A Good Treason
Kill The Queen
What Might Have Been
The Profit and The Loss
Death All Round
The Last Ship
In the Uncertain Hour Before the Morning
All His Angels
The Great Army
On The Eve
After Ragnar’s devastating loss in the raid on Paris, Season 4 picks up where it left off last year in a newly revamped format of 20 episodes. With a slower pace and numerous subplots excluding the Vikings in both Wessex and Paris, this history-based drama feels stretched this season with a change in pace that hurts the overall impact the show once had. Although still historically accurate for the most part, Vikings loses the intensity and edge in seasons past with a stretched 20 episode structure that hinders the show’s progress.
Season 4 feels very much like a transitional season. The first 10 episodes tackle Ragnar’s internal and external scars as he struggles to retain the same authority he once had over the Viking clans following their crushing defeat in Paris. With Rollo switching sides and marrying the Princess in Paris, the first 10 episodes sees a growing feud between Rollo and Ragnar as they prepare (and eventually take part in) a battle to decide the fate of both characters. The second half of the season jumps forward a few years to show Bjorn leading the armies and the rest of Ragnar’s children old enough to begin fighting. On the surface, there appears to be an awful lot going on this season but the slow pace and lack of any sort of meaningful drama involving the Vikings themselves sucks the life out of a show that feels lost and lethargic for vast periods of this 20 episode season.
Some of the fault lies with the scriptwriters for the lack of direction this year and with 20 episodes rather than 10, there’s an awful lot of runtime to fill. Subplots and dragged out storylines that never lead anywhere significant dampen some of the good character work done and although the back end of this season picks up the tempo slightly, it all feels a little too late. Ragnar’s downfall is mercilessly dragged out beyond the point of being endearing with his character a shadow of the person he once was. Instead of the charismatic, endearing character of old, Ragnar is reduced to a grating, aimless drug addict for vast periods of this season. This alone would be okay as his character does have some good development and inner turmoil shown but being dragged across so many episodes makes it tedious. Ragnar isn’t the sole victim of this either, for much of the season’s 20 episodes characters aimlessly indulge in uninteresting subplots only to have them abruptly end or resolve in an unsatisfying fashion.
Whereas in seasons past the focus would solely remain on the Vikings, season 4 changes to show the different Kings and Queens in regions across the known world. From King Ecbert in England to Rollo in Paris and then back to the various Viking clans including Lagertha, Bjorn and Ragnar, there’s no denying that the viewpoint feels stretched this year. Although these varying viewpoints are handled well for the most part and retain the same great visuals and costume design the show has always excelled in in the past, the script accompanying the show feels directionless as characters lackadasically shuffle from one set piece to the next with the odd fight scene thrown in to try and break the monotony.
There’s glimmers of Vikings’ past glory here but its lost in a bloated, overlong, directionless season. The new 20 episode arc destroys the quick-paced intensity that was once a staple of the show and instead replaces it with questionable subplots and various character arcs that never really lead anywhere. It’s a shame too as Vikings had some promise but the fourth season feels lost for most of its runtime, lacking urgency for vast periods of the season. The acting is still good for the most part and the fight scenes are well choreographed but Vikings feels like a shadow of the show it once was. Hopefully the fifth season can improve but as it stands, the fourth season of Vikings is lacklustre in comparison to what’s come before in the show’s history.
Verdict - 6/10