Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Vikings Season 2: The GPS Voyage

vikings season 2

It's funny how sometimes a show starts out really simply and then slowly gets bigger and more complex and more produced. You can almost see the behind the scenes conversations as success begins to take root and the producers get bolder or more ratings hungry. Or more likely, network suits come in and tell them to do so. I'm not saying this is necessarily what happened with Vikings season 2, but something changed. It was still good, but there were a few things that kind of took me out of it.

Christian Warrior.
First there was suddenly a more stylized approach to the filming and editing that either wasn't there before or I didn't notice. There is one scene in particular where Ragnar's son and brother, Bjorn and Rollo are sparring on a beach and the camera keeps doing these quick tracking shots from the water. There were also several music video like montages with slow motion for no apparent reason. Rather distracting for a show where the main appeal for me was the simplicity of the lifestyle presented. I think these stylistic turns work well in Peaky Blinders because the setting, industrial revolution era England, is already somewhat jarring in itself. Here, the setting is all natural and outside in these beautiful locations. Just let that be the wow factor instead of showing off.

Another detraction has been some major plot holes and faulty logic. At one point, Ragnar and the others go on a raid to England and they get caught in a major storm, which throws them off course and they wind up landing in the kingdom of Wessex instead of Northumbria, where they were headed. Fine, they decide, and just raid that kingdom instead. No big deal there. Except later on, another ship arrives, headed right for their encampment in Wessex to deliver news of what happened back home since they left. HOW!? Did this ship have GPS and tracking? I honestly couldn't stop thinking about that for the rest of the season. Game of Thrones has so far been very successful in giving us a sense of the vastness of the geography involved when you're traveling by, let's just call it ancient means. When characters in Westeros happen to bump into each other in the wilderness it's usually a big deal that they found each other. But here it's almost like they had called each other and agreed to meet at a certain time sometimes. And while they've more or less addressed the language issue between the Norse and English, there are times it gets a little thin. I mean how quickly did Ragnar learn English? So I guess watching this for this historical consistency might be a mistake. 

The hot viking lady will kill you.
On the other hand, this season had the rise of Lagertha. My only complaint about this excellent storyline is that not enough time is devoted to it. I say scrap the whole Ragnar thing and make the whole show about her. To be honest, by the end of the season, she might be the only reason I'm still into it. Other characters, like Floki, had some iffy motivations throughout the season only to reveal, last minute, that they were only playing along with a deception. Yeah, ok. But Game of Thrones does that WAAAAY better. I get that they have to inject some drama into this but it came off a bit overly drawn out, without any added impact.

Still, I think the show is doing some interesting things here playing with ancient history and extrapolating some details from it. Inconsistencies aside, the show excels when it focuses on the pagan morality. It's not as simple as what we have come to know as an honorable warrior code that we see paralleled in Star Trek's Klingons or even in Game of Throne's Dothraki. It's also not a hippie, witchy nature fest. It's somewhere in the middle and yet neither and yet all of those. It really is its own thing and like I mentioned about season 1, it's weird to find yourself rooting for people when they commit heinous acts, but you do. And you also find yourself respecting the villains when they face death unafraid and true to their code.

By the end of the season it appears this show has gotten much bigger in many ways. Ambition is the driving force for Ragnar, but it's an ambition for knowledge, not power. The power he attains just happens to be what he has figured out is necessary in order to gain the knowledge he seeks of the world beyond. That's all well and good, but if they open next season with more Lagertha, just being a badass and we never get back to Ragnar's quest for knowledge, I'd probably love the show forever.

Told you not to fuck with her.

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