Ragnar has crazy eyes. Mad crazy eyes. His soul seems to match. He’s Viking through and through. But he thinks. He plans. He reasons. It’s difficult to find method in his madness at times, but it’s there. And he loves and feels heartbreaks. He’s a family man, a loyal friend. More than anything, he is a king, fierce and famed.
History doesn’t know a lot about Ragnar Lothbrok. His history is steeped in mystery, myth and legend along with sketchy details of actual events. But we know about the Vikings and we know about many of Ragnar’s contemporaries. And yet, the History Channel has painted this man and his life. They give us an incredibly rich and real perspective of all the harsh realities of Viking life from living in brutally cold climates to fighting hand-to-hand combat in even more brutal wars. We travel in Viking longboats to other countries as Ragnar leads raiding parties in search of gold and fame.
The History Channel in three short seasons has brought to life Ragnar Lothbrok, a man and character larger than life. We feel his pain, joys, his jealousies and ambitions. We cheer when he is victorious and cringe when he seems all but dead in defeat. The producers of Vikings have not missed a single detail and the network has pulled out all the stops with this singular production. While the show takes some creative liberties with historical facts, the story of Ragnar is a character-driven and vivid examination of authentic Viking life.
The season 4 (part 2) premiere of Episode 11 “The Outside” brought the now disgraced Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) home to Kattegat after a long absence to find his youngest sons grown and eager to prove themselves. His homecoming is less than auspicious and he seems a broken man. However, we get a glimpse of the former spirited Ragnar and those mad eyes when he shouts to all of Kattegat, “Who wants to be king?” Ragnar wants his sons to return to Wessex to avenge the demise of the Viking settlement there, but learns his sons have their own plans, especially his oldest son Bjorn Ironside (Alexander Ludwig) who wants to seek glory and riches for himself.
Bjorn is one of the most insightful characters. He has always read Ragnar for who he was, even when Bjorn was a little boy disapproving his father’s unfaithfulness to his mother, Lagertha. Bjorn gives Ragnar credit when it’s due, but there is a no-nonsense to his character, and he doesn’t underestimate Ragnar’s homecoming. He seeks a word with the village Seer who predicts nothing but “chaos, tragedy, calamities and death” because of Ragnar’s return. It’s the Seer’s ominous tidings that sets the stage for the remainder of Season 4.
Obviously, Ragnar has old demons and his brother, Rollo, now a powerful duke in France, to confront. More interestingly though, the conflicts between Ragnar’s first wife Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) and his second wife and queen Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland) deepen, as Lagertha prepares a possible challenge to Aslaug’s rule as queen. Kattegat has suffered without a ruling king and Queen Aslaug’s rule hasn’t been exemplary. Is Kattegat ripe for the picking? It will be exciting to see what becomes of Bjorn and Ragnar’s crippled son, Ivar the Boneless (Alex Hogh), both of whom became famous Vikings in their own right in history. Regardless of who lands where, we can expect plenty of family feuding, more epic battles, and, of course, more of Ragnar’s disquieting quiet.
Watch new episodes on Wednesday, 9 pm, on the History Channel.