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Apr 4 15 7:21 PM
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Apr 10 15 2:13 PM
Ragnar Lothbrok has a perfect protagonist problem. That might seem absurd after we see him suffer the most devastating defeat in Vikings history, but “To The Gates” sees Ragnar’s signature enigmatic omniscience extended too far, even as the River Seine is choked with his dead.
The Vikings’ attack on Paris, which comprises most of the episode, is the most elaborate, impressive action setpiece the show’s ever attempted, with Ragnar’s forces attacking from both land and water, and being met with a repelling force employing everything from crossbows to stones to boiling oil and fire. The siege is all the more impressive because of the way creator Michael Hirst (who wrote the episode) continually plays on our expectations—apart from some easily Googled, 1200-year-old spoilers, everything we’ve seen about Ragnar Lothbrok in the series leads us to believe that Paris is going to fall, tonight, before his implacable will (and axes). Apart from being Vikings’ protagonist, Ragnar has been imbued from the start with the power of winning—Ragnar wins, that’s whathe does. There’s his physical prowess, naturally, and his ability to make his opponents pay for underestimating him (don’t get too comfy, King Ecbert), but it’s the indefinable aura of being the smartest tactician in the world that has always marked out Ragnar for victory.
So the crushing defeat at the hands of the Parisian forces tonight should signal a major change, at least in how we view Ragnar. Except that it doesn’t, as, in an episode-concluding monologue (well, he’s communing with Althelstan, but it functions the same), Ragnar explains both that he’s known all along that Floki killed Athelstan, and that, implausibly, he knew the attack would fail even before it began:
Do you think I went too far with Floki? He actually thought I would let him lead without my having an agenda. If I were him I would worry less about the gods and more about the fury of a patient man. As you know I can be very patient. I wish you were here. Paris is everything you told me it would be, and I am bound and determined to conquer it.
I’d like to think that there’s more ambiguity in this speech than there is. Apart from the stilted phrase “without my having an agenda” (Ragnar’s never less compelling than when forced to mouth exposition—and should never say the word “agenda”), the main thrust here, inescapably, is that he only put Floki in charge of major portions of the most important Norse action so far in order to punish him with its failure, and because that failure is part of another long game that only Ragnar can see. Being right and being ahead of everyone else is part of Ragnar’s appeal as a character, but “To The Gates” pushes his preternatural prescience to the point of absurdity.
Vikings has made a bold move in having its protagonist do so little this season. From the first scene looking out over his kingdom with his son, Ragnar has been—even more than previously—put on a plane above the other characters. Looking down over Kattegat, Ragnar tells Bjorn cryptic lessons about the true nature and virtue of leadership, and his actions throughout the season have continued at that remove, to an extent. Sure, he’s in there hacking and slashing when necessary—Ragnar’s plans for victory have always hinged on his ability to back them with martial prowess—but in his dealings with Ecbert, Lagertha, Kalf, Erlendur, and now Floki, the show has seen Ragnar smile his little Lothbrok smiles and accede, all the while allowing Travis Fimmel’s cagey performance and our knowledge of how Ragnar operates to assure us that he’s ten moves ahead. That slyly magnetic super-competence is part of what makes Ragnar so entertaining, but it can also be a storytelling crutch and, tonight, an absurd one.
Which isn’t to say that Ragnar wouldn’t have been thrilled if the two-pronged attack he allowed Floki and the others to mastermind had somehow succeeded. As Rollo says in the aftermath, “We were so close—next time, we will not make the same mistakes.” And indeed, when he, Bjorn, and Ragnar finally manage to use Floki’s towers to top the Paris walls, Ragnar’s look of awed avarice at the glowing city in the distance speaks of how much he wants it to. But, from the first scenes of the episode, when we see Ragnar watching his people’s furious preparations for battle, the look on his face is all about misdirection. At first he looks anxious (actually biting his lip, something I’ve never seen him do before), with Fimmel, as ever, betraying little. And all through the battle, he, always on the periphery, shoots knowing, unreadable glances at each minor advance and setback—and especially at Floki. As Floki’s demeanor degenerates from giddy, exultant giggling to fear, and finally to abject despair, Ragnar keeps finding him with those eyes of his and communicating, essentially, “I knew it was you, Fredo.” Both Fimmel and Gustaf Skarsgård are exceptional, as always, at giving wordless vent to their characters’ (often unknowable) thoughts, and the entire siege is undeniably exciting and well-crafted—but as a narrative reveal, Ragnar’s game-playing here stretches the character past credulity.
