Black Panther review

Black Panther has been one of the most anticipated Marvel films of recent memory. There’s always a certain level of hype around Marvel’s superhero outings but the real, looking forward to it all week, booking tickets early, arriving before the crowds kind of eagerness only comes out with the big get togethers or the big risk films. Black Panther quite possibly fits best in the latter category but while other films are risks in terms of money or for the franchise, Black Panther is a social risk.

It’s unlikely that you won’t have heard by now that Black Panther is the first superhero movie to feature a predominantly black cast. The hero is black, his love interest is black, he hails from a black country full of black people, his house guard is made up of black women with shaved heads, his sister is a black genius providing tech support, his best friend who betrays him is black, the villain is black, the rival who winds up supporting the hero is black. If there’s a trope that you can think of it’s almost certainly in this film and it’s played by a black person.

Some of you might be wondering what’s the risk? Black people have been in movies for years. But some other people are also questioning why this movie had to be made at all. Afterall acting is about talent, not the colour of the actors skin. And that would be fine and true if we lived in a world where such things as acting weren’t influenced by ideas of marketing and profit. So it becomes a case where many black people aren’t cast in films because a white actor might bring in more money or because of some notion that only black people go to watch black people in films. Like you could make a film full of black people and show it in some black neighbourhood in America and it would sell well but it wouldn’t sell as well outside of that area.

Chadwick Boseman and Michael B Jordan as the cousins Black Panther and Killmonger in Marvel's Black Panther.

Awkward family reunion…

Therein lies the risk. Black Panther is a battle cry, a standing up and being named and shouting in its loudest, proudest voice that it can make just as much money as any Marvel movie full of white people. The risk is that if it doesn’t work and people don’t see it or it doesn’t make its return then it will seem to confirm all of what people say about black actors in film. They’ll say that it appealed to a key demographic but failed to get anyone else into cinemas. Though as it stands, that’s unlikely to happen. Black Panther is currently set to outstrip Captain America: Civil War in terms of opening numbers.

Beyond race, Black Panther is just a very strong, entertaining outing for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Black Panther is dramatic and funny, balancing between an almost Shakespearean premise and a very modern representation of the oppressed seizing power. T’challa’s relationship with his little sister is light-hearted and natural, the fact that he’s king never seeming to intrude on their familial closeness. Contrast that with his cousin, Erik Killmonger; two men with drastically different life experiences who can’t connect because of the troubles of their fathers. Black Panther has one of the most complex protagonist-antagonist relationships yet and there’s a whole lot more that could have been explored which the film just doesn’t have time for.

The actors themselves really sell the roles. Chadwick Boseman and Michael B Jordan are the linchpins of a strong cast but it’s Letitia Wright and Danai Gurira who steal every scene they’re in. Honorable mention goes to Winston Duke as M’Baku who stands out despite a very limited appearance. In the hands of a lesser actor, the role could have been one dimensional, but Duke brings a real personality to the character.

Winston Duke plays the gorilla faced rival M'Baku in Marvel's Black Panther.

Does M’Baku mean arbitrary in Wakandean?

For all that Black Panther does right, its flaws lie in the final battle between T’challa and Killmonger. The battle takes place in vibranium mines on the track of a hover train between social pillars while the two costumed characters fight. The result is a very CGI heavy fight which fails to impress because the visual effects distract from the actual combat. There’s also nothing intense about the fight. I enjoyed the build up but it’s clear that T’challa has to be around for Thanos’ arrival, so of course he’s going to overcome Killmonger. So all in all when it comes to the final fight, it’s just sort of lacking.

Part of the reason for this disappointment is because Erik Killmonger is a very well developed antagonist. The film spends almost as much time depicting Killmongers journey as it does to T’Challa. So much so that it almost feels like he deserved more than one film. Instead his life long ambition is snuffed out relatively quick but the repercussions are felt thereafter as Wakanda does become less isolationist. It’s rare for an antagonist to actually change the hero’s ideology in a superhero movie.

So Black Panther has a lot to be celebrated, whether it be culturally, racially or just purely from a cinematic perspective. Or maybe you thought it out and out sucked? Well then get on the comments below and let me know. Or if social media is more your speed, I’m on most of them so fire me a tweet, a post or a message on your preferred platform. Also, if you want to read more from me, you can find my novel, Carrion Youth, available to read over on swoonreads.com. As ever thanks for reading.

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Vikings Season 5 Episode 10: Senior Moments

Contrary to the mostly critical reaction to Vikings season 5, I’ve been quite forgiving of this season. It’s understandable that, this being the first full season without Ragnar Lothbrok, there would be some kinks to iron out. And I stand by my reviews, which you are free to read and take issue with if you want. Each episode is a solid effort at entertaining and progressing the story. However, the season as a whole is a waste of promising starts and unfinished thoughts, accumulating in a finale that is utterly frustrating.

The decision to structure the final battle as a mosaic of character moments before and during the fighting must have seemed inspired. Rather than having another battle episode so soon after the last, they could frame this battle from the perspective of each character, jumping throughout the timeline of the battle. As an idea, it’s a creative solution to avoid repetition. In execution however, it just simply doesn’t work.

The point of building up to something is the satisfaction of seeing the thing you’ve waited forever to see actually happen. It’s like two characters falling in love and then having their first kiss happen off screen. The final battle depicted in ‘Moments of Vision’ is unintentionally anticlimactic because we don’t really get to see very much of the battle. We see little flashes here and there of individual characters being killed or spared but it’s impossible to know how the battle is actually going.

Peter Franzén as King Harald Finehair requests that Queen Astrid, played here by Josefin Asplund, cuts his hair in the midseason finale of Vikings season 5.

Astrid: Demon barber of Vestfold.

The intention here was for the battle to be emotional, by showing the characters preparing for battle and then immediately showing the same character in the thick of the fighting, allowing the viewer to connect with that character, rather than perhaps becoming distracted by the progression of the fighting if it had been shown linearly. The problem is that with so much jumping back and forth there’s never really any time to mourn. A character meets their end and the episode instantly jumps to another. The episode lurches around so much that it’s difficult to feel anything other than motion sickness.

Of the deaths themselves, they’re more irritating that sad. What was the point of Björn setting aside Torvi and taking a new Sami wife just for Saefrid to die here? Or for Astrid to be seen by the child during her rape? Their storylines become meaningless because their characters were killed before anything could come of them. Of the character deaths, Halfdan’s was the most sad and his was one of the few character moments that I enjoyed. His talk with Björn about having found something worth living for outside of family and land put the character in perspective. Halfdan was a character defined by being the brother of Harald Finehair but this season put considerable work into making the character stand on his own, only for that journey to put him at odds with the brother he once stood with.

