Amazon UK TV review: Vikings Season 3, Episode 5
James R | On 23, Mar 2015
Five episodes in and it’s hard to shake the sense that Season 3 of Vikings doesn’t really know where it’s going. Is it to England again to continue the uneasy truce with King Ecbert? Is it to France to pillage somewhere new?
First, Episode 5 takes us back to Kattegat, where Siggy’s death is as big a shock to the Vikings as it was to us last week. Even the welcome home for the army is more muted than we’ve seen in the past, as Bjorn stumbles off the boats with his scarred other half.
Clive Standen, though, becomes the real focus of attention, as Rollo grieves for his wife. It’s a welcome reminder of just how good an actor and character Ragnar’s brother is, especially after a long period of not having much to do. “Hit me!” he yells, in the rain – yes, rain – as he and Bjorn have drunken fisticuffs in the street. You can imagine him walking straight out of an old Western.
Instead of Rollo, you see, we’ve been spending time with Floki, whose relentless rallying against Christianity has stripped the ambiguous joker of much of his mystery. Here, though, his role as vaguely religious wise-guy fits neatly into the plot, as he tells Ragnar of Harbard’s seduction of Aslaug – and, we presume, his role in Siggy’s drowning. Not welcoming this Odin-like figure, he argues, resulted in death. Aslaug, on the other hand, praises Harbard’s gift of life by healing Ivar. One moment sees Ragnar pick up his quiet-for-once son, only for the child to start crying; a wonderfully subtle illustration of how disconnected the king has become from his family.
But there’s a disconnect that has been slowing brewing between us and the show too: while Ragnar has been busy schmoozing with King Ecbert and flirting with Lagertha, the series has become sidetracked with Athelstan and Judith’s romance (which takes another step towards domestic soap opera) and, least engaging of all, the mutiny of Earl Kalf. It’s telling that creator Michael Hirst has increasingly relied upon The Seer to prophecy ominous future events and conjure up suspense.
A large part of Season 3’s ongoing appeal has instead stemmed from the cast: Linus Roache is a joy to watch, stroking his hair and positioning his crown with every effort to appear respectable and trustworthy. Of course, we know he can’t be trusted, which leaves us waiting for an inevitable betrayal and showdown to take place; a prospect that moves slowly closer this week with less tension than you’d hope.
Kathryn Winnick and Travis Fimmel, meanwhile, are as perfect a match as ever, as she requests help with Earl Kalf and he responds with that trademark smirk. Is he being patronising? Is he amused by her own troubles? Or is he simply admiring her self-claimed authority?
Part of the fun of Vikings is trying to decide those enigmatic expressions, even as the lack of clear motivation – and narrative arc – annoys. Hirst, though, finally gives this season some momentum with Episode 5, as Ragnar formally announces his plan to invade Paris. “Why did you not tell us this before?” comes the reply from his frustrated followers. Fimmel grins with a cocky arrogance. “Because I am telling you now.” It’s hard not to be won over.
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