None of this is to say that Ragnar wanted tonight’s assault on Paris to fail. As Rollo expresses, it gets pretty dicey for the Parisians for a time, with Floki’s siege towers allowing some Vikings to breach the walls, and Lagertha’s troops doing the same with some particularly stubborn city gates. Indeed, the entire siege, which takes up fully three-quarters of the episode, is an impressively directed and choreographed piece of filmmaking and writing, playing thrillingly with our expectations. For all the hints that something is not right, and the mounting number of Vikings taken out through the course of the various actions, we expect Ragnar’s forces to prevail. For each setback (the boiling oil being set aflame is what finally undoes Floki’s confidence), we admire the show’s commitment to making the inevitable Viking victory a difficult one. When— after Rollo, Bjorn, and Ragnar all fall, Floki retreats inside one of his burning towers with a knife to his own throat, and Lagertha’s people breach the gates only to foolishly charge into the teeth of the concealed Parisians at the end of a long, empty corridor—it becomes apparent that the attack has well and truly failed, it’s an effective shock.
Although not to Ragnar, which is the problem. In crafting a narrative where Ragnar’s necessary rightness means delegating the leadership of a massive military campaign he believes will fail to the one man he wants to punish, Vikings is having its protagonist teach an awfully expensive lesson (if the enormous death toll of his people is any measure). While Ragnar fought as formidably as anyone (except maybe the ever-Hulk-like Rollo), and took a horrible beating for it (if him pissing blood at the end is any indication), his long-game—most likely involving Athelstan’s cross, which he fondles while telling his dead friend of his future plans—is, no matter how triumphant the inevitable outcome, coming at the cost of Vikings’ believability.
But it went badly. Yes it did. You led today.I only did what my instincts told me to do.Well, that is a start.http://www.avclub.com/tvclub/vikings-gates-217765
But it went badly.
Yes it did. You led today.
I only did what my instincts told me to do.
Well, that is a start.
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Apr 15 15 5:27 PM
'Vikings' Season 3 Episode 9 Spoilers: Breaking Point plot
reveals Bjorn changing Vikings history; Paris under assault
Courtesy of History Vikings.)
4:06 AM 2015
Print This Article
by Staff Writer
'Vikings' Season 3 Episode 9 will bring its followers to another
exciting and heart-pounding battle as Ragnar leads his army of Vikings to
assault Paris once more. Bjorn will later on be pressured to commit a task that
will potentially create a significant ripple in Vikings history.
Failure awaits the army of the Vikings in this coming episode,
but this will not stop Ragnar and his troops from conquering the city. He will
put Bjorn in a very crucial position
in the attempt to penetrate Paris walls in the season finale of the series.
Whatever Bjorn's choice may be, it will definitely lead the Vikings to another
epic journey in search for riches and power.
Episode 7 and 8 of the series offered the viewers the panic that
the Vikings created upon setting foot on Paris. Unfortunately, Emperor Charles
is doing all he can to keep the city secure and untouched by the conquerors. He
will be forced to make a very crucial decision to keep his walls up and to
prevent Ragnar from raiding the city.
History Channel also released an official
synopsis of the upcoming episode to be aired on April 16, 2015,
"The Vikings are going to go all out for a second assault on Paris.
Recognizing the desperate state of affairs for the city, Emperor Charles will
have to make a difficult decision. In Wessex, Judith will get compelled to make
a difficult decision of her own."