The story of Halfdan and Harald is contrasted with that of Ubbe and Hvitserk. While Harald does not hesitate to slay his brother is pursuit of his goal, Ubbe is unable to deal the same blow to Hvitserk. Hvitserk doesn’t even attempt to stop him, Ubbe stops himself every time, eventually turning and leaving his brother. This isn’t done to suggest that Ubbe loves his brother more than Harald loves his, I believe. Instead, it demonstrates how far Harald will go to achieve his dream. For the sake of Kattegat, Ubbe is not willing to kill his own kin, but Harald does.

Clive Standen makes a foreboding return as Rollo in the midseason finale of Vikings Season 5.

How unlikely is it that he brought Gisela with him?

Despite these nice character moments and juxtaposition, ‘Visions of Moments’ still fails to impress over all. While I can appreciate the creativity and the artfullness of the episode, it lacks substance and cohesion. The result is confusing and frustrating rather than emotive, trying much harder to do what a simple straightforward narrative could have achieved. Sometimes the simplest option is the best, an idiom that this episode would have done well to remember.

Peppered throughout the battle were scenes from Kattegat and Iceland. Margrethe is becoming literally insane, teasing the decision to murder Björn’s children in order to move Ubbe up the line of succession. Wisely she doesn’t follow through, probably realising that her head would be next on the chopping block when Björn and Torvi return. Floki, meanwhile, continues to broker peace, though it turns out to be too little too late. In a last ditch attempt to change human nature, he offers himself up as a human sacrifice, though we have to wait until the next part of season 5 to actually see it. And just as the dust settles on the battlefield, Clive Standen rows back into town. Of all the things to look forward to in Season five part b, I’m excited to see Rollo, especially in the absence of Ragnar.

If you enjoyed ‘Moments of Visions’ of thought it was a fitting end to the season, let me know in the comments below. Or send me a comment/tweet via your preferred method of social media. I’m on most of them. If you liked this post and would like to read more, subscribe to keep up to date with new content. And be sure to check out some older posts, such as earlier Viking season 5 episode reviews or this review of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. And if you’ve got your fill of reviews and editorials, I can also offer fiction. You can read my original novel, Carrion Youth, for free online over at swoonreads.com

Vikings Season 5 Episodes 8 and 9 Review

Before I get into the review proper, let me apologise for the lack of review last week for episode 8, ‘The Joke’. I came down with a touch of the flu that seems to be going around at the minute and just didn’t have the energy or mental fortitude to write the review. So this week is going to be something of a combined review, looking at both episodes 8 and 9 of Vikings’ 5th season.

If there has been one consistent criticism of this season of Vikings it is that Ivar has been written too strong. It’s understandable how viewers might feel like that after Ivar and his army rolled over the Saxons repeatedly, but narratively it made sense. There would be little point in Ivar winning by the skin of his teeth in England, only to turn his attention back to his homeland in Kattegat. No one would follow him after such a narrow victory and he wouldn’t really be seen as a threat to Lagertha. Everything before episode 8 was building Ivar up as a credible threat to the Kingdom of Kattegat.

Within the story, Ivar’s seeming invincibility also works because he’s operating from a position of strength. After they take York, thanks to Ubbe’s tactics and memory of Ragnar’s advice, he is able to make use of his position to defend and outsmart the attacking Saxons. That’s not to suggest that Ivar is simply lucky or taking credit for being in the right place at the right time; it’s his tactics and understanding of his enemies that allows him to lure them into situations where he can press his advantage. But, as episode 8 shows, when the sides are flipped and he can’t manipulate the situation, he loses that position of strength.

Alex Høgh and Josefin Asplund as Ivar the Boneless,and Astrid as they listen to the outcome of the battle.

Wait…wait…oops, too late to help.

This is shown in the way that Björn and Ubbe are able telegraph Ivar’s tactics and effectively cut him off, such as utilising the Sami in the woods to negate their use for flanking. Feinting an attack on the ships also allows them to divide the army, lessening the force they have to defeat. Ivar has been built up as an amazing strategist throughout this season and here he is completely outplayed by his brothers. And given the change in circumstances, it makes sense for Ivar to be defeated here without making it seem like that writers just allowed Lagertha and her army to win in order to prolong this Harald Finehair plot.

If episode 8 does have one flaw, it wastes a little too much time on the will they/won’t they prelude to the battle. This is a fight that Vikings has been setting up for over twenty episodes; they weren’t fooling anyone into believing it wasn’t happening and it would be anti-climatic if it hadn’t. Also I found the arguments that brothers shouldn’t fight a bit hard to stomach given that Ragnar and Rollo were at odds numerous times over the past four seasons.

Speaking of Rollo, episode 9 throws Ivar and Harald a saving grace in the form of Rollo’s Frankish soldiers. It is odd that Rollo is able to send his men, a portion of the Frankish army to fight in foreign wars, although maybe he’s able to play it off as part of the deal to keep raiders away from Frankish shores. Mostly though I’m just disappointed that Clive Standen is unable to make an appearance, or Morgane Polanski as Princess Gisla. Their relationship was one of the most interesting parts of season 4 and it’s a pity we can’t see more of it in season 5.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Bishop Heahmund pledges his allegiance to Queen Lagertha, played by  Katheryn Winnick.

God? What God?

Missed opportunities aside, Björn attempts to negotiate peace with Ivar and Harald, which doesn’t work, setting the scene for another battle in next week’s finale. One interesting moment worth noting is that Ivar attempts to have Björn killed but is stopped by Harald because it’s not their way. This is probably pretty smart, given that Hvitserk secured the use of the Frankish soldiers on Rollo’s orders that Björn be spared. Over in Lagertha’s camp, Heahmund pledges his sword to Lagertha, a little too quickly for my taste. Heahmund’s lusts have always been in conflict with his religion but he is overly mesmerised by Lagertha after barely talking. I can buy that Lagertha might be a more acceptable ally for him over Ivar but it would have been preferable if he at least struggled with the choice or if Lagertha’s previous experiences with Æthelstan helped influence him.

