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Vikings S02E09: "The Choice"

Hey everybody, I'm reviewing Vikings for the last two episodes of the season! After catching up on Season 1 in the offseason, trying to convince those who don't watch this quiet gem to check it out, and fielding several requests to review Season 2, I'm finally doing it! My schedule cleared up a bit, and then History sent me a screener, so the Gods are apparently looking down on me in favor. 

Since it's been a while, I'll start off with a few thoughts on the season so far. The show was obviously looking to make a big splash with its return; it was clear that a lot of money and attention went into the Season 2 premiere, probably in hopes of hooking some new viewers. "Brother's War" featured one hell of a battle scene with music-video production values that seemed to go on forever, as well as some interesting—and somewhat out-of-place—soapy plots centered on the Lagertha-Aslaug-Ragnar love triangle. But the love triangle has been a necessary evil in the Season 2 trajectory, as it was the catalyst for dismantling the core of the show by sending Lagertha off on her own and creating a rift between Ragnar and Rollo.

After that, Vikings did what it has always done best: stomped on some English pig-dogs. I've really enjoyed the King Ecbert storyline because Vikings excels when Ragnar and his buddies play diplomacy games with the English. And Season 2 has added threats from the flank, courtesy of Earl Borg. The mix of the Vikings' ruthless violence and surprisingly well-thought-out strategy that was great in Season 1 is also what's making Season 2 so strong. 


I don't think Season 2 has been as capable in other plots, though. Princess Aslaug hasn't panned out as an interesting character, or even as a woman I'd like to see Ragnar end up with (I'm totally Team Lagertha, obviously). And the prophecy of Ragnar's son has been mostly dreary, except for Ragnar's excellent internal debate in "Boneless," over whether or not he should kill his crippled son. That scene by the river when he had an axe to his baby's throat was a heart-stopper, and it provided even more fodder for the argument that Travis Fimmel deserves recognition for more than just his pretty and often bloodied face. The dude has nailed the subtlety of Ragnar ever since the pilot; he's fantastic. Bjorn's love story has been okay, but I'm having trouble getting invested in any of the new romantic relationships that Season 2 is pushing.

That brings us to "The Choice," which may as well have been called "The Choices" because just about every character was either in the middle of or had just resolved a quandary of some sort. Political machinations were churning! Ragnar's biggest threat some pasty, porky English king, it's the pasty, porky King Horik. Ever since Horik was introduced, he's been teased as more of an enemy than a friend, and their alliance has only been as strong as the results of their partnership. "The Choice" presented the first major bump in their team-up, when Horik pushed the troops forward into an ambush by Ecbert and King Aelle's combined forces. It was a bonehead move by Horik, but Horik was still incensed by Ragnar's decision to try to negotiate with Ecbert without consulting Horik (or Lagertha) first, so half of that decision came out of spite, I'm sure. (Although, given that Ragnar's attempt at a peaceful negotiation was undermined by Horik's decision to slaughter the diplomatic envoy Ragnar had just promised safe passage, running something by Horik wasn't an entirely bad idea.) 


Regardless, it cost them. Our plundering pals have never taken as big a beatdown as they did in this episode, the hills littered with the bodies of their fallen and Ragnar forced to say something that we thought we'd never hear him say: "Run!" Battles are usually a highlight of Vikings, but this ass-kicking was a brutal watch. Now we know how Patriots fans felt when the Giants beat them in the Super Bowl. And yeah, I'll admit that I thought Rollo was dead. But the tough S.O.B. survived a slash to the gut and a trampling by a horse because he's made out of concrete. 

Ecbert constantly let grain fall through his hands in the latter part of last week's episode, and it was clear then that he had a plan. We saw it come to fruition in "The Choice," as he didn't completely annihilate the Northmen like he could have, but instead sent a strong message that said, "I can beat you." With that leverage, he met with Ragnar, Legartha, and Horik to initiate Phase 2 of his plan, which was to... offer peace? Ecbert is smarter than we thought, and by defeating Ragnar (well, let's call it like it is, he beat Horik) in battle and then offering them peace AND gold and land, he was treating and baiting them like savages. It was all to convince them to help Princess Complicated Lisp Name (Kwenthirth) win her family feud for Mercia—which would strengthen Ecbert's hold on the land—by signing up for mercenary duty. And it worked; several men showed up to fight for Kwenthirth (seriously, who names their kid Kwenthirth?).

