In this new golden age of television that we are …
The episode asks the title question in just about every scene. Consider the opening jaw-dropping opening scene featuring Cleary dumping a bag of rats in a ring to be stomped on, all diegetic sound muted with only Cliff Martinez’s bonkers and wondrous score playing over it, making it all the more haunting. Where’s the dignity?
The episode opens with yet another misleading sequence, although exactly how misleading the gorgeously shot Will-digo transformation/birth scene really is remains to be seen–after all, we still don’t know with any certainty who arranged the Randall exhibit, or whose body was sent flaming down the parkade runway in glorious tribute to Red Dragon’s exemplary Tooth Fairy kill. In fact, I would hasten that there is still a lot that we don’t know about this secret plan which has occupied much of the narrative lo’ these last few episodes. But more on that later.
Boneless, titled for Ragnar’s latest son, is a stand-out offering from a largely sure-footed series; crammed with glorious portent of battle (and battle scene alike), and flinty farewells backed up against luxuriously shot love scenes. Moreover, all the loose plot-threads are carefully spliced into one another; without any loss of gravitas or mood, too. Is some of this hyperbole?
I’ve previously remarked upon, the plots Hirst and co have put into play appear to be converging; and to it’s credit, it’s not just battle stories alone that are unfolding. Rather, tonight sees Bjorn drawn into battle alongside his father — and the determined eagerness upon Ludwig’s face feels both heart-breaking and authentic. It’s not difficult to imagine the limits Bjorn would toe in order to prove his place among the Lothbrok family — particularly given his implicit rivalry with Aslaug’s sons — nor is it difficult to imagine, after the starkly-shot battle scenes of tonight, that Hirst could take him down the road of self-sacrifice. As we’ve previously seen in the case of Gydda — and to a lesser extent, Lagertha’s abandonments of the group — no player in the Vikings community is entirely secure. Furthermore, Bjorn’s now of an age where he stands alongside the members of his family as a veritable warrior; he’s not impervious to blood or pain, no matter how Ragnar rushes to defend him when the former stumbles. There’s something particularly lovely about this moment, in among all the cinematic jostling and callous thrusting of swords that occurs during this stretch of fighting. I’d attribute this to the emotional heart Vikings occasionally excises, in favour of thrills and slick war plotting. (Similarly, Lagertha’s quick glance-over at her son, in the heat of the battle, also tugs at the heart. No matter how indomitable and icy a force Lagertha is on the battlefield, or while defending her honour, she is still ultimately human; she has those she needs to protect.)
The phrase “for the fans” has a new definition, and its name is Veronica Mars. Here, at least, the descriptor doesn’t automatically speak ill qualitatively, as the long-rumored film based on the cult TV series only came to fruition thanks to a massively successful Kickstarter campaign last March. (The overwhelming response to the Veronica Mars campaign has since inspired a number of other filmmakers and actors to call upon their fans to help long-gestating projects become the real thing.) Veronica Mars, the film, will easily cater to the series’ most passionate fans, but it’s just as safe to assume that if you’re not that familiar with the three-season TV show, you might as well start there and eventually build your way up to the movie.