Vikings is a show that changes on a dime. Because so much time passes throughout the show, big events happen fairly often. The second season premiere is no different; it has some of the biggest moments that the series has ever seen. At the end of the first season, things were looking grim and building up to a major climax. Tonight’s episode is all about climax, fallout, and set-up simultaneously. We finally get to see the climax that the first season was building to, watch Ragnar, Rollo, and Latherga deal with the consequences, and start to piece together how everything will fall into place for the rest of Vikings’s second season.
The episode opens with the biggest, most intense battle scene in the series so far. Watching the seeds of Rollo’s ultimate betrayal being sown in season one finally pays off here, some months after the events of the finale, as the armies that both brothers amassed between seasons clash. In a phone interview with Clive Standen, I learned that these scenes are extremely taxing to film. Most actors leave set bruised and sore out of dedication to their roles. A few accidents have even occurred on set simply because some mistakes were made and actors rolled with it, making the best possible takes the ones where genuine reactions happen. This scene’s impact is enormous not just because of the epic scale of this battle or how intimate the camera makes the battle feel, but because of the stakes. Ragnar and Rollo finally confront each other in a way that is appropriate for two fierce warriors with huge egos. While standing in the middle of a massive battle, in their own little alcove surrounded by their fighting armies, it’s amazing that the personal issues between them somehow outweigh the combat around them. These are the first moments of the show, after not having any Vikings episodes for almost a year, it’s like a punch to the face.
Ragnar’s ego was starting to get the best of him by the end of Season 1, which was beginning to affect his brother and wife. After Rollo’s surrender, we get to see how this inflated ego affects Latherga. The princess Aslaug seduced Ragnar last season and their affair continues this season. It gives Ragnar a sense of power and satisfaction that Lagertha doesn’t bring into his life, despite the fact that he insists he still loves her. Here’s where his ego gets the best of him; he’s so used to getting what he wants on the battlefield, he fights to keep both women in a polyamorous marriage. Ragnar is the protagonist of the series, so the audience has always sided with him, but I can tell this season is going to be one where our allegiance is challenged in big ways, much like Breaking Bad.
In fact, according to actress Katheryn Winnick, who plays Lagertha, this season is full of big changes for the characters on a personal level. In this premiere, we can begin to see that. Rollo is a new man who has found respect for his brother but has very little respect in the village; Lagertha leaves with her son; and Ragnar has to learn to grow without the support of his family. Winnick also said in the phone interview that she hopes audiences will stand by all of the characters as their circumstances and motivations change in this season. Based on how strong this opening episode is, I can tell that we will.