But I have a bad feeling that this deal, which seems like a win-win for most of the parties involved, will turn out to be a raw deal for someone, and because I have trust issues with English kings, it has to be Ragnar & Co. on the losing end, right? The land and riches promised to Ragnar if he stops raiding probably won't ever materialize, and the pennies thrown at the mercenaries won't be enough. But by the time all that happens, Ecbert's Wessex and Kwenthirth's Mercia will have enough power to repel Ragnar. 

"The Choice" was a fantastic set-up episode for what looks like an eventful season finale. Our heroes were backed into a corner and had no choice but to take a deal that actually helped their enemy. 




NOTES FROM THE GODS


– Horik's wooing of Floki continues, and I wonder what he has up his sleeve. Part of me thinks that Horik made some kind of deal with Ecbert to betray Ragnar, and he wants Floki to come with him. After all, we never saw him agree to Ecbert's deals like Ragnar and Lagertha, and there had to be a reason for that. I know Horik wants revenge on Ecbert to avenge his son, but at this point, nothing Horik could do would surprise me. And what was with Horik talking about killing Bjorn? Will that come into play with whatever Horik has planned? Donal Logue is headed to Gotham next year, so I'm guessing Horik dies in the season finale. 

– What is the root of Floki's distaste for Ragnar, anyway? 

– The music continues to be the unsung hero of this show. It propels everything forward with strength. 

– So great to have Athelstan back with Ragnar and the rest of the Vikings. I loved what he said about his conflict of faith: "In the gentle fall of rain from heaven I hear my god, but in the thunder I still hear Thor. That is my agony." And of course Ragnar's response: "I hope someday our Gods can be friends." Athelstan is such a cool character.

– Bjorn Ironside is a pretty cool nickname to have, and Bjorn earned it in battle. He looked like a natural out there.

– It looks like Princess Kwenthirth will pay some of the men in more than money. 


What'd you think of "The Choice"? What do you think is in store for the finale?


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I love this show massively, but yea I have no idea where Floki's confliction has come from. It's just like one day about episode 3 the writers decided to make an enemy close at home. Before that Floki was Ragnars best pal. It's the only thing I can't get my head round which leads me to believe is he a plant to try and keep ahead of Horrick? It's a shame now I actively dislike Floki's character yet season 1 and early season 2 he was one of my favourites. Will just have to wait for the finale and then sit there praying that season 3 comes round quicker than the wait we had for season 2!!
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time for king Horrik to die if he thinks Lockie or seig for that matter will betray Ragnar then Gods of Odin trully don't shine on Ragnars family.. Pricess Ausulag bores me and I will never accept her with Ragnar but he made his choice and Lagetha I hope will find a better husband than dearly departed Earl. Althelsten belong with Ragnar and not king Ecobert.. How long will Rollo be conveseling in the new season? Bjorn will only marry for love .
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* King Horik is only acting stupidly because the Vikings didn't actually come with a force large and strong enough to conquer England.

- Killing an English King could be a huge deal and would result in the other Kings banding together against the Vikings.

* Ekbert obviously wants to rule all of England and is trying to achieve that goal.

* Ragnar mostly agreed with the terms because he knew he currently had a losing hand and he wanted Rollo and Atheson back. The Vikings could obviously come back with a larger force.

* I consider this show is trying to set up that Bjorn is going to marry Princess Kwenthirth and therefore the Vikings will control Mercia. Ragnar likes Ekbert and so Wessex may simply be forced to give money and some land to the Vikings.

* Floki seems to think that Ragnar doesn't appreciate him enough. Floki built Ragnar's ships but Floki is clearly beneath several people in Ragnar's life: his wife and children, his brother, his ex-wife, his son by his ex-wife, perhaps Atheson, etc. Floki would be second only to King Horik's son.

