Well, now, that was trippy. I don't dislike it the way most seem to. In fact, although it was a depressing outcome, I liked it. I thought the title "Best Laid Plans" came to fruition through the chronological "plan" by the writers to unfold the final battle. Without seeing Ivar explain it movement by movement to the Rus in the cabinet meeting, I'm not sure I would have understood it as it played out.
The smile of eureka on Ivar's face when the princeling made a suggestion that gave him an idea (coming up the river) was fabulous.
(Scaling the mountain reminded me of the scaling of the French fortresses in some previous season. Remember when Ragnar fell and broke his back?)
What was really trippy were the out of body experiences -- with Bjorn and Ivar on the beach, with Ivar and Katrina (?) in that fairy-wings love scene (ugh*), and one or two others I can't remember right now.
What I believe was very real? The end of Bjorn and the end of Harald (history and wiki tell us that Harald I actually died of old age). The brutal rape. Gunnhild's amazing mourning scene over the baby and her escape from Oleg's battle. (What I love about Gunnhild is her totally self-aware honesty and the convincing way the actress portrays it).
*However, I freely admit that Ivar looked amazingly sexy for the first time in this entire series in that love scene. Both Ivar and the actor are growing into their skin and it's delightful to see.
**Speaking of French fortresses -- where is Rollo when we need him to come and save the day?
***Ivar's best moment? The Oscar winning performance? For me, it was in his conversation with Bjorn on the beach. It was understated but so, so important. We finally have a sort of Floki and Athelstan moment in that Bjorn (like Floki before him) represents the Old Gods (Norway) and Ivar is telling him that he can't win (the new God is coming -- Christianity -- in the form of a superior Army of Rus.) With the benefit of time, Ivar and the Rus bring the same threat Athelstan presented to Floki who also fought back and lost; Ragnar finally converted and Floki ran away to another land entirely.
****It's ironic that I feel Ivar took the award for this half season. I've never liked Ivar and found him to be one-note while the actor is really outstanding. For a while, he was up there on my "lazy writing" scale with Floki. Not now. He's quite amazing and I'm pleased he stayed with the series.
*****I found it fascinating that I could hear pre-English words and syllables in Gunhild's Old Norse language as she mourned. That's a really cool touch.