Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Is History’s “Vikings” Mirroring Norse Mythology?

I loved the season premiere of Vikings on History last week. But after the episode, I began thinking: Has Vikings started to mirror Norse Mythology?

How close is Ragnar to his own Ragnarok?
For anyone who’s seen the show, Vikings often makes reference to Norse Mythology, which was a primary religion for Scandinavians before their conversion to Christianity. Still, in Vikings’ first two seasons, there was little direct connection to the Norse myths, outside the fact that all the Viking characters worshiped the Norse gods. But that started to change in episode 2 of Season 3, titled “The Wanderer,” when a mysterious storyteller name Harbard arrives at Kattegat. 

I'm fairly certain Odin came to Kattegat.
Harbard soon displays mystical powers by healing Aslaug’s son Ivar and predicting Siggy’s death (which, one can argue, he helped bring about). He even seduces Aslaug, and ultimately leaves Kattegat by vanishing in the wind. I think it’s strongly implied that Harbard was an incarnation of Odin, the father of the gods, who in Norse mythology frequently traveled to Midgard, took the form of a wanderer, and bed mortal women. In fact, according to Wikipedia, “Harbard” is one of the 200 names for Odin in the Old Norse Prose Edda. So, as far as I’m concerned, the case is closed – Harbard was Odin, which means on Vikings, the Norse gods are real. 

Valhalla is not quite the Judeo-Christian Heaven.
Then we get the prologue to last week’s episode when Ragnar, on his apparent deathbed, is walking toward the gateway to the afterlife. These aren’t the pearly gates of a Christian Heaven with Saint Peter waiting by the doors. Rather, these were the golden gates of Valhalla, Odin’s mead hall where the slain Norse warriors drink and brawl until the end of time. And based on the laughter and revelry coming from those gates, the dead in Valhalla are having a damn good time!

And finally, we get the scenes involving Floki. Now, I always assumed it was no coincidence that his name sounds like Loki, the trickster god of Norse mythology. Floki has always been a religious zealot (in a pagan sort of way), and to say he’s conniving, like his namesake, is no understatement. Yet it hit me last episode that Floki’s story arch this season may be mirroring Loki’s mythos. 

Is Floki becoming Loki?
In Norse mythology, Loki engineers the death of Baldur, one of the most beloved of the gods. When the rest of the gods discover this, they hunt down Loki and bind him in chains. Even more, they imprison him in a cave where a serpent torments him night and day by dripping venom into Loki’s eyes. Only Loki’s faithful wife Sigyn, who protects her husband by gathering some of the venom in a bowl before it hits his eyes, saves Loki from constant pain. Eventually, however, Loki breaks free of his bonds and brings about Ragnarok, the apocalyptic battle that results in the deaths of the Norse gods.

Was Athelstan the "Baldur" of History's Vikings?
Likewise, last season, Floki killed the priest Athelstan, Ragnar’s beloved friend and the man who told the Northmen about the riches of Paris. Last episode, when Bjorn exposes this crime, Floki is bound in chains by the Northmen, with only his faithful wife Helga to save him for torment at the hands of the villagers and their cruel children. In my view, this is too similar to Loki’s story to be mere coincidence. So, if mythology is now the guide, will Floki bring about his own version of Ragnarok before the show ends?

Regardless of my suspicions, Season 4 of Vikings looks like it may be the series’ best season yet. But what do you think – is History’s Vikings mirroring Norse mythology?

* Images courtesy of History.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Season 4 of "Vikings" Premieres Tomorrow Night

With Black Sails nearing its season midpoint, we have the return of Vikings on History to keep us going until the April premiere of the next season of Game of Thrones. The Official Season 4 Trailer hints at a ton of conflict, some of which should arise as Rollo tries to found what will become Normandy in France, with a French princess as his wife.

Rollo may want to keep his French lands and French princess!
Meanwhile, there are images that suggest we may be getting close to Ragnar's legendary death (in a pit of snakes, no less, thanks to a Northumbrian king). But would the show really go so far as to kill off it's main character? This is supposed to be a 20 episode extended season, so I guess we'll know the answer by summer. Regardless, I'm looking forward to another season of Vikings!