- Floki openly complained that Ragnar was taking risks to get his brother back and to try to get "the priest" back.
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FINALLY! it's about time someone reviewed this show! now, will someone please review Bates Motel??? anyway, great episode! the actor playing ragnar barely has to speak. he does incredible eye acting! just his facial expressions alone tell what he's feeling and thinking! love this guy! i think floki never really forgave him for being so close with athelston. that alone seemed to be some type of betrayal to the gods in his eyes. apparently horick seems more 'religious' to him and he respects him for it. that's the only thing i can think is upsetting him but to go so far as to plot to killl ragnar's son??? that's way too far floki. no longer a fan:-( ugh! typing on this sucky tablet is kiling me! sorry for the grammar issues!
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Has everyone seen the promo for this season. The one that shows each of the characters with Lorde's Glory and Gore playing over it? I ask because there seems to be a big spoiler regarding Athelstan in it that hasn't happened yet, and I'm wondering if it's going to happen in the finale, or if it's supposed to be a metaphor?
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I think you're right, and they're not very secretive about it since the possible spoiler is also on another promotional material:
https://31.media.tumblr.com/c4e83343c73ce8942d45aff6dbf5b3be/tumblr_n4lsgkUH5T1twajcmo1_500.jpg

btw I'm sure that the season 2 teaser (which I LOVE!) is full of possible major spoilers for the whole series. The characters are compared to the Norse gods, along with their attributes: Ragnar/Odin (the eye, Yggdrasill's roots, the spear), Floki/Loki (but also Heimdallr cause of the golden teeth), Lagertha/Frigg (also Freyja cause of the falcon's feathers and the goddess of war), Athelstan/Tyr (his hand), Siggy/Sigyn (the bowl of poison), King Horik/Jormungand (his serpentine eyes), Aslaug/Freyja (falcon wings, red tears), Rollo/Fenrir (breaking his bounds)...
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I Really Think Floki is working for Ragnar to get near King Horik they plan this when Ragnar Plan to kill Jarl Borg, The reason this happen is because Ragnar Realize King Horik Lied about Athelstan, Ragnar Never trust the King Horik and the only way to get closed and know what he is up to is by Infiltrating Floki. How it's possible that from one day to another Floki part ways with Ragnar
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Good call!
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This is what I am hoping. It does seem odd that someone as close and trusted as Floki was to Ragnar would turn so quickly and easily.
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i hope this is true because i really want to like floki again but i'm not so sure. he had a private moment with his woman about ragnar and not inviting him to the wedding. he seemed pretty sincere.
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He did have a private moment with her, but then she went and told that private moment to Siggy who relayed it to Horik, this made the connection of Horik to Floki. All the while Ragnar was watching in the shadows. Rollo was also aware of Siggy sleeping with Horik, so if they wanted to feed information to Horik, Siggy would be a good choice.
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Yes that's why I have this theory ragnar was watching everthing in the shadow.
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I am one of those who missed season one and only recently binge watch and caught up with season two. I find season one better.

This battle was probably the first I saw of Ragnar losing.

I have two questions

1) Why are Ragnar and company speaking in English and The English are also speaking English? Then when they meet, they speak in a strange language. Are they depicting two different languages even though we hear the same thing? What is that strange language? Latin? I rather they all speak English even though it is not accurate.

2) Is it true that the woman in that part of the world then are fighting like man? And woman can become Earl? Than the Scandinavians are very forward thinking because in the rest of the world during those days, woman are still very domestic.
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The Priest can speak both Old English and Old Norse, he also thought Ragnar Old English, and King Egbert a smattering of Old Norse, as the King explained in the ep. So that's why the Priest was doing the talking, he was the translator. I think Ragnar normally does the talking to the English because he has the language. I guess the show takes a liberty and defaults to everyone speaking todays English for our ease of viewing.
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on 1) They speak diffrent language but we just hear them in English so we wont hear there original language beacuse many Viewers would not Watch if you hear it in "strange" original language, so they just show the original language when they meet to show that all the World don´t speak English. so we allways hear it in English but they dont "speak English"
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I just find it very funny that they end up speaking a foreign language when they meet up.
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I always found the relationship between Ragnar and Athelstan the most interesting one. I'm not buying this they're 'friends or 'brothers' thing. You don't invite a friend or a brother to your bed. I also noticed some sort of Dominant/submissive vibe going one between them. Athelstan calms Ragnar down by being humble and sometimes literally by showing him his throat (like when they were sparring). Ragnar touches Athelstan a lot in a fond way and gave him a bracelet. Athelstan obviously loves him a lot. Since, at some point, he didn't seem to adhere to his vow of chastity anymore it makes me wonder if he eventually did join Ragnar and Lagartha in the marriagebed. Anyway, this could just all be my wicked perverted imagination and not the intention of the scriptwriters at all :-).
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There clearly is something about Athelstan because King Egbert seems to have a man crush too. I don't think it goes beyond a bromance though. Both Egbert and Ragnar are similar, they are more intelligent than their local counterparts, and Athelstan is the closest thing to they have to a scholar. Athelstan can speak multiple languages, he can read and write, and has a deeper understanding of things.
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Yes, I think it is your wicked perverted imagination* and not the intention of the writers. :) However, you are not alone in thinking this way, I've seen a lot of uh… stuff around the internet from people who would agree with you.

