Season 3: Episode 10 “The Dead”
By Matt Fowler
Warning: Full spoilers for the episode follow…
Vikings’ third season ended similarly to its second. Sure, Ragnar remained in a sickly wounded state and wound up leaving for home at the end in a feverish heap, but the ol’ “audience fake out” card was pulled again – much like in the second season finale when it seemed like Floki had sided with King Horik.
Helping this episode out a great deal, much like last year, was its commitment to the con. A scheme that came complete with an elaborate funeral procession for Ragnar that led the Norsemen through the Paris gates, down the street, and into the cathedral. Plus, only Bjorn (who had his own little death fake-out back in “To the Gates!”) was the only one who knew of the plan. Lagertha, Rollo, and Floki were kept in the dark.
Which was definitely for the best considering how delicate the plan was, though it did cause those left out to narrow their eyes in betrayal at the end of the con since they all went through an actual mourning period – complete with final truthful words to Ragnar’s (assumed) dead body. Yes, a second betrayal on top of the already touchy topic of Ragnar’s baptism. Though the baptism also served a second purpose since, overall, it helped trick the French/Franks into buying that Ragnar would want to have a proper Christian burial.
“The Dead” was a solid episode, despite it more or less playing the same trick on us as last year. Different ploy, similar technique. For a moment — like with Bjorn two episodes ago — I did wonder if the show would go so far as to kill off Ragnar even though it would’ve been historically wrong (on a quasi-historical series). But then I thought of all the unfinished things regarding Ragnar. Most notably, his revenge on Floki and his talk of the “patient man.”
Then I wondered if Ragnar faking his death was all a ruse to get Foki to confess to killing Athelstan. A confession that could have happened during Floki’s “I hate you/I love you” moment in front of Ragnar’s burial casket. Floki certainly came close to admitting to the murder, but not close enough to warrant a giant con-game. No, the outcome would be much more productive than that as Ragnar used the entire situation to — finally — sack Paris. Out he popped from the coffin, slaying the Archbishop and taking Gisla hostage. A very cool moment as Ragnar, still very much a sickly man (that part wasn’t a trick), pumped up his intensity for one final act. And that shot of Bjorn throwing up his arms, sending the vikings in to plunder the streets, was awesome.
Of course, Gisla wasn’t the prize. She never was. Ragnar, as we all well know, doesn’t need to kill anyone. He’s perfectly content when villages and towns just surrender up all their s***. So he let her go while his army flooded the city. All of this after King Charles had given the Norsemen a huge wagon full of gold.
And Charles, who’s been crumbling courage-wise with each and every episode, fared no better here. Not only did he faint in front of everyone, but his big idea to bring future peace involved marrying off his daughter to Rollo. Granted, this plan — despite her haughty objections (hey – we saw how she looked at him during battle!) — may work since it also taps into Rollo’s perpetual jealously of his brother. I’m not sure if Rollo will truly defend Paris if Ragnar ever returns, but he did seem rather keen on marrying Gisla. His awkward “Hello” (after she berated him) was pretty damn funny.
Oh, and to make sure that no one felt overly sad about the lovelorn Count Odo, the show made sure to turn him into a sexual sadist who longed to whip Gisla into submission, not court her romantically. Poor Therese got more than she bargained for when she offered up her “gratitude” to the Count.
Despite having the wool pulled over our eyes a second time, this season finale’s big Ragnar con game worked well. And the moment when he sprang to life and led his army in through the once-impenetrable gates was freakin’ great. Not sure I’m too happy about how Ragnar’s revenge on Floki played out. All of Ragnar’s intimidating talk about how he was going to sit and wait for the perfect moment to strike seems like a big waste of time now that he chose to simply tell Floki “I know you killed Athelstan” on a boat ride home. I made for a nice closing moment, but it was nowhere close to the retribution the show made us believe was in store for Floki.