Intense action and battles scenes were revealed by the latest
spoiler clip released by History Channel for Season 3 Episode 9 of the series.
The episode with the title "Breaking Point" is said to be the
penultimate episode in the series that will lead our favorite warriors into a
new journey. Bjorn will change history. Emperor Charles will never give up on
Paris while Ragnar and his Vikings continue to penetrate the city. Blood, death
and more battle scenes are to be revealed before the conclusive last episode of
The siege continues as Season 3 Episode 9 of "Vikings"
airs on April 16, 2015, Thursday 10pm ET on the History Channel.
Apr 15 15 6:07 PM
Apr 16 15 7:23 PM
Vikings Season 3 Episode 9 Spoilers: King of Ragnar Fails
Conquest of Paris Again; Rollo Draws Away From Brother
10:43 AM 2015
by Saff Writer
The last episode of History Channel's hit series Vikings,
To the Gates, saw the defeat of King Ragnar in their attempt to
capture the City of Lights. However, the King of Denmark is unrelenting and
spoilers for the next episode entitled Breaking Point feature how the
Vikings craft a more clever way to penetrate the heavily guarded fortress. Will
they make it this time?
Teasers on Breaking Point show the Vikings swimming under
the bridge that connects Paris to its mainland in order to successfully
infiltrate the city. It is also highlighted in the trailer that the
attack is made in the nighttimes distinct from their first shot. It is further
shown that a number of Vikings manage to enter the city and King Charles is
heard saying, "The Northmen are almost inside the city".
Aside from the evident subjugation of Paris, King Charles is
faced with a difficult decision which may be related the fallen city
or a choice in relation to her daughter Princess Gisla. In an interview to
Clive Staden who plays Rollo, King Ragnak's brother, he provided important
insights on the invasion by the Vikings of Paris.
"King Charles is a very different kind of ruler compared to
Ecbert and Ragnar Lothbrok...the city has some weapons and things like
anti-siege devices that the Vikings have never seen before, and they won't see
it coming. Paris is far more prepared for the attack than the Saxons ever
Based from this, many speculate that despite what looks like
King Ragnak's victory, several sources cite that Paris is not dominated based
solely on a prophesy however it remains that the Vikings pose a considerable
threat for Paris on this season. Furthermore, Staden admits Rollo transforms
into a monster in the course of the events as he sees his brother
rise to the pedestal while he remains who and what he is. Rollo feels only
Siggy is there for him.
This week's episode is the penultimate episode before the season
ends. Breaking Point airs on April 16 and the season finale airs on
Apr 17 15 9:46 AM
Apr 17 15 2:28 PM
Apr 17 15 3:49 PM
TV RECAPS | VIKINGS
Another day, another spiritual
BY DARREN FRANICH
Ep. 9 | Aired Apr 16
Posted April 16 2015 — 11:00 PM EDT
See Ragnar Lothbrok. See him brought low. King
Ragnar is sick. He coughs gore. His urine stinks of blood. All the ambition of
the gods—and yet, he is still a man. All the victories a great hero can have:
The farmer who became an earl, the earl who became a king, the king who sailed
across the sea to England, who led his people down the river to Paris. Here, at
the walls, Ragnar has never looked more defeated. His Vikings bicker, angry and
hungry and tired.
“I don’t understand why we failed, Ragnar,” says
Floki. How far Floki has fallen, too. Once, he was the great shipbuilder. He
was to be Floki the conqueror. But his ships burned; his battle was lost. “The
others will try again tonight,” Ragnar promises.
And so they do. The Vikings have a new
strategy. Call of Duty failed; time now for Metal Gear
Solid. Lagertha leads a crack team of stealth shieldmaidens. They swim
across the river; they climb up the outside of the bridge. The archers of
Frankia look for an attacking army; they don’t see seven tough women.
Their tactics are sound: Lagertha hacks a man’s
neck; a shieldmaiden steps forward to grab his corpse, setting it down
gracefully in the shadows. But the men of Paris are alerted; burning oil
splashes down on one shieldmaiden burning her into Valhalla.
