This Vikings review contains spoilers.
Vikings Season 5 Episode 7
“And the winner shall inherit the earth.”
The winds of war are gathering steam, and Vikings sets up the long awaited clash for control of Kattegat and ultimately all of Norway. “Full Moon” takes its time and sheds first light on the impact of Bjorn’s homecoming, Floki’s promised land, and the impending civil war that threatens to tear apart the Norse universe.
In retrospect, it’s certainly fair to question the narrative value of Bjorn’s trip to the Mediterranean, but now that he’s back, the power dynamic shifts in Lagertha’s favor as far as Kattegat is concerned. No one can ever accuse Lagertha of not quickly getting to the heart of the matter, and she pointedly questions whether Halfdan’s loyalties lie with his brother or with Bjorn. However, facing attacks from without and within, Lagertha’s son’s homecoming couldn’t have come at a more fortuitous time. Letting down her facade of strength in front of her son should not be misconstrued as a moment of weakness but rather reflection on everything she’s accomplished. Bjorn’s pride in his mother buoys her spirit, leading to an admission that shows she sees beyond the power and control she’s amassed. “One day I would like to go back to being a farmer,” but of course, it’s never quite that simple.
At her core, Lagertha remains a shieldmaiden, and unlike Harald and Ivar, she rules, in part, because she feels Kattegat needs her. Nevertheless, she faces a terribly complicated situation since she expects and needs Ubbe on her side in the fight against Ivar and Harald. She has successfully rallied her neighbors including King Svase, whose daughter catches Bjorn’s eye as soon as he sees her, but the most persistent thorn in her side continues to be Margrethe. The former slave proposes a scenario to her husband Ubbe that culminates with him sitting on Kattegat’s throne, a plan that exposes not only her lack of political acumen but knowledge of the present state of affairs as well.
Margrethe presumes that if Lagertha and Bjorn die during the battle, then as the oldest son, Ubbe will naturally ascend to the throne. Her power hungry tunnel vision prevents her from understanding the true nature of Ubbe’s relationship with Ivar and Hvitserk. Obviously, this places Ubbe in the unenviable position of having to choose between his wife’s desires and his brother’s lust for power and recognition, but he’s also not stupid and cannot seriously presume that Ivar would ever allow his older brother to rule in his place. Margrethe has quickly become one of the most unlikable characters in Vikings, and even though Ubbe has every right to go after Lagertha for killing his mother, he seems to understand that his wife’s aspirations put them both in danger. Michael Hirst appears intent on using his characters’ lusty behavior as a means of provoking the action which is fine, but there’s always the risk of taking that approach too far.
Often relegated to sidekick status, Bjorn’s wife Torvi suddenly takes on a new role now that her husband has returned from his journey. Even though she’s likely known that Bjorn’s love for her has faded, it’s still heartbreaking to watch her give him permission to pursue Princess Snaefrid. I think it fair to say that Torvi is Lagertha’s closest friend and confidant, and the one person in Kattegat that the queen implicitly trusts. Does Ubbe come onto Torvi as a means of getting close to Lagertha, or has he seen what he really has in Margrethe and decided to cut his losses? How will Bjorn react should their relationship go further? Regardless, he’s in a difficult position since Ivar and Hvitserk have him dead in their sights. Whether the brothers can reconcile appears unlikely, but they do have common enemies in Lagertha and Harald.
There’s always a danger depending on others who don’t have the same stake in the game as you do, and the appearance of King Svase and his daughter represent Lagertha’s willingness to form alliances as needed. While we don’t yet learn why he agrees to help her, the sudden attraction between Snaefrid and Bjorn bears watching even though it doesn’t seem as if Bjorn has a desire to rule Kattegat. Humor doesn’t find itself into too many episodes of Vikings, but when Bjorn asks his mother to get him an introduction to the princess, you have to smile. In true Lagertha fashion approaches Svase and tells him, “My son would like to sleep with you daughter,” an admission that causes neither father nor daughter to blink an eye. It’s a cute scene that could have significant ramifications in the future since he now says that he wants to marry her.
At this point it’s becoming increasingly difficult to understand how Floki’s story fits into the larger arc. Will this group of believers be the ones to settle Iceland, or will Floki return to Kattegat in disgrace? Either way, it feels as if so much potential is being wasted here. Eyvind (Kris Holden-Ried/Lost Girl), the group’s skeptic and conscience presents an imposing figure who could lead these people toward a new life, but Floki has visions of a totally egalitarian society that doesn’t require a leader. However, Eyvind suspects that Floki does want to rule this land which can do nothing but escalate the tensions that are already beginning to mount from several directions. Floki’s “we will run ourselves” mentality seems a recipe for disaster which Eyvind and the others likely suspect no matter how appealing this kind of community might seem. But in the end, will there be a role for this group to play after the dust settles in Kattegat?
Ivar and Bishop Heahmund continue to surprise and confuse as they get to know each other, though the chess match metaphor may be a bit too obvious an image to portray their budding relationship. Heahmund asks him if he’s afraid of his brothers, and while it’s not surprising that he mentions being somewhat concerned about Bjorn, it is unexpected that he asks the bishop for assistance in formulating a battle plan. This request parallels Lagertha’s war room scene in which she and her generals attempt to predict what Ivar will do before deciding on a plan of action. The message from Kattegat is clear; Ivar is unpredictable.
But what of Ivar and the bishop? They quickly transition from Ivar asking Heahmund’s input about the upcoming invasion of Kattegat to a discourse on free will vs fate, the hallmarks of the world’s religions. Whether this is truly another side to Ivar or simply more subtle manipulation remains to be seen, but his challenge to the bishop is met with an unwavering belief that this is all part of God’s plan. So what does all this mean? While vastly different from his father, Ivar does possess a number of similar traits, one of which appears to be a curiosity about the Christian God and the unexplained nature of both belief systems. It’s difficult to get a handle on him, but his interest does appear to be genuine, though it’s also just as reasonable to conclude that he’s simply playing with Heahmund’s emotions.
As we watch Ivar set out to eclipse all of his father’s accomplishments and fame, Alfred presents a more serene juxtaposition as he visits Lindisfarne to try to gain a sense of what his father was like. Given the pace at which Vikings moves its narrative, and the fact that the future king says “I do not aim to be humble,” it seems the next Christian protagonist is laying the groundwork for future battles with the Northmen. I’m certainly no Catholic scholar, but Alfred’s suggestion to have the priests conduct their business in English seems a bit ahead of its time. Still, it reveals him as an innovator and the leader of the next generation of Saxons.
Though more cerebral than physical, “Full Moon” nonetheless gives a compelling behind the scenes peek at leaders as they prepare to engage in what will essentially become a civil war. And while the leaders clearly carry the most weight on the eve of battle, it bears watching characters like Margrethe, Astrid, and Halfdan, all of whom hold the potential for influencing the action. “Cry ‘Havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of war.”