I do think it's a brother/friend relationship though. If you look at what Ragnar has been through over the last 5 years, he's lost his brother, his wife, daughter and son and now his best friend. I think he is desperate to hold onto Athelstan because he can not bear to lose another family member. I don't think it was a coincidence that the scene where he asked him to stay mirrored the one with Legartha in the opener. In his eyes, everyone who he was loved has at some point betrayed him except Athelstan. He is the only person who does not look at Ragnar with anger or jealousy or wanting. It is probably the only healthy un-ruined relationship he has left.

Also, I thought about the scene where they invite him to sleep with them, and I'm curious if it was an honest ask? Part of me thinks it was teasing/testing. Something Legartha may have brought up that Ragnar was curious about. Monks I'm sure were a strange concept to Northmen.

*A wicked perverted imagination is the best kind to have.
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You realize that bracelet is what in their culture signifies a male as a man and a warrior. Like when in the first episode Bjorn got his from the old Jarl.
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Athelstan will save Ragnar again and King Horik will die in the Finale. Rollo will be left in charge of Kattegat when Ragnar decides to raid Paris in season 3. By the end of season 3 Ragnar will be stranded in Northumbria and King Ella will put him in the snake pits to die. Bjorn, Sigurd snake in the eye, Ubbe and Ivar the boneless finds out their father have been slain by King Ella and comes forth the Great Heathen Army invasion of England. Then season 3 ends...
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It was good seeing Athelstan with Ragnar again!
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My guess:
Floki is for the old gods and started having issues with Ragnar, when Ragnar started trusting and listening to the Christian priest.
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Vikings reviews! Yay! Its too bad the season is almost over. It goes by really fast.
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"They are violent men, hm?" "Yes, specially the women." =D

But seriously, what this show is missing is Saxon reaction to women warriors. They've seen them, some may have died, some may have been captured...

And as much as I love the Viking bunch having them defeated makes a nice change. If nothing else it will make them more cautious next time.
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I don´t Think that Floke is betraying Ragnar.. I Think all that is an act between them to fool Horik.
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to fool Horik? if that's so, why was he talking about ''better understanding gods'' with his wife? it makes no sense.. :))
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His wife is not in on it. that where is all begins, she was the one who told Rollos girl about Ragnar and Floke and Rollos girl told Horik.. to really fool someone no one can knows not even your wife
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that's too much planing I think, not in spirit of this show..
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This show is about Ragnar who is just a thinker and a planer... And Floke turning like that is just to suden in just one episode he went from "beeing on Ragnar side" to not (shure he never like Athelstan but never shown any dissapointment on Ragnar) , When Rollo did it it was built in more and more during season 1.
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YAY! I'm so glad you're reviewing Vikings. I didn't watch Vikings last season, because it was on the same time as something else, and I thought pffft a History channel show? It won't be any good. Boy was I wrong. (I caught up with season 1 in reruns)

What is the root of Floki's distaste for Ragnar, anyway?

I have been wondering about this, too. I thought maybe I had missed something. I know Siggy told Horik that Floki is upset with Ragnar, but I just don't know why.

