By Alikhat

WARNING: Oden welcomes you to Spoilerhalla!

For five glorious, blood-drenched seasons, Vikings has been rampaging its graphically gory – if dubiously historical – way across the History Channel’s primetime lineup, adding a much-needed bit of quality and class to a network otherwise committed to ignoring its brand name for the sake of showcasing swamp people, pawn brokers, UFO conspiracy theories, and random, sweaty males bent on flexing their Y chromosomes by annoying dangerous animals – and the audience – for fun.

Still, all good things (and in this case, History Channel’s only good thing) must come to an end… at least on the History Channel, ‘cuz Netflix has already swooped in and ordered 24 episodes-worth of its sequel; Vikings: Valhalla. Skål!

 Which brings us to the season six premiere; a two-hour combo platter of episodes one and two (served, so I understand, with a Floki Memorial Tribute appetizer which was not made available for an advance look-see). It picks up pretty much exactly where season 5 left off; with the forces under Bjorn Ironsides (Alexander Ludwig) and Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) victorious over very bad boy, Ivar the Boneless (Alex Høgh Andersen), last seen beating a hasty retreat out ‘a Dodge …er, Kattegat.

 Speaking of which, it’s Ivar who we get to spend some quality catch-up time with first, as he escapes his family’s wrath via a parchment map and palanquin montage along the Silk Road. A journey that manages to artfully combine both the joy of world travel and the sudden, adrenaline-rushing terror of 9th century, homicidal Russian banditry.

 For, wondrous as the sights are, Ivar barely gets to channel his inner Anthony Bourdain before a seriously wrong turn at Byzantium sends him and his last remaining loyal servant into the freezing wastes of Kievan Rus, a.k.a. Russia. Only, apparently, they’re still so primitive they haven’t even invented the last two letters of their country’s name, yet.

It was a barbaric time; life was nasty, brutish and short on vowels.

 After watching a marauding gang of Russian horsemen slaughter 98% of the caravan he’d been jaunting with, Ivar is ratted out by a traveling snitch (clearly non-union) as a person of some importance – possibly even a king! – and kidnapped for a private audience with the local boss.

 It’s here that Ivan finally meets his psychotic match in the GQ model pretty person of Prince Oleg, a.k.a. Oleg of Novgorod, a.k.a. Oleg The Prophet (Danila Kozlovsky). A walking, narcissistic knapsack of sadistic, paranoid mania so delighted with his own over-the-top evil that he perpetually seems on the verge of bursting into song. Kind of like a Disney Prince-ified Ted Bundy.

 Oleg is mad curious about Ivan, especially as he’s already heard tales of his sanguinary exploits. He really, truly wants to know what a guy like him is doing in his neck of the Baltic, dressed like a common escaping war criminal. But, rather than just ask like a person, Oleg slaps Ivar in irons and tries to pry the info out of his servant the old fashioned way: via merciless torture.

 Meanwhile, back at the Longhouse, Bjorn, Lagertha, Ubbe (Jordan Patrick Smith), Torvi (Georgia Hirst), Gunnhild (Ragga Ragnars) and the rest of the surviving Kattegatians (Kattegatites? Kattegaters? Kattegatese? Kattegatelinos?) are partying like it’s 999. Crazy Ivar is gone, the now-almost mythical Ragnar Lothbrok’s first born baby boy, Bjorn is the new king in town, and it seems his first official act is to give a stirring and preposterously modern campaign speech to his medieval constituents.

 It’s all about free speech and free trade and anti-Imperialism and even tosses in a little anti-wall quip for spice. It’s all very inspiring and progressive and Democracy Now. But it’s interrupted by the sudden entrance of a group of bound and battered prisoners, identified as Ivar’s collaborators by a very pissed-off, and just plain pissed, Hvitserk (Marco Ilsø). The very same collaborators who cheerfully carried out all Ivar’s evil orders, terrorized the town and set any stubborn Never-Ivars on fire; Hvitserk’s poor beloved included.

 First rule of politics: Give the people what they want! And what the people want is bloody revenge. Which Bjorn seems ready to bestow. At least until he remembers that there’s still 19 more episodes to fill this season and throwing away a perfectly good obvious threat to the cast’s wellbeing in the very first hour would be premature. So he detours to the second rule of politics: Give the people what you want and make them think they do too!

This works like a charm, as Bjorn merely brands the prisoners as eternal outcasts and boots them, snarling and threatening and giving off death glares, into the wilderness where they surely won’t ever be a problem. Never, not ever. How could they? Bjorn is a born leader. Genius. What could possibly go wrong?

