Are we all ready for our favorite over dramatized retelling of the lush history of the Vikings, as seen through the History Channel? I thought so. I’ve been waiting for this moment, too – with an episode name of “Eye For An Eye,” we know that there will be some plot development and histrionic acting. Ah, I can’t believe it’s been a week. It’s been too long.
A part of me hopes that we’ll get a shout out to One Eye (who I imagine is walking around in Valhalla with a spear through his chest, because in my mind all Valhalla ghosts are like Hogwarts ghosts and openly reflect the way they were gruesomely handed their death), but I think that’s a bit too much to hope for. It’s okay, Not Nearly Spearless Enough One Eye (ghost name pending), the Vikings writers might have forgotten about your inglorious death, but we haven’t.
But, enough about that, we have a show to watch!
It’s about time. Your diatribe about One Eye, a character you haven’t really mentioned and/or cared about before, was weird and time consuming.
Oh, whatever! You live for my random literary anecdotes.
We start this episode in the dreary countryside of northern Europe, rain pelting the remaining and retreating members of Kattegat. Rollo (Clive Standen) proclaims that they will stay at a homestead in the distance, only to be met with disgust by Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland) – it looks dirty after all.
If it looks dirty to a woman that doesn’t know what basic plumbing looks like, I don’t want to know the level of gross-ocity.
True, but if you’re running away from your home town because it was taken by your husband’s enemy after he and his men slaughtered 85% of the population of the said town, you really do not have a place to argue. Take the back seat, Aslaug, it’s this or sleeping on a bough of decaying leaves through the winter. No, no. Your choice. Rollo pretty much had the same reaction; even if they were to find a more “inviting” place to stay, that would be the first place Jarl Borg’s men would look as Aslaug’s dainty femininity is apparently known Europe-round. Siggy (Jessalyn Gilsig) adds that it will make Aslaug stronger and it will make her sons stronger because they’ll “survive” this.
You know, episode after episode I really try to like Aslaug, but the writers are truly not making her very likable. This convo in comparison to the conversation last episode where Bjorn just wanted to live alone in a cabin in the woods to discover himself makes me realize just how precious Aslaug and her storyline are. Come on, Princess – gimme some grit!
As for the 15% of the population of Kattegat that survived Jarl Borg’s (Thorbjørn Harr) raid, they’re introduced to their new ruler who assures them that he only raided and invaded to seek justice. Kattegat, being a trading station, will flourish under his gaze. Yadda yadda yadda. It seems like the Seer (John Kavanagh) isn’t really grasping onto what he says either, creeping heaving in the middle of the square in his black cloak like an old man who’s angry at a kid on his lawn. With good reason! Jarl Borg denounces the power of any being other than him, cementing it with a bounty on Ragnar and his family.
Later, he visits the Seer to propose some questions of his own. Though he proclaims his power as almighty, he wants to know what will happen to him in the vast bucket of water and amorphous goo that is the future. Assuming the Gods allow him to speak of his fate, of course. The Seer – cryptic as always – says he can see what will happen to Jarl Borg; there is an eagle that hovers above Jarl Borg while he, himself, is also an eagle. Jarl Borg is stoked about this news because (hey!) eagles are usually super good signs for things ahead. The eagle is his destiny.
Huh, last time I asked about my destiny the seer told me that my future is in the form of a cuddly baby sloth.
Well, if he was talking about a slow loris, they’re actually venomous and totally legit so I think your future is bright, Television Review Show Alter Ego of Shanbanana.
Meanwhile in Essex, the priest from the last episode voices his concerns about the Vikings to King Ecbert (Linus Roache) of a flourishing feast and King Ecbert’s gaudy green velvet cape. He seems intrigued that Ragnar wants to talk and will agree to the terms pending the sides exchange hostages as a makeshift security blanket. He offers his son up as a hostage because “a hostage of the highest value is the safest hostage,” but will only turn his son over after the Vikings have provided a hostage of equal value to their camp. The priest huffs because they’re savages and of course don’t care about human life; however, yet again, King Ecbert disagrees – not long ago they were pagans (before the great G-Man in the sky entered their lives) and they cared for their family and loved ones all the same regardless of the religion they ascribed to.
Am I supposed to dislike this guy? Because this guy is sort of a badass.
He’s definitely a baddie in this series, but maybe he’ll start off in the frenemy territory before going full Regina George.
We’re taken back to Scandinavia where Aslaug is not adapting to the slum life at all. She complains that her sons are growing thin and – sure – Jarl Borg’s men might not find them there, but some other filth-contracted illness will and they’ll all die in squalor. Siggy tells her that she’s safe there, that many of the people in Kattegat live in abject poverty (surprise! Life is hard!) and that life isn’t a “walk across a field,” but Princess Aslaug practically flips her hair through a tantrum because she refuses to stay there. Seriously writers, you should be giving us reasons to like Princess Aslaug!
