This Vikings review contains spoilers.
Vikings Season 6 Episode 14
“We should never forget our past. Ever.”
Perhaps Gunnhild says it best when she confides in her dead husband Bjorn that “the time for great heroes is over,” a statement that speaks to the loss of direction so many of the characters now experience as the Viking age reaches a crossroads. “Lost Souls” journeys through a complicated tangle of feelings that focus on the leadership vacuums a new world order sets into motion. Despite all of the upheaval, Vikings continues its string of solid episodes and deftly previews the impending battles in Rus and on the land settled by Ubbe and the Icelanders.
While Prince Oleg prepares to attack his brother Dir and Kjetill justifies his destructive and selfish behavior, the village of Kattegat stands ready to welcome its new ruler. There’s plenty of intrigue here, and even though Gunnhild stands as the people’s choice to succeed Bjorn, Harald’s compelling argument that he’s king of all Norway is difficult to refute. Of course, the situation becomes even more complicated and potentially contentious when we consider that he’s always desired and respected Gunnhild who must now subvert herself to the man who raped the other candidate for Kattegat’s crown. However, Hirst doesn’t take the easy way out and have Harald choose one over the other to be his queen. Instead, he further adds to the plot machinations with a twist laden coup attempt.
The diabolically clever Erik (Eric Johnson) plays a pivotal role here as he takes advantage of the fluid situation in Kattegat and turns an attempted assassination on its head. There’s no reason to think Erik and the stranger won’t carry out their coup and put the crown on Erik’s head, but in an unforeseen twist, Erik decapitates his co-conspirator before a shocked but grateful King Harald Finehair. I doubt this concludes Erik’s political scheming, but for now, he’s gained the king’s trust and generosity.
Just as compelling, however, is Gunnhild’s reaction to Harald’s offer. Granted, at his coronation, he announces his intention to marry both Gunnhild and Ingrid who will then reign as queens by his side. We’re treated to an intimate conversation the two women have, and Ingrid admits what we’ve long suspected – she doesn’t really know whose child she carries. However, there’s more to her story, and her touching honesty takes away some of the sting of her earlier challenge of Gunnhild. Can the two vastly different women peacefully coexist in a polyamorous relationship with King Harald and play a role in Norway’s future? We may never learn the answer to that question. Dressed in an elegant white gown, Gunnhild asks Bjorn for guidance in a moving “To be or not to be” speech in which it’s impossible to ignore the dagger she holds in her hand. When she refuses to compromise herself, an air of doom hangs over the scene. It appears she may be planning to join Bjorn in Valhalla and leave earthly pursuits behind?
In the episode’s opening scene, we get a closeup of Prince Oleg’s puzzled face as he senses something amiss about Igor’s absence from the Good Friday ceremony, and the tension centered on Igor’s escape naturally escalates. It’s an important scene because Oleg faces a revealing choice regarding his Christian faith. Does he abandon the celebration and his important role in acknowledging Christ’s crucifixion to learn why his nephew is not in attendance, or fight the urge and his instincts that something has gone terribly wrong in his heretofore well orchestrated world?
As fascinating as the Gunnhild/Ingrid dynamic has become, Ivar’s relationship with young Prince Igor continues to drive the Vikings narrative. Ivar has learned a lot during his time in Kiev and engaged in some much needed self-reflection that should help him to evolve into a more natural and effective ruler should he make it back to Kattegat in one piece. First, though, he and Katia must successfully spirit Igor out of Kiev and Oleg’s grasp and into the control of his other uncle Dir. It’s far too early to get a good read on Dir’s intentions, and to make the claim that he’ll be a far better tutor than Oleg is probably unwise.
Still, it’s Ivar’s honesty regarding his relationship with Igor that strikes at the heart of Ragnar’s youngest son’s transformation. “I think you see something of yourself in me,” he tells Ivar before delivering the episode’s most powerful piece of dialogue. “You saved me, Ivar the Boneless. I love you, and I always will.” How can this not alter Ivar’s approach to ruling and how he views his brothers Hvitserk and Ubbe. Never one to show much emotion, Ivar embraces and kisses Igor’s head.
But his relationship with Igor isn’t the only connection Ivar makes in Kiev. The mystery surrounding Katia’s motivations with Ivar finally becomes clear, and though the spectre of the wife he murdered remains part of her appeal, he takes a bold step with her once they reach Dir’s land. “I love you whoever you are,” he tells Katia, admitting he still maintains reservations about her intention while at the same time acknowledging the power she holds over him. Now we wait to learn whether this flirtation endures or Katia has other plans for Igor, Dir, and Ivar.
Speaking of unspoken plans, it appears I was wrong to think Ubbe planned to use the voyage to the “golden land” as a convenient means of sending Kjetill and his family to their deaths as punishment for their deeds in Iceland. Any talk of redemption, however, has flown out the window as quickly as the whale washes up on Flatnose’s land. From a storytelling perspective we can only stand by and wait for the other settlers to tell Kjettil they’ve had enough of his antics, but it will clearly be up to Ubbe to take charge.
It’s easy to feel compassion for Ubbe and Torvi after the loss of yet another child, but the disillusionment inherent in the failure to achieve their goal may send Ubbe on a path he’d not planned to traverse. Obviously, Kjetill cannot be allowed to keep the whale for himself and his family, and it seems only a matter of time until violence once again erupts among the settlers.
“Lost Souls” ends with Kjetill’s pronouncement that fate rather than luck has given his family an advantage that he instinctively knows should be shared among the community members. Will Danish law prevail or will the settlers of this green land take matters into their own hands and make a statement once and for all? As Vikings nears the halfway point of its final installment, the major players find themselves at a crisis point, and the powder kegs are ready to ignite.