Lagertha, for her part, is so done with the whole Sheildmaiden thang. As Bjorn waxes on over dinner with the fam about making Kattegat great again, she interrupts to let everyone know that she’s opting for early retirement and a quiet life on the farm. Disappointed though he is, Bjorn accepts her decision. After all, you can take the Sheildmaiden out of the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the Sheildmaiden.

Back in the B-plot, Ivar’s benighted servant finally cracks under torture to reveal that his batty boss man isn’t just a king, but an actual, for reals, gods-honest god! Oleg isn’t buying it. After all, he’s a modern, medieval, one-god man and doesn’t truck with any of that ol’ multi-deity pagan bizness. …Mostly. So, determined to get the true skinny, even if it kills everyone but him, Oleg takes Ivar on a country sleigh ride to a very exclusive, private execution. The star of the production is, of course, Ivar’s poor, unlucky lackey; arms stretched out and tied to two forcibly bowed birch trees. Ivar actually surprises here by protesting a bit and giving a – albeit weak – whirl at reasoning with Oleg to save his servant’s life.

 Predictably, this is useless, and with a smarmy little bye-bye wave, Oleg orders his men to cut the ropes holding the trees down. Instantly, they spring back upright in opposite directions, graphically splitting the man in two and slingshotting the bits up into the treetops; a lone blop landing with an artfully nauseating squish at Ivar’s feet.

 If anyone was wondering if there was anything out there that could actually shock and appall Ivar the Boneless, well, this was it. His wide-eyed, “Lordy, I have been out-crazied! WhattheflippingRagnorok?!” expression is a wonder to behold.

 Off in the Scandinavian wilds, Ubbe and Torvi are aquatically chauffeuring Lagertha around, scoping possible locations for her dream farm like a pair of Norse real estate agents. At last, Torvi sights a promising spot and, after landing, looking around the place and getting a sufficient series of quick, nostalgic flashbacks to seasons and co-stars past, Lagertha decides that this is indeed the place she shall go into escrow.

 Most people would probably not consider a minion murder to be the ideal ice breaker for a bit of lighthearted male bonding. But Prince Oleg is oh, so very not most people. A mere commercial break later, he drags Ivar off for a spot of dangerous hijinks involving a horse-drawn sled, lots of rope, and a hot air balloon that would not be invented for another 900 years.

 Vikings-style historical accuracy strikes again. Skål!

 Without much in the way of ado, Ivar is trussed up like an over-large rotisserie chicken and dropped onto the sled next to a similarly-bondaged Oleg, who asks him if he’d like to fly. Before Ivar (or the audience) can ask if that was a drug reference or a sexual innuendo, the sled is off, speeding across the tundra to reach escape velocity. Why they’d need to do this tied to a hot air balloon is anyone’s guess. But, then, there’s no reason Vikings shouldn’t do for aeronautics what it does for historicity.

 Another show might give us walks on the beach, candle-lit dinners for two, birthday giftings of adorable puppies, wacky attempts to boil a lobster, and a tandem bicycle ride to the strains of Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head. But this is Vikings, and an anachronistic, bad science balloon escapade between a pair of murderous psychos screaming about who is or is not a god, while they aerially dodge very pointy castle turrets, is the closest thing we’re going to get to a rom-com musical montage.

 The important thing is, by the time they crash land, nearly killing two peasants in the process, Ivy & Olly are BFFs.

Back in Bjornhenge, two emissaries from Vestfold come swanning in to plead the case of King Harald Finehair (Peter Franzén). It seems he’s in serious need of rescue from his previous rescuer, the deliriously weird King Olaf the Stout (Steven Berkoff), who scooped his badly injured hide off the battlefield only to toss it in a makeshift slammer and steal his kingdom. Bjorn is less than enthused at the prospect of helping Harald out, what with that little thing about multiple betrayals and fighting on Ivar’s side and calling him “cursed” and trying to overthrow his mom and invading Kattegat and stuff.

 But the emissaries remind him that (in between betrayals) Harald did fight with Bjorn against Ivar and did help liberate Kattegat and even saved Bjorn personally. AND did him a solid by not declaring himself King of All Norway and stealing his gal. So, obviously that makes them besties now and Bjorn totally owes him one.

 Looking less than convinced, much less thrilled, Bjorn sends them off, telling them he’ll think about it.