As for the hostage situation, Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) has selected himself. Wait. What? How is that an exchange of hostages? Anywho, he’s lead through Wessex and admires the ornate stone sculptures around the palace. Where is he going? Where else, King Ecbert’s bath house! Duh. It wouldn’t be a Vikings season 2 episode without us seeing King Ecbert’s upper torso. The water is “very temperate,” so Ragnar joins him while King Ecbert watches him undress and it’s a really bizarre scene for all of us. So. Many. Partially. Nude. Feelings.
King Ecbert says that when they’re in the bath (read: nude, unarmed) they’re equal and can have a conversation.
This guy. He’s clever!
Indeed. He wants to know why Ragnar has stayed and lets him know that his staying has allowed him to mass a large army to combat them. Ragnar says that it isn’t the gold he’s interested in, it’s the land; in response, King Ecbert proposes that he give Ragnar some land and in return request his new friend achieve some of his more violent plans.
Back at camp, Ragnar tells the boys about the news only to be interrupted by one of King Horik’s boats docking nearby. King Horik’s friend breaks the news to Ragnar that his town has been invaded and his family is on the run. Insert sad trombone noise here.
Ragnar packs his stuff and prepares the leave, wondering why King Horik (Donal Logue) isn’t packing his stuff as well. King Horik tells him that he intends on staying to finalize the deal with King Ecbert and to make sure that the deal is to their advantage which is kind of hard to do when you don’t speak the King’s spoken language. That’s where Athelstan comes in! King Horik wants him to stay and serve as translator, because leaving Athelstan in a den of wolves while smelling like freshly pan fried bacon is a fan-fucking-tastic idea. Ragnar’s manfeelings are hurt, as he figured that Athelstan would want to come with him to help find his family because he’s basically like their monk uncle. Monkle.
Athelstan says he wants to stay. Ragnar looks around at Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård) and then King Horik and figures, hey, if Athelstan wants to prove himself now of all times, what. Ever.
Even Ragnar, Captain Lack-Of-Hindsight, knows that this is bad news.
So, now we’re taken to Earl Sigvard’s territory, somewhere in Scandinavia. Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig) and Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) are discussing Ragnar’s current predicament and are stunned that his life would take such a nosedive in such a short amount of time. Bjorn tells Lagertha that they need to help Ragnar fight the good fight to restore peace and prosperity, however, there’s a hitch in that adorably naïve plan: Lagertha tells him that Earl Sigvard won’t help because they aren’t his lands (and he’s a possessive and jealous ass, but those are just my projected thoughts). Bjorn huffs off. Awww – he’s just like his father!
Rollo returns with news from the surrounding farmers and tells Siggy that there are roughly thirty soldiers that are willing and able to fight, which they both know would only be a mosquito bite on the arm of Jarl Borg’s iron fist over Kattegat. There’s a cute moment in this, though, when Siggy smiles at Rollo’s returned conviction.
It was actually incredibly adorable.
Yay! Character development! Rollo’s confronting some of his long-shelved feelings AND gets aggressive sex with a very proud Siggy. It was a good night in camp Rollo.
Regardless of her prior hesitation, Lagertha confronts Earl Sigvard about helping Ragnar only to be met with stubbornness on the new-husband front (and some really creepy come-ons including “[Ragnar] used to own your body, now I own it.” File that under: things to say that will never get you laid e.v.e.r). He orders her to come to bed and she refuses because there are things to talk about, Ragnar things. Lagertha tries to sell him on the idea of invading Kattegat because Jarl Borg will come for him next, he sees through this thinly veiled attempt to get him to help her help her ex-husband and then tries to assert his dominance via sexual assault.
What. The. Fuck.
Lagertha is not here for that and punches him square in the face, finishing him off with a Mortal Kombat kick to the groin. She tells him to never treat her like that again because she’s not his whore, she’s his wife. An overly-protective Bjorn listens outside of the door ready to shank him (the dagger was at the ready), but Lagertha thanks him for his bravery and sends him to bed as he knows better than to try that shit again.
Ugh, Lagertha! Stop making me have all of these FEELINGS.
Speaking of feelings, Athelstan is feeling mighty uncomfortable in Camp Rapes-The-English-Countrywomen-A-Lot without Ragnar to act as his protective social buffer. As to be expected, the camp has fallen into deep disrepair and chaos without Ragnar keeping the men in line. Shocking! He might actually be the human embodiment of “One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other!”
