Vikings is a show filled with epic battles, sly Ragnar moments, quiet character beats, and copious ass-kicking. Each week, we’ll break down the epic, the weird, and the unintentionally goofy. Let’s dive into Season 4 Episode 10, “The Last Ship.”
This week in Ragnar sass
Ragnar’s speech at the end of the episode is one of his finest moments on the series, and one of Travis Fimmel’s best as an actor. When Ragnar shows up in Kattegat after an absence of 10-plus years and is greeted with an uneasy silence, it seems he doesn’t have the upper hand. But he quickly takes it back as he goads his sons to kill him (“I don’t mind, go ahead, please”). We see it in his son’s faces, as their conflicting emotions bleed into confusion. Just what are Ragnar’s intentions? Hell if they know and hell if we, as viewers, know. Ragnar is never more interesting than when he’s unreadable. After a disappointing stretch of episodes that have sidelined him, Vikings and Ragnar are showing their old spark. The first half of Season 4 has been spotty, but the second half is looking up.
This week in ass-kicking
The showdown between Ragnar and Rollo is brutal, accompanied by Vikings signature pitch-perfect battlefield music. That eerie chanting creates just the right tone.
This week’s most interesting choice
Vikings has always navigated time jumps better than most shows, but jumping ten-plus years into the future is ballsy even here. It works partly because of its casting — particularly Alex Høgh Andersen, who has Travis Fimmel’s uncanny eye-acting down to such a degree, it’s instantly believable they’re father and son. Ivar is immediately compelling.
But it’s also Vikings’ willingness to turn its flaws into virtues that makes this time-jump work. Vikings has always been more plot-driven than character-driven. As we’ve previously discussed, this is to the detriment of characters like Rollo, who act out of plot-convenience instead of plausible motives. Even by the end of “The Last Ship,” his Season 4 characterization is as uneven as ever. It’s unclear how he’ll fare going forward.
But Ragnar, Bjorn, Floki, and Ragnar’s sons all benefit. The leap into the future is essentially a clean slate for their middling plot lines in the first half of the season, and the prospect of what lies ahead — Bjorn and Floki exploring central Europe; Ivar giving Ragnar competition in the crazy-eyes department — gleams brightly.
It can be difficult for events to seem meaningful; for characters to feel engaging, when the plot moves at soap-opera speed. Nowhere was this more apparent than in Michael Hirst’s previous show The Tudors, where every time you started getting invested in a character or plot point, the show would surge past it. It works in Vikings because the nebulous time is better suited to a Nordic epic than a concrete history book. It is a bit of a writing cheat, but Vikings is the one show it’s uniquely suited to. It’s exactly the invigoration we need.
Worst person of the week
Charles murders his lovers/co-conspirators Roland and Therese at the dinner table — and doesn’t even let them have dessert first. Cold.
This week in “oh no”
“The Last Ship” was leaner than any other episode this season and mostly devoid of Vikings’s typical mistakes. That being said, having Charles murder Roland and Therese officially confirms that all the “the French are so deviant!” scenes truly were pointless. They were never going to be good, but it would be more forgivable if the show intended to take them somewhere.
- Not enough Lagertha in this episode.
- Floki, too, has been shunted in the background for most of the season to the show’s detriment. The fact that he’s returned to his congenial boat-builder roots and looks to be more prominent in the latter half of the season is a good sign.
- I really can’t say enough about how great the casting is on Vikings. Ragnar’s sons are already intriguing and although not all the actors resemble their younger counterparts, it doesn’t come across as goofy the way these things can. They sell the hell out of it.