Following Segeste’s bombshell reveal, episode 6 of Barbarians begins the finale with Ari eventually admitting that the betrayal is true. He speaks so plainly that Varus eventually laughs and tells Segeste that he’s the liar and traitor.
In the wake of this, Varus asks Ari to forgive him for doubting his true loyalty to the empire.
Outside , Ari walks past the cages and notices Folkwin trapped inside. The two talk without facing one another, eventually ending with Folkwin heading up to Talio and commanding him to start moving his men. This is the signal for the armies to begin marching against Thusnelda and the others in the forest.
This river of steel – 3 legions deep – marches toward them as the barbarians pray for their safety. Thusnelda in particular kneels beneath the ash-seared roots until her former betrothed, Hadgan, arrives desperate to make good on her Father’s promise.
Instead, Thusnelda brandishes a knife and stops him in his tracks. Unfortunately Hadgan betrays her and takes his men and leaves. As he does, Thusnelda shows the others how serious to the cause she is, severing her eye with a knife.
As the army approaches the forest, Ari is tasked with riding ahead with a small band of horseback riders. On the way, he throws up after remembering moments from the past involving Varus. However, the trap is laid and the legion find themselves walking right into it.
Our barbarians, led by Thusnelda sporting an eyepatch, prepare to battle. A barrage of arrows knock down the numbers until it’s safe for the barbarians to attack head-on. Blood is spilled, Arminius turns to the barbarians’ cause and the vanguard is wiped out. News of this reaches Varus who turns his army around – just as planned.
From the tree line, Thusnelda and Ari light the fires and divide the soldiers up into squares so they can’t regroup or strike together. It’s a bloody, brilliant clash of swords and shields, with the Germanic people desperate to maintain their freedom.
In the midst of this, Varus watches on in shock as he sees his foster son fighting against the Romans. It’s a difficult pill to swallow, one that sees him both pained and angered by this betrayal.
Removing his armour, Varus steps forward and kneels close by to Ari. Leaning forward, he falls on his sword and sacrifices himself. Que sera sera.
Segestes turns coats once more and is the one to remove Varus’ head, lifting it up for all to see as they claim victory.
In the aftermath of the battle, Thusnelda confirms that Ari is their king despite him knowing Folkwin was alive all this time. Eventually Thusnelda and Folkwin talk, with the former unsure whether to rule alongside Ari or not.
As Folkwin walks away, Ari corners him and encourages Folkwin to be his second in command and a Prince. Folkwin shoots daggers his way and tells Ari that if he does become the King of the tribes, then he’ll be the first to kill him.
As the seers arrive at camp, they comment discreetly how Thusnelda is pregnant. Ari meanwhile, sees the ominous omen of a wolf.
The final scene of the series sees a rider take off with the severed head of Varus. What will happen next? Well, wouldn’t you know it another Netflix cliffhanger!
The Episode Review
We might have to start a poll on this site at the end of every Netflix Original and make bets over whether it’ll be cancelled or not. Given the rate that Netflix are pulling the trigger, this may yet be another casualty.
All joking aside, Barbarians leaves the best till last as the final glorious battle is played out for all to see. Although it’s quite small scale and not really worth the 5 episode wait, there’s enough here to enjoy nonetheless.
What the show could do without however, is the love triangle brewing at the end. I’m not quite sure why that was injected as it disrupts the pace of the show and cheapens the juxtaposition of the supernatural and spiritual elements.
This characterisation has been a constant problem with this show, with Barbarians really struggling to step out from the shadow of Vikings. Both Folkwin and Thusnelda feel like Ragnar and Lagertha clones. That’s to say nothing of the Romans themselves who are all mentioned by first names but yet don’t have enough charisma to fill these roles, which is a shame.
I can’t help but feel like this could have worked better with a bit of humanizing on both sides. Aside from Folkwin, there really isn’t a whole lot of compassion from the Romans and the abundance of characters have very little depth.
Segestes for example, remains slimy and despicable right the way through the show with no comeuppance. Varus dies with little fanfare either- and Ari isn’t even the one to do it!
Still, the series definitely whets the appetite for more (and we’ll have a separate article with 10 alternate shows to watch of course) but the consistent trend of irritating open cliffhangers certainly takes the edge off what’s otherwise a relatively entertaining series. It’s certainly not without its problems, but this one definitely leaves the door open for an exciting follow-up season.