The History Channel’s ‘Vikings’ returns with emotional mid-season premiere

Taylor Felver

The popular hit TV show “Vikings” that airs on The History Channel is back for the second half of its fourth season. After a long seven month wait since the first part conclusion of season four, fans have eagerly looked forward to the first episode of the second half, especially because of where the last episode left off.

For those who have never seen the show “Vikings,” the title is pretty self-explanatory. Vikings revolves around Ragnar Lodbrok, played by Travis Fimmel, who is the king of the Scandinavian Viking town Kattegat. With some historical relevance regarding its characters who are based on Nordic legends, “Vikings” follows different characters through their journey for pillaging success and fame. With raids to early medieval England and France, Ragnar must prove his worthiness of being king. Through three previous seasons, his family and his friends are put through various trials as they try and prove themselves commendable enough to be sent to Valhalla, which is considered to be the Viking heaven when they die.

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Disclaimer: This next section will cover this season so far and spoilers for the first episode of part two of season four.

Season four has thus far brought a notable defeat with King Ragnar failing to invade Paris and his brother Rollo defending Paris successfully. Humiliated and not to mention kind of loopy from his opium stint, King Ragnar must return to Kattegat to face the consequences of his decisions. Instead of the tragic ending the first part could have had, director Michael Hirst took a different route and ended the first half with Ragnar’s coveted return several years later to find his sons grown and his spot as king possibly in danger.

Naturally, the first episode that aired Wednesday night included some heightened emotions because of Lodbrok’s return, not to mention all of his son’s involvement with axe throwing, sex-crazed Vikings. This episode opens on Ragnar’s plan to return to his first-failed attempt at a settlement in England and to his demise he is met with yet another failure as none of his sons intend to travel with them due to their anger and almost hatred towards the way he left things. However, his oldest son Bjorn discusses his plans that happened with his father’s disappearance and his intention to sail to Rome and the Mediterranean Sea because of a map he found on their pillage of Paris. While Ragnar struggles throughout the episode to find allies to return to England with him, viewers get a peek at the lives of his sons.

True to Viking culture, the boys have grown up to become strong willed and ferocious fighters, even Ivar who is crippled. This episode touches on sex and love as well as some goodbyes that seem a little confusing and emotional. Ragnar continues to visit his old friends and loves like shield maiden Lagertha, who is now revealed to be bisexual, and his best friend Loki, whom he professes his brotherly love for before leaving him and his wife.

At almost the end of this episode Ragnar tries to hang himself from a tree and for a moment I was stunned. With the story line it sadly made sense as he is at a crossroads of where his life is headed. Symbolically, the rope snaps and he is freed from death yet again. While first I was irritated with him because of his knack for ruining things, this season in the first episode at least, he seems to have more reasoning behind his actions. Not to mention his sons, who I thought the director did a great job in aging and giving them complex story lines despite the audience meeting them for the very first time. Obviously Ivar who is crippled and will eventually become “Ivar the Boneless,” who ends up leading The Great Heathen Army that invades England, has a great story line and his character will be one of the most interesting to watch as he develops and chooses to side with his father.

In an interview with Variety magazine, director Michael Hirst elaborates on this season and says “In 4B, this is by far the biggest season we’ve shot, but it’s also the most emotional. I’m so proud of this season, all the characters, all of them suffer great changes. It’s very intimate, it’s not about battles or fights, it’s two guys talking about life and faith and women and getting drunk together.”

Like most premieres, many characters will have enticing stories that cause the viewer to stay hooked on the show, and “Vikings” is no different. What I find this show does incredibly well while still being entertaining is the way viewers get to know characters from history in a more intimate and almost thought provokingly relatable manner that causes each viewer to question what they would do in that situation. At this point it would be impossible to tire of this show and I cannot wait after seeing multiple trailers for next week’s and future episodes for the plot to play out. Whatever the rest of this “Vikings” season has in store, it is clearly worth tuning in and following along for.

The next episode of “Vikings” will air next Wednesday at 9/8c on The History Channel.