Vikings season 5 finale recap: Ragnarok


On the season finale of Vikings, Bjorn, Hvitserk, Olaf, and Harald launch a pair of attacks on Ivar and the settlement of Kattegat. Who lived, who died, and was victorious?

Nothing like an awesome Vikings battle scene to nearly redeem an otherwise lackluster season 5. If there’s one thing this show does well, it’s the awesomely choreographed fight scenes and the storytelling that is achieved when doing so.

“Ragnarok” was basically one fight after another and the action rarely stopped. It was also my favorite episode of the entire 20-episode season, which couldn’t have come at a better time. No England, no Floki settlement, no side plots. Just a battle.

I know some were worried that this would be Floki’s final episode, but he was nowhere to be found. We’ll assume he’s still alive and will return in the final season.

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Failed siege on Kattegat

Olaf tells the story of Ragnarok the night before the siege. Ivar preps his men and defenses and the attack is mounted. Before the battle, Hvitserk tosses his Buddha relic aside.

Bjorn leads the attack as by far the bravest group head for Kattegat’s front gate with a battering ram. They hit the doors over and over to little effect. Even with tar doused on them that is lit ablaze and a storm of arrows, the group refuses to retreat. Bjorn seems a bit invincible here, as he is often standing right below an army of archers, but I didn’t let that distract me from how intense the battle was.

Ivar called the shots from the top of the walls and his defenses hold strong. Hvitserk and Harald manage to scale the wall with ladders and get a few good kills in, but they soon realize that they’re way outnumbered and both bail back (Harald taking a hard fall).

The walls are finally plowed through and Bjorn and a handful of his men get inside the town’s walls, but Ivar has a trap set for them. He has the doors resealed and Bjorn completely surrounded. Bjorn and Ivar have an intense stare down and it is here that I believed we might actually lose one of them. Archers kill almost all of them, but Bjorn the mighty breaks free slays a few of them with the assistance of Gunnhild, and leaps over the walls.

Magnus doesn’t fare so well in the battle, instead of hiding and loudly calling on God to help him. As the retreat becomes official, he finds his true calling and essentially Odin, and tries to charge back into a lost war. Harald, who’s had his back for quite some time now, drags him behind his shield. He admires his will to fight and is relieved that he’s not an English spy. Magnus is too overcome with his adrenaline rush, forces Harald’s shield down, and continues hyping himself up because he’s found his true destiny… which happens to be an arrow through the back.

I thought Magnus would have a bigger story, but turns out it wasn’t in the cards. I guess the “good guys” had to have a casualty.

Before retreating, Bjorn turns, leaving himself completely vulnerable to Ivar’s men, and shouts that most of the men he’s fighting are children he grew up with. Kattegat should be freed from Ivar’s tyranny and they shouldn’t be enemies. As everyone stops and listens, Ivar grabs a bow and fires an arrow, which Bjorn is able to avoid thanks to a nearby shield. While he fails to kill his oldest brother, Ivar is incredibly successful in the defense of Kattegat.

It was actually a fairly lame battle strategy by team Bjorn. For a battle-hardened veteran who grew up in the town, he’s trying to take, charging from only one side was a weak plan and they paid for it.

Second attempt

It doesn’t take long for a second attempt to be made. Thanks to Freydis, who has decided–finally–that Ivar is a menace and a psychopath. Ivar’s scorned wife sneaks into Bjorn’s camp, tells Hvitserk that his girlfriend and many others had been burnt to death, that Ivar killed his own son, and most importantly, of the secret passage to get them into Kattegat.

The following morning and Bjorn and his army are inside Kattegat. Only a small handful of Ivar’s most loyal men decide to defend their king; the rest listening to Bjorn to remain inside as he liberates Kattegat from tyranny.

Realizing he’s been betrayed, Ivar confronts Freydis, who doesn’t deny it. He tells Freydis he loves her and then strangles her to death. She probably should have ran.

Meanwhile, Bjorn, Hvitserk, Gunnhild, and Harald dispose of the rest of Ivar’s defense. Bjorn runs into a close call, being taken down with an ax at his neck. In perhaps the most shocking event of the episode, Harald moves in and rescues him, even taking a sword through the gut. Bjorn thanks him and the army celebrates. Harald isn’t seen for the rest of the episode but a character of his importance wouldn’t die offscreen. The king of betraying everyone will surely be back to try and kill Bjorn next season!

Bjorn and Hvitserk move inside the great hall to find Freydis’s corpse beside the skull of baby Baldur. Ivar has somehow fled.

In the victory, Ubbe, Lagertha, and Torvi arrive and the gang is finally reunited. Ubbe embraces Bjorn and kind of ignores Hvitserk but the two closest brothers will surely make up eventually. Bjorn stands in the middle of the adoring crowd as Lagertha deems him the new king of Kattegat.

Wrapping up the season

I could never figure out who the main character of Vikings was, but this episode really highlighted it to be Bjorn. Sometime after the battle, he sits atop of the hills looking down at Kattegat like his father often did. Ragnar speaks to him, recalling on a former conversation the two had years ago where he asked Bjorn why he desired to fight and then warned him of the dangers of thirsting for power.

The Seer even shows up, living his best life after death.  He warns Bjorn that the war is not over. The scene cuts to a disguised Ivar fleeing on a wagon with an evil glare. I don’t know how much of a fight the defeated former king can put up at this point, but he’s still alive.

Kattegat has been reclaimed by those who deserve it. I don’t know if Ragnar would be proud, as the only sons he really ever bonded with were Bjorn and Ivar, but the greater evil was definitely defeated.

The leftovers:

  • This was the perfect opportunity to get rid of Ivar. I feel like his story should have ended here at the hands of any single one of his brothers. But alas, he escaped and will be back for the final season, surely as the main antagonist again. At least he lost. Maybe that will humble him some… probably not.
  • Olaf sits in his chair the entire battle just shouting out facts about the brutalities of war. I thought he might take an arrow, but he managed to make it out unscathed, good riddance.
  • It’s always great to have Ragnar cameos. The final scene of Vikings should include him. I almost felt like Bjorn sitting on the perch looking down at Kattegat beside the ghost of Ragnar would make for an amazing final scene of the entire series.
  • Where’s Floki? He’ll surely be back to fit into the final season in some way, but it was odd that last week’s mishaps in the cave were left unanswered.
  • Did Harald save Bjorn because Gunnhild witnessed it, or has he truly changed his selfish ways? I’d highly bank on it being the former, but the unexpected assist for a man he wanted to kill last week was my favorite part of the episode.
  • Was Magnus a waste of a character? I thought it was neat that they brought Ragnar’s bastard son with Kwinthreth back, but he really didn’t do much other than show up, announce his intentions to be a Viking, and then die.

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Overall, it was a solid closing to a long season 5 and it definitely left me wanting more, which in the end, is what great television does.

What did you think of the season 5 finale of Vikings? Be sure to tell us in the comment section below!