A Sashurai’s Review: Vikings – Season 3×08 (If at first you don’t succeed…)

Vikings 08

The tempting fragrance of a new city to conquer was enough to fuel the northmen, but the might and numbers simply weren’t enough to overtake Paris. Ragnar suffers potentially his worst defeat at the hands of Princess Gisla’s rally and the men who fought under her anointed banner.  Many were slain and wounded, but the bulk of our Viking cast remains intact for the next round. The siege isn’t over yet, and there are only two episodes left in this rambunctious and blood-thirsty season.

Entire episodes dealing primarily on sacking a city are not unheard of (I’m talking to you GOT season 2×09). They have a different pace and a non-stop fury of intense moments that spark the imagination and of course warrant deadly concern over any character’s survival. Here we get an unrelenting view of both sides trying to manage their duty and purpose which plays incredibly well for both parties. Gisla isn’t afraid and she not only pulled out the heart of her city, but she showed it to the soldiers who found new strength in defending their home. I give Gisla a lot of credit for standing her ground and witnessing the onslaught first hand.

On the opposing end, Ragnar, Floki, Bjorn, Rollo, and Lagertha stage their double-sided attack and perform at their more cunning capacity, which for a short time had the perception of being in their favor. Men and women climbed Floki’s towers and screamed their war cries of victory, only to be shot down or burned alive for the effort. Lagertha fairs no better at the front gate where long spikes and arrows greet the group after they spent an enormous amount of time just getting through the front door. Bjorn suffers near fatal injuries as he, Rollo and Ragnar storm the castle walls and take on the entire squad stationed there themselves. It was a moment to take in because main characters get to have moments to shine where normal reality would dictate they’d likely be killed if they were the only three battling so many. But they each fell in their own way and retreated as they had no choice.

Floki experienced an almost ethereal awakening while surrounded by fire from under one of his towers. He questioned the gods and blamed Athelstan for his failure, even going so far as to cut his own throat to avoid either shame or worse. Yet, he expels the thought and survives like the rest not knowing how his Viking brethren will react knowing the plan was consciously his under the guise of Ragnar’s choice to let Floki manage the siege. Floki’s performance and confusion was masterfully played even if I never believed for a second that he would die in this episode.

Rollo shined as the brute who would cut down his own men for the cowardice they showed by refusing to climb the towers in front of them. Shirtless and bearded, he charged ready to battle all of Paris himself. His warrior spirit won’t die that easily and it should be noted that when he fell into the river, there was a moment of kinship between that scene and how Siggy succumbed to her fate. Yet Rollo will do no such thing, and that’s a good thing.

After Paris celebrates their victory, the wounded Vikings tend to their own, restoring Bjorn and dealing with their massive setback. Kalf warms up to Lagertha who gives in to his advances under the condition that sometime in the future she’ll kill him for taking over her land. He seals the contract with a kiss and all I could think about is this is what it must be like if humans acted like spiders or praying mantis’s. If the male goes into the deal knowing he won’t come out of it alive, he must think it’s worth losing his life over. And I don’t doubt Lagertha will uphold her end of the bargain regardless of Kalf’s future scheming.

The episode ends with Ragnar finding a quiet place to speak to Athelstan once more, declaring through his wounds that one way or another, he’ll take over Paris. He stares off in his beguiling gaze as we prepare for one more charge into Paris next week.

FAVORITE MOMENT

Many rampant and stylized moments consumed the screen, but my top scene goes to the trio (Rollo, Ragnar, Bjorn) fighting their way to the top and ultimately suffering defeat as each are expelled from the wall in different gut-wrenching capacities. By this point in the attack it was clear the three of them wouldn’t make much of a difference but the surreal rage and violence of it all lent to a classic moment that really defines the Viking culture of that period and those who showcased it. They wouldn’t quit. Even at sure defeat, Ragnar joined his on and brother and did what he set out to do, even if it killed him. For the moment, they’ve been denied their glorious deaths.

CHARACTER MVP

Floki once again takes the trophy for his maniacal behavior and cathartic awakening to the carnage blazing around him. He showed absolutely zero doubt that his towers would be the key to victory. When the damage and death became too great, he retreated under a tower and proceeded to argue with himself the gods over why such a defeat came to be. In a way he’s an antonym to the  brutal nature of the Viking era, with his high-pitched laughter and shameless dancing, yet he captures the essence of their beliefs every time he’s on screen. It can’t be easy playing such a layered character, but Floki is an ever complicated man who just wants to be rewarded for his faith.

LONG TERM THOUGHTS

Porunn is seen briefly traveling away from Kattegat, alone. Without any more evidence to support her sullen attitude as of late, she leaves her home without her child toward who knows where. I’m hoping we haven’t seen the last of her. Kattegat seems to have some tragic effects on our supporting characters as of late.

While it appears obvious that Ragnar allowed Floki to plan the attack so not to suffer the blame of defeat, I wonder if he had a different plan of his own from the get go. He knows he doesn’t have the manpower to fail again, which of course suggests a more stealthy approach (Having peeked at next week’s promo). I also think they should have just tried to raid at night.

OVERALL SCORE

8 out of 10. This is what we wanted to see last week, a no-holds-barred action packed wallop. Though the end result wasn’t what Ragnar wanted the extreme effort was fuel for our entertainment. The sweeping shots showed us great scale though I wasn’t as impressed with the CGI as I was with the backdrop of Paris which was much better rendered and detailed. The intensity was there with each player screaming and riling for their chance to maim and kill and the end showed promise of things to come. Ragnar may have to deal with another loss in the future, but for now he’s dead set on keeping his goal intact. Until next week.

No more words

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