×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Vikings’ Brawls, Stumbles Into Future With Midseason Finale (SPOILERS)

Vikings” has been enough of a success for History that the channel not only expanded the number of episodes ordered per year but split them into “A” and “B” seasons, much like AMC’s pattern with “The Walking Dead.” But the messy, somewhat confusing midseason finale and indeed developing arc of this latest run — despite some first-rate moments — suggests that might have forced the producers to wring a little too much plunder out of the concept and characters.

For all the side plots, betrayals and intrigue in the ongoing quest for power within this medieval, historical world, the fourth season was dominated by the rift and inevitable showdown between the Viking brothers Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) and Rollo (Clive Standen), with the latter having settled among the French, and devoted himself to the defense of Paris. That built toward a siege and one of those brawny, bloody battles that the series has consistently mounted so well, as Rollo — well-schooled in Viking tactics — helped beat back his countrymen’s assault.

In the finale (and SPOILER ALERT) if you haven’t watched, Ragnar and Rollo finally got to make like Romulus and Remus and square off, brutally pummeling each other until both looked like Sylvester Stallone at the end of “Rocky” (1 or 2, take your pick). But the fight ultimately proved inconclusive, as Ragnar and several of his wounded companions were forced to engage in a rather hasty retreat, while Rollo was embraced and celebrated as the city’s savior.

So far, so pretty good, although one can argue that the focus on the two brothers this season came at the expense of some side plots. But then series creator Michael Hirst went straight from that into a rather sizable if ill-defined time jump, with Ragnar’s now-grown sons sitting around grousing about his extended absence, only to have dad conveniently waltz back into town, sporting an Odin-like beard and demanding that one of them step up and kill him to demonstrate that he’s worthy of becoming king.

Hirst is clearly betting that fans of the show have invested enough in this dense, gritty dive into Viking culture that they’ll stay faithful through the transition to Ragnar’s sons, paving the way toward “Vikings: The Next Generation.” Moreover, he has history (and for that matter, History) on his side, since Ragnar’s heirs eclipsed him, including his son Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig).

Nevertheless, the closing portion of the episode felt mostly unsatisfying, with no explanation regarding Ragnar’s disappearance or return, and a bit of disorientation about the kids (now played by older actors) and what transpired during the intervening years. All that will surely be fleshed out when the program returns, but for now, the finish didn’t conjure any special enthusiasm about starting over with Ragnar’s progeny, if not exactly hitting the reset button.

Of course, “Vikings” has already bucked long odds, establishing a loyal following on a channel with scant profile in the scripted arena — and certainly in series — when it made its debut (as something of an afterthought to “The Bible”). That said, History has put a lot of eggs in this basket, and to an extent, after the time spent getting to know the existing characters, this latest scenario feels a little too much like Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown.

That’s not to say “Vikings” won’t merit another look when it comes back, if only to gain a clearer sense of where the story goes after boldly opting to shuffle the deck in this manner. But having sailed into Season 4 with what felt like the wind at its back and considerable promise, suddenly the waters ahead — and the show’s prospects — appear far more turbulent.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith. Jada

    Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith's Westbrook Inks Development Pact With Telepool (EXCLUSIVE)

    Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith’s new media venture, Westbrook Inc., has signed a co-development agreement for feature films, television shows and digital entertainment formats with German-based film and TV company Telepool. The move follows the acquisition of Telepool last year by Smith and Elysian Fields, a Zurich-based investment company. Westbrook, launched this year by [...]

  • Shane Gillis SNL Controversy

    Shane Gillis Makes First Stand-Up Appearance Since 'SNL' Firing

    Comedian Shane Gillis made his first public appearance Wednesday night since he was hired by “Saturday Night Live,” then fired from the show days later amid controversy over his use of racist slurs. Appearing on stage at comedy club the Stand in New York City, Gillis performed an 11-minute set that pulled no punches when [...]

  • AMERICAN HORROR STORY: 1984 -- Pictured:

    'American Horror Story' Recap: Welcome to 'Camp Redwood'

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched the season premiere of “American Horror Story: 1984” entitled “Camp Redwood.” Welcome back to “American Horror Story,” which in its ninth season travels back in time to the 1970s and 1980s to play in the slasher genre. Only one episode into the season, it already [...]

  • Connie Britton BlogHer Summit

    Connie Britton on ‘Friday Night Lights’ Remake: ‘You Need to Let it Go’

    Connie Britton opened up at a fireside chat Wednesday at the #BlogHer19 Creators Summit in Brooklyn by talking about one of her most beloved roles — Tami Taylor in the fan favorite series “Friday Night Lights.” When asked if a remake of the sports cult film and Emmy-winning TV show is in the works she [...]

  • Bob IgerSimon Weisenthal Gala honoring Bob

    Bob Iger Would Have Combined Disney With Apple if Steve Jobs Were Still Alive

    Disney and Apple are both launching their own streaming services come November, but Disney CEO Bob Iger says the two companies weren’t always on competing paths. In an excerpt from his autobiography published Wednesday in “Vanity Fair,” Iger revealed that Disney and Apple likely would have merged if Steve Jobs hadn’t died in 2011. “I [...]

  • The Mentalist

    #NotWorthLess: 'I Was Great and Deserve to Be Paid the Same'

    Women writers, producers and assistants across Twitter turned the hashtag #NotWorthLess into a trend Wednesday, shining a light on issues of pay inequality in the entertainment business. Sparked by screenwriter Adele Lim’s recent decision to walk away from the “Crazy Rich Asians” sequel in protest of being paid less than her male co-writer, dozens of [...]

  • does self-described "family brands" business Hasbro

    With Hasbro Acquisition, Is eOne Planning to Offload Family-Unfriendly Properties?

    Hasbro’s $4 billion acquisition of eOne in August instantly put the Canadian toy giant in the league of major entertainment and content companies thanks to eOne’s arsenal of IP assets in music, television and film. But does the self-described “family brands” business that’s home to The Game of Life and My Little Pony align with [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content