In Wessex, Æthelstan’s son Alfred becomes ruler after King Æthelwulf dies of a bee sting and Judith basically forces her first born to give up his birthright. He does and then immediately begins making murder eyes at his brother. This only works if Æthelred is betting on Alfred’s failure so that he can swoop in and save the day, otherwise he gains nothing by refusing the throne and then being upset about it. Sure he might be bitter, but wouldn’t he be more upset at the betrayal of their mother than Alfred? Meanwhile, in Iceland, Floki’s settlement continues to struggle to settle. As with every week, this storyline continues to be so detached from everything else that whether it’s good or bad doesn’t matter because it’s irrelevant.

And that’s the review for episode 8 and 9 done, just in time for the part 1 season finale next week. I think we’ll continue to see a culling of the old guard so to speak, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lagertha and maybe Floki die in episode 10, entitled ‘Moments of Vision’. Though Floki may be the only thing keeping people invested in the Iceland story, but I definitely don’t see Lagertha continue to fend off Harald and Ivar for much longer. It may not be a complete victory for them either but I believe Lagertha will be a casualty either way. To find out how it actually plays out and my thoughts on the episode, check out this blog next week for a review of the finale, all being well. While you wait, you can find my reviews for previous episodes here. To keep up to date with new content you can follow this blog directly or through various social media profiles. If that’s not enough you can also read my novel, Carrion Youth, for free online, over at swoonreads.com. Until next week, thanks for reading.

Vikings Season 5 Episode 7 review: Sami Marriage Customs

After six episodes of losing men, kidnapped lovers and allied enemies, Lagertha finally caught a break. Not only has her son returned to her in this time of need but she also made a valuable alliance with the Sami, somewhat evening the odds against Harald Finehair and Ivar the Boneless. Though not everything is sunshine and daisies now. With Björn comes Harald’s brother, Halfdan, and though he says that he’ll fight with Björn, Lagertha is weary of trusting him. As she points out, his brother gave his word not to go to war and didn’t keep his promise.

Over in Vestfold, trust issues abound also. Ivar’s biggest concern is whether he can trust Bishop Heahmund. Again, these two actors play well off each other and it’s interesting to see the two characters discuss how their religions view something as routine as the moon. But at the core is Ivar’s desire for fame. Ivar wants to be so charismatic and magnetic that people from all walks of life will be drawn to him and praise him. He already recognises Heahmund’s worth as a warrior and wants Heahmund’s respect in return.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Bishop Heahmund, and Alex Høgh as Ivar the Boneless play a board game in season 5, episode 7 of History's Vikings.

Ivar strikes me as the type of player to knock over the board if he starts losing.

Bishop Heahmund, however, does not seem to want to see Ivar as anything other than an inconvenience that God will eventually provide escape from. The determinism discussion is one that has gone on in religious communities since the dawn of time. While the discussion itself is interesting in that we get to see how Heahmund, Ivar and Hvitserk view their own actions, a more immediately practical effect of the conversation is how Ivar dismisses his brother over Heahmund, and that Heahmund is privy to this exchange. Heahmund, though pious, we know from events in the series, is capable of indulging in his darker urges from time to time. He’s not to type to simply sit back and wait for rescue. It seems unlikely that Heahmund will outright betray Ivar, because that would get him killed, but could he cause dissension between the brothers? That seems plausible, and not particularly difficult given already strained relationship between the sons of Ragnar.

Speaking of the sons of Ragnar, Björn and Ubbe are now together in Kattegat and both are making some serious relationship decisions. Björn has what has to be the most amicable divorce ever shown on television, all while making eyes at a Sami Chief’s daughter. Ubbe then immediately kisses Björn’s ex-wife, Torvi, which his wife, Margrethe, witnesses. Not to be deterred, Margrethe confronts Ubbe and tells him of her ambition to go from being a free slave to Queen. It’s getting all very The O.C. in Kattegat. Most of this likely won’t mean anything. Even if Ubbe does end up ruling, it’ll probably be temporary but more probable is that he continues to support Björn, and Margrethe will be murdered before anything can become of her. The most significant development is Björn’s marriage to Snaefrid, which is first of all an important alliance but could also signal that Björn is ready to more seriously rule his father’s kingdom.

Snaefrid was one of the stand-out characters of this episode. While Alexander Ludwig is likeable and has done an excellent job of channelling Travis Fimmel’s Ragnar Lothbrok, there was the risk that Snaefrid would be overshadowed by his character. Snaefrid is silent for a large part of the episode, communicating only through an ambiguous stare, but when her character does speak she commands the scene, and not just because she’s talking about chewing reindeer balls. (Whether that’s a legitimate method of castration is debatable, though it is banned in Norway for what it’s worth.) Her gentle mocking of Björn and confidence solidified the character as engaging. It’s the type of character that I hope we get to see more of. Though hopefully Björn doesn’t become a character with numerous adventures that could be developed but aren’t.

Despite having such a large role last week, Astrid is relegated to one scene in ‘Full Moon’. Initially it seemed like the sickness was just a result of the violent sexual assault from ‘The Message’ but if that was the case it seems risky for Astrid to proclaim that she might be with child. Instead, her awkwardness and apprehension can be interpreted as her knowing that even if she is with child, it is likely not Harald’s. And she’s still possibly unsure as to whether Harald knows or not. It’s possible that the peeking child is a red herring, but more probable is that he’s a Chekov’s gun. Maybe Harald doesn’t know yet, but that gun will fire.

Alexander Ludwig as Bjorn Ironside, meets Snaefrid, played by Dagny Backer Johnson, in season 5, episode 7 of History's Vikings.

It’s not like Ragnar’s courting abilities were much better.

The rest of the episode is filled with side stories of Floki’s settlement in Iceland and Alfred’s visit to Lindisfarne, both of which are unnecessary and distracting. The Icelandic settlement has devolved into another power struggle, and an illogical one at that. It’s pretty simply resolved by Floki simply not taking any title or role as King, which has never been his ambition. If anything, Floki is the seer that people go to for advice and gives cryptic statements that confuse as much as they help. Meanwhile, Alfred’s plot was fairly pointless. He didn’t learn anything of note about Æthelstan, so all it served to do was make some heavy-handed nods towards Alfred’s future church reforms and some sort of dual spirit prayer. Don’t get me wrong, I like both these characters. I just wish they were being given something interesting and worthwhile to do.

