After a relentlessly fast-paced season, Vikings’ season 2 finale felt a like a decrescendo. Despite all the promos promising it would be ‘shocking’, ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ was fairly predictable with one or two exceptions. It definitely was not as shocking as season 1’s ‘All Change’.
The biggest surprise was Floki wasn’t actually betraying Ragnar. So the reason his sudden decision to side with Horik made no sense was that he was pretending, which suddenly makes the last episode so much better. Maybe that was obvious to other audience members from the start, but Floki is such a mercurial character that while it felt abrupt, it didn’t seem like such a stretch that his changeability could extend to his relationship with Ragnar. I always thought eventually Ragnar’s curiosity about Christianity might drive a wedge between him and Loki, a fanatically devout follower of the Norse gods. If Floki saw something like, say when Ragnar asked Athelstan to teach him a Christian prayer, that could start an arc where Floki legitimately turns on Ragnar. As the two worlds inevitably clash in the future, that might be something that happens, but for now, Floki’s still on Ragnar’s side.
Other than that, there wasn’t anything very surprising, which isn’t to say nothing happened. The tension that was brewing between Ragnar and King Horik finally exploded when Horik had his men attack Kattegat. (How are there still so many people living in Kattegat? They should all be dead by now. And if they’re alive they should maybe consider moving to somewhere that doesn’t get attacked every other week). Predictably, Ragnar was triumphant against Horik, and is presumably the new king.
This was a long time coming, but it’s nice the Horik storyline is wrapped up – it means next season Ragnar can face off against more competent adversaries. The reason it took so long for Ragnar to defeat Horik wasn’t that he couldn’t, but that he had grudging respect for Horik’s position as king and therefore wouldn’t openly defy him. And it was so satisfying when he finally did, because Horik was a terrible person. The only loose end left over is Horik’s teenage son, who they may or may not have killed. They never made it explicitly clear the fate of Horik’s son. If they left him alive, he will definitely be a problem down the line because that kid is a psychopath.
Overall, season 2 was strong. The pacing wasn’t always consistent, but there were a lot of great character arcs that will hopefully continue into season 3. Bjorn’s story is going to be especially interesting to follow as he is being presented as a future legend in his own right. If Ragnar dies during the course of the show (which is a possibility given that Michael Hirst originally planned to kill him in season 1, and also, you know….history), it seems like Bjorn could be the new focus of the show. Bjorn is also different than most of the other Vikings. While he is a skilled fighter, he doesn’t seem to enjoy the more gruesome aspects of warfare, and he has a kindness to him that many of his fellow warriors lack, so watching what is next for him is an exciting prospect.
Athelstan’s inner conflict between his two worlds is another thing that was fascinating to watch this season. There wasn’t much time in the finale to revisit him, but after everything he’s been through, at the hands of both Christians and pagans, I can’t imagine returning to Kattegat would magically solve all his problems, and I kind of hope it won’t. Because while I feel bad for Athelstan, his story is one of the most interesting on the show for several reasons: it’s one of the strongest stories dealing with internal battles on a show that focuses a lot more on political and physical fights. Also, it is the clash of two worlds manifested in one man, and through Athelstan’s experiences, it demonstrates the possibility for two cultures to exist with either peaceful acceptance or harsh cruelty. Given what we’ve seen so far of the show, it’ll probably be the more violent of the two options, but you never know. Maybe after a few more epic fight scenes, there can be some peace.
Speaking of fight scenes, the battle choreography is one of the other things about the show that is consistently good. The battles always look brutal and visceral, and they all look different. Given the amount of fight scenes the show has, making each fight distinct is no easy feat.
Overall, season 2 was about on par with season 1. They were both different and as such, had different strengths and weaknesses. But the show consistently has fantastic fight scenes, beautiful cinematography, interesting characters, and a strong cast. Bring on season 3.