There are tough women on all sides of this battle;
within the walls of Paris, Princess Gisla hands a knife to her maidens. (“Make
sure they do not capture you alive,” she warns.) But behind the great door,
Lagertha sees an opportunity: She throws a flame on the burning oil, using the
enemies’ weapon against them. The door ignites in flames. And an army of
Northmen race through. Earl Siegfried grabs the wanderer, Sinric: “You are our
map of the city.”
Once again, the Parisians outmatch the Vikings in
their battle technology. Count Odo releases a gigantic spiked wheel, which
rolls across the bridge, picking up Northmen. In a truly ghoulish site, some of
the warriors are still alive, gigantic spikes poking through their bodies—it’s
an image worthy of Hellraiser. But the wheel can only roll so
far—at which point Rollo leaps over it, propping it up with a few spears. Once
again, Parisian battle technology is outmatched by old-fashioned Viking
Odo sends his man to fight the Vikings
hand-to-hand. The Parisians still have the upper hand; once again, all they
need to do is keep playing a strong defense. But the men of Paris are
weakening. Odo goes to Emperor Charles, begging him to walk among the troops.
“What can I do to stop them,” says the coward Emperor, “that Holy Mother
Count Odo is fed up. From the Viking perspective,
Odo is a bad guy—but here, in the throne room of Paris, he is a fundamentally
good man trying to protect his city, frustrated with the ludicrous little man
who wears the crown. “I thought you would come,” says Odo. “I know what your
grandfather would have done.” But Emperor Charles is not Charlemagne. He was not
prepared for this.
Even without their Emperor, the Parisians fight the
Vikings off. In the process, they capture two men: Sinric the Wanderer, and
Siegfried the Earl. It’s Sinric who saves them, yelling in the language of
Franki: “Don’t kill me! I’m different!” He reveals Siegfried’s status as Earl;
he convinces Odo to take them both prisoner, Sinric as the translator,
Siegfried as the valuable cargo.
On a hilltop across the river, Ragnar crawls. He coughs; he vomits; his
whole body rebels against him. He has a vision: His old friend Athelstan,
emerging from the mist, holding out his hand. But the visions don’t stop there.
There is an image of Allfather Odin—Ragnar’s first sight of the deity in quite
And there is someone else, too: Athelstan’s
Christ-God, staring at Ragnar expressionless:
At one point, there is a third figure in the
And at one point, Ragnar sees himself staring at
himself—an out-of-body experience, or perhaps a dramatization of the war within
What’s happening in this scene, besides Ragnar’s
obvious internal raging chaos? Vikings season 3 has focused on
the clash of two very different civilizations—the far-flung denizens of what
was once the Holy Roman Empire, remnant kingdoms built on Christian worship; and
our far-traveling Northmen, with their living gods who push them to plunder and
conquest. Is Ragnar himself feeling the physical toll of this struggle? Does he
need to choose a side? Athelstan seemed to be welcoming him to the beyond—but
then he pulled away his hand, and smiled, and disappeared. “Don’t abandon me!”
says Ragnar—to his friend, to his gods, to everyone who can’t hear him.
Fire around him, and blood; or perhaps that’s just
NEXT: A beheading
In the throne room of Emperor Charles of Paris, two
societies meet for the first time. Two and a half, really—for Sinric represents
the Society That Has No Society. “I belong to no country. I belong to no
people. I just belong to the wide, wide world.” Vikings season
3 has also been the Season of Wanderers: Harbard the maybe-god, Thorunn the
scarred. Perhaps the Wanderers have the right idea. There’s a certain trust
granted to them; the Parisians immediately treat Sinric like a scholar in all
Count Odo has a question. That man, that great
warrior who fought on the bridge; who was he? “His name is Rollo,” says Sinric.
