t appear to have a good handle on how important certain characters are to the overall arc. While the aptly titled “The Lost Moment” does present glimpses of momentous events that should eventually drive the story, for now, it simply feels as if we’re sitting around waiting for something to happen in a show about men and women of action. And so we wait.