Eastward, in the Rus-ian tundra, Oleg is getting serious by introducing Ivar to the rels. Well, one rel in particular: Oleg’s dead wife, entombed in the fancy-schmancy mausoleum he had built for her special since killing her for sleeping around on him. A familial bump in the road Ivar can personally relate to, bigtime. Maritricide! A fun game for not quite the whole family and another quirk these two crazy kids can bond over.

 Back in the Norwegian wood, Lagertha hobbles her way up a hill, digs a hole in a patch of peat moss and pulls out her great sword, proffering it up to the gods as she shamelessly steals Chief Joseph’s line to “fight no more, forever”. Thus plagiarizing, she buries her weapon a good three inches deep and sighs. Surely, that promise will never be broken!

 Bjorn, meanwhile, is having a crisis of convenience, filling a good three minutes of running time, musing with Gunnhild about what makes a good king, all to reach the foregone conclusion of coming to King Harald’s aid.

 And speaking of foregone conclusions, Oleg and Ivar are once again spending some quality time together. This time in Oleg’s wooden, Dairy Queen softserve-shaped throne room, as the Prince rambles on about having Viking roots of his own, which he’d like nothing better than to get back in touch with by marching his army west, invading Kattegat, killing all Ivar’s brothers and installing him as his puppet ruler.

 Beats having Henry Louis Gates Jr. present him with a Lifebook of his family tree, I guess.

 In Oleg’s very strange and scary mind, Ivar’s appearance in his realm is an omen that this conquest was meant to be. For his part, Ivar doesn’t take much persuading and decides the gods had been booking all his travel plans all along. Part 1 ends with the two amigos toasting Odin, and a very tight shot on Ivar as his eyes shift side-to-side signaling that, however cozy this seems, he has plans of his own.

 The specialness of this season premiere clearly cannot be contained by a single episode. So on we go to hour #2 and Ubbe watching a familiar-looking boat being rowed into the Kattegat harbor. “Floki!” he exclaims, though we in the TV viewing audience sadly know better. Instead, the heavily caped rower turns out to be Kjetill Flatnose (Adam Copeland), last seen scattering all his marbles across the Icelandic glaciers and murdering an enemy’s entire family as much for giggles as for revenge.

He’s back in town in search of new settlers, what with 99% of the original group being inconveniently dead and all. Ubbe tries to press him for details, which Kjetill evades while putting a hilariously sunny spin on Floki’s unmitigated disaster of an attempted colony.

 Later that night in the Great Hall, Bjorn is once again re-hashing whether or not to rescue King Harald. A question neither of his brothers, Ubbe or Hvitserk (who’s once again snockered and starting to get seriously weird), care a Frig about.

 Hvitserk is now singularly obsessed with Ivar and his incomplete mission to kill the snot out of him, and Ubbe is just plain bored. Looking for something to do, the Ub-meister comes across Kjetill knocking back grogskis as he watches an impromptu wrestling match in the middle of the room (A shout-out to Copeland’s turn as The Edge with the WWE? You decide.) and sits down to join him and pry for more info, especially about Floki.

 It’s here that Kjetill starts acting suspicious, recounting how Floki, sick and tired of everyone’s crap, just up and walked off one day, never to be seen again, and Ubbe starts getting the vibe that something may be rotten in the state of …um, Iceland. Which is weird because, while Kjetill has a laundry list of horrors to be cagey about, Floki’s disappearance is not one of them. Unless he secretly possesses the ability to make volcanos erupt.

 Leery as he may be, Ubbe presses Kjetill on another issue; tales of a fabulous new land far to the west that a wandering sailor saw but couldn’t land on. Kjetill not only knows of the tales, but knows the wanderer; who, by wild and crazy happenstance, lives in Iceland! Small world, isn’t it?

 Kjetill encourages Ubbe to come along and meet the guy. “And look for Floki!” Ubbe adds, to which Kjetill responds only with an expression of “yeah, whatever” so obvious it could be seen from orbit.

Back in Oleg’s Palace of Odd Entertainment Options, he and Ivar have settled in for a wild night of psyche scarring marionette theatre as a troop of puppeteers pull off a Hamlet-esque dramatic reenactment of Oleg’s marital foibles. Not the vignette of choice, one would think, for a homicidal-tyrant wannabe. But, instead of ordering the immediate brutal deaths of all the offending puppeteers, Oleg informs Ivar that, before he can get on to any of that Norse invasion stuff, he has some “family business” to attend to in Novgorod. Something having to do with his brother, and his ward, Prince Igor, who – oh, did I mention? – just happens to be the son of the late King Rurik and the sole, legitimate heir to the throne.

