Vikings “The Outsider” (Season 4 Episode 11) Review

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At the midpoint of Vikings season 4, Ragnar suffered a demoralizing defeat at the hands of Rollo in Paris. King Lothbrok abandoned his people and absconded to the hills of his native land to lick his wounds. When he reemerged years later, neither his sons nor his people were particularly happy to see him. Yet Ragnar is still the undeniable ruler and when the series picks up, he has to face the consequences of his actions.

Even with his crazy eyes, or maybe because of them, Ragnar inspires a level of fear in his sons. Given the chance to challenge him for the throne, they cannot bring themselves to do it. Bjorn is anything but enthusiastic to see Ragnar. His concerns about his father’s return are not assuaged when the Seer warns that Ragnar brings calamaity and death. The sons’ reactions are not unexpected or unreasonable. As a father and the king, Ragnar should never have run off.

Ragnar reveals that his goal in returning is to seek revenge against King Ecbert. I suspect that Ragnar will not be returning from his upcoming voyage to England. Hopefully, he is able to reconcile with Bjorn before he leaves. Oddly, the one confrontation we do not see in this episode is Ragnar and Aslaug. Last season, Aslaug revealed herself to be a mean, spiteful drunk. I doubt that having control of Kattegat for the last few years has changed her personality.

An early stop on Ragnar’s reconciliation tour is a visit to Floki. They have had a tumultuous relationship over the years and the idea of them being friends after Floki murdered Athelstan seemed impossible. It is hard to tell if Ragnar actually forgives Floki. He wants his help to sail back to England and does not seem thrilled that Floki prefers to honor his commitment to Bjorn. I cannot really imagine that Ragnar will ever forgive Floki. I am guessing that before the end of the season we will have another visit from the ghost of Athelstan, which would suggest that Ragnar will never move past the loss of his friend. Regardless, it will be interesting to see how the Ragnar/Floki relationship resolves.

Ragnar’s next stop is his ex-wife, Lagertha. It looks like a lot has gone on for the leader of Hedeby in Ragnar’s absence. After being betrayed by one man after another, Lagertha has decided to take a dip in the lady pond and taken Astrid as her lover and protégée. That does not mean, though, that her old feelings for Ragnar have disappeared. In a scene that Ragnar/Lagertha fans have waited many seasons for, we finally have a confession of love between the couple and an explicit expression of regret for the way things turned out. If this is the last time Lagertha sees Ragnar, at least she will know that he truly loved her and was sorry for his betrayal.

Ragnar’s regret over his treatment of Lagertha gives me hope that Aslaug is going to eventually get her comeuppance. Lagertha was far too accommodating to her usurper and it is time for a reckoning. From the previews, it looks like Lagertha may be poised to take over Kattegat once the men leave on their adventures.

It is apparent that the show’s focus is turning to the next generation of Vikings. Bjorn is going to the Mediterranean, Magnus is still in England with King Ecbert, and Ivar is destined to become a ruthless leader. It will be tough if this truly is the swan song of Ragnar Lothbrok, because he is such a dynamic character and Travis Fimmel has done a fantastic job portraying him. As much as I do not like change, Michael Hirst’s storytelling capabilities give me hope that even without Ragnar, Vikings will remain one of the best shows on television.

My only complaint with this opening episode was Ragnar’s attempted suicide. I understand the point was to communicate that Ragnar has an unavoidable destiny. It just felt out of character. He could have committed suicide during the many years that he was away, but did not. Yes, he is tired and is having to deal with the anger of those he left behind – but I still don’t think Ragnar would forgo the opportunity to die in battle by hanging himself from a tree.

There is a lot more to explore in upcoming reviews, including the interesting personalities of Ragnar’s sons. I am particularly impressed with Alex Høgh Andersen so far. I cannot even imagine how hard it must be to drag oneself around. I still don’t understand why if they had wagons, they couldn’t figure out how to make a wheelchair.