The final episode of a huge series will almost always divide fans. Over recent years, perhaps no series finale divided fans as much as Game of Thrones‘. History’s Vikings also ended when the entire back half of season 6 was released on Amazon Prime, December 30. Similarly, Vikings has been met with a somewhat mixed reception, but there certainly seems to be less mass outrage compared to Game of Thrones.
The two shows have been compared numerous times over the years for their similarities in violence, drama, grey characters, and historical settings. Today we will be comparing the two shows’ endings to determine what each show got right and where each fell short.
Character arcs were a hot talking point of Game of Thrones‘ final season, with some feeling that the final episodes undid some of the main characters’ narratives and arcs. A particular talking point was Jaime, who after finally leaving Cersei and their toxic relationship in Season 7, ignited an anticipated relationship with Brienne, only to then go back to Cersei? This understandably angered a lot of fans who felt this unravelled Jaime’s arc of leaving Cersei behind and becoming a better man.
On the same lines, fans were straight up confused by the complete contradiction in Bran’s storyline. After saying in the previous season, “I can never be Lord of Winterfell, I can never be Lord of anything, I’m the three-eyed raven,” fans were baffled when Bran ended up becoming the king. This is especially mind boggling when Bran then said, “Why do you think I came all this way?” when referring to whether he’d take the crown. Bran’s arc ultimately became confusing, illogical, and clumsily written.
Vikings on the other hand didn’t really fall to unravelling any character arcs as such, but it did take some bitter-sweet turns. One such character who sticks out is Hvitserk, who after being the brother who felt that his achievements didn’t match those of his brothers and feared he wouldn’t make it to Valhalla, ultimately had to renounce the gods to become a Saxon Prince of Wessex. It is a sad and unexpected, but fitting ending for Hvitserk, who was always looking for a direction and purpose.
A strong character arc was that of Ubbe’s who was often the son most compared to his father Ragnar, in appearance and personality. It only seems fitting that Ubbe was the one to continue his father’s dream and discover the ‘Golden Lands’, implied to be a Canadian region. It is also fitting for Ubbe to be the one to find and rekindle his friendship with Floki, a close friend of his father’s. It felt right that the series’ final scene was the pair looking over the ocean in the new land.
A criticism of Game Of Thrones‘ final seasons was that the pacing was way too fast when compared to early seasons. This ultimately made characters lack a certain depth, complexity, and we don’t really see the same hardship out on the road. As this is the final season, fast paced isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, unfortunately for Game of Thrones, this had disastrous consequences on the season’s big twist of Daenerys going mad. The actual turning point felt very out of place and illogical despite the clear signs. If the show invested a bit more time into seeing the growing descent in the final season, this could have been masterfully executed.
Vikings‘ pacing was by no means perfect in the final season, but at some points, it was just right. However, parts that could have had better pacing include: Seeing a bit more of the fallout at the end of the Rus storyline, more conflict amidst Kattegat’s ruler dispute, and pacing in England. However, the pacing felt more like it was building to the end so didn’t necessarily feel out of place.
Game of Thrones‘ main loose ends regard lore and foretelling such as with the long spoken about Azor Ahai. As this is a prophecy, there is of course every chance that it just wasn’t real. But it was never just a passing comment, Azor Ahai was a principle rooted in the characters, for example Melisandre. Melisandre’s entire purpose is to find Azor Ahai and lead them to their destiny.
Vikings‘ loose ends come much more in the form of the characters. One that particularly sticks out is the fact that fans never get to see Rollo again. For the last season, fans were hoping to get a final glimpse of the Frankish ruler. This is especially the case when it was mentioned to possibly invade Francia over England.
Another loose end in Vikings is the implication that Elsewith’s child was Bjorn’s. Bjorn and Elsewith had their rendezvous back in season 5 and soon after, Elsewith was pregnant. Even though we see the Princess with her now born child, this fling and possible dispute over the child’s parentage is never mentioned again.
Justice and Punishment
Justice and punishment can make character arcs feel unwarranted or even incomplete, both shows fall victim to this.
Game of Thrones‘ twist regarding Daenerys’ descent into madness was hinted at across the show’s course, but as mentioned, the execution of the twist was quite poor. The timing felt completely wrong as Daenerys’ burning of Kings Landing happened essentially once she’d secured herself the throne. On the one hand, we are glad show runners followed through on the twist, but the narrative placement didn’t make much sense and consequently her punishment and justice didn’t feel right.
Along the same lines, Cersei didn’t seem to experience the punishment she deserved. The show tried to switch the roles of Daenerys and Cersei, but fans are more than aware that Cersei has done her fair share of questionable acts to say the least. Her death felt somewhat bland compared to the fiery tyrannical character we’d seen across the show.
Although Vikings did an overall better job with justice and punishment, there are still some glaring flaws. With Vikings it wasn’t such a case of how characters were punished, it’s the fact that they weren’t really punished at all. A glaring example was Ingrid, who like Daenerys, has her sights set on one goal, being queen by any means necessary. Makes for a good leader? Debatable. And Ingrid really does stop at nothing, whether that’s planning an assassination, scheming, cursing, or manipulation. Getting the crown felt undeserved in Ingrid’s case, remember she was actually only introduced in Season 6, so it felt quite out of place. If anything, it seemed like she’d get a nice dose of karma at some point, but she ultimately ends up sat on the throne in the final episode.
On the same lines, Kjetill the madman of Iceland never seems to get the punishment he deserves after terrorising his fellow Vikings. The final scene of Kjetill shows him following the Greenland whale dispute and the aftermath of the bloodbath. He is left alone with his heartbroken wife and their murdered son, yet he still treats it as a victory. Given the murders and turmoil that was inflicted by his hand, we were just sitting and waiting for Kjetill to also have a nice dose of karma.
One character who did meet a fatal end, yet something about it still didn’t feel right compared to the horrors this character had committed. We of course mean Ivar. Ivar had his tyrannical reign with many deaths coming from under his hand, even his own brother’s. Ivar had shown some character growth, yet he still had to be punished for his atrocities. He ultimately met his demise on the battlefield, which made for an emotional scene with Hvitserk. Yet Ivar was killed by a random soldier we’d only seen a few times. It was quite puzzling when you had Alfred literally watching the whole thing happen.
We would say that Game of Thrones had a pretty unsatisfying conclusion on most points There were a lot of flaws with the season and it didn’t really serve the brilliance of the series as a whole.
Vikings hit most points effectively, but we feel like there could have been more action and peril in the final episode or a scene of Valhalla with all of our lost loved characters, which would have wrapped up the series brilliantly.
Overall, it is easy to see where Game of Thrones and Vikings draw parallels to each other, yet both ended their series in very different ways. We would say that Vikings had the better ending with some minor flaws here and there, but nothing that is massively linked to major characters or themes. On the other hand, Game of Thrones did the complete opposite with major flaws being linked to major characters, storylines and themes.