 You can almost hear the strains of the Theme to The Godfather playing on a balalaika.

After a mercifully brief, yet still painfully uninteresting segue to Kattegat for the sole purpose of having Gunnhild confront yet another young woman determined to steel Bjorn away from his happy-ish home like an unchipped puppy, we are returned yet again to Rus, and Oleg and Ivar’s heavily armed guard-escorted sleigh ride to the humble chertog of his bro, Prince Askold (Blake Kubena).

 Entering the dining hall, a servant apologizes for Askold’s tardiness. So, to while away the waiting time, Ivar prompts Oleg to deliver a few minutes-worth of exposition about how he got his cool “Prophet” nickname. Turns out he had a dream back in his Constantinople conquest days about his drink being poisoned, right before a big meet n’ greet with the city’s VIPs. Heeding his nocturnal alarm system, he steered clear of the wine tasting part of the evening’s festivities. He warned his generals to do the same, but I guess they just couldn’t turn down a good 859 Chateau Lafite Constantine and ended up dying horribly. Thus, “Oleg the Prophet” (and the plot point) was coined.

 With perfect timing, Prince Askold finally arrives, with pre-adolescent, political chess piece, little Prince Igor (Oran Glynn O’Donovan), in tow. Anyone who’s ever had to spend a nightmare Thanksgiving dinner with the fam will instantly relate to the tension that immediately rises in the room as the two bros sit down to chat while badly pretending they don’t despise each other. The pretense only has to last until the toast, though. One that Oleg dramatically refrains from, twigging Ivar to do the same.

 Sadly for Askold, he doesn’t get the note and proceeds to choke and bleed out from every possible orifice while Oleg cues the house band to drown out the sound of screams now coming from outside as his soldiers slaughter Askold’s guards, and does his dance of joy for the assembled, panic-stricken guests.

 The interpretive dance performance ends when Askold does. Positively gleeful, Oleg stomps triumphantly over his brother’s corpse, then forces a terrified Igor out from under the dining table and exits without so much as leaving a tip.

 Ivar’s reaction to all this is a mix of fascinated awe, stunned horror, and genuine worry. Ivar’s no saint, of course. He’s axe murdered a brother in a fit of pique, overthrown the lot of them to become king of Kattegat, and fought them on the battlefield with homicidal intent. But carefully, intentionally plotting to poison a bro? That’s a fjord too far for Ivar’s taste, and a sure sign that Oleg is quite capable of turning on anyone at any time for any reason. Himself included.

 Alone on a hill, Bjorn is having a deep and meaningful heart-to-heart with the town’s Seer (John Kavanagh). Never mind that he was killed off last season by Ivar, he’s still apparently as opaquely chatty as ever from the Voiceover Great Beyond. He’s not a little ticked-off, either, as Bjorn has seen fit to bother him post mortem with yet more hemming and hawing over Harald again. So, rather than giving anything remotely useful in the way of prophetic intel, the Seer just piles on the Vorlon-speak, then fobs Bjorn off with a warning not to betray his own gods. Bjorn’s reply to that is pretty much along the lines of, “Like, do you even know me? WTF, dead dude?!”. But, like the audience, the Seer has already checked out of this conversation.

 From here we’re scene changed to Ubbe’s arrival at Lagertha’s new lakeside farm, which seems well underway, to break the news about the MIA Floki and the location of the wanderer who spotted that prime pre-Columbus real estate to the west. Both Ubbe and Torvi are seriously interested in finding that new land again and think sailing back to Iceland with the vaguely unsettling Kjetill to find this mystery explorer and pump him for directions is a great idea.

 Lagertha isn’t planning on journeying anywhere, and simply frets about Floki’s fate, refusing to believe he’s dead. She doesn’t mope about too long, though, as there’s a farm to finish, animals to prep, and guests to invite for a festive housewarming sacrifice.

 Back at the murder mansion, Ivar is roughly roused from a night’s rest by Oleg, who suddenly seems pretty nervous for a guy who just committed fratricide, kidnapping, and a small coup with the same ease most people order a pizza. The reason? Well, did Oleg forget to mention he had another brother? So forgetful, that guy! Especially since this other bro, Prince Dir (Lenn Kudrjawizki) has a sizeable army and none of their late sibling’s nominal trust.

