". . . 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

Thursday, April 30, 2015

History Channel's Vikings season 3 finale - "The Dead"

How disappointing was Viking's third season?  This is how disappointing it was -- I was disappointed that Ragnar didn't die.

I hoped (though guessed otherwise because protagonist is Ragnar) that Ragnar was dead. With Ragnar out of the way, the incoherent mess of subplots and useless characters who lack any, you know, character, could be jettisoned and the writers could do a do-over in season 4 with intelligently constructed plots, and bring back the focus on a core group of fleshed-out characters about whom, then, we the audience will presumably care about: Lagertha, her son Bjorn who is going to be a king as we know from history, his own son, Aslaug (who had nothing to do this season at all, except to sex up an Odin avatar -- for why?)  and her son Ivar the Boneless, who is going to be a great warrior and king, Rollo, who will sire the line of Normans who take over England a century or so down the line.

I cared, a great deal, in the first two seasons, about this core group of people, including Siggy, who was offed for no reason other than nobody could figure out what to do with her now -- especially as Rollo has A (Francia) Destiny. The core group of the first two seasons had feelings, they had ideas, they did things as individuals and as a cohesive, effective ensemble, sometimes needing to work through their conflicts with each other, to reconcile for their own sakes, for the sake of the family, the community, the kingdom -- of such is survival made.

But by season 3 with so many other characters zipping in and out of scenes that didn't advance any story line, filled with unmotivated, gratuitous violence  -- such as a dungeon complete with a presumably willing member of the Francia nobility, a submissive nameless fluff.  All just to make Count Odo a Bad Person so we can cheer when the Emperor Charles decides to marry his daughter, Gisla, to Rollo the Savage PAGANNOTCHRISTIAN Viking, instead of marrying her to his war leader who saved his feckless ass -- and Paris too, by the way -- more than once.  Cheap plotting.  Lousy writing. We're never going to see Nameless Noble Francia Fluff again and we know it. Nor had we wanted to see Nameless Nobel Francia Fluff in the first place. But we had to have Count Odo whip her so that we know he's a Bad Man and cheer because she is going to marry the Savage GOOD Viking Rollo instead Yay! Who has, by the way been shown raping women, lusting on his brother's wife, and betraying his family in the previous two seasons

So the final episode, the season's Big Wind Up and Down, "The Dead" felt empty, like so much of the season.  Yes, good, even fine moments, but these don't add up to a coherent, well-written, properly motivated, character-driven whole story that stays with you after it's over, to mull over and speculate about. Instead we talked about how yet again there was an episode with going nowhere subplots, time-wasting scenes, repetitions of tricks already pulled.

No more wanted or needed than the s&m scene between aristos in a real castle dungeon, no more do we need or want King Ecbert as an effete cuckholder of his own son, forcing his daughter-in-law to sex him in exchange for her son's protection -- moreover a son who is presumably an historical personage of great import, but whose mother historically was NOT this character. While his son is a terrific person who has done nothing wrong. There is no motivation for any of this, thus it makes no sense, and is pointless into the bargain -- and not even interesting to watch.  We keep waiting impatiently for this to be over and for something real to happen . . . .

Rollo receiving a tongue lashing -- not in the good way -- from Princess Gisla. To which he can only respond, "Je vous salue !"  Alas, Gisla wasn't impressed. Neither was I, though viwers who are less critical than I love it.
The actors do their best, but the material is poorly conceived, poorly written and badly constructed.  It does not hold together -- there is no center.

Once again Vikings's writers show they don't know what to do with female characters, particularly princess characters, like this one, Gisla, or with the Mercian princess, Kwenthrith, who was sexually abused by her relatives and now is a nymphomaniac -- or, more likely, by now is dead, as Wessex annexed Mercia. But that's how much these women matter -- the writers can't even be bothered to inform us of their fates -- like Porunn, once slave, then mother of Bjorn's first child -- she takes off, for no good reason and that's that folks. Because we male writers can't figure out what to do with her now that's she free and a mom.

It's as though this whole season insisted on degrading women instead of writing and plotting -- which means very bad plotting. Shades of that ugly series, Got.

Above we have the Francia Gisla spitting out threats and hate in the worst of stereotype of a couple hating on each other at first, when, of course the audience knows already they are passionately attracted.  One hoped that Rollo would pull out his "already baptised thank you" trump card to shut her up. On the other hand Ragnar the fake dead Christian probably spoiled that for Rollo too.

Why o why aren't you really dead, Ragnar?  Stab Floki and die fulfilled, let the new generation take over. The writers clearly have run out of their steam for you. Let them get going with Bjorn . . . and a bear?

"The Dead", the Vikings finale, ran on the History Channel April 23.  That's how disappointed I was, how little I cared, that I couldn't even be bothered to complain about it until now.

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