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Review: ‘Vikings,’ Season 2, Episode 4, ‘Eye For An Eye’

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!

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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.

SIGH.

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.

Seriously.

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?

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22 thoughts on “Review: ‘Vikings,’ Season 2, Episode 4, ‘Eye For An Eye’

  1. I was busy watching basketball but I cannot wait to see this episode. I know I’ll despise Aslaug even more. Such a wienie.

      • I wish Lagertha was around to bitch-slap Aslaug. But I’m excited that Rollo is living up to his hottie potential!

  2. Haha. Monklestan it is.

    I’m loving the new Rollo. They may actually be more like equals now that he has given up his fight for control, than he was when he was fighting for equality (or more). Of course, him being the brains of the operation is going to be a stretch for me, but I can roll with it for now.

    It will be very interesting what they do with the Monklestan story. Will he now switch back and give the Saxons information to defeat the Vikes? Will he now stand with the pagans or just with Ragnar? It will be interesting.

    I thought that we might have avoided baby-momma drama, but it looks like it is going to happen against my wishes. Although, with the pace of the show so far, a little dramatic development between characters without wars in mind might actually be a good thing. Might he actually go back to Lag or is Hirst going to stick mainly to the pseudo-historic line? This will be a good test for that.

    The surprising lack of the Flokester is killing me. I need more Floki.

    I loved the father-son interaction. I think it was well written and very well portrayed by both actors. Not too mushy, but it definitely had me going. It was very interesting to me that there was only minimal interaction with Lag even after she brought him an army of men.

    Very good episode, in my opinion.

    • I’m wondering where they’re going to take the Rollo story from here. He’s pretty much been used as nothing more than a foil every episode and plot so far (don’t know where to go? Blame Rollo!), so it will be interesting to see whether or not they’re going to keep him in this honorable streak or not.

      Ahhh, I feel so bad for Monklestan. Will he die? Did his brush with death give him some leeway for life? Only time will tell. I think it would be a stretch for him to betray Ragnar, but we’ll have to see.

      I’m SO OVER the babymama drama, I hate that they keep bringing it back into the picture. I know some viewers love it, but the sooner it’s done/away, the sooner we can actually pay attention to character development that isn’t based completely on cliches.

      Apparently the European edit of the episode had a LOT more Floki (and a Helga/Floki love scene). Why are they taking the loony bird away from us? Not. Fair.

      I loved the Ragnar/Bjorn interaction, it felt believable. Lagertha’s seeming inability to breathe while they interacted was also spot on.

  3. Any thoughts about Jarl Borg’s visit to the Seer, and the seer’s comments about eagles, which Jarl Borg took to be positive?
    The Vikings apparently did this torture-thing called “The Blood Eagle” on their enemies. Look it up for yourselves on Google. I don’t want to lose my lunch.
    In any case, episode 7 is where a major character gets offed in a brutal manner — but since it appears Athelstan has survived one crucifixion attempt, we can probably eliminate him.
    How about our un-favorite pillager, Jarl Borg? Maybe “the eagle” that visits him won’t be of the feathered variety??

    • The Blood Eagle is probably apocryphal… probably.
      It’s really just a combination of various types of torture, some of which probably happened individually, but never happened in that combination because no one would survive or be conscious very far into it.

      The chief thing it was probably derived from that’s pretty real wasn’t actually torture, but rather desecrating the corpse of a battlefield victim by luring scavenger birds to get a meal (this was usually done simply by carving an ‘X’ across the back). Eagles are not above carrion and if so inclined will always get first dibs over other birds because they’re goddamn eagles.

      Really, the Saxons may have been bigger assholes when it came to ritualistic killing.

    • Oooo! Very interesting point. I do think Jarl Borg will die soon, but