The saga of Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) has always been the focus of Vikings. We first saw the man’s transformation from peasant to visionary to the earl to the king to legend. After Ragnar, the show centered on how Ragnar’s legend infused and inhabited his sons, as well as the effects of their perception on rivals, frenemies, kith, and kind, and kings all over the world.
And now, with the second half of Vikings’ sixth season, the saga comes to a close, with ten episodes dripping with all the gore, fights, tears, seers, fears, and philosophy you’ve come to expect from the History Channel’s flagship show.
It’s difficult to write a spoiler-free review of a show like Vikings, particularly now that the series is coming to an end and it won’t surprise anyone to learn that the blood flows like wine. Who persists and who perishes? Who comes back and who stays away? Even recognizing the presence or absence of a surprise in a specific sense may be a major spoiler.
As a result, much of this review will read like the ravings of the show’s very own seer, a web of insinuations and supernatural mumbo jumbo crafted only to make sense once the prophecy has been made flesh. Perhaps the Golden Age of the Vikings is gone,” Gunnhild (Ragga Ragnars) opined early in the season.
This is an outstanding distillation of the half-thematic season’s ground. The collapse of an empire, the erosion and often amputation of old ways, and the savage geo-surgery of a flailing planet in flux are all present in this tale. Only the crazy will aspire to be king because absolute authority corrupts utterly.
The series’ long-running conflict between paganism and Christianity reaches a climax here, and the episodes are filled with rich religious imagery and symbolism. There’s also a sort of answer to the question of which of Ragnar’s sons best represents and encapsulates his legacy.
The land of the Vikings is a sea of blue and grey, a never-ending twilight of death and despair. Within these gloomy confines, the direction and cinematography never fail to evoke the world’s majestic, misty emptiness:
howling winds on barren hills; smooth, silent silence extending to the pale terms of stock-in-trade themes, environments, cast-counts, body-counts, and packages of R-rated action, Vikings and Game of Thrones have a lot in common on the surface.
Although some may find the conclusion unsatisfying, the realization that the past must be left behind resonates powerfully not only in the series finale but in the entire second half of the season as well.