* Image and video courtesy of History

Friday, February 12, 2016

HBO Releases Photos from Season 6 of "Game of Thrones"

I've had little time to write this week, but I wanted to mention that HBO has released photos from Season 6 of Game of Thrones. There's none of Jon Snow – though I'm fairly certain we'll see him soon (you can read why here). Anyway, here are my three favorite pics, along with what they might mean for the show:

I suspect this is Jaime trying to explain the death of their daughter Myrcella to Cersei. Good luck with that! This is one of the areas where Game of Thrones has deviated from the books, so I have no idea how this will play out. But knowing Cersei, she's about to start a full-fledged war with Dorne.

Finally we get to see Yara Greyjoy again! (She's known as Asha in the books.) Might this mean we'll finally see a Kingsmoot? The Ironborn have a huge storyline in A Feast for Crows that was completely ignored in Season 5. I suspect in Season 6 we might finally see those scenes.

This one makes me the happiest. For one, Bran's back after a season-long absence. But more importantly, Max von Sydow will appear as the Three-Eyed-Raven, the Greenseer that Bran encounters in the cave beyond the Wall. What George R.R. Martin subtly revealed in A Dance With Dragons, however, is that the three-eyed raven is actually one of the most notorious sorcerers in the history of the Seven Kingdoms.
"How many eyes does Lord Bloodraven have? A thousand eyes, and one." 
Bryden Rivers, known as Lord Bloodraven, appears prominently at the end of A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms. He is one of the more interesting characters in the history of A Song of Ice and Fire, so I'm glad he appears to be coming back to life in Season 6.

You can see the rest here at April is going to be fun! 

Friday, February 5, 2016

What Game is Eleanor Guthrie Playing on “Black Sails”?

Eleanor Guthrie, played by Hannah New, has always been one of my favorite characters on Black Sails. Last season, she sided with Flint, hoping his voyage to return the kidnapped daughter of Charleston’s governor would pave the way for Nassau’s legitimacy.

She also betrayed a few people along the way, including her ex-lover, Charles Vane, and Captain Hornigold. By the end of Season 2, her dreams were shattered. Flint not only failed to ally himself with Charleston’s governor, he ended up killing the man. Meanwhile, Hornigold betrayed Eleanor to the British, who sent her home to face trial. Things were looking pretty grim for the pretty boss of Nassau.

Then along comes Woodes Rogers, the historically famous privateer and future governor of the Bahamas. Rogers has Eleanor on his ship heading to Nassau, but he’s a finger snap away from sending her straight back to England.

For her part, Eleanor has tried to convince Rogers that he’ll need her at Nassau, for no one knows the island and its pirates like she does. She also revealed how she came to control Nassau years ago by pitting Hornigold and Vane against Blackbeard and exiling him from the island. She accomplished this by seducing Vane (though I believe she fell in love with him back then) and winning over Hornigold by giving him Nassau’s precious fort. Of course, Hornigold is now allied with Rogers, and Blackbeard is back in Nassau with his former protégée, Vane.

Eleanor is a strategic thinker, so I suspect she has a plan. Maybe it’s to honestly work with Rogers to rid Nassau of its pirates. Or maybe she’s just setting him up, only to betray him once she’s back home and has access to her old allies, Max and Jack Rackham. And then there’s Charles Vane. She’s betrayed him twice, but will she fall right back into his arms if she views him as the key to Nassau’s survival? More importantly, would Vane even take her back? And how is Blackbeard going to feel about her return?

If I were a gambling man, I’d bet that Eleanor plans to betray Rogers when they get to Nassau. The writers may have even foreshadowed this through Hornigold’s warning to Rogers that Eleanor can’t be trusted. And it would not even surprise me if Rogers falls victim to Eleanor’s charms, just like Vane did years ago. But only time will tell, and that’s yet another reason why Season 3 of Black Sails promises to be so fun.

But these are just my thoughts. What game do you think Eleanor is playing on Black Sails?

* Images courtesy of Starz