When King Ecbert hears that four of the ships have sailed back towards Scandinavia, he sees a divine opening for eliminating the Viking problem altogether.
Back at the farmhouse Ragnar’s family has taken hold of, her young boys are watching the farmer butcher a pig and Aslaug cries about it while hallucinating about Ragnar’s return.
She can dry her eyes as Ragnar and the four ships dock at Floki and Helga’s beach. Floki looks stricken as Helga reunites with him, saying that the Gods are angry with them and their return was not smooth – they heard the cries of the men that drowned around them and it obviously left a gruesome psychological mark, because years of axe-raiding hadn’t done it already. Also, they’ll head to the farmstead holding Ragnar’s family in the morning.
In the forest of Baer, England, the Vikings are ambushed and Athelstan runs to escape, although he eventually surrenders to the men.
This will only end well for him, I’m so sure.
Hold that thought! We’re taken back to rainy Scandinavia where Ragnar runs up through the hills and up to the entrance of the farmstead, where Siggy hilariously points Ragnar to his family like she’s the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz. I’m sorry, the nonchalance killed me. The family reunion is happy and he meets his new baby boy, not really freaked out by the whole Snake-In-The-Eye-Thing and blah blah blah happiness. Just when they’re about to have “I Missed You Sex,” Rollo returns from somewhere (presumably roaming the hills for fighters) and welcomes his brother to “the shithole they call home.” Awe, when they say it like that, it’s almost cute.
The brothers talk and Ragnar expresses his rage with Jarl Borg to Rollo only for Rollo to chafe his vengeance Willy with some stone cold facts. 1. You have no army. 2. You have no army. 3. Did I mention that you have no army to fight this bro with? It’s nice to see Rollo taking charge of the situation without turning into a giant asshat and I’m also pleased to see that Ragnar seems to be listening. Especially because Jarl Borg already knows of his arrival and has practically already commissioned a piece of artwork in honor of his beheading of the bearded Ragnar (you know he’s going to want to preserve that memory. For posterity).
What about our favorite priest though?
He’s being set up to be make-shift crucified for his betrayal of the Christian faith by his captors.
Wait! No one we care about is supposed to die in this episode! I thought I had another week or two to emotionally prepare myself!
Fear not! Though battered, bloodied, whipped to hell and back, and resembling Anglo-depictions of Jesus in a weird way (we knew he was growing his hair out for a reason but I never knew they’d be this literal), he is spared by King Ecbert.
Why? Why would he spare Athelstan?
Well, King Ecbert obviously (and thankfully, though this is just my guess) acknowledges how tenuous-yet-important the relationship with Ragnar and his warriors is, which has lead him to spare Athelstan’s life because Ecbert knows how important the Once Monk is to Ragnar. You know what would obliterate any potential fairweather relationship with Ragnar? Killing his favorite monk. Obviously. You know, with the Ragnar/King Horik/Jarl Borg relationship as a reference, I think King Ecbert needs to give Ragnar a man-to-man talk about how to make and keep friends instead of sidelining them like last week’s pizza (assuming the pizza is topped with Jarl Borg. The analogy worked better in my head, trust me). The King of Wessex knows what’s up. In his own weird way, he’s the chess master of the show right now.
Back at the farmstead, everyone is in a kerfuffle because of a mass of people approaching on horseback. Floki runs to Helga and alerts her that they are coming. He thinks it’s Jarl Borg coming to kill them all, but no. It’s something so. Much. Better. Enter: Queen Lagertha, Stage Right.
She approaches with soldiers and Bjorn, ready to save his ass from total annihilation. Bjorn and Ragnar reunite with a bearhug that’s darling; Bjorn tells his father how excited he is to see him and Ragnar sizes up what his son has become (a good two inches taller, for one). They talk about Gyda and about their familial bonds of strength; the breath Lagertha lets out after the boys walk of is one I think we all were holding.
Just like that, the episode has ended on a positive note, with Lagertha ushering in the soldiers to set up camp. Since it ended on a decent note, we know that everything is going to fall to shit because a happy tune can only be held for approximately 30 seconds in-show time per episode. However, next week we have a lot to look forward to! Siggy and Lagertha’s reunion, Aslaug being Aslaug, Athelstan conversing with King Ecbert’s son, and a Very Jarl Borg confrontation.
What’s your arbitrary rating for this week? Things ended fairly positively!
Yeah, thinks are looking a bit better assuming your name is not “Athelstan.” Anyway, I found this episode to be really strong; even though it lacked the fighting some earlier episodes had, it was still intriguing and captivating. But, hey, I’m hooked! I’m going to give this sixteen Viking romps-in-the-hay out of nineteen.
What did you guys think of this week’s episode?