The season finale of "Vikings" is a rough, bloody endeavor that's not for the faint of heart. But then, if you're watching this show, you're not likely to fall into that category anyway. Even so, Ragnar's legion fans will have a hard time not squirming out of their seats or screaming at their television sets. It is, in a word, intense.
We knew that the the season couldn't end on the fairly amicable resolution we saw last week between the Vikings and King Ecbert (played with admirable resever by Linus Roache). There will be more bloodletting, much of it with Ragnar in the crosshairs, as King Horik lets his ego and wounded pride dictate his behavior.
Any discussion of "Vikings" necessitates a nod toward Travis Fimmel (Ragnar), who does more than simply cut and chop his way through other warriors. Yes, the icy blue eyes really pop against a bloody, dirty face, but Fimmel's greatest gift is in delivering complex emotion with little dialogue or none at all. This isn't a character that has time to navel gaze, but Fimmel has a knack for imbuing a line with an implied eye roll without ever having an actual punchline to lean on. There isn't much subtle sarcasm in this episode, as most of what Ragnar faces is on the other end of the spectrum -- hurt and anger.
Yes, Ragnar acts out, especially in one scene I think viewers will be happy to have mostly played out off screen, but even then we can tell exactly what he's thinking. Those eyes blaze even in dim light, even through blood spatter.
This isn't to minimize actors like Gustaf Skarsgard (Floki) or Donal Logue (King Horik), however. Though Floki can be a frustrating character, all mannerisms and resentment, in the season finale his reaction to his newborn daughter is both heartbreaking and unsettling. Logue manages to convey a regal presence even as he's unraveled by jealousy.
The light and dark sides of female empowerment are given a spotlight in this episode, even if they're not the central focus, and it's one of the things I find most compelling about the show. When Lagertha meets King Horick's wife Grunhilde, it's a charming moment of two warriors admiring one another's work. Bjorn's relationship with Porunn the slave girl also gets an unexpected twist I wouldn't dream of giving away here. At the other end of the spectrum is Siggy, who is more likely to twist a figurative knife than a literal one.
If there is any flaw in this episode, it's that once the blood begins to spill it seems the motivations of some characters are lost in the carnage. I can't account for why several key characters do what they do, and as this is the end of the season, I have to assume explanations are waiting on the other side of the hiatus. Right now, though, it seems that plot has trumped what we've long known to be true. "Vikings" will have a lot of explaining to do in season three.
Still, that doesn't make this episode any less of a nail biter. Just hold onto your swords.
Are you going to watch the "Vikings" season finale? What do you think will happen? If you know, no spoilers.