With ‘Full Moon’ wrapped up, all that’s left is to wait for the big battle in next week’s episode, somewhat humorously titled, ‘The Joke’. While you wait for episode 8, you can read up on reviews of the first six reviews here. There are also film reviews, such as the recent review of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Or you can find my review of Battle of the Sexes on moviequotesandmore.com. If all of that has whet your appetite, satisfy your hunger with some original fiction by reading my novel, Carrion Youth, for free online over at Swoonreads.com. Until next time, thanks for reading.

Vikings Season 5 Episode 6 Review: Stranger in a Strange Land

Another week, another Vikings review. This week in episode 6, entitled ‘The Message’, Ivar makes a plan with King Harald Finehair, Astrid undergoes horrific circumstances in order to warn Lagertha, Floki’s group has a mole and Björn’s fate in the desert is revealed. Starting from the last point, despite the dire situation Björn and Halfdan were in at the end of last week, theirs is actually the most simple and disappointing part of this week’s episode. They simply block the swinging swords and escape under the cover of the sandstorm. They’re later seen sailing for Kattegat, reducing this storyline to naught. Hopefully, after this war with Harald and Ivar, Björn will return to the Mediterranean, similar to how Ragnar returned to England and Paris. For Vikings to set up this location and these characters with their relationships, it would be underwhelming if this wound up being a one and done excursion that ended in failure.

Instead, much of the run time was devoted to Astrid this week. Astrid is an odd character and one that I’ve never fully connected or engaged with. She showed up last season as a lover of Lagertha while also acting as something of a bodyguard. Largely though her function seemed to be to bolster the ranks of Lagertha’s all female council. Despite generally being loyal, she has shown some shades of rebellion, namely when she was upset at Lagertha for not trusting her and slept with Björn as a means of revenge. But as the story has shifted further and further away from Kattegat, Astrid’s role hasn’t felt important.

This season suddenly thrust the shieldmaiden into the forefront of the looming war between Harald and Lagertha. Her kidnapping by Harald was unexpected but it also seemed like Harald was able to offer her something that she wanted. Though she was Lagertha’s lover, she would never be queen, but she could be with Harald. Again, she’d disagreed with Lagertha previously, and this seemed like an opportunity for her realise some of her ambition. And she really seemed to be coming around to the idea, frolicking and flirting with Harald at the beginning of this episode. By the episode’s end though, it was all revealed to be an act, and Astrid was being gang-raped by some fishermen to ensure a warning got to Lagertha.

Astrid, played by Josefin Asplund, makes a traumatic sacrifice to warn Kattegat of impending attack in 'The Message', episode 6 of season 5 of History's Vikings.

Astrid, just before the scene in question.

It was a horrible situation for Astrid to be in and seems to underline her loyalty to Lagertha. Worse still is that in the next scene, Lagertha is praising the fisherman for being an ally of Astrid’s. It was more surprising that they delivered the message since they run a lot less risk of just taking what they wanted from Astrid and then just saying they delivered the message without actually doing so. Hopefully, Astrid finds some way of exacting revenge on these men before the season’s end, but that’s only if Harald doesn’t discover Astrid’s treachery before they attack. There was a child just outside during that rape scene.

One of the consistently enjoyable scenes of this season is the interaction of Ivar and Heahmund, first from a far on the battlefield and now in their jail discussions. Ivar connects with Heahmund and reveals details of his life that he wouldn’t with anyone else. Though it’s not as friendly as Ragnar and Æthelstan, Ivar does seem to trust Heahmund, confiding in him in the way one might to a Bishop or Priest. It’s interesting how Ivar is engaging with the religious figure despite not following the religion himself.

It’s also notable that Ivar knows not to make this about religion. Heahmund states that he will gladly die for his faith, but Ivar points out that he’s a prisoner of war. If he isn’t going to be killed because of his faith, he can’t be considered a martyr. Ivar takes the steam out of Heahmund’s argument, leaving Heahmund only with the choice of fight and live or refuse and die. Ivar is trusting in Heahmund’s desire to live, of the weakness of the flesh and his love of fighting. And by the episode’s end, Heahmund is on board with killing more ‘heathens’.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers' Bishop Heahmund is brought before Ivar to choose whether or not to fight for the Vikings in 'The Message', the sixth episode of the fifth season of History's Vikings.

He’s crazy but at least he’s on our side.

The rest of the episode is devoted to the young Prince Alfred and Floki’s people arriving in Iceland. In Iceland, they find it doesn’t quite live up to Floki’s hype but they’ve set to go inland and find the hot springs and fertile volcanic ground. Alfred, on the other hand, makes a promise to his grandfather, King Ecbert, to drive out the pagans and restore the kingdom. Part one of this plan is to visit Lindisfarne to connect with the memory of his birth father. While the intention of this quest is interesting, what can Lindisfarne really teach Alfred? Much of Æthelstan’s personal understanding and revelation of God came after his abduction in places such as Kattegat and Wessex. This is likely just a narrative opportunity to underline Alfred’s piety and possibly provide another vision.

Perhaps it’s all the turkey I’ve consumed in the past week, but this episode was rather detached. There were a couple bright spots, however, ‘The Message’ is very evidently gearing up for a battle so much of this episode is just posturing and moving the pieces into place. Though given the whole ‘two moons’ deadline it’s unlikely that the battle will even come next week. Hopefully episode 7, ‘Full Moon’ will feature more Ivar and Heahmund and less rape.

As always, thanks for reading. If you’d like to read my previous reviews of this season of Vikings, you can find them here. While you’re there you might also one to check out my film reviews such as my recent review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. To keep up to date with content posted to this blog, hit the subscribe button or follow me on social media. I’m on most of them. Finally, while you polish off the last of the mince pies, you can read my own novel, Carrion Youth, for free online over at Swoonreads.com. Until next week.

Vikings Season 5 Episode 5 Review: Pride before aFall

Vikings season 5 reached its half way point this week in its 5th episode, ‘The Prisoner’. In this episode, there are consequences to the Saxon’s attack on York, Ivar and Hvitserk make new plans, Floki returns to Kattegat and Björn finds his life under threat in Africa.

‘The Prisoner’ doesn’t pick up exactly where ‘The Plan’ left off. Instead, the Norse wait for King Æthelwulf and Bishop Heahmund to bring more of their forces into York before they pop up from the old Roman sewer tunnels and begin their ambush. Heahmund is still uneasy but it isn’t until he sees more rats above ground that he realises that the rats have been scared out of their nests. Too late he realises that the Heathen Army are luring them into York under false pretences by which point the attack is already underway.

