". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Friday, May 2, 2014

Vikings - History Channel - Season 2 - Ep. 10 , "Lord's Prayer"

That was one suspenseful, tight-tensioned finale.  Usually I'm more than excellent at calling plot lines long before they are on screen, but this time, I couldn't. This is a large part why I love this show -- I don't know!  I am frequently surprised, and almost always in good ways, with the notably unfortunate exception of whacky sex-obsessed Mercian Princess Kwenthrith.  Fortunately, we do not see see her or any Saxons, unless Athelstan counts, or England in this, Viking's season two final episode.  It's about the Northmen taking care of their home business.
Floki named his daughter Angrboda, after Loki's first wife, mother of monsters. He sends his beautiful daughter and wife Helga back home, out of Kattegatt. Something bad is coming.  Soon.  So, it seemed it was all over, that Floki honestly was on the dark side. 

He proceeds then to shoving a psychotropic mushroom into the very wounded from last week's disastrous-Horik-battle-loss Rollo's mouth -- what was that about? Seemingly, to get Rollo back in his head and start working on getting fit from being nearly dead. But we don't know, really.

Floki continues to be busy.

He secretly gives mushrooms to Torstein, one of Ragnar's most loyal and fierce warriors. And Torstein dies. So why didn't Rollo die?

Floki and Ragnar sure did play a loooooooooooooong game, and they played it so well. We've seen how very cunning Ragnar is, and his capacity for the waiting game as part of his long game -- which is why Horik lost that battle last week, because unlike Ragnar he could not wait -- that we believe with no trouble at all that the seeming duplicity was Ragnar's strategy all along. 

Athelstan and Ragnar in a pretty place to recite "The Lord's Prayer"
Ragnar's determination to learn about Christian practices, even a prayer, is part of his determination to learn other languages, so he doesn't need to rely on interpreters. However, Ragnar didn't wish to conclude the Lord's Prayer with its proper conclusion:

And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us. 
And lead us not into temptation, 
But deliver us from evil. 
For thine is the kingdom,
The power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.

Ragnar has no intention of forgiving anybody directing evil against his family.

Nor is it clear whether Floki's disdain for Athelstan is real or also part of the game?  Athelstan fought again, and was there, with the Ragnar family in the Hall where Horik's world ends. It's this sort of ambiguity I can live with, particularly when it is Floki - Loki.
Two arrivals by water, both of them boding extreme ill for Kattegatt and Ragnar's people. With the arrival of Horik's family I knew the king's plot was nearly at the boil now, because why else would he bring his family there?  (Even so, it still made no sense for him to bring his family to a slaughterhouse, even if he expected to be the chief executor.)

Between the first and the second water-brought visitors was an impressively shivery short bridge scene on the beach. Lagertha and Aslaug stand shoulder to shoulder looking at the storm raging in the sky and beating at the water.  Aslaug says, "The gods are coming."  Those two were planning something, certainly, but what? Don't you just love women like them?*

After the storm two ships beached, stopping the heart, filled with warriors -- or were they mercenaries -- greeted by Horick's still-unnamed, and, now, never to be called by name ever, son. O dear, one thinks.  Jarl Borg's invasion reprised.

But -- in the Great Hall, where Siggy was to murder Aslaug's sons, is revealed, one-by-one the whole Ragnar family, minus poor Rollo -- who did manage to do his bit despite nearly being dead, perhaps due to the mushrooms Floki gave him. Siggy's one of them so the ability to breathe resumes. The tension rebuild immediately -- what else was going to happen beyond Horik getting his?  Who else will die?  His queen was dead already.
Lagertha was terrifying in the icy fury in her combat with Warrior Queen Gudrun -- is that her name? The actress does this so convincingly -- not every actress could pull that out of her, one thinks. I don't know, of course -- but just for instance, say -- Glenn Close can, but Lena Headey cannot -- she manages uber-whine-bitch fine, but this, she cannot do, it seems, or at least isn't allowed to.

