History Channel’s surprisingly great first season of Vikings created in season two higher expectations than what we’d expected this time last year: A poor man’s Game of Thrones minus the dragons, plus a loose familiarity with actual history (there’s some uncertainty about whether Ragnar Lothbrok even existed at all). But it turned out to be better than that: While we anticipated great fight sequences (we are dealing with Vikings, after all), the drama turned out to be the biggest draw last year.
The second season kicks off with the brand of action we expect — an epic, prolonged Viking fight sequence led by brothers on opposing sides. After defecting to the side of Jarl Borg, Rollo led the battle against Ragnar and his men. Before it was said and done, Floki had been badly injured and Rollo had speared One Eye to death (and held him up by the spear for a good 20 seconds), but Rollo could not take up arms against his brother.
The entire conflict, however, fizzled out when Ragnar and King Horik proposed to Jarl Borg that they put down their weapons and join forces and move west together. Rollo, meanwhile, was taken into custody and his fate was left to the Gods, which apparently decided to spare Rollo, essentially extinguishing yet another major season one conflict. In fact, the entire brother vs. brother, Horik vs. Borg war was a huge letdown, save for a great opening fight sequence.
Instead, The Vikings quickly shifted gears away from the more interesting political conflicts and toward the Ragnar’s family drama. His marriage had already been falling apart after Bjorn (who has been newly cast by an older kid) informed Lagertha that his father had been cheating on her. Ragnar owned up to it, but said it’d never happen again.
Enter Princess Aslaug, the mistress with one of the least sexy princess names I’ve ever heard. Aslaug, pregnant with Ragnar’s child, came to claim herself a husband, and Ragnar basically botched the entire situation, attempting to persuade Lagertha into a polygamous relationship. No dice. Lagertha isn’t into humiliating threesomes with his husband’s pregnant mistress, thank you very much.
So, Lagertha skipped town, and after hesitating initially, Bjorn ultimately joined her, leaving Ragnar devastated. But not that devastated: He’s still got Aslaug to keep his bed warm. It’s not the last we’ve seen of Lagertha, obviously, or even Rollo — who also left in shame — but for the time being, Ragnar is without the support of his first family. Truthfully, though: The family dynamic is only of interest to me insofar as it encourages Lagertha to seek revenge, hopefully on Aslaug, and hopefully, it will entail taking out a huge number of enemies.
Meanwhile, the good stuff — Horik, Borg, and the Western expansion — was put on hold while Ragnar gets his house in order, and while Floki continues to recuperate. The good news is, it shouldn’t stay quiet for long. Creator and executive producer Michael Hirst has promised a major character death in the seventh episode, perhaps even overhyping it. From THR:
When people watch the end of episode seven, which is the death of a major character, I think more than anything else they will see a piece of television that they have never ever witnessed in their lives. This piece of television is so powerful and so extraordinary that I don’t think anyone would have seen that on television before. You may have trouble watching it. You may not be able to personally watch the screen.
That, folks, is setting a high bar. Also, if it’s Lagertha, we riot.