The thread of hubris on the part of the Christians continues in this episode. Though Heahmund had wanted to wait, the siege had never succeeded in starving out the Norse anyway. The Saxon’s, believing that with God on their side, their plan can’t possibly fail march into the city and succumb to superior strategy and planning. Even once the ambush is underway Æthelwulf is reluctant to retreat, despite being unprepared and outnumbered. When he returns to camp he says to Judith ‘I thought at last God had seen fit to be merciful unto us’. The Christians believe to believe that victory will fall onto their laps because of their religious superiority whereas the Norse pagans are able to survive and win because of their shrewd military tactics.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the warrior priest Bishop Heahmund after having been captured by Ivar the Boneless in the fifth episode of History's Vikings' fifth season.

It could be worse. At least they’re not eating you.

The most important outcome of this ambush is that Bishop Heahmund is captured by Ivar. The two have a conversation about their religions, with Heahmund offering to bring Ivar to Christendom and Ivar deciding to bring Heahmund to Kattegat so that he can learn more of the pagans. I’ve been iffy on Heahmund thus far but I enjoyed the dynamic between Heahmund and Ivar. It harkens back to Ragnar and Æthelstan; a Viking sails to England and captures a religious figure and brings him back to his homeland and in doing so they learn more of each other, their cultures and their religions. The main difference being that Ragnar and Æthelstan were much more open to learn from each other than Ivar and Heahmund. There’s little chance of these two ending up as friends as Ragnar and Æthelstan did, but it wouldn’t be the strangest or most ahistorical thing to happen on Vikings.

As Ivar and Hvitserk head to Scandinavia to pledge their support to Harold Finehair, though they intend to double cross him later, Floki arrives in Kattegat. It’s nice that the writers are finally giving Gustaf Skarsgård more to do than run around an empty island. And it’s really starting to feel that everything is just falling apart for Lagertha. Despite having Ubbe at her side, she’s lost her closest adviser, men are rallying behind her enemies and now Floki has arrived to take away her warriors to settle in new lands. There’s a similarity here as well to season one where Ragnar wanted to sail for new lands against the wishes of Earl Haraldson. In this situation though Lagertha has become Earl Haraldson and we all know how that ended last time. Floki isn’t likely to challenge her but her fear of being deposed has caused her to become more and more insular.

Much further south, Björn and Halfdan meet with Emir Ziyadat Allah. Björn begins negotiations with Ziyadat for a trade deal while the Emir supplies them with women (sort of) and drugs. These things turn out to be a distraction while Euphemius is captured, butchered and served up for dinner. Sinric insinuates that Kassia is pulling the strings behind the Emir and that they’re to be next. Turns out that he’s right, as the three of them are captured and prepared to be executed, just as a sandstorm appears on the horizons.

Alexander Ludwig and Frankie McCafferty as Björn and Sinric in the fifth episode of History's Vikings' fifth season.

Vikings: More bothered by betrayal than cannibalism.

While the story is engaging, largely through the charisma and presence of Alexander Lugwig and Jasper Pääkkönen, the cultures and people that they interact are largely underdeveloped and generic. With time, these characters and locations could be explored but the Africa plotline moves at such a fast pace, from meeting the Emir to being betrayed in the space of a couple of scenes, that audiences never really get a chance to become more invested. Remember Vikings spent four seasons allowing viewers to become acquainted with England and its characters. No way they can replicate that in Sicily and Africa in a few episodes.

The question is where does this storyline go from here. There’s no way the show is killing off Björn and Halfdan, who are too important narratively and historically. So, do Björn and company simply escape and never return? Will they come back for revenge? One thing of interest is that Kassia is from the Byzantine Empire and the Emir slaughtered Euphemius because of his supposed contact with the emperor. The Empire is this large, looming presence in the Mediterranean and Middle East and Vikings would be remiss not to explore it. Whether that means Björn and Halfdan working with or against the Byzantine Empire, I don’t know.

So, ends another solid episode of Vikings season 5. If you enjoyed it, let me know in the comments below of through social media. And if you hated it, let me hear it anyways. If you enjoyed this article, you can find my reviews of Vikings episodes 1, 2, 3 and 4 in the archives. Or check out my review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Furthermore, I have a review of Battle of the Sexes over on moviequotesandmore.com. Or if fiction is more your thing, you can find my novel, Carrion Youth, to read for free over on swoonreads.com.

Star Wars The Last Jedi Review: The Mystery Box Strikes Back.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi was always going to have an uphill struggle compared to The Force Awakens. With Episode VII, audiences hadn’t had a proper Star Wars film to sink their teeth into in over a decade and those last films were the prequel trilogy which had left a bad taste in their mouths. So, audiences were desperate for new Star Wars and so long as it was good it would cleanse their palette of the prequels. And The Force Awakens was good, if a little too similar to A New Hope, but that was a flaw that fans could accept, at least for now. But The Last Jedi comes on the heels of that film which began a new generation of Star Wars fandom, and of an extended universe including films such as Rogue One. Suddenly, thanks to Disney, fans are spoiled for Star Wars content in a way they weren’t just a few years ago. To compete and live up to expectations The Last Jedi can’t just be good. To inspire those same fans, to assuage their fears and spark interest in future instalments, The Last Jedi needed to do more than The Force Awakens. It needed to be great.

Unfortunately, The Last Jedi is just good. The film is full of strong premises, such as Poe Dameron learning the burden of leadership isn’t just big showy battles and heroic risk-taking, or Finn sneaking on to The First Order ship to disable their tracking software, or Rey finding Luke Skywalker and learning that the origins of Kylo Ren are much more grey than light or dark. These are all great ideas with promise and potential and some of that is realised largely through the strong acting of the cast. But even stellar performances all around can’t help that in execution a lot of these plotlines don’t really go anywhere and leave the audience empty and dissatisfied.

There are going to be spoilers ahead, so if you’ve yet to watch the film, go do that first. And for the record I do think this film is worth seeing, at least once, but don’t expect to be blown away. Anyway, as an example of this premise vs. execution, let’s look at Poe Dameron. Poe begins the film in a big space battle with a dreadnought. He takes out the ships surface cannons and then calls in bombers to take down the ship proper. And while this does happen it costs a lot of casualties, with many of the bombers being blown up before they can release their cargo. And even when the Resistance/New Republic escape they find that the First Order can now track them through lightspeed, so they lost a lot of good soldiers and still didn’t actually shake the First Order off their tail.

Oscar Isaac as the heroic daredevil pilot Poe Dameron in Star Wars Episode VIII The Last Jedi.

