With the loss of its biggest character Ragnar Lothbrok last season, History Channel's Vikings are entering a new era of storytelling this time around. At the end of last season, Ragnar's sons all banded together and killed Kings Ecbert (Linus Roache) and Aelle in an effort to avenge their father's death. But even in victory, inner conflict got the best of Ivar (Alex Hogh Anderson) and he struck down his brother Sigurd (David Lindstrom) with an ax, ending his life. While back at their home, Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) was in her first battle as the new queen of Kattegat, when the bastard Egil, who was hired by King Harald (Peter Franzen), to eliminate her and take the land over. He did not succeed and confessed Harald's plan to Lagertha under duress.
Now in Season Five, the story opens up with Sigurd's funeral and all the remaining brother's mourning his passing. When they talk afterward, Ivar tells them he never meant to kill Sigurd but that he was being taunted and it forced him to react. His brothers hear his words but they carry no meaning to them and fall to the ground the moment they come out of Ivar's mouth.
All of this matters not to Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig) as he is ready to resume his travels to the Mediterranean and has no interest in leading their people. He encourages Ubbe (Jordan Patrick Smith) to take charge and says he will be taking Halfdan (Jasper Paakkonen) with him on his journey. With Bjorn not returning to Kattegat, King Harald "volunteers" to return there and inform Lagertha of her son's actions. The look Harald gives his brother, Halfdan shows us that he is anxious to see how his plan has manifested. While his brother asks him to stay, Halfdan tells him that he doesn't have the same ambitions and is just looking to travel and see the world.
Bjorn is not the only one choosing to leave as Floki (Gustaf Skarsgard) is also packing up a boat for his own personal trip. Ivar comes to him and in a rare moment, breaks down in tears over how one of the few people he actually cares about is going away. But after his best friend, his wife, and child died last season he says "there is nothing left for me here," and he chooses to see what fate the Gods have in store for him out on the open water. He has no destination and even discards the compass that Ivar tried to hide away on his boat. The shot of Floki rowing away as his countrymen and their families wave him good-bye and chant "All hail Floki" feels like we're losing him even though we know better.
Showrunner Michael Hirst gives him an emotional exit of leaving everything he knows and showing the large impact his character had in the village. With the only two people that could probably challenge his ideas, Ivar sits down with Ubbe and Hvitserk (Marco Ilso) and reveals his plans to take over a town north of them called York as the building block for them to have as a stronghold so they can continue to conquer more land. While Ubbe was more interested in staying quiet and just farming the land that they got from Ecbert, he decides to go along with his brothers, but you can tell he's very hesitant and not fully invested in the idea. Ivar's conquest of Ecbert and Aelle's kingdoms has done nothing but seem to increase his bloodlust for power but it is also interesting how it is distracting him from taking his revenge on Lagertha for murdering his mother.
Going off the advice that their father had told Ubbe before, they choose to attack York on a religious holiday so that much of the town is distracted in prayer. Their plan works flawlessly as they easily overrun the guards at the front gate and the entire Heathen Army pours into the town wrecking chaos. They take a moment to cautiously enter the church where they know most of the town is, only to quickly slaughter all the villagers inside. Ivar particularly takes great joy in grabbing the town priest and melting a golden cross down his throat in what can only be a display of him showing what he thinks of their God. I know I'm supposed to be cheering on our Viking warriors for their success, but while it's one thing to kill soldiers in battle, it's another to murder innocent civilians who are just bystanders. I'm not completely alone in my thinking as the look on Ubbe's face when a nun dies in his arms after slashing her own wrists, shows that he's not sure what he has signed up for. On the complete opposite hand, Ivar is smiling ear to ear with blood all over his face at the victory he has accomplished.
Later on, things would grow a little tense between the brothers as Ivar gives himself a personal bodyguard detail and they try to keep Ubbe and Hvitserk from speaking with him. After they are allowed to past they question Ivar on it and he says it's for protection since he's a cripple. Ubbe reminds Ivar that he didn't consult them about it and he needs to stop acting like he's in charge. That the three of them rule the Great Army together and he is the youngest so he can't just push them aside. While Ivar's words say he agrees with them, his face gives off the look that he believes he's running things. He's already killed one brother guys so I would tread lightly! As we leave the three brothers at the end of this episode we see a blacksmith has constructed special braces for Ivar so with the help of a crutch he can put himself upright on his two feet. While his brothers marvel in amazement I think there is also a part of them that feels a spot of fear in Ivar's intelligence.
The newest addition to Vikings this season is Bishop Heahmund (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) who we were briefly introduced to at the very end of last season. He is part of the Knights Templar who not only are strong religious figures but also trained soldiers. He visits King Ecbert's place and while surveying the remains of the structure he finds Ecbert's body and confirms his death. He spreads the word that the occupants who fled can now return and he even begins conducting mass there again. He is visited by the only survivor of Ecbert's court that informs the Bishop that a deal was brokered with the Sons of Ragnar to give them the land of East Anglia. But since the king renounced his crown to his son Prince Aethelwulf (Moe Dunford) before they fled the deal is worthless. Good thing Ivar doesn't want them to stay there but this means the rest are definitely in some danger. Heahmund while conflicted with his continuing sins of the flesh, is a smart and calculating opposition for the Ivar and Co. as he is calm and focused on taking them down for murdering Ecbert.
