LOVEFiLM Instant review: Vikings Season 1 Episode 6
Ivan Radford | On 17, Sep 2013
Pacing. It’s what makes a great TV show stand out from a good TV show. It’s one thing Game of Thrones has perfected over its three seasons, building to a climax in the penultimate episode before using its 10th chapter to explore the aftermath and set up the following run. Vikings has found a similar knack, naturally escalating events to a nail-biting high: a one-on-one showdown between Ragnar (Travis Fimmell) and Earl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne). The only problem? This is episode six – of nine.
After last episode’s shock challenge from the recuperating Ragnar, the battle itself occurs early on in the episode: an urgently shot set piece by Michael Hirst that spills and thrills in equal measure. No prizes for guessing who wins.
Rollo gets in on the action by dispatching one of the Earl’s henchman, while his slave follows Haraldson’s example to the grave – a grim moment that gives ample opportunity for Athelstan to develop. Indeed, with Haraldson out of the way, Athelstan has more room to be explored, even getting some Viking bedtime tales about Ragnarök in a smart piece of subtle exposition.
But while there are benefits to Byrne’s swift departure – including a new wife for Rollo from former Mrs. Earl, Siggy – you can’t help but feel Vikings has opened itself up a bit of a hole. With Ragnar in charge (and Travis wearing the power with a gleefully confident smile) there are no politics to worry about or back-stabbing to surprise us. With no antagonist, where’s the dramatic threat?
Enter King Aelle, leader of the Northumbrians. Writer Ciarán Donnelly does some swift work in introducing our new big bad, but it’s a lot of effort to go back to scratch with a relatively unknown villain. The result is a chapter that sets up another showdown for the end of the season, as Ragnar’s ships get ready to invade England once more, but leaves you suspecting that Vikings might have peaked a little too soon.