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Why Some Vikings' Fans Think That Season 4 Is So Underrated

After debuting in 2013, creator Michael Hirst's Emmy award-winning, saga-inspired "Vikings" built-up a big enough fanbase to carry the unlikely hit through six full seasons. Though the past few years have seen a major up-tick in Norse-based narratives — including Netflix's "The Last Kingdom" and "Ragnarok," Robert Eggers' "The Northman," and "Vikings" sequel "Vikings: Valhalla" — nine years ago, this was hardly the case. Marvel's "Thor" was released in 2011, but the MCU's shiny, outer space-based spin on Scandinavian lore was (and is) a far cry from the gritty, historical stories we've seen crop-up in the wake of Hirst's success. However, despite the series' popularity, fans have always had mixed feelings about some of its seasons.

Although the focal re-direct the series took in Seasons 5 and 6 following the death of Travis Fimmel's Ragnar was a turn-off to many (via Reddit), Season 4 was not without its critics either. As user YouWillAllSuffer put it on a thread discussion the season's writing, "the sharks haven't jumped yet, but they are certainly swimming." Another fan called the series' lack of transitions a result of "lousy writing and editing," while a third wondered why Michael Hirst couldn't see that "the historical story is truly more interesting than this garbage fantasy he's crafting [in Season 4-6]" (via Reddit).

More recently, however, several fans took to the subreddit to express their support of the series' senior season, which they felt was both underrated and overly hated. 

Fans felt season 4 was a victim of its own good but tragic storyline

"I think a lot of the criticism does stem from people not wanting to see Ragnar fall into the despair how he did," theorized user Skyfryer, an avid supporter of the season. "The 'fall from grace' we see in season 4 is tragic, poetic and makes sense for a lot of the themes [...] I don't know what else people expected, the amount of s*** this character went through would've broken many individuals much much sooner." 

In Season 4, Ragnar begins using opium to escape his mental and physical pain, and subsequently becomes addicted. While Ragnar was never a straightforward "good guy," his addiction alters his personality and decision-making, a point many fans viewed not as a disappointment, but as good writing. In fact, one user, scary__canary, argued that the strength of "Vikings" as a series was the lack of straightforward heroes, with all of the protagonists being troubled people with severe flaws.

After another fan referred to Ragnar's addiction storyline as unnecessary (via Reddit) user Vnthem joined other fans in their defense of it: "it was the catalyst for his downfall and his death," adding that, "It was hardly pointless, it [led] to the event that completely changed the show." User themkane agreed, saying that the storyline was "the amalgamation of Ragnar having no one anymore at Kattegat (Lagertha left, Bjorn in the forest, Floki arrested, Aethelstan dead...)" and calling it "a great way to showcase his downfall leading up to his death." 

Complaints about both the opium storyline and Ragnar's Season 4 death (and the subsequent time jump) were abundant in the discussion, but one user felt differently about both.

Fans are split about which half of Season 4 works better

The aforementioned fan argued on Reddit that Season 4 was their top season of the show (other than Season 1), including the storyline about Ragnar's addiction, and that the season's strength was exactly the reason that the fourth and fifth seasons of "Vikings" were such a letdown – not as a result of Season 4, but in relief of and in contrast to it. The complexity of Season 4's spin on Ragnar's motivations and capacities also impressed user ABBAaddict93, who wrote that, "I like season 4 because it really shifts from a good v bad story and you see Ragnar as a complex person who is struggling." 

While many fans expressed their love for the season in its entirety, a few were more particular. "Season 4A [is] great," said one fan (referring to the first ten episodes), "season 4B not so much." In contrast, user JRR92 expressed a preference for 4B, while saying 4a was the low point of the series. Notably, half of the season's latter ten take place after the death of the beloved Ragnar and the dissolution of the Great Heathen Army. The user wrote, "I hate drug Ragnar, the very unnecessary amount of time spent in England and just the entire plot of the season feels like it could've been done in about 4 or 5 episodes."

Although the series' latter seasons may forever struggle to strike fans in the same way that Seasons 1 and 2 did, it's safe to say that many chose not to turn on the show even when Hirst decided to weigh down, sink, and ultimately kill off his main protagonist.