The last episode of Vikings ended on a surprisingly nuanced note, a stylish wave of blood that washed out any lingering suspicion of poor quality. Episode Four of Season One continues in the same vein, with a large dose of intelligence hidden beneath its great big bushy beards.
Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) and his troops raid a Northumbrian village, accompanied by his wife, Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick). Already developed into a strong supporting character, the shield maiden becomes an active agent in the strongest way possible when Knut tries to rape her – an act that sees her kill him cold.
Just as that shock settles in, director Ciarán Donnelly delivers another burst of action: the biggest battle of the series so far. Clashing on the beach with the locals, Ragnar’s band unite beneath their shields to kick Northumbrian butt. But while the conflict is exciting, the really thrilling stuff doesn’t happen until they’re back home and in front of Earl Haraldson.
Once again relishing his role as the evil overlord, Gabriel Byrne puts Ragnar on trial for the death of Knut. It’s a smart move from writer Michael Hirst, giving our hero the chance to cover for his woman, but Vikings isn’t one to rest on its hammer. Blackmail, bribes and breasts all pop up as Haraldson tries to convince Rollo to testify against Ragnar.
The trial concludes with a fantastic display of independence from several members of the cast – and all the while Athelstan is tasked with watching over Ragnar’s kids, who question his Christian beliefs. Fleshing out all of the main ensemble, it’s a highly political plot that shows Ragnar is beginning to appreciate violence is not the only thing needed to rule; brains are too.
After four episodes, Vikings has realised the same thing. And it makes every blow of the sword that much more powerful.
Vikings is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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