Five new episodes of Vikings have been broadcast, and still no sign of Rollo. Fans who had wondered whether Clive Standen would be in the new season at all, considering his other engagements, have been reassured: Rollo Lothbrock is in season 5. Only, not yet, and I confess I miss him; it’s not just me being silly about Mr. Standen’s, who is the handsomest man on tv: it’s that with Ragnar, Athelstan and King Ecbert dead – and Siggy, too, Rollo is the only nouanced character remaining. I am not saying the new season isn’t good or the remaining characters are rubbish: the first five episodes were smashing, because if you have good writers, adventure works perfectly well with black and white figures who are good OR bad, peace-lovers OR trouble-makers, Christians OR pagans; besides, the many figures whose stories we are being told right now are varied enough: whether they are ambitious, adventure-seeking, vicious, heathenly pious or righteously Christians, intelligent or thick, they’re good, well devised, with a couple of exceptions (Astrid is not, in my opinion, nor is Ubbe’s wife whatever-her-name-is). But one of the things that have made Vikings unique in its first four seasons is that it was centred on complex figures whose actions didn’t simply stir turmoil in the world, as if they were reverberations of Odin shaking his spear, Gungnir: the two Lothbrock brothers, the king of Wessex and Athestan the monk are characters whose parts are based on their inner struggle, on the clash between duty and ambition, the tension between the world’s expectations and their own desires. The same can be said for Siggy in the department of female characters: Haraldson’s widow was given a deep psychology, she had conflicting attitudes, and had a credible, complex evolution. Auslag wasn’t like that, but she had her good points (having the sight, most of all) and her existence as Lagertha’s opponent made Ragnar’s first wife more interesting: Auslag’s death diminishes her rival as a character. And Helga, sweet, wise Helga is gone, too. I hope Thorvi and her son Guthrum will be around more; we know that Guthrum will face Alfred in England later on, but I wonder what the two youths will be like. The characters in the first five episodes of season 5 are all simply warriors and shieldmaidens, with the exception of Floki (thanked be the gods for him) and Judith, whom we haven’t seen much. We may like to watch them fight or look for alliances, but we can’t expect much else.
(This picture belongs to History.com)
Rollo has always been my favourite character, and it’s not just a matter of looking handsome and sounding gruff: he is the perfect embodiment of the Germanic hero, torn between loyalty and the desire to gain renown, ambivalent towards his brother; at the same time he is hungry for love and acceptance, which makes him a character for a 21st century tale. He adds emotional intensity to the stories, another reason for me to favour him. Mr. Standen has promised his thread of the plot will be relevant, and said that Michael Hirsch had once more allowed him to recreate his role. I trust his word, and keep waiting for the return of Rollo the Walker.