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Vikings – Homeland Review

"The Glorious Battle of York"
Vikings is one of the most action-packed shows currently on TV and, when it is at its best, can rival many movies let alone its rivals on television. "Homeland" is another fantastic action-packed episode from the show. After losing York to the Vikings, the Saxons, led by Aethelwulf (Moe Dunford) and Bishop Heahmund (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), set out to recapture the city. However, the Vikings, led by Ivar the Boneless (Alex Høgh), are much more prepared than the Saxons expected. In Norway, Harald Finehair (Peter Franzén) takes Lagertha's lover Astrid (Josefin Asplund) back to his territory with the pair forming an alliance to take control of Norway. Floki the shipbuilder (Gustaf Skarsgård) has found a beautiful wilderness and goes on a journey of the soul. Like the previous episodes, the bulk of "Homeland" takes place in England and this is where the episode was the most entertaining. "Homeland" delivers on the battle that was promised, with the Saxons smashing down the old Roman walls and storming into York, yet the Vikings have laid traps and shoot arrows at the Saxon soldiers from the buildings when they are deep in the city. There are a number of aerial shots that give the battle a grand scale and when the action kicks in, it's gleefully violent: arrows are shot, swords and shields are used, and Ivar's traps include a series of spikes which leads to Saxon soldiers having to trample over their dying comrades. "Homeland" continues the high standards that the show has set and the action was so gory that it challenges what Ridley Scott and Mel Gibson have done in their historical epics. The battle of York does fall into cheesy territory when the Saxons surround Ivar and he shouts that he can't be killed and he is destined for greatness. This is only increased when the Vikings finally come in and save Ivar. As the armies fight, Aethelwulf's son gets hit by an arrow and Heahmund shouts at his troops to fight for their king, fight for their God with the rain pounding down on them. But the cheesy nature of this encounter is forgivable because it shows Ivar and Heahmund facing off against each other for the first time, setting up their personal conflict: a clash of leaders, personalities, and beliefs. The episode expanded on Ivar and Heahmund's characters. Ivar took a high position to watch the battle unfold, which is a perfectly sound idea from a military standpoint, but he takes it as a great insult when Aethelwulf calls the Viking a coward and recklessly goes into battle on his chariot. Before the battle Ivar faced something he rarely sees, a woman who doesn't fear him. Heahmund is shown to be so committed to the cause and has such a hatred for the heathens that he makes some rash decisions which could lead to continuing the war and maybe even uniting the Vikings in England. The events in Norway this week were more engaging than in the previous episodes. There was more personal drama due to Astrid's alliance with Harald, which betrayed her lover. When Astrid first arrived in Harald's territory she was disgusted: the sight that greeted her was the townspeople throwing animal entrails into the bay. Even by the standards of the time Harald's territory is a bit of a shit hole. Astrid has to navigate a minefield because she made an alliance with the promise of power, but she does everything she can to avoid Harald's sexual advances. Floki has a more introspective story: he is walking alone in a beautiful but perilous landscape. It is mostly dialogue-free and when Floki does speak to himself it's subtitled. It is a more arty version of the material, like the Mads Mikkelsen film Valhalla Rising. Near the end of the episode Floki's story takes a surreal turn but this is a result of Floki's grief and an infection. It makes an interesting change of pace for the show which is known for action and political drama. Bjorn Ironside (Alexander Ludwig) also make an appearance with his cohort of Vikings in Spain. Bjorn ends up being advised to become a trader instead of a raider. But this only lasts for one scene and it could easily have been placed in a later episode since it has no bearing on the rest of "Homeland." It was only in this episode so it could establish Bjorn's plotline for later episodes. "Homeland" offers a great package of action, political and familial drama and even some horror imaginary. It gives fans of Vikings what they want and expect from the show. The episode does fall into the occasional moment of pantomime but the main reason fans tune in is for the action and the production values. It is a more action-packed alternative to The Last Kingdom.
  • The Battle of York
  • Floki's story offers something different
  • Perfectly gritty and grimy
  • Bjorn's scene could have been cut


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