Vikings: The Last Act
January 7, 2021 10:13 PM - Season 6, Episode 20 - Subscribe

Ubbe is forced to cleanse a grave taint to the relationship with his new friends. Ivar discovers his destiny. Hvitserk continues to evolve. Series finale.
posted by porpoise (5 comments total)
That was a good ending.
posted by Catblack at 5:53 PM on January 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

I was a little surprised when there were Sons of Ragnar still alive at the end. Felt like we might kill them all off before the end.

Ultimately, I think Grunhild articulated the thesis of this season a few episodes back: there were these (mostly) men who did Great things, but now their time is over and that age has passed. It's not drawn out, but we could also read into the show that with the passing of the Great Men comes inevitably the passing of their religion as well.

It makes sense for it to be Hvitserk and Ubbe left at the end in this framework - of all their brothers, those two are the most comfortable living a quiet life. So Ubbe and co are absorbed into the Americas, and likewise Hvitserk becomes a Saxon prince and doesn't disappear entirely but neither is he driving events personally anymore.

Erik is pretty interesting in this framework too. He's drawn to be a better person under the influence of a Great Man. He admires Bjorn and being in Bjorn's orbit inspires him to do right. But once Bjorn is gone, he falls back onto his worst impulses, and ultimately dies because of it.

I liked that our last shot of Greenland was Kjetill on top of the whale, yelling about how he's the king of Greenland. I imagine he ultimately murders everyone that's left, one by one.

I did think the slaves might kill both Ingrid and Erik for a moment there. That power vacuum in Kattegat at the end of the series would have been an even bleaker note. Ingrid at least intends to go down fighting in the face of Christianity and the changing winds of Europe.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 8:00 PM on February 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

That's an astute observation, vibratory re: great man theory (and how that "theory" is mostly bullshit).

Bjorn had the charisma and the abilities, but ultimately his timing and the fickleness of history (as it is happening) didn't pan out for him.

Timing also, that his children weren't old enough to rub any of that charisma/ legend from him, to carry their grandfather's ambition on (and Þorunn's loss and odd exit). Also, he had old broken and "mended" and worn Floki as a friend/ mentor instead of disruptive genius Floki.

Ubbe shared his father's desire for a period of peace and the opportunity for everyone to grow and prosper, but he didn't have the "force of will"/ charisma/ opportunity to accomplish that in Kattegat, sought an opportunity in Iceland only to be thwarted by fools, ambition, and folly, and then tried to be decent in a new world after survivors luck only to be thwarted by (a) fool and folly. But the story ends with him having another opportunity.

Hvitserk got out much better than he has any right to expect - I read it as that he went full-Christian and opted to be a priest and a political non-entity with zero chances of a legitimate heir (rather than being a prince, which implies warfare/ leading men in combat, and communicable titles?). It makes sense to me that the character would renounce violence, but I doubt he ever finds happiness. Solace, maybe.

Which reminds of of Rolo - he doesn't show up in the end, does he? I guess he's sold out completely to the French. Don't blame him.

Ivar's arc in the show had always promised a fruitless death. But at least in-show he left some good legacy in Igor. irl, there's suggestion that he may have had children of his own, but ultimately didn't amount to much.

I'm sad that Lagertha didn't make it to the end but her story (and Katheryn Winnick's acting/ presence) was powerful and well done and carried the show well after Ragnar's exit.

I cannot exaggerate how much I loved the Lagertha character as written and how well Winnick owned and portrayed the role.

Which leaves Floki, who's gone through multiple versions of Hell and finally found people who tolerate/ appreciate what he can still share for the good of the community, in a manner that's at least acceptable for Floki. Floki makes Ubbe's continued wellbeing possible, but Ubbe's presence probably makes Floki's old age more amenable.

All in all, this was an interesting exploration of a great person in Ragnar (and I'm sad that Travis Fimmel hasn't seemed to have broken out of his typecast from this - he is terribad in 'Raised by Wolves,' just terrible), and how their children couldn't live up to the great person's accomplishments even given the leg-up from being their children. A tale retold in multitudes with real-world failsons and children of 2nd (and 3rd) generation wealth.

Recall also, Ragnar was just a young small time farmer completely heads-over heels in love with his wife, who wanted better for his son and the people in his community and benefited from being close friends with a weirdo genius in Floki and developed a friendship with another weirdo and disrupter in the captured Christian priest Athelstan, and was able to befriend (and subvert) a weirdo English King Ecbert (at least for a while).

Ragnar, a-historically, is one of the greatest characters in television.

I don't completely disagree with keeping on the show after Ragnar's exit, but there was too much extraneous stupid bs and (aside from Lagertha's arc) it kind of meandered sputtered into sub-mediocrity. The Iceland stuff allowed Ubbe's final arc, but shit, so much stupid crap.

The historically reasonable small unit combat in the first season absolutely sold me on the show to give time to sell me the story, its a shame that the show relatively quickly lost its early authenticity.
posted by porpoise at 11:53 PM on February 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

I think I'm ultimately pretty glad they kept going. I remember that I struggled a bit after the time jump and the introduction of the adult versions of Ragnar's younger sons. But I like how final this ending ultimately was. It's definitely not the show it once was though, you're right about that.

For Hvitzerk, I read somewhere the suggestion that they were giving him the story of Guthrum there at the end: signs a peace treaty with Alfred, is baptized by him and takes the name Æthelstan. If that's the case, it implies that he actually ends up ruling the Norse settlements in England, which is definitely *way* better than he could expect. I think Alfred says something about "discussing the future of your people and mine" which does seem to allude to this treaty, setting up a more stable peace between the Anglo-Saxon and Viking territories of England. Elsewith's concerns about the vikings not respecting their previous treaties goes towards that as well.

Which I guess is then a case of Alfred identifying Hvitserk as someone he can make good use of. Hvitserk is relatively pliable, but as a Son of Ragnar has the name recognition to be plausible in the role.

In real life, it seems that Guthrum was already king of the viking territories by the time of the treaty. In the show we had a Guthrum, but Hvitserk killed him. So... I gues that works out?

Side note: a whole lot of Æthelstans running around. We never did find out what Othere's real story was.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 5:13 PM on February 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

It appears we're not done with Vikings either: Netflix is getting a spin-off sequel set 100 years later. I admit I'm a little skeptical about the change in writer. Not that Michael Hirst has been super consistent, but he seems to have made a career out of historical dramas specifically.

The new guy is best known for action movies, which I suppose isn't the worst background for this kind of show but isn't necessarily promising either.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 5:24 PM on February 9, 2021

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