 Oleg’s worried Dir will try to wrest Prince Igor away from him, as the kid – being the only rightful heir – is the key to the kingdom. Whoever raises him gets to play regent, and also mold the poor little monarch-to-be in whatever way benefits him best. And what benefits Oleg best at the moment is dragging the kid out of bed and scaring the living kishkas out of him. Not hard to do, considering Igor just saw what Oleg did to his last guardian. And also, Ivan realizes, because the boy has no idea about his own importance.

 Sitting astride his steed in the freezing cold, wearing the Honorable Mention winner of the World’s Silliest Hat contest, Prince Dir finally gets irritated enough to dismount and invite himself in to his late brother’s dining hall. He has harsh words for Oleg for poisoning their sibling, and a threat of arrest if he doesn’t hand Igor over pronto. All of which might be more intimidating coming from a guy who didn’t look like a middle-aged Harry Potter who’d given up magic to be a CPA.

 Oleg also looks less than impressed and counters by reminding Dir that he’s The Prophet™ and his current prophecy bodes ickiness aplenty for him really, really soon if he doesn’t back off and let him, his new Viking bestie, and his prize heir apparent mosey on back to Kiev unmolested. Dir refuses to budge, though he does flinch a bit, then gives Oleg two hours to submit before treating him like a common limited contract player.

A little while later, Ivar limps back to the living quarters to find Igor sitting alone by the fireplace. Clearly, the perfect opportunity to bond with the kid in the traditional Viking way: Doing magic tricks.

 I guess there must’ve been enough downtime between Viking invasions and demands for blood sacrifices, for Ivar to flip through an illuminated copy of Medieval Party Magic for Dummies, just in case the whole tyrannical god king gig didn’t work out.

 Igor is surprisingly amused. Or maybe not so surprisingly, since it would be another 1,100 years before the invention of the Game Boy, and his current primary source of distraction appears to come from wondering when and how he’s going to be brutally assassinated. Well, that, and playing the domra (kind of a Slavic lute), which he does with a level of skill and feeling that charms the otherwise cynical Ivar.

 It doesn’t take long before this sweet little tableau is brusquely broken up by Oleg, who’s not about to tolerate any adorable Ivar friending that doesn’t include him.

 If you’ve ever seen the Facebook meme of a girl giving her boyfriend the stink-eye as he looks slyly over his shoulder at a passing random attractive woman, then you’ve seen all you need to know about the following minute of screen time: A scene wherein Gunnhild’s serving girl, Ingrid (Lucy Martin) finally gets Bjorn’s attention long enough for him to prove once again that he’s his horndog daddy’s son. Hey, at least he doesn’t quiz her on whether or not he should rescue King Harald. Small favors, y’know.

 A bit later on in farm country, Lagertha is playing doting grandma to Bjorn’s two Aryan rugrats when their prodigal dad pulls up to the boat landing. Torvi and Ubbe are there already and a cheerful and not-in-the-least awkward family reunion is endured by all.

 Later that evening, as they sit around the dining table, Bjorn announces his decision to mount a King Harald rescue mission (surprising, huh?). For the first time since pining over it, someone finally has an opinion on the subject. That someone is Lagertha, who informs her son it’s a bad idea, what with Harald being a no-good, two-faced, lying backstabber who, not incidentally, kidnapped and knocked-up her late girlfriend, Astrid, who chose death over having his baby.

 Not exactly the world’s most glowing résumé. Yet Bjorn’s only answer is to tell his mom that he gets it. But it’s totes not her decision to make.

 No wonder nobody else bothered to offer an opinion.

 Lagertha also points out that just up and leaving Kattegat without its king is a bad idea, leading Bjorn to suggest hiring a temp ruler in his absence. His first choice for the job? Hvitserk.

 Pausing for the spit takes moving in waves across the broadcast time zones, the rest of the Lothbrok clan try to explain to Bjorn why handing this job – or any job, really – to a grog-swigging, hallucinogenic mushroom-gorging, PTSD-suffering, paranoid basket case might not be such a great idea. Bjorn agrees, but then just strong-arms Ubbe and Torvi into putting off their big Icelandic fact-finding adventure so they can take the position as a team. Not the ideal solution. But at least they can leave the kids with Nana Lagertha while they’re away.

Meanwhile, time’s up in old Novgorod. Dir returns once again to demand Igor be turned over to him, or he’ll kill Oleg and “the cripple”. But Oleg just acts casually cagey, munching down on an apple as he yanks his bro’s chain like the pull cord on a Talking Elmo.