“He is the brother of King Ragnar, leader of the Northmen. He is a famous
warrior. He fights like a crazy bear.” (SEER ALERT: A bear will marry a
princess.) How ironic. In his own country, Rollo has ever been the inferior of
Ragnar: A traitor, a failed suitor, Mister Second Best. Here in Frankia,
Rollo’s legend is already spreading through the halls.
Odo considers bartering Siegfried. Princess Gisla
won’t hear of it. “If you care for me at all, Count Odo, you will bring me his
head.” CUT TO: A Parisian street corner, the next day. An execution is planned.
Siegfried doesn’t mind dying. But he would like someone to hold his hair out of
the way, so they can make a clean cut. A Parisian soldier holds the warrior’s
hair back. The ax swings down… and Siegfried moves his head back just slightly…
and the ax swings through the man’s hands. The people scream, and laugh, and
Siegfried releases a final victorious guffaw. The gods will welcome him.
Back in Kattegat, Aslaug has taken her place on the throne. A Christian
missionary has been preaching his Christ-God in the town square and
denouncing the gods of Valhalla. “I may admit that your Christ is a god,” says
Aslaug. “But even so, our gods are greater. Our signs and wonders mightier. Is
it not true?” The missionary proclaims her words false; he agrees to stand up
to the judgment of the gods.
It’s an interesting little sequence, this Kattegat
interlude. It doesn’t have much to do with the reigning dramas of this
season—it’s mainly an example of how Aslaug rules, while Ragnar is away. But in
the context of the greater Christian-Viking divide, it’s an interesting moment.
The missionary picks up a burning rock, and walks untouched by the heat down
the lane, smiling at the dumbfounded queen.
Except he doesn’t—that was just his vision, what
he hoped would happen. The rock burns his hands bloody and
charred; he screams, and screams, and screams. King Ragnar has always been
interested in the Christians, has always inquired about the nature of their
Christ-God. But Ragnar isn’t here; a bit later, Aslaug casually orders the
Across the sea, in Wessex, Ecbert has good news for
Judith. Her husband returns from Mercia, his mission a success. But he has more
important things to tell her. He promises to keep her safe, to keep her young
son Alfred safe. But there must be recompense; a reward. Ecbert wants her to be
his mistress. In his chamber, he tells her something—words she cannot quite
understand, or doesn’t wish to:
What might have been is an abstraction, remaining a
perpetual possibility only in the realm of speculation. What might of been, and
what has been, point to one end. Which is always present. Footsteps echo in the
memory down the passage we did not take towards the door that never opened.
“Somehow, we are always here at this moment, you
and I,” says Ecbert, inventing a couple dozen philosophical concepts a
millennium early. Judith disagrees. They have not always been here; the
universe did not force them here. Now is just now. Ecbert is a man who takes
the macro view—he sees how history turns in cycles, how the great deeds of the
Old Empires are all lost now. Perhaps Judith has no time for that; perhaps she
sees how a man who looks at humanity from afar might think himself a god, might
perform horrible deeds and justify them with pretty words. “Get into bed,”
Ecbert commands, done talking for the moment.
NEXT: A baptism
In Paris, the straits are dire. People are sick—ill,
perhaps, with whatever virus plagues Ragnar Lothbrok. (A clash of civilizations
is a duel between two immune systems.) They are running low of fresh
vegetables, of fresh food. The starvation has begun. “We must attempt to come
to terms,” says Count Odo. “There is no other way.”
The Princess refuses: They must not lower
themselves to the pagans’ level. The Emperor promises that he will pray upon
this matter; no doubt he’ll choose the path of least resistance.
In Wessex, Ecbert and his son and his daughter-in-law/mistress
celebrate an old-fashioned family dinner. It’s been quite a couple of years,
eh? The arrival of the Northmen; the creation of a Viking colony; the battle to
gain Mercia as a puppet ally; the presence of Athelstan, friend to Ecbert, lover
of Judith; the destruction of the Viking colony; Ecbert’s promise that, sooner
or later, Judith’s father will bend the knee.
