Vikings Recap - S04E10 'The Last Ship' - Who Wants to be King?

The boats are in the water and it's time to go to war.

Ragnar's plan has granted him access to Paris, but in his idle time, Duke Rollo has constructed ships that now sail to meet Ragnar head on in an all-or-nothing battle. "May God be with us." Rollo says as back in Paris, Princess Gisla prays to the Holy Mother to protect her husband. "You can forgive all sins ... forgive and protect my husband." The statue weeps real tears in response. Gisla is understandably unsettled by this.

When Ragnar pushes back Rollo's first wave of soldiers, a nervous Frankish soldier suggests retreat. Rollo isn't having this. He runs him through and kicks him off the boat.

Pay attention, noobs, Rollo is about to go into inspirational speech-mode.
"All of my life and all of your lives have come to this point. There is nowhere else to be but here, nowhere to live or die, but here. To be here now is the only thing that matters. Gather all of your strength, and all of your sweetness, to an iron ball. We will attack again and again until we reach and overcome their King, or die in the attempt! There will be no turning back, only victory or death!"
It works. These Franks are inspired as hell.

Meanwhile, in Paris, Emperor Charles is having an awkward dinner with the wonder twins, Count Roland and Therese. Chuck is in a mood. It seems that there's nothing they can say that pleases him; at some point before now, Chuck decided that he really can't trust these two. He makes it clear that he trusts Duke Rollo (and not them) completely. He spends a couple minutes belittling them before signaling his guards to strangle them to death.

Floki shouts across the water at Rollo, calling him "betrayer of the gods and the sacred things!" As Ragnar eats his last opiate edible, Lagertha senses that he is really not up for this. Seeking reassurance, she asks him "Do the gods favor us?" but Ragnar does not reply. The boats collide again and everyone surges forward on the siege platforms tied to the boats. Ragnar and Rollo cross swords mid-air.

Ragnar disowns Rollo and Rollo seems genuinely hurt by this. "One of us will die today," Ragnar promises. In Kattegat, the blind seer is having a bad trip. The events of today are not only a crucial turning point, but his pain seems to indicate that something in the fates... is not as it should be.

Back in the river battle, Floki is a whirlwind of death before being slowed by deep slice to his torso. Halfdan the Black takes a bolt to the shoulder, and King Harald shouts to the heavens "Odin? Where are you?!"

The tide of battle has shifted in favor of the Franks. Ragnar is losing his fight with Rollo. Lagertha, realizing that she must save Ragnar again charges forward and is caught off-balance and -- OH MY GODS YOUR KWEEN IS INJURED!!

Immediately, three shieldmaidens stop killing Franks and circle protectively around Lagertha. Bjorn runs to his mother and they carry her to nearest boat. With their best warriors injured or out of the game, the battle is quickly lost.

Ragnar orders them to retreat and before he can re-engage with Rollo, someone tackles Ragnar back into the retreating ship. Ragnar demands they leave him behind to finish it, but it's too late. Both brothers live and the death promise Ragnar made minutes earlier is irreparably broken.

Rollo returns to Paris, victorious but exhausted, nearly falling over on dismount. Emperor Charles receives him and presents him back to the grateful citizens of Paris. Gisla weeps in happiness as Rollo proclaims "God... bless... Paris!"

With the entire city cheering and celebrating him, this could perhaps be the greatest moment in Rollo's life.

On the retreating boats, we see Team Viking licking their wounds. Despite their defeat and grievous injuries, no characters of consequence have died. Nonetheless, they are all miserable and we see Ragnar curled up in a ball, his ego profoundly shattered.

Now they're going to shake things up a bit.

The second episode of Season 2 performed a four year time jump, growing Bjorn up from a boy to a strapping young man (played wonderfully by Alexander Ludwig). The last half of this episode is after a twelve year time jump. We've got some new cast members, over a decade of new developments, and a whole lot of questions. Surprise!

The story now: Luke Skywalker Ragnar Lothbrok has vanished. In his absence, Drunk Cersei Queen Aslaug has remained the defacto ruler of Kattegat, with Ragnar's first son Bjorn Ironside hanging out by her side. A raider named Thorhall has returned from Wessex, bringing word of Magnus, Ragnar and Queen Kwenthrith's son, and the grisly fate of the Wessex colony.

Bjorn meets with Floki, who confirms the truth of Ragnar's Wessex colony cover-up, but first shares this news with Ragnar's other sons. Ubbe, Hvitserk, and Sigurd are grown now, filled with bitter young adult angst for their deadbeat, lying dad.

The youngest, Ivar the Boneless, does not claim to love his father, but respects him. He admonishes his older brothers for hating the player and not respecting his game. So what if he lied to his dirty peasant subjects? He had big plans, so shut up. "He's viking."

Bjorn is disappointed in Ragnar, but he recognizes his father's faults, and accepts him. He still loves and admires him. Speak of the devil, Ragnar Lothbrok returns.

He waltzes into Kattegat and a crowd immediately forms. Soon, all of his sons (sans Bjorn) confront him. Each of them, except Ivar, claimed they would choose to kill their father if he ever returned, and they stand now with their swords drawn.

Initially pleased when Ragnar greets him first, Ivar is then dispirited when Ragnar says in his normal, smart-ass, inconsiderate way "There's no mistaking you," referencing Ivar's disability. Ragnar then goes on a self-centered rant, asking "Who will kill me then? ... What kind of king would abandon his people?" He shouts and yells and just really bums everyone out, asking again and again, and the mid-season finale ends on that question.

"Who wants to be king?"

Random thoughts:

  • Non-white traders are trading goods in Kattegat! Because of course they are. Hopefully this means we'll see some more people of color cast added to the second half of the fourth season.
  • I love the sense of wonder and hope that comes with Bjorn's plan to sail to the Mediterranean. Floki teases that it probably isn't even real, but of course he'll go, and Helga's happy admission "If Floki is mad enough to go, then I guess I will follow." were perfect. If the series had ended on this scene, I would have felt satisfied.
  • The shot of Helga picking up the toy boat was very cool. The way it made her seem like a god reaching down reminded me of Floki's strange visions. Are the visions just an allusion to his character's reference to the trickster god Loki? Or do the visions indicate he's becoming a seer?
  • The time jump was surprising, but not unpleasant. I'm actually very excited to see the new cast in action. While not on screen, we know from dialog, cast announcements, and history itself that characters like Lagertha, King Ecbert, and Rollo are still alive and on the show. I'll be here when Vikings returns later this year. Won't you?

Adrian Martinez is a graphic designer, comic book letterer, hobbyist writer, and all-around geek living in New York City.