Vikings' Season 2 finale was a classic case of "great result, rough time getting there." And depending on what you want out of your television, your feelings about it will vary. Ragnar's utter demolition of King Horik's face toward the end of the hour was awesome, and a real money shot for Vikings' bloodthirsty fans. But the supposed "twist" and long con that paved the way for that brutality was a bit wishy-washy, and it undermined some of the confusing set-up from earlier in the season.
To sum things up—and they were definitely a little confusing—Ragnar and Floki were apparently in cahoots all along, with Ragnar asking Floki to get close to Horik to keep an eye on him for the whole darned season. So all the time we spent watching Floki grow frustrated with Ragnar, during which he came to resent his old pal, was as much a ruse to misdirect us as it was to misdirect Horik. I think Floki is one of Vikings' most fascinating characters because he scares the bejeezus out of me. I've always seen his unpredictability as one of his defining traits, making the apparent side-switching somewhat believable (even though deep down inside, no one really thought Floki would betray Ragnar). But apparently that wasn't the case. (Rollo, who one would think would be the most loyal, actually turned out to be more of an untrustworthy character.)
Loyalty, to Ragnar specifically, is Floki's chief characteristic. Throughout Season 2, I must have said, "Floki, what the hell are you doing?" so many times that it became a mini-mantra, and when you're consistently questioning a character's motives and actions, it means something was not working. So when Floki stepped out and told Horik, "No, King Horik, I only betrayed you," it was a fist-pump moment—because Horik was going to get what he deserved—but it also let the air out of the balloon because we saw it coming. Unfortunately, the plan never came off as clever as it was intended to be.
Granted, these are mostly simple men. And the simplest of them all ended up being Horik, a waffling character whose thirst for revenge and retaining power clouded his cunning and made him do stupid things. You know, like run into an ambush or think he could possibly sneak one over on Ragnar. Ha! Dummy. And since he was supposed to be a main player in the last big fight of Season 2, his not-so-threatening presence diminished things a bit.
Vikings has a habit of offing Ragnar's scariest competition in the middle of the season (Earl Heraldson in Season 1, Jarl Borg in Season 2), which is great for drumming up interest when it happens, but tends to put the show in a weird place going into the finale. Horik and the plan to kill him fell a bit short of a truly memorable closing hour. But even though it wasn't perfect, we got the result we wanted as Ragnar made mincemeat out of Horik's head.
– There seems to be some confusion with regard to Floki's mushroom plan, and you're not alone! I agree mostly with what @davidspencer and @Vicky8675309 said in the comments below: Torstein was given the mushrooms as a way to fake his death, while Rollo was given the mushrooms to... ummm, I don't even know. Get strength from the gods, I guess? It's odd that one dose would make a man vomit his brains out and another would make an injured man feel better. Check your measurements, people.
– There's also a bit of confusion with regard to what happened to Horik's family. Well, they were mostly slaughtered because screw them! Kill the family line! But either we didn't see the death of Erlendur—the Joffrey to Horik's Robert Baratheon—or the writers didn't think it was necessary to point out his death. He must still be alive. (Horik begged for Ragnar to spare his son's life.) As for the women who were huddled over the dead kids, either Ragnar spared Horik's daughters or they were his servants. Like I said, it got pretty confusing.
– Man, Viking parties look awesome. Even Aslaug was getting down and throwing her drink on people!
– Bjorn and Forunn's foreplay of beating each other up is a Viking tradition I will never understand.
– I really wanted to see Athelstan play a bigger role in this finale.
– I loved that last shot of Ragnar as king. All hail Ragnar!
– The headline of this review is a nod to The Wire, and indeed, Horik missed. Badly.
AIRED ON 4/21/2016
Season 4 : Episode 10