But here they are, having some nice family chatter. “Queen Kwenthrith
tried to use her feminine wiles upon me,” says Aethelwulf, like he had a tough
day at the office. “But with God’s help, I managed to resist the devil’s
Aethelwulf seems a changed man. He’s turning over a
new leaf. He’s done hating his wife for everything that happened between her
and Athelstan. “However painful it was for me,” he says, “What happened between
you and Athelstan was God’s work.” (“However painful it was for me” <
getting an ear chopped off.) And Aethelwulf has a question for his father. Was
Ecbert prepared to sacrifice his son—his only son—for the conquest of Mercia?
Ecbert is shocked. He gives another speech—what a
showcase episode for Linus Roache, an actor who was great as neo-Waterston
on Law & Order and great as Batman’s dad in Batman
Begins. “No Saxon king has ever managed to hand over their kingdom
peacefully and successful to their son and heir,” Ecbert says. “But I intend to
be the first.” And not just any old kingdom—the kingdom of England. When Ecbert
says this, you can tell he himself thinks he’s telling the truth. He’s one of the
great politicians—he has that Bill Clinton-esque quality of always believing
everything he says.
(ASIDE: Departed Vikings star Jessalyn
Gilsig compared the initial Vikings divide between
Earl Haraldson and Ragnar to the Bushes and the Obamas; Ragnar’s interactions
with Ecbert feel a little bit like Obama’s interactions with the Clintons,
enemies-turned-friends-turned-uneasy-allies. In this metaphor, I think the
Franks are The Kennedys. END OF ASIDE.)
Aethelwulf hears what Ecbert says. “To the most
loving, loyal, and true father in the world!” he says, holding up his
glass. But for once, Aethelwulf doesn’t seem like a dummy. He has Ecbert’s
The Parisians come to the Viking camp. They want to
end the siege; they think a peaceful resolution is best for both sides. The
Vikings discuss their strategy. They’ve lost close to a thousand men; the city
is unbreachable; #WinterIsComing. But surely, the Parisians would only seek
peace if they were on their last legs. But if the Vikings let them starve, the
people will hate them; and if they keep attacking, the people will hate them
Ragnar has been quiet these past few episodes. He
is not quiet now: “I did not become Earl because I aspired to be one,” he
says. “It came about because of other people’s actions. I did not become
King out of ambition, but once again, I had no choice. As a result of other
people’s actions. But nonetheless, I am King. King Ragnar. That is my name.
King Ragnar. What does a King do, Bjorn?”
“Yes! Good! He rules! And as a ruler, I have the
last say!” All other plans have failed; Ragnar’s plan will not. They shall meet
the Franks tomorrow, he declares.
Tomorrow comes—and Ragnar has already left. While
his family rides to the meeting, Ragnar discusses the situation with Count Odo.
The Parisians will give the Vikings treasure: Five thousand, seven hundred, and
sixty pounds in gold and silver. They ought to accept; reinforcements are on
their way. Ragnar has a counter-off. He knows nobody is coming. What he seeks
has no tangible worth: He wants to be baptized. “I am a dying man,” he says.
“And when I die, I want to be reunited with my Christian friend, who happens to
be in your heaven.” The bishop tells Ragnar he will go to hell. “That is not
your decision to make,” says Ragnar.
Arrangements will be made. Or not: For Ragnar
prefers things simply. He gets into the water with the Bishop; the Bishop says
words in a language older than Kattegat, older than Frankia, older than any of
the kingdoms these men represent. Ragnar’s people arrive just in time to see
him become a Christian. They are horrified, betrayed. The men of Frankia cross
themselves, welcoming a new warrior to their cause.
That’s a lot to take in, with just one week to go before the season
finale. Is this all part of Ragnar’s plan? Does he really think he’s dying?
Hell, is he dying? (Creator Michael Hirst has always talked
about how Vikings could continue long after Ragnar’s death:
The benefit of having so many active sons.) Presuming that the Seer saw the
future, we know that a bear will marry a princess; we know that the dead will
conquer Paris, not the living. Will that all happen in the season finale? We’ll
find out in one week.
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