‘Vikings’: Stunning season finale ‘All Change’ throws Ragnar and his family into jeopardy

Ragnar and Aslaug in "All Change."

Ragnar Lothbrok and Aslaug meet for the first time in “All Change.”

All week, the creators of Vikings have been promising that their season finale, “All Change” would be full of intense emotion, and to my delight (and dismay) they were true to their word!  By the time the episode was over, I was stunned, both by the events that unfolded and by the fact that it was over – I didn’t even realise how much time had passed!  During this episode of Vikings, everything goes from bad to worse – both abroad and at home, with disastrous consequences for everyone involved.

The episode begins, as many episodes of Vikings have, abroad, this time in Gotaland with orders from King Horik to settle a land dispute with the local Jarl Borg.  Borg is rude and inhospitable – at least until he learns who he’s dealing with.  However, he is unwilling to budge on the king’s proposal, and requests that Ragnar and his men go to see a famous ash tree while Floki goes to send word to Horik to find out if he is willing to compromise and Rollo stays behind as collateral.

However, things quickly go south, as the sense of foreboding that many of us felt last week when Ragnar asked Odin “Who will bear my sons?” takes a human shape and is revealed bathing in a stream during a scene reminiscent of a story from Greek mythology in which a man who pays a steep price for seeing the goddess Artemis bathing.  Here, it is two of Ragnar’s men who stumble upon the beautiful and clever Aslaug, and after a short comedic scene in which the two are reprimanded by a group of shield maidens and must report the occurrence back to their leader, Ragnar and Aslaug finally meet.

Much to the chagrin of viewers (and Bjorn, who has travelled with his father), it isn’t long before the two wind up in bed together.  While I knew it was next to inevitable and wasn’t exactly dreading it, it was hard not to feel bad for Bjorn, whose intense loyalty to his mother leaves him conflicted and angered by his father’s actions.  So when Bjorn confronts him the next day and demands that he swear not to do it again, I couldn’t help but smile, though until Ragnar actually did follow through on his promise, I also couldn’t help but be suspicious (“Ragnar, you’d better not have been crossing your fingers” was a repeated comment).

What made Ragnar’s betrayal, however temporary, of Lagertha all the more painful is the fact that interspersed with his adventures (or misadventures, as it were) abroad were scenes of Lagertha and the rest of the household at home.  From the very beginning, it’s very clear that Lagertha is still not doing well; she refuses to eat and is wracked by worry brought on by nightmares.  At Siggy’s urging, she visits the seer, who confirms for her that Ragnar is in danger, but refuses to say anything more.

Before she has much time to think on it, however, disaster strikes Kattegat when, after returning from a family member’s funeral, Siggy falls mysteriously ill with a fever.  In no time, it seems that everyone becomes sick and Lagertha’s time becomes dedicated to helping to care for the sick and dying.

There was something terribly heartrending about the way that, even from a distance, both Ragnar and Lagertha were trying (and failing) to hold their family together.  Between Ragnar’s tryst with Aslaug and his attempt to right things by upholding his vow to Bjorn and Lagertha’s fight to keep the family members in her charge, from Gyda to Siggy, Thyri and Athelstan, alive, I found myself in a constant whirlwind of emotion.

One of the few things in the episode that did make me smile, however, was the growing friendship between Lagertha and Siggy.  Seeing these two characters, despite (or perhaps because of) their differences, becoming friends and looking out for one another rather than being pitted against each other as enemies is honestly one of the things that has made me happiest with the writers of the show.  Lagertha has a stability and sense of family that Siggy has missed for a long time, and Siggy has been in Lagertha’s position in more ways than one, and there is so much that they have to offer each other, so to see that relationship striving in this episode was fantastic.  I imagine that in the second season, their support for each other will only grow stronger, particularly now that they both are having to mourn the loss of their daughters.

The episode ends with everything going completely to hell.  As Athelstan recovers from his illness, he discovers that Gyda has died, attends her funeral.  Meanwhile Aslaug announces to Ragnar that she is carrying his child, and after asking Odin what he should do, he goes to visit her in her room.  In a tiny twist, Bjorn almost stops him, but doesn’t when he sees a raven in the window, which throughout the season has foretold the beginning of an important event (a reference to Odin’s ravens Huginn and Muninn).

Meanwhile, throughout the episode, Jarl Borg has been stoking Rollo’s resentment for Ragnar with both tales of his own brother and by rubbing Ragnar’s success in Rollo’s face.  When negotiations inevitably break down, it is Rollo that he approaches to join him, and much to my dismay, Rollo agrees to join him.  A part of me knows that Rollo is already lost, but another part hopes for there to be some sort of plan in place that will be revealed next season.

The season ends on a sort of cliff-hanger ending that has left fans both emotionally compromised and hungry for more.  Personally, I’m hoping to see more of Aslaug as well as more of Lagertha and Siggy’s friendship, because let’s be honest, the only thing cooler than two amazing female characters, is even more amazing female characters.  I’d also love to see more of what Rollo is up to, and see Ragnar deal with the trouble back home as well.

However, only time will tell.  What are you hoping to see next season?  Will Siggy and Lagertha become even closer following their family tragedies?  How will Ragnar deal with the results of his tryst with Aslaug?  What exactly is Rollo planning?  And last but not least, where is Athelstan’s character development headed?  Let me know your thoughts on the finale and for next season in the comments!

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2 Responses

  1. I, too, felt deep emotion from scene to scene of the finale. This series is masterfully written with a literary tone and historically accuracy. Although we all could probably see Ragnar’s infidelity to Lagertha coming given all of the foreshadowing in “Sacrifice,” it still hurt to watch it unfold in “All Change.” Even if it Michael Hirst finds the storyline involving Aslaug historically accurate, I hope he deviates slightly and brings Ragnar and Lagertha back together. I am a sucker for a happy ending.

  2. Heck, next series isn’t till 2014? I will have probably forgotten it by then and moved onto something else. Same with Downton Abbey. Have kind of left it behind and moved on.