While the Vikings raided and conquered many lands during the 8th and 9th centuries, Season 2 of History Channel’s Vikings showed how much struggle there was for power within the Northlanders themselves. Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) staved off attacks by Jarl Borg (Thorbjorn Harr) and Rollo (Clive Standen), Borg by himself, and in the season finale, “The Lord’s Prayer” he survived the full-scale attack by King Horik (Donal Logue) and his people.
For much of the episode we knew Floki (Gustaf Skarsgard) held the cards, not knowing if he would betray Ragnar or Horik. He is a wild card–an unpredictable force to swing the tide one way or another but the strength in this season has been spent fleshing out several characters and thankfully, Floki was high on that list. In Season 1, he was known simply as Ragnar’s shipbuilder, trusted friend and mischievous Pagan fundamentalist. He remained a fan-favorite and his devotees were given a hard pill to swallow in the season premiere when Rollo nearly killed him. His mistrust in Athelstan (George Blagden) multiplied this season and in the last three episodes of the season it appeared that a rift was forming between he and Ragnar. He went so far as to “poison” Torstein (Jefferson Hall) and Rollo with shrooms, while stalking Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig) through the finale, all for a taste of the action. He wound up remaining true to Ragnar, a popular decision surely with fans but let’s face it, if he betrayed Ragnar, he would’ve joined Horik as a bloody pulp.
Siggy (Jessalyn Gilsig) was another who appeared early on to angle her way in, against Ragnar but only for self-preservation. Rollo looked like a lost cause early in the season and she justified her bedding Horik as purely a political play. It distanced her from Rollo and in part he respected her less. But only the audience knows the favor Siggy performed for Horik and son, Erlendur and that may have been the tipping point. I think it’s reasonable to believe Siggy, a political player, to be loyal. She is in no way a warrior, so she would only reclaim a point of power if she aligned herself with someone who could give her that which she desired most. She lost her children, so what else does she have to lose, but Rollo? Feeding information to Horik seemed to be to her advantage, at least until she was whored out. It’s also plausible to believe that she was in the game until Horik asked her to kill Ragnar’s children.
After Ragnar’s negotiations with King Ecbert (Linus Roache) and an unwillingness to be satisfied with fertile land, one could see Horik feeling less significant as a king. Horik’s best play was Floki and Siggy–not the strongest strategy, but that’s how well-guarded Ragnar was. Floki certainly would have been a big score, especially when he could build Horik a fleet of warships. Siggy however is a pure and calculated politician, a close friend to Lagertha, and she helped raise Auslaug’s children. She is a survivor who has a reasonable beef with Ragnar–he did publicly kill her husband thereby stripping away her power–but asking her to kill out his children, incurring the wrath of Ragnar’s camp? One thing Siggy is not, is stupid.
The character of Horik became a bit of a letdown as the season went on. He seemed like he was a king who was willing to get his hands dirty. I admired his desire to raid and his introduction in Season 1 made me excited for Season 2. From his perspective, one could get behind his ideals, his desire to raid and conquer new lands, and even get revenge at Wessex. He exhibited rage in killing some of Ecbert’s messengers and appeared to be formidable on the battlefield. However when it came to his plan to assassinate Ragnar, Horik took the cowardly way out and had others do his dirty work.
He’s the one who sent Ragnar to Jarl Borg to settle the land dispute for him. He’s the one who chose to dissolve the partnership with Borg before raiding Wessex, then tried to repair it when Ragnar sought revenge. Horik’s time was running out. What I found most interesting about the portrayal of Horik was that there was never a time that he was respected as the king, that the people looked to him to be THE person that will help their civilization prosper. He had to remind Ragnar that he was the king when things went sour in Wessex. His tactics during the raids were second-guessed and Rollo certainly didn’t respect him. In his defense, we never saw Horik in his territory with the people who worshipped him; it’s just we rarely saw anyone kneel down or acknowledge Horik as a person of royalty. That may have been by design or the way that Donal Logue played it, either way it’s an interesting choice and different way to portray a king.
Both Horik and Borg came after Ragnar, but under different circumstances. Borg couldn’t be bothered by anyone but the minute Ragnar showed up representing Horik there was trouble brewing and that’s simply a man standing his ground and surviving. Borg pitted the Lothbroks (or Lodbroks, depending on what you prefer) against one another because he was being threatened. Again, Borg felt he was being taken advantage of by Horik (another who didn’t bow to Horik) and observed how Rollo was being overshadowed–that’s a smart strategy even if it didn’t work. But Horik saw his influence dwindle, and backed into a corner once Lagertha became Earl Ingstad, ensuring every decision would be a debate. Yes, Jarl Borg talked to the skull of his first wife and yes, he tried to kill Ragnar’s family but only after he was wronged and humiliated. Borg took the Blood Eagle with grace, bravery, and suffered through it without screaming. He knew his treacherous ways caught up to him. Horik knew the moment he lost too, but then again, he was never in the position to win.
As for Floki, Horik played with his desires, and certainly stoked the hatred and mistrust for Athelstan. That’s one thing Floki was not bluffing about. But it’s the behavior with Helga that provided such a good smokescreen. Floki is certainly aloof enough and is such a devout believer in the gods that he’d be insecure as a potential father. He probably does believe that his child is cursed and yet is still wacky enough to name the daughter Angrboda, after the the famed giantess of Jotunheimr, who also was the mistress of Loki and eventually bore three monsters. It even seemed reasonable enough to believe that he wanted nothing to do with the child but after the finale played out, it was clear that Floki was on a mission to play out the ruse against Horik and protect Bjorn. The worst thing that could happen to Floki was Horik smelling the wind of his trickery and have him and his family killed or he would have died protecting Bjorn. He protected Helga and Angrboda in the end and one must respect the man for that.