If anyone winds up being related to Jyn Erso, it’ll be Poe.

For this Poe is demoted and although there’s a new plan to escape, he’s basically shut out of it. Poe, believing that the leaders don’t have a plan, hatches a daring scheme of his own where Finn and their new engineer friend Rose sneak off to find a codebreaker and sneak into the First Order command vessel and disarm the tracking software while Poe mutinies and warpspeeds away when they can’t be tracked. However, it turns out the leaders do have a plan, one that involves sneaking away under the radar and a plan that is later revealed to the First Order by the codebreaker. So, everything would have gone off without a hitch had Poe, Finn and Rose not tried to do anything.

The problem with this plot is that it relies on none of the characters talking or communicating with one another. Had Admiral Holdo simply explained the plan to Poe he at least wouldn’t have felt the need to do something to ensure the survival of the Resistance. Had Poe brought his scheme to Holdo perhaps she could have been able to provide support. It’s like one of those will they-won’t they plots from sitcoms where two characters don’t know how the other feels because they just won’t talk to each other. It’s incredibly frustrating to watch.

Episode VIII also wastes several plots that had been set up from the previous episode. Usually sequels develop or expand on threads from the first film but here The Last Jedi mostly ignores or drops a lot of the storylines, such as who is Snoke and Rey’s lineage. Now, honestly, I’m fine with Rey’s parents being junk traders who sold her for money (though it raises the question of why she’s not in servitude in The Force Awakens); it turns the Darth Vader reveal from Empire Strikes Back on its head and subverts expectations. But the fact that it comes along with so many other questions being ignored, like why Luke left a map if he didn’t want to be found, or wrapped up without ceremony, such as Captain Phasma’s swift exit, means that the mystery around Rey gets lost under all the other disappointment.

Adam Driver as the conflicted former protege of Luke Skywalker who turned to the dark side, Kylo Ren, in Star Wars Episode VIII The Last Jedi.

He certainly has inherited Anakin’s inability to handle rejection.

For this I actually don’t blame Rian Johnson, although I’ll get to why he doesn’t get off scot free in a moment. I blame J. J. Abrams. This is not the first project where Abrams has basically set up a bunch of questions and mysteries without any idea how it all plays out and then left it up to someone else to come up with the answers. And when those mysteries are legion and hyped up, it’s difficult to avoid disappointment. And I’m not just gleaming this from his works, Abrams has talked about this at TED where he discusses mystery being more important than knowledge and infinite possibilities. That’s where Abrams is coming from when he’s writing and producing these shows and films and again it always falls to someone else to make sense of these mysteries for some kind of pay off and at a certain point people realise that you can’t explain all these mysteries without two and a half hours of scrolling text so in the interest of a comprehensible narrative some mysteries have to be jettisoned. Does knowing that make me any happier about how it was done? No. It was still underwhelming and dissatisfying, but I suppose at least I know why it was underwhelming and dissatisfying.

As I said though, Rian Johnson doesn’t get off that easy. There are pacing and tone issues which are absolutely his doing. Star Wars has always had comedy. It’s interweaving of westerns and dramas and comedies and science fiction and a whole slew of other genres is part of what makes it so unique and special in the hearts of fans. But the comedy in The Last Jedi feels like a parody of itself. Like the transmission call that Poe makes to General Hux in the beginning of the movie where he keeps pretending to be on hold and not able to hear Hux’s tirade and insults sounds like something Seth McFarlane would do on Family Guy rather than part of an actual Star Wars script. Furthermore, the Canto Bight section lasts far too long and is bogged down with a ‘the source of all war is greed’ message. When it all comes together what we get is a film that’s still several rewrites away from release.

So, this has been a bit of a long one, but necessary because to really get into why The Last Jedi is how it is, it takes a bit of dissecting. The take away is that hardcore fans will be disappointed, but Episode VIII will more than suffice for a winter outing this Christmas. Conversely, if you thought it was great and that I’m out of my mind, hit me up on the comments or social media with your opinions. If you enjoyed this review and want to read more from me, I’m currently doing a serial review of Vikings season 5, or you can find other film reviews in the archives. Hit the follow button to subscribe and keep up to date with new content on his blog. And since it is winter, why not curl up by the fire with my own novel, Carrion Youth, which you can read for free at swoonreads.com.

Vikings Season 5 Episode 4 review: Gang Aft A-gley

This week’s episode, the fourth of the season, of Vikings is entitled ‘The Plan’ and unsurprisingly everyone has a plan. Heahmund and Æthelwulf choose to lay siege to the city of York after their initial frontal assault failed, Ubbe returns to Kattegat and makes a pact with Lagertha, Astrid makes her own choice regarding Harold Finehair and Björn arrives in the Mediterranean. Of these stories, it’s the Saxon’s plan and Björn’s plotting in Sicily that take up most of the run time but mostly this episode is just setting up events to come.

Clearly Æthelwulf reads this blog because he questions Heahmund over the same issues that I raised about letting Ubbe and Hvitserk go free last week. Heahmund is too grounded in his faith to give any ground, figuratively or literally, to the pagan Norsemen, and instead claims to have had a vision in which they starve the heathen army out of York. Æthelwulf seems initially reluctant given their weakened forces but eventually goes along with the plan. Later, when it seems that the Norsemen have sailed away, Æthelwulf pulls rank and decides to enter the city, bolstered with re-enforcements from Northumbria.

The dissension between Æthelwulf and Heahmund is interesting, though not surprising given the previous defeat. It’s particularly noteworthy because Æthelwulf rightly accuses Heahmund of being less humble than he seems and reminding the bishop of his status. Notably, this scene comes on the heels of the Northumbrian lord swearing fealty to Æthelwulf as Bretwalda, so it could be that having others in his command has made Æthelwulf realise how Heahmund treats him. When Æthelwulf chooses to advance on York Heahmund does not ask him to reconsider. He simply says ‘no’. You don’t just say ‘no’ to your king. I’m curious as to how this plot will progress. Will there be a struggle between God and king as to who Heahmund serves much like Henry VIII? Will Æthelwulf simply have to put Heahmund in his place? Or will Æthelwulf’s unwillingness to listen be his own downfall?

Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Moe Dunford appear as Bishop Heahmund and King Æthelwulf of Wessex in the fifth season of History's Vikings.

And I bet we’ll never see those dirty pagans ever again.

