It’s an off time of year for a show to have its season premiere, but History Channel’s Vikings obviously wanted to start with a bang. Their season five premiere, “The Departed”, was a two-hour event packed with plot.
While “The Departed” began with Sigurd’s funeral (and therefore seemed to pick right back up where we left off with Ragnar’s sons), I also think that in the grand scheme of things they are playing with timelines a bit. But while I normally tend to complain about timeline fudging (particularly with shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, who do it so very badly), Vikings tends to do a decent job when they play around with timelines. We get a brief overview of Sigurd’s funeral followed by Ivar insisting that he is sorry for killing his brother – but to be honest, had I not taken part in a press conference with Alex Høgh Andersen, who plays Ivar, I’m not sure I would have believed that Ivar actually felt bad about what he did.
Meanwhile, Bishop Heahmund, who was introduced at the very end of season four and is played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers of Tudors fame, is already in Wessex at the very beginning of “The Departed”. I have to admit that while I understand that Ecbert had to die when he did, this new character is going to take some getting used to. He definitely doesn’t have Ecbert’s…shall we say…panache? When we caught a glimpse of him last season he was portrayed as a warrior, a leader, and, well, a bit of a lecherous fellow. Yet his re-introduction in “The Departed” has a different feel. He practices mortification when he finds himself attracted to who I presume is a lady of Ecbert’s court, and I really only started caring about who he was and what he was doing when he met up with Aethelwulf and Judith. (And, I suppose, Alfred, who apparently isn’t doing too well.)
Let’s just say that Heahmund has some big shoes to fill and I’m not sure that he’s up to par…but perhaps that will change now that he is [hopefully] going to help Alfred. And Judith. (Because I don’t care about Aethelwulf and no one else I know does, either.)
Elsewhere in England, Ivar convinced the Great Heathen Army to attack York next, which wasn’t a bad decision considering York is closer to the coast. Not only that, but they sussed out when the next religious holiday was and made their move when they knew everyone would be celebrating (for lack of a better word). Still, this led to some odd encounters, including Ubbe having some sort of moment with a nun who had slit her wrists rather than be taken by the Viking men.
All of this seemed to foreshadow more strife between Ragnar’s sons – specifically Ubbe, Hvitserk, and Ivar. Ubbe confronted Ivar and reminded him that the three of them were in charge of the army; while Ivar appeared to agree, it was pretty obvious that he didn’t actually mean what he was saying. Likely we will spend a good part of season five watching these three brothers play family politics – in fact, at the end of “The Departed” Ivar has already had himself equipped with ‘metal legs’ in what I assume is an attempt to level the playing field.
And then there’s Harald and his brother Halfdan. Honestly, they kind of seem like budget Ragnar and Rollo, but at least Halfdan recognizes that if Harald continues on his quest to be King of Norway, he will only ever be the brother of the King of Norway…and Halfdan isn’t okay with that, so off he goes. This turned out to be an even more intelligent choice than he could have predicted, because when Halfdan returned to Kattegat he was immediately seized and questioned by Lagertha.
To be honest, I’m still not sure what happened there. Why did Lagertha have sex with him? And was she in fact *raping* him? I’d hate to believe that of my One True Queen, but while he didn’t say no, he sure as hell didn’t say yes, either. And at the time he was tied up and clearly not able to fight her off. The whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth, so between that and the fact that I’m still blase about Astrid (because she had sex with Laghertha’s son, of all people), it’s difficult to feel bad about the fact that Harald…escaped? was released? and immediately proceeded to kidnap Astrid. Granted, Harald trying to force Astrid to marry him is a whole other issue, but I doubt I’m alone in recognizing how convoluted this all is.
Sadly, Harald’s wasn’t the only questionable story line in “The Departed”. Floki as a character has been, at turns, amusing and frustrating, but always an important part of the show’s plot…but for the life of me I can’t understand what the writers were doing with him in this episode. At first I was worried that his departure would mean we wouldn’t see him for a while, but that definitely wasn’t the case. He threw the navigation tools that Ivar gave him overboard, deciding instead to trust in his gods. He ended up in the doldrums, had a somewhat crazy conversation with a crow (though by Floki’s standards, probably not so crazy), lashed himself to his little sailboat’s mast and rode out a storm, and then woke up on land.
None of this is entirely out of the ordinary for Vikings; it was what happened after Floki reached land that I’m still confused about. There was a very drawn out scene of Floki on the beach, drinking water from a puddle. And then he was climbing up a hillside. And then I literally had a several-minutes-long conversation while he was climbing said hillside. Not a single word of monologue or dialogue was spoken during this scene. There was a bit of relief via a short Kattegat scene, but then…more Floki. (Because of course I had just thought to myself, ‘Man, I want more scenes of Floki wandering around in silence.’)
I really want to believe that it was just scenery porn, but I suppose it could also be padding – as in, “The Departed” had already hit a length of more than one and a half hours and there was no going back, so why not use these Floki scenes to stretch it a bit for a full two-hour premiere. Regardless, as much as I love this show – and as much as I love Floki – it was entirely too much.
Despite wishing they’d done some things differently, I believe that most of the issues with “The Departed” were due to its length. The only one that I’m not sure I can forgive is Lagertha essentially raping Harald; that is definitely #notmyLagertha.
What did you think of the Vikings season 5 premiere? Was it too long, or did you like where they went with the current story lines? Let us know in the comments!
Author: Tara Lynne
Tara Lynne is an author, fandom and geek culture expert, and public speaker. She founded Ice & Fire Con, the first ever Game of Thrones convention in the US, and now runs its parent company Saga Event Planning.
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