I really like Siggy, but she's getting on my nerves right now. Horik is a shit and needs to die. I wish Siggy would stop helping him, even if she thinks she's doing everything for Rollo.

Princess Kwenthirth is hilarious. I hope she's around for awhile, lol.

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Well, Floki is a religious fanatic - he always was but in season 2 things escalated quickly because of Ragnar's desire of a peaceful agreement with the Christian kingdoms and Athelstan's "betrayal" of the Norse gods. He really is turning into Loki, like his talk with King Horik foreshadowed. And since Ragnar is like Odin, it will surely make things more interesting (even if I liked season 1 Floki way more)
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Amazing show. I heretofore insist people no longer ever use 'all-you-can-eat' but return to its roots with 'smorgasbord' when speaking of the latest buffet party.
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There is a genuine historical figure behind Ragnar Lodbrok
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ragnar_Lodbrok
and the series seems to follow quite faithfully his legendary life. So all those who want spoilers can read the articles.But , really, is it not better just going with the flow and discover the adventures as they come along.
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- Someone kill Horik + son already. ugh.
- I was waiting for Ragnar to say "i told you so"... it will probable strengthen his leadership position though (hey remember last time when we didn't listen to Ragnar ?).
- I have chills every time i see Aelle and Ragnar sharing the screen.
- Athelstan is back ! yay !
- I can't make up my mind about Floki/Ragnar...
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I just binge watched this show last 2 days, this show is awesome, I kind of wish I waited till next week before the finale, this is going to be a long week
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Yeah, man... I'm definitely counting down the 140 or so hours remaining. Great show!
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Agree that the Floki thing with Ragnar, and decision the pal around with Horik, seems a little unhinged compared to rest of show. It started with Ragnar's relationship with Athelstanim. Then forgiving Rollo's betrayal. Finally when he says how Ragnar owns everything, but not him and his wife. Yes, there is some bubbling anger there. But I don't see him spying for Ragnar, betraying him, or seriously backing Horik. Because there is one key comment he made in "Boneless" that everyone has forgotten:

“I am crazy and cracked. There is something wrong with me. Which is why I choose to travel with King Horik. He understands the gods better than Ragnar....I mean the real gods. The darker gods. The gods that haunt me.”

He's learning. Under the radar and mysteriously. Like him. Now to what end, that's the real question.


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Where were you during episode 7, the most painful tv Ive ever seen. I had to watch it a few times.
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Me too! It was awful and beautiful at the same time. I think it was because of the music. I have to say that the music in this show hits it on all levels. The best theme song, and then the music for the entire episode 7 was amazing. I liked the music in episode 8 too. For some reason, they laid off the music for episode 9, or at least I didn't notice it.
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I keep having this nagging suspicion that Floki is NOT betraying Ragnar, but spying for him. I think he said very loudly and in front of all the right people his distaste for Ragnar and with Ragnar's blessing. I think what king Horik was about to tell Floki is exactly why he has been spying. Ragnar and Floki don't trust him. As soon as he tells Floki what his plans are I think Ragnar will hear all of it in short order. Just a thought.
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Woot! Looks like I was right :)
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Yup you were. I didn't want Floki to start killing kids and all but some honest rivalry and jealousy would have been interesting, especially since Rollo is back in line for now. Ahhh well. To season 3!!
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Oooh the agony of the wait...
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Hmmm, I don't think so.
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But the scenes whre Floki was complaining about Ragnar to his wife had nothing to do with King Horik. I think he's truly angry at Ragnar, but I think when the moment of truth comes, he will pick Ragnar over Horik. So the effect will be as if he's been a spy the whole time in the end, but I don't think that's the case.
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I thought about that and here is what I came up with. I think he told his wife that because he didn't want his wifes' reaction to the bad things he would say about Ragnar to take her by suprise. If he said something negative about Ragnar with king Horik, she heard it and then started questioning his thoughts about Ragnar it would make his ploy less believable.
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He told that to his wife in "private" because all women talk to each other. Subtle and covert way to start rumors.
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Why not both? I mean, he could be spying for Ragnar but at same time dislike him and his moves. See him as great but flawed man.
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I thought the exact thing as lucef666 at first, but after last night's episode I'm starting to have doubts. However, there have been many sidelong glances shared between Floki and Ragnar that seem to speak of some kind of secret. However, Floki does seem genuinely angry at Ragnar because of forgiving Rollo and his friendship with Athelstan. I do believe that no matter what is happening, there is no way Floki will betray Ragnar to King Horik.
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Oh, I hope you are right! That would make sense, too.
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I think at the end of the day Floki might get angry with Ragnar, he might want to spend time away from him, but when the chips are down he won't betray him, even if he feels Ragnar is acting against their way of life Floki would be as well if he stabbed Ragnar in the back and he can't abide that. If anything I think Floki might decide to play Horik and orchestrate his downfall if he asks him to help him kill Ragnar, maybe even with Ragnar's help.
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So, the issue here, is that doing so few episodes feels like it's draining the story. It doesn't get to pause enough and when it does this season, if eels off, like Porunn's water scene... I LOVE this show, just doesn't seem as fluid as last season. It's gorgeous and phenomenally acted... it just needs at least 12 eps to fully tell the story and negate the choppiness. IMHO
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I would love to see it get at least 20 episodes, though I guess they don't really have the budget for that. It would also be nice if we don't have to wait over a year between seasons. I don't want people to lose interest. Maybe it will be different now that it's a major hit for History Channel.
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Love this show!
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Totally #teamLegartha here too, though Aslaug almost had me for a moment last ep, when she told Ragnar that they are not "wolves or pigs" and that she didn't care that her son was crippled. That was heartbreaking.

