Vikings – The Message Review
"The Message" is an episode about political maneuvers and it is one of the more interesting Vikings
episodes this season, as
the fight for Kattegat steps up a gear.
After the cliffhanger at the end of "The Prisoner
," Bjorn Ironside (Alexander Ludwig) and his followers escape their Arab captors thanks to their fighting skills and a sandstorm - giving the episode its action quota.
Ivar the Boneless (Alex Høgh) and his brother Hvitserk (Marco Ilsø) return to Norway and make an alliance with Harald Finehair (Peter Franzén). Ivar also sets out to turn his Christian captive Bishop Heahmund (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) into a warrior for his side. Lagertha's (Katheryn Winnick) position weakens even further when Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård) takes a number of her warriors to settle Iceland. Whilst in England, Aethelwulf (Moe Dunford) sets out to rebuild his forces and Alfred (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) promises that if he ever becomes king he will complete his grandfather's dream of uniting England under one crown.
"The Message" is an episode for people who enjoy their crown intrigue and it is one of the better Vikings
episodes to do this. It is an episode that actually focuses on the Scandinavians as the war for Norway edges ever closer. The alliance between Ivar and Harald is one of convenience because Harald's goal of kingship puts him at odds with Hvitserk's similar ambitions: Ivar just wants revenge for his mother - one of the few people to look after him.
Lagertha is becoming unhinged as she loses support and warriors, but won't accept any criticism - the series has been teasing out Lagertha's eventual defection, turning her more into Cersei Lannister every episode. Yet Lagertha does have an ally - her ex-lover and Harald's wife Astrid (Josefin Asplund) - and Astrid's storyline is where the episode goes into some dark territory.
"The Message" gives Alfred a more prominent role, which the series as a whole has been slowly increasing. The episode shows the adult Alfred's piety and his promise to unite England shows Vikings
having even more overlap with The Last Kingdom
. The Last Kingdom
is the more historically accurate show but one things Vikings
' really gets right is its portrayal of Alfred's fragile health. In real life, Alfred was a sickly child and had problems in adulthood. The episode's portrayal is overly dramatic-
Alfred faints and hits his head hard on a stone floor, but it gets the point across.
The biggest issue with the episode is the scale of time - it makes out that events take place over the course of a few days and within that time Floki and his followers are able to sail to Iceland and Bjorn returned from North Africa. The Vikings were great sailors but the voyage from Norway to Iceland would have taken seven days, and any trip from Egypt to Norway would have been much longer. There was some dramatic convenience with Bjorn returning at the end of the episode, but the storyline involving Floki and the settlers in Iceland was more like padding. They could have left Kattegat with them arriving on Iceland and their struggles on the harsh land could have been saved for the next episode. Geography and logistics do matter.
has a cinematic quality and this episode gets to show this off in two ways. The first is the portrayal of Harald's hometown. It's a busy whaling town, people filled the unpaved streets which leaves them as a muddy quagmire that is difficult to walk through - especially for Ivar. Bodies of cetaceans are hanging and their blood turns the puddles red. The centerpiece of the town is the rib cage of a whale. The town is unpleasant but is one of the reasons why it felt cinematic: because it looked like a lived in town and not a set.
Ireland was used as a substitute for Iceland and it did the job, showing this new territory as a beautiful but barren place that is hostile to life. The cinematography was even able to use some aerial shots to highlight the empty green lands and a gorge.
"The Message" is a solid episode that acts as a change of pace and giving the characters and their ambitions a chance to breathe.