The beginning of Vikings season 6 proves the series isn’t as sharp as it used to be, but there is still some ale left in the horn. Although viewers will still miss Rangar’s (Travis Fimmel) powerful presence on screen, Vikings’ newest season will still get the blood pumping while giving a history lesson.
This season begins in the aftermath of the battle for Kattegat. Bjorn Ironside (Alexander Ludwig) has won back his home from the grips of his maniac brother, Ivar The Boneless (Alex Høgh Andersen), and has assumed the throne over his father’s kingdom. However, as Bjorn quickly discovers, the glory of being king is far outweighed by the burden of decision making.
From the beginning of his kingship, Bjorn must fight his Viking urges to kill, raid, and explore as Kattegat is increasingly relying on trade and diplomacy for prosperity instead of swords and blood. This is a bold turn for the series as the traditional formula of exploring and pillaging seems to have been revised in an attempt to keep viewers on their toes.
Meanwhile, Ivar has fled to Norway and headed along the Silk Road to find refuge. On his travels he begins to encounter many different cultures providing a calm to his tormented soul. While going deeper to the east he is ambushed by a murderous group of Kievan Rus, the ancestors of many who live in Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine today.
Ivar finds himself captured by Prince Oleg (Danila Kozlovsky), a ruthless and unpredictable leader who represents all the most destructive and domineering sides of Ivar. In order for Ivar to survive he must learn to channel his undeveloped ability to practise self restraint and compromise. This makes Oleg’s character a welcomed addition as he will indirectly force Ivar to change for the better, propelling a captivating arc for Ivar’s character this season.
One of the weakest parts of the newest season is Lagertha’s (Katheryn Winnick) story. Being one of the most exciting characters on screen in the earlier seasons, her part feels a little unnecessary and at times quite boring. This continues the show’s trend of including weaker side stories that have plagued their latest seasons such as Floki’s Icelandic expedition. Vikings could have minimised Largertha’s role for something more innovative as it is clear she is at the end of her days and will not be around in the future.
The first few episodes leave viewers with many burning questions. While they are a little slow, they have diligently laid the foundation for a climatic intersection between Bjorn and Ivar. They are miles apart from each other and are going through vastly different experiences, but we get a sense that their paths are eventually going to cross again – the question is, will this be to fight each other, or fight together, and under what circumstances?