The latter seems likely, at least in the short term. While the Saxon’s siege York and attack any hunting parties preventing any new food entering the city, Ivar exacts his own plan. Much like the battle last week, Ivar uses tricks and sleights of hand to manipulate the Saxons. This involves mimicking the burning of bodies to deceive Æthelwulf and Heahmund into believing that the Norsemen are starving and burning the bodies of their dead. Their ships then sail off leaving York dishevelled and overrun by animals. But Heahmund notices that something is off and…that’s where the episode ends. But Ivar has thus far been one step ahead of the Saxons at every turn and I don’t expect next week to be much different.

Over in the Mediterranean, Sinric, Björn’s guide, convinces him to sail towards Sicily rather than Rome. There, Björn meets with Euphemius who claims to rule the entire island and has abducted Kassia, a Byzantine abbess. However, through Sinric, Björn learns that Euphemius is in fact an under-lord to a Muslim Emir in Africa. Björn wishes to meet this Emir but Euphemius refuses until Kassia demands that he fulfil a promise by taking her to meet him.

Björn’s scenes in Sicily are reminiscent of early Vikings episodes. While with Ivar, we know the Saxons are their enemies, here we don’t yet know who can be trusted and who might betray them. In the early episodes we knew the Vikings were there to raid Northumbria but we didn’t know how Aelle would react; would he buy off the Vikings or attempt to ambush them? When he tries to ambush them he learn that Aelle is not a man of his word and can’t be trusted. It’s cool to see the characters in new environments and new locations but more so it’s engaging to see them interact with new characters who we don’t know. There’s definitely something shifty about Euphemius but question of whether he or Kassia can be trusted hangs over the story which makes the narrative infinitely more compelling to watch.

Alexander Ludwig as Björn Ironside in 'The Plan', the fourth episode of the fifth season of History's Vikings.

Imagine if they hadn’t introduced themselves as traders.

Less compelling are the other storylines. I continue to be underwhelmed and wanting by the storylines of Lagertha and Finehair. As I mentioned in the premiere review, it’s obvious the these storylines are building towards something, and Lagertha’s pact with Ubbe and Harold’s marriage to Astrid are both important events, but there are much more interesting things going on in the world of Vikings. Instead of being invested I just spend these scenes waiting for the story to get back to England or Italy. Thankfully these scenes are short.

In other news, Floki, having not died, decides he can’t keep the land of the gods, or Iceland as we know it, all to himself. So he plans to sail off and bring others there so they can create a settlement, free of any outside religious influences. Part of me finds this story dull too but another part of me can’t wait to see Floki’s face when the first Christian missionary arrives on his shores.

All in all another solid episode from this season of Vikings, again proving that it can be consistently entertaining without Ragnar Lothbrok. If you miss the days of Ragnar or what a theory for Ivar’s plan, gimme a shout in the comments below or on social media. If you enjoyed this review, check out the reviews of Vikings season 5 episodes 1,2 and 3. Also check out my review of Jumanji: Welcome to the JungleAnd if you’re still found wanting after that, check out my novel, Carrion Youth, which you can read for free over on swoonreads.com.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle review

If you go to the cinema to see Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle expecting more than a fun, light-hearted action adventure then you’re in for some disappointment. Not that any of that is bad; Jumanji is what it is (silly and undemanding) but when you scratch beneath the surface there’s nothing else really there. If you want something deeper wait for Darkest Hour in January or if you just want your action adventure to have more substance Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi is in cinemas. If you’re alright with switching off and forgetting about all the stress of Christmas shopping and cooking and family, then Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle might just be what you need.

The story follows four teens who, for various reasons, get detention. Part of their detention involves cleaning out an old basement where they find an old game console and decide to try it out. Booting up the game causes the four to be sucked into the game and take on the role of their avatars, who are all much different than their real life counterparts. The Jewish gamer-geek, becomes Dwanye Johnson, or Doctor Bravestone, an adventurer with smouldering intensity as a skill and literally no weaknesses. The red-headed academia obsessed girl becomes Karen Gillian, playing Ruby Roundhouse whose description is simply ‘killer of men’. The tall, strong football player winds up being Kevin Hart, aka ‘Moose’ Finbar, a short Zoologist who carries all of Bravestone’s weapons. And finally, the social media driven, Instagram model girl winds up being Shelly Oberon, an overweight, middle-aged guy.

Dwanye Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillian and Jack Black star as the video game character avatars in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

The graphics in his game are amazing.

Much of the humour of the film is derived from obvious fact that none of the avatars are like their real-life counterparts. Bravestone, meant to be the most courageous of the group, is still scared of birds and squirrels. Ruby still can’t flirt and finds her state of undress uncomfortable. Finbar, use to being fast and physically intimidating has to adjust to being slow and weak in battle. Oberon, on the other hand has the novelty of being a woman in a man’s body, alternating between lamenting the loss of her looks and aweing at using a penis to urinate.

You might expect that the students learn to more fully embody their characters, gaining the courage or social abilities that they can translate into the real world, but actually its their real-life skills that end up helping them more than their character’s skills. For instance, Finbar makes use of his knowledge of football tactics to set up a bait and switch play in order to complete their mission. In the case of Bravestone, it’s his intimate knowledge of gaming that allows him to navigate the game, understanding when he’s talking to NPC’s and the game’s levelled structure.

One of the main aspects of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle that I liked was that it drew on a lot of video game tropes such as having multiple lives or story driven events only being directed at the main character, but it was never particularly derisive of those tropes. Too often when films and television reference video games, it’s done with a mocking tone where the comedy is at the expense of gamers who are made to feel sad and pathetic for investing time in these worlds. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle has a more affectionate portrayal, drawing comedy from showing how respawning might actually look or the fact that if when players have multiple lives to spare, they’re generally more reckless until they hit their last life.

It’s unfortunate though that these tropes and understanding of video game staples couldn’t have been influential in the narrative in a more sustained fashion. The characters skills and weaknesses are all given their moment to shine, including Hart accidentally eating cake and exploding, or Ruby Roundhouse having to navigate a cluster of snakes because her weakness is venom. But outside of specific instances, their strengths and weaknesses don’t feature much into the plot. In fairness, that’s a fairly accurate video game allusion, given the fact that most players find a few good moves they’re comfortable with and only end up using special moves or features when an obstacle requires their use. But regardless of it’s accuracy, it’s also a clunky game mechanic and it feels even more awkward when translated to film.

Alex Wolff, Ser'Darius Blain, Morgan Turner and Madison Iseman star as the teens who get sucked into the video game world in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.