Lagertha and the others fighting with her walked away from Horik's terrified children and their maids. How refreshing -- some mercy for the innocent, like Siggy wasn't killed when her husband was. But -- all those sisters, his daughters that Horik joked he could marry to Ragnar's sons, who he was all the while planning to kill, ended up dead. His warrior lady queen had plotted with Horik to murder all of Ragnar, Lagertha and Aslaug's children, so they reaped what they sowed.

When Horik gave Siggy a special dagger and told her to kill Ragnar's younger sons with it, it was impossible not to hope that Siggy would not carry through with that because it was in her eyes how much she hated Horik for how he'd humiliated her -- nor did she believe he'd marry her -- and -- she'd be only second wife -- he was humiliating her casually yet again. What I'm not sure of is whether Siggy was part of Ragnar's long game all along, that she'd deliberately set herself at Horik to spy on him?  Or was this part of Siggy's attempt to figure out her new life?  I kept thinking of that scene some episodes back, when she'd been talking - plotting with Horik at a feast, and afterwords asks Floki if he can keep a secret, and Floki said it was impossible, while you knew his eyes had penetrated effortlessly what she'd been on about with Horik.  

The end of Horik is brutal and somewhat prolonged.  Yet it is satisfying within the milieu -- almost all those whose deaths Horik had planned -- these are all people he knew and ate with -- give him a cut, and then depart, leaving the king alone with Ragnar. Ragnar does not hold back.  However the writers and photographers do, for which they are highly, highly praised.  We know exactly what is happening, but there is no wallowing in it, and we are not pushed into participating.

We'll ne'er know ye name, o only son of Horik!
Was Horik's son saved for the blood eagle, or even for what Floki said he'd do to the person who had poisoned Torstein?  Floki's reaction to Torstein's death seemed excessive even for Floki, even when at the time the audience does not know Torstein was not dead, which flipped the thinking again to: "Is this a Ragnar plot?"

As part of Floki's busyness, he sneak-follows Bjorn everywhere, even when Bjorn and Porunn have sex after a somewhat bloody bout of foreplay. This echoes the walk Ragnar did last week with Athelstan out of camp to where he was safe from assassination by a Horik man. Or so it is understood, once we learn that Floki's doing this to keep Bjorn safe, rather than killing him, as Horik had ordered Floki to do.

So, we conclude the season with Bjorn taking up the mystical sword (where did that come from?) and Ragnar looking filled with years -- and holding this sword, which is a symbol of something, kingship? That Bjorn handled this sword first, is this a portent of the inevitable, generational changing of the guard?
Great finale -- terrific season!
I've noticed today some are saying they knew what was happening all along, so this was a weak finale. They also are disappointed that at least one of the principals did not die in the course of this season, which makes the series too predictable. But by now now we're so used to principals getting written out a series with a Big Death Not Expected, that that is the predictable thing.  So those critics are wrong! :)

I have hope next year's will be as good as season two was. If they rid is of sex-crazy Princess next time around, or have her fall on her head and get sane, then I can be entirely satisfied.

Edited to add there is an interview with the show's creator and writer, Michael Hirst in which he tells us:

1) Horik's son is saved by Ragnar, though all the girls were killed by their slave girls -- which I say is a very bad idea and will end badly -- why not save girl and marry her to one of his sons?  much safer.  Also -- the toad's name is Erlendur.

2) We are not seeing the same version of Vikings that is seen in Europe -- which has more scenes and is longer.  Which explains why we slide over so many things, seemingly.

3) Next season Ragnar goes to Paris.

4) Horrible Princess Kwenthrith is going to be around.  I hope she eats Erlendur.


*   Probably every watcher's favorite bit from last night's final episode came when Horik's Queen Gudrun? asks Lagertha how she became an eorl in her own right, and Lagertha says, "I put a knife in my husband when he tried to put himself in me." The two women laugh great bonding laughter. So ... what happens later is even more surprising.

1 comment:

Foxessa said...

An interview in Time Magazine with Michael Hirst, and the actor who plays Ragnar, Travis Fimmel, here:

At first Hirst was going to end season 1 with Ragnar's death, and get started with the sons quickly. But Ragnar, at least the way Fimmel plays him, was too interesting, and why yes, we the audience did become invested in his character. :)

Love, C.