What can I say about HISTORY’s Vikings that I haven’t already stated 10,000 times?  The series’ double length 4th season has just about everything I look for in my television dramas, with the added bonus of being better episode-for-episode than it’s big budget cousin, Game of Thrones.

Rollo and Princess Gisla
Rollo (Clive Standen) and Princess Gisla (Morgane Polanski)

The most recent episode of Vikings “The Profit and The Loss“, chronicles yet another Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) led raid on Paris.  You may recall that previously this season Ragnar’s brother Rollo (Clive Standen) married the Frankian princess Gisla (Morgane Polanski) and took over as commander of the defensive armies to repel the Northmen upon their return.


We get some harsh words between Ragnar and Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) regarding her leading a party to attack the French troops even though she’s currently pregnant.


We see also more of Floki’s (Gustaf Skarsgard) madness manifesting, and he is shaken to his core twice in this episode.


Yidu (Diane Doan) continues to administer a hallucinogenic substance to Ragnar, and the results aren’t pretty.


Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig) continues to come into his own as a leader, learning that standing up to your father is never easy, even WORSE when your dad is a King.


Back in Kattegat, the mysterious Harbard (Kevin Durand) has returned almost as soon as Ragnar left, seeking out Queen Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland).  Hopefully we’ll find out more about who he is this season.


And over in Mercia, King Eckbert (Linus Roache) sends the son of Athelstan off on a pilgrimage with Prince Aethelwulf (Moe Dunford) to meet The Pope.  Mostly, we assume this is to get the Prince out of the city so Princess Judith (Jennie Jacques) can continue her relationship with Eckbert.  Also, possibly, because Aethelwulf and Queen Kwenthrith (Amy Bailey) have been sleeping together and that messes up plans for a hostile takeover.  Speaking of hostile takeovers…..

The Vikings are coming, the Vikings are coming.

Part of Rollo’s French plan to keep the Viking ships from landing on the beach includes building twin towers on either side of the channel and at the right moment, raising a large chain between the two of them, cutting off any chance of the longboats passing, and then using catapults loaded with lamp oil and flame arrows to set the fleet on fire.  If this sounds at all familiar, chances are you’ve read “The Battle of the Blackwater” section from  the Game Of Thrones book 2 “A Clash of Kings”.

In it, Tyrion Lannister embarks on a plan to protect King’s Landing from the incoming invasion of Stannis Baratheon’s ships commanded by the Onion Knight Davos Seaworth.  Tyrion orders all of the blacksmiths in the city to begin forging a large chain, as well as two towers on either side of the water at the mouth of the bay, AS WELL as the maesters to make copious amounts wildfyre (a highly volatile oil-like substance much like naphtha).  When Stannis’s ships sail into Blackwater Bay past the towers, the chain is raised between them, blocking off any possible retreat or further ships from engaging.  Fire ships are set alight on the Lannister side and sent into the bay, trailing spills of the wildfyre behind them.  Needless to say, the resulting explosion and long burning fire do fatal damage to Stannis’s navy, crippling his effort to capture the capital city of Westeros.

And you know what?  Vikings did it better.  Sure, it’s nowhere near as grand a scale as GoT, but HISTORY’s version took place in the daytime with multiple physical ships, so less room to screw it up.  The Game of Thrones scene takes place at night in the show, easier to hide all the special effects and CGI ships in pure blackness than the daylight in which the scene is written.  This brings up one of the main points of contestation between these two epic series, the budget.

I’m sure you’ve seen this video popping up on Facebook, talking about how damn expensive each episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones is to make:

HBO spends $10 million per Game of Thrones episode

Crazy, right? So much spent on visual effects (VFX) and costuming, location rentals and camera crews, legions of extras and a writer’s room with no real direction this past GoT season.  Sorry, that was my outside voice, wasn’t it?  Vikings scene-for-scene has better character development and written dialog than the past TWO seasons of Game of Thrones, with a fraction of the budget.  Maybe that’s part of what keeps Michael Hirst’s show enjoyable; it doesn’t get too tangled in the strings and trappings of big budget houses, it stays close to the root of what fuels the series, the cast.

Vikings season 4 airs Thursday nights on HISTORY, check local listings for times.

ABOUT >> Mary Anne Butler
  • BIO >> Mary Anne Butler (Mab) is a reporter and photographer from San Francisco California. She is a lifelong geek, huge music nerd, occasionally cosplays at conventions, does Renaissance Faires, and in general lives the life of a True Believer. She may be short, but she makes up for it with a loud voice.
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