When you should be working but spend all day playing video games

And if it weren’t for the fact that this film is called Jumanji, that’d be it; A fun, if inconsequential film with some of the best use of video game conventions since Scott Pilgrim Verses The World. That it is called Jumanji means that this film gets compared to the 1995 Jumanji starring Robin Williams. The name connection means that audiences inherently track this film’s quality against that of its predecessor. Furthermore, the death of Williams has made it sort of sacrilege to recreate his work, especially considering that Williams was the best thing in Jumanji and without him it probably wouldn’t be so fondly remembered. Which is strange because the original Jumanji was little more than an enjoyable, family friendly film. It’s a pity that this movie is likely to get trashed by some critics simply because it doesn’t live up to the nostalgia of its prequel.

If you enjoyed Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle too or if you thought it was too soon after the death of Robin Williams, fire me a comment and let me know. Also you may notice that this blog is a little early this week but that’s because there’s a Vikings episode 4 review coming in the usual Sunday slot so watch out for that. To get notified when posts hit this blog subscribe to this site or follow me on social media. In the meantime you can read up on my previous Vikings episode reviews and hundreds of other reviews in the archives. And if you’re still thirsty for literature after all that, you can find my novel, Carrion Youth, to read for free over on Swoonreads.com. Until next time, thanks for reading.

Vikings Season 5 Episode 3 Review: It’s a Trap

This week on Vikings, Ivar sets a trap, Ubbe makes a bad decision, Hvitserk chooses a side and the battle of York doesn’t quite go to plan for Æthelwulf and Heahmund. This was a fun and gruesome episode featuring more action than we’ve seen in premiere episodes. It was a nice change of pace. Vikings likes to have its character stare off introspectively or talk about their ambitious so when a large chunk of time is devoted a battle you know it’s a big deal. And the battle of York was very important as it was the Great Heathen Army’s first defence against a Saxon attack (previously the Vikings had been the aggressors) and an opportunity for numerous characters to prove themselves.

Pre-battle the Saxon forces are informed that the Vikings still haven’t rebuilt the old Roman walls around York, and decide to move forward on using this as a means of attack. The over-reliance on the walls as a weakness seemed sure to backfire though and it had been constantly mentioned over the past few episodes by Heahmund and not at all by Ivar or the others. That, along with the decision to wait rather than immediately take advantage, left viewers expecting that the Ivar knew about the walls and was planning a trap.

What wasn’t quite anticipated was just how brutal the trap would be. The expectation was that maybe the Vikings would lead the army into an enclosed space and then surround them, effectively both flanking and bottle-necking the Saxon army. Instead a series of well placed spike pits and oil drops led to the Saxons practically killing themselves and having to step over the dead to even retreat. This was a great tactic because not only did they physically reduce the size of the army they’re fighting with minimal effort but it also has a demoralising effect to have to step on their brothers-in-laws. These are people they’ve likely fought with and trusted to have their backs and now they have to make a choice of self-preservation over that loyalty and camaraderie. The effect is that when the Vikings finally meet the Saxons head on, they’re fighting a smaller, traumatised army.

Alex Høgh's Ivar taunts the Saxon army at the Battle of York in season 5 episode 3 of History's Vikings.

Ivar is the life of the party.

Of course, Ivar, bloodsoaked and laughing is also pretty demoralising to any army. It’s a testament to Alex Høgh’s acting that he can convincingly play sympathetic in one episode and utterly demented in another. And with this victory, Ivar wins over most of the Great Heathen Army, cementing himself as the de facto leader. It helps that Ubbe’s argument that he saved Ivar’s life is rather flimsy. In fact the army was going to run to Ivar’s side when Ubbe postponed them for…reasons? It doesn’t seem like Ubbe to genuinely consider leaving his brother to the mercy of the Saxons, especially not so publicly, but it appears that he must have been conflicted at least because there’s no other reason, least one I can see, for Ubbe to wait.

Of course, Ubbe is particularly sore because Ivar’s rise contradicts his own status as the eldest brother. They argue over their next move but Ubbe doesn’t trust Ivar and leaves to propose peace to the Saxons against Ivar’s suggestion. Given that Ivar is waiting for them when they return, this seems like another case of Ivar setting a trap. It’s likely that he could have stopped his brothers when they were leaving but choose to let them go because he knew that if they failed it would only serve to make his case look better.

And fail it does. Ubbe and Hvitserk get roughed up, their men killed and sent back to York with no peace and no land. Though its framed oddly within the show with the narrative jumping back and forth in time to reveal what actually happened at the Saxon camp while the brothers are being admonished by Ivar upon their return. It’s a strange deviation from linear storytelling and a pointless one since it adds nothing to the plot and is more confusing than attention grabbing.

Jordan Patrick Smith's Ubbe watches as his brother Hvitserk joins Ivar in season 5 episode 3 of History's Vikings.

Battered, humbled and alone.

Speaking of failure, the Saxons made a mistake of beating up Ubbe and Hvitserk and letting them go. I’m not suggesting that Æthelwulf should have accepted their demands, although he did seem to consider it (I did like Alfred suggesting that advocating giving them the land to farm given that the real life Alfred is famous for creating distinct boundaries between Wessex and the Danelaw.). Why wouldn’t they just capture Ubbe and/or Hvitserk and hold them for ransom? Ivar, for all his pomp, does care for his brothers and it would also have made Ivar look weak to his army if he didn’t want to leave York to save his brothers. As it is, Heahmund and Æthelwulf have only succeeded in further aggravating an enemy they just failed to beat in battle.

Ubbe poses the question that Ragnar would hate Ivar for breaking up his family, to which Ivar disagrees. Ragnar certainly had a remarkable love for his family (or at least his sons). But he didn’t always show it in traditional ways and it would certainly be like Ragnar to put results ahead of irritating his family. This is the same man who on more than one occasion fought his brother on the battle field. But it’s also the man who opted to choose non-aggression with Ecbert in favour of land that this people could farm. Ragnar was at many times both a farmer and a warrior and an adventurer, whereas his sons seem to represent different aspects of their father. So, Ubbe and Ivar are both right.

Let me know what you thought of Homeland in the comments below or hit me up through social media. To be notified and keep up to date with new content on this blog weekly, hit the follow button to subscribe. If you liked what you read and can’t wait  there are hundreds of reviews and editorials in the archives to keep you busy. And if that still isn’t enough for you, you can find my own novel, Carrion Youth, online to read at swoonreads.com. Until next week, thanks for reading.