The music on this show is AMAZING, I've been listening to pieces of it on youtube every week after the show. Wardruna FTW!

I think some of Floki's issues with Ragnar have to do with Ragnar's connection/affection for Athelstan. For all his strangeness Floki is very uncomplicated and traditional, Ragnar's willingness to accept Althelstan (learn his language and religion) and bargain with English Kings is very "un-Viking" like to Floki. Plus much like Rollo, I'm sure he is getting tired of standing in the shadow of Ragnar's fame.

I know it's blasphemous, but I honestly love this show more than GoT. It's not perfect, the acting and dialogue is often less than perfect (though the line from Athelstan about Thor was amazing), but it affects me more. I feel for each of the characters more than I do for any of the people in Westeros. Every heartbreaking death, betrayal or battle has more weight and is more visceral for me on Vikings. I think a lot of has to do with Fimmel. He is Ragnar Lothbrok. Every quirk, twitch, sneer, grin. The man is a talent.

Very very excited for the finale!




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What? "The acting...is often less than perfect," seriously? Well, unless zombie Marlon Brando and Katharine Hepburn are coming around, I can't imagine a better cast for Vikings!

Also the one thing that I do like about it over GoT is that I don't need a bloody scorecard to keep up with all the different storylines and characters.
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I don't mean it's bad, and all of the casting has been pretty spot on. But it's not always seamless, sometimes I can see the "acting". Sometimes an accent isn't quite right, or someone seems to stumble a bit with their lines. (More in Season 1 than 2). Logue and Wynnick specifically. Fimmel has inhabited the character in season 2 to a level that is almost scary, but if you go back to Season 1 even he hiccupped at times.

I don't think it takes away from the show at all, believe me I think the show is fantastic, and while GoT in my opinion is more polished, Vikings is more enjoyable by far.
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I hear that. I just feel it came out of nowhere, and hasn't been explained well. I have not seen them showing Ragnar as some tyrant to warrant Floki's feelings... It was always shown as a band of brothers, which I loved, more than this betrayal crap. seems OOC& but I hear you, if they would have set that up, just feels like they didn't.
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Floki has been showing Athelstan ill will since season 1. His jealousy has been shown a few times this season in the background as well. He has also voiced distain for Rollo. The problem with Floki is that he doesn't usually vocalize his direct feelings. But clearly when he speaks of the darker gods he is alluding to his feelings of pride, envy and greed. There is a reason that Floki lived away from the others and was only brought into the fold by Ragnar, I hope next season we see more of why.
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I was just thinking what do I have to do to get a Vikings weekly review on here, and bam Tim delivers.

Now i'm thinking about Travis Fimmel at my door with a pizza and champagne….
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