Speaking of Prince Aethelwulf he is currently hiding out in the muddiest and coldest part of the land with his wife Judith (Jennie Jacques) and their very sick son Albert (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo). While in reality, Albert is the son of Judith's affair with Athelstan, Aethelwulf still takes care of the boy as his own and they are both worried that he might be near death. One day Albert is caught by them wandering in the cold waters of the river next to their home as he is chasing down a black-robed figure only he sees. He seems to be having some kind of communication with it and then collapses face down into the water. After Aethelwulf pulls him out and gets the water out of his lungs he tells them they must go to York because his "people need him." When asked where he got this information from he tells them "my father." Athelstan speaking from the grave?!
While in present day this vision would probably be scoffed at and ignored but since we're dealing with a different age they take his words and get the entire army back together and head towards York. They inevitably cross paths with Heahmund and after Aethelwulf is told the Northmen are responsible for killing his father he agrees to join with the Bishop's army to take them down. Heahmund tells them they will wait until they have a perfect plan to attack and then they will strike.
Meanwhile, on the open sea Floki is running out of provisions and is staring up at the sky like he is looking for an answer from the Gods. Out of answers and unclear on his fate, he releases a raven he has brought with him in hopes that it will find him land. While he is waiting for that big-answer- from above he ends up in a huge storm with giant waves that toss his boat about like it's juggling his destiny. He would awaken in his boat as it has been beached on a random island. So glad for once someone actually made it IN their boat instead of ending up face down on the sand as always. As he stumbles out and lands face first on the sand (still happens somehow) he looks over and sees his raven perched on a rock looking over at him to maybe signify his journey was indeed planned by the Gods. He would make his way off the beach and take shelter in a cave to dry off by a fire he makes but then afterward starts to explore his surroundings. He climbs up the side of a hill that gives him quite the surprise when he reaches the top as he sees a huge active volcano in the distance! He would then venture even further and discover a huge waterfall that when we first see it is flowing downwards but then upon Floki getting closer the water appears to be going upwards?! Floki laughs to himself in excitement and believes he has found Asgard. All I know is this isn't the same island that Tom Hanks ended up on in "Castaway."
All of this going on and we haven't even got to what is going on with Lagertha yet! In the second hour of "The Departed", we travel over to Kattegat where King Harald is now arriving at what he thinks is his new kingdom but he shouldn't have doubted our favorite shield-maidens strength and cunning. When Harald shows up you can just see the cockiness on his face as he makes his way through the crowd and into the throne room. But when he enters, he sees Lagertha sitting prominently on the throne with Astrid (Josefin Asplund) right next to her. They both stare coldly at Harald because they have been waiting for him to arrive so they could spoil his celebration. He delivers the information about Bjorn going away and the land they got from King Eckert but Lagertha knows his real reason for visiting and calls him out on his failed plan with Egil the Bastard. Lagertha speaks her words slowly and with conviction as she enjoys every moment of knowing she has rightfully outsmarted this opponent. She has him locked up and put in a hut alone from everyone else.
Later that day, Lagertha would go to visit Harald and ask him to give her a reason to not end his life. He would tell her about the woman he fell for last season that would not marry him because he was not the King of Norway. So in an effort to appease her, he tried to take Lagertha's kingdom but it would all be for nothing since she ended up finding a new lover. Harald goes to tell her that he killed the woman for not waiting for him and now he has no intentions of being interested in Kattegat. He instead offers for them to join together as husband and wife and rule together. Lagertha actually seems to maybe believe this joker but I see this as him just knowing he is completely screwed and he's just trying to save his ass. After his little speech, Lagertha questions Harald on why she should trust him and boasts how she is disgusted at the thought of having him come to her bed at night-- then she quickly has sex with him. I am all sorts of confused, but my thought is she is still trying to get pregnant?
Lagertha takes this "meeting" back to her council of women officers and tells them of King Harald's offer. Astrid laughs at the offer and implies that Lagertha should kill him. When Lagertha tells her she will do whatever she wants and it's not up to Astrid she is offended and leaves the room go outside. You would think she should be safe in her own town but she is ambushed by Harland's men who tie her up and put her on his boat where he is waiting with a devilish smile. His men have freed him and they sail away without anyone noticing until it's too late. Oh Lagertha, you should've known better! Once they have safely sailed away, Harland takes this moment to tell Astrid his plan to return to Kattegat and make it his own. He intends on being the King of Norway but he needs a queen by his side.
Astrid scoffs at the suggestion at first but Harland makes a strong case that being the Queen of Norway would be a most powerful position to be in. As he leaves her, you can see in Astrid's face that she is imagining this scenario and it does give her pause. Back at Kattegat, Lagertha realizes she made a mistake in dealing with King Harald and now it has possibly cost her Astrid's life. She knows he will return someday and it will be to take her throne. But King Harald might not be her only problem as when Torvi (Georgia Hirst) and Margrethe (Ida Marie Nielsen) have a conversation later Lagertha's leadership skills come into question. Margrethe tries planting ideas in Torvi's head that their queen is maybe no longer fit to rule, that she makes too many mistakes. Is there a coup about to happen in Kattegat?
That's it all you heathens and shield maidens! We definitely got a whole lot of story set up for season five of Vikings. Is Ivar going to go against his brothers for leadership? Are Lagertha's days numbered as a queen? What is going to happen with this new island Floki discovered? And what adventures is Bjorn up to in the Mediterranean? We have eight more episodes to go on History and they sure look to be exciting!