 Dir still isn’t buying this whole “Prophet” business, and decides to put it to the test, insisting Oleg prove his Oracleness by naming the mystery woman Dir just got super-secretly married to. Surely, no one but a real prophet could possibly know that.

 Oleg looms over his brother to whisper creepily that he knows everything, and then acts coy about this just long enough for a commercial break and for Dir to get cocky over his “victory”. Only then does he announce the name, “Anna”, and then goes one better by presenting the blushing bride (Serena Kennedy), her terror-stricken self, in the doorway, surrounded by scarily masked, sword-wielding soldiers.

 Now it’s Oleg’s turn to make demands, letting Anna go back to her new hubby only on condition that he won’t be making any future grabs for the heir or getting in the way of Oleg’s clean exit. Otherwise, that darn prophecy he warned Dir about just might start coming true.

 Angry and humiliated, Dir orders his warriors to stand down. Ivar looks on impressed and even applauds the spectacle as Oleg releases Anna to his brother and twists the knife ever deeper by musing on what a shame it is that they see each other so little these days and in such unfortunate circumstances. Though he’s certain the next time they meet will be different.

 As far as Dir is concerned, he’s okay if they never see each other again. And as Oleg rambles on about how family ought to stay in touch, Dir leaves with his wife, turning back only to give the hour’s best line, “Perhaps. …Just don’t invite me for dinner.”.

 Bah-boom! Chik!

 Back home in Kattegat, Bjorn breaks the big Harald rescue news to Gunnhild. She doesn’t even bother to argue, though her expression has “my husband, the sucker” written all over it. And Hvitserk, who’s been busily chugging down booze and drugs just one table over, stops only long enough to tell Bjorn he’s the crazy one.

 We pause here for a brief, but foreshadowy, scene transition, as three men on horseback hover menacingly on a ridge. Why, it’s those banished Ivar collaborators who couldn’t possibly ever be a threat again to anyone! ‘Member them? Well, they sure remember who gave them the boot, and as they grimly watch Lagertha obliviously limping through the woods, carrying a bundle of sticks, the camera closes in on a tight shot of their battle-scarred, prison-tatted faces and murderous eyes glaring, “Soon”.

 Which brings us at last to a corner of Kattegat’s busy wharf, where Bjorn has tracked Kjetill down for a combo interrogation/job offer. Apparently, he’s no more convinced about the story of Floki’s disappearing act than Ubbe was, and starts giving Kjetill the third degree; questioning about the absence of a body and whether a proper search was conducted or not and just generally treating Kjetill like a shady butler in an Agatha Christie murder mystery.

 Which is why it’s a bit surprising at first when he turns around and asks him to be one of his King Harald Rescue Rangers. Though it quickly becomes clear that Bjorn is a big believer in keeping friends close and enemies closer. And with a threat so thinly veiled, it’s practically peek-a-boo, he makes sure Kjetill agrees to stick within arm’s length for the foreseeable future.

 All in all, a solid sixth season premiere; a worthy successor to the previous five, and a compelling opener for what will be the final chapter in the Lothbrok Saga before V:V time jumps its merry way to Netflix and the Leif Erickson years.

 The cast is, as usual, outstanding, including many of the newer members, like Danila Kozlovsky and Oran Glynn O’Donovan as Rus Princes Oleg and Igor, respectively.

 It’s a common mistake, when series are in their home stretch, to suddenly drag in brand new characters that are thoroughly irrelevant and annoying, when the audience just wants to focus on the crowd we’ve already gotten to know and love (or hate, as the case may be). But the Russian plot feels organic to the story we’ve been told so far, and the new kids on the Eastern Bloc are a fascinating bunch, presenting both an offbeat new threat to the heroes and a contrast to Ivar that is helping to turn his character from a one-note homicidal crazy into a much more complex and interesting human being.  

As always, the production values are top notch, giving the series a sweeping, cinematic quality and an epic feel. And if you happen to have access to a TV with surround sound, I highly recommend making use of it, as the mix is as subtle and layered as anything playing in a theater near you.

This re-cap/review covers the first two episodes. I had access to five and so far it’s all looking good. As we can see the end in sight, it’s worth remembering that wrapping up can often be the hardest trick of all. But I have every reason to be encouraged that Vikings will stick the landing. And whether the series winds up in TV Valhalla or Helheim, I’m definitely in for the rest of the ride.


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