Vikings (S04E19) “On The Eve”

It is no secret that Vikings is struggling greatly in the wake of Ragnar’s death. This show is a shadow of it’s former self without Travis Fimmel at the helm. It has to said once more that killing Ragnar off so soon was the wrong decision. His sons pale in comparison and are so uninteresting and it makes hard to watch sometimes. Bjorn and Ivar who are the strongest links among the sons come with major flaws, that it makes it hard to root for them like we did for Ragnar in the beginning. These characters are placed at the center of the show and they cannot fill Ragnar’s shoes. The show would do well to place more attention on Lagertha, Floki and Rollo who are far more compelling characters.
“On The Eve” brings us to the final hour of sorts. The Great Heathen Army is feeling invincible after killing King Aelle and now move on to the man they really hold responsible for their father’s death, King Ecbert. Each time we now see Ecbert we’re reminded of the enormous time jump because he has aged significantly (most others in particular in Lagertha, Floki and Helga haven’t aged a day). Ecbert is weak and fragile, the man we once knew is long gone. Ecbert has made it abundantly clear that Aethelwulf in charge of the army that will attempt to defeat the Vikings. Aethelwulf is prepared and in many ways wants so dearly to make his father proud.

One of the most poignant moments in the entire show takes place in this episode. We see Aethelwulf saying goodnight to Alfred and he tells Alfred that his biological father (Athelstan) was a very holy and special man and that Alfred should be proud of his father. Alfred replies by stating that he is proud to have Aethelwulf as a father too. The moment is tender and so pure and attests to how far Aethelwulf has truly come as a person. Long gone is the man who who flagellated himself each night before bed. With Aethelwulf the show has taken a man who you disliked at the start and evolved to a man you actually like and want to root for.
Back in Kattegat we see Torvi manning the gates with her crossbow in place as always. Torvi has come so far it’s almost hard to imagine she was the quiet girl married to Jarl Borg and then the abusive Erlendur. Much of her progress she owes to her mother-in-law Lagertha who has ensured that Torvi is well-trained and a very capable shieldmaiden. Torvi spots a group of men with ulterior motives and with the help of Astrid they swiftly put an end to these men. Lagertha surmises that these men were sent to test the weakness in the defenses of Kattegat. Of course, as always she is right.

The real invasion comes later though and while fighting Lagertha realises this was all a ploy and that the real target is the Great Hall. She leaves Torvi to lead the charge in defending the gates and we later see Torvi has been hit by an arrow and appears dead, that is until we see her one eye blink so hopefully she hasn’t met her end yet. Lagertha literally rids herself of her enemies by burning them to death. Her confidence and preparedness is awe-inspiring. She literally roasts Egil on a spit and attempts to determine who financed this attack. With some persuasion from his wife Egil gives in and spills the beans that King Harald is the one who planned the attack. Lagertha then realises that Bjorn and his brothers are in danger because the enemy is in their midst.
When the battle finally ensues against Aethelwulf and his troops the Vikings taunt them so badly that it’s almost cringe-worthy. Bjorn who of course was very reluctant to use Ivar’s new battle strategy is certainly very happy they used the strategy because they manage to trap the Saxons. Next week the season finale will tell us who survives the impending war and who will fall. My only hope is that the season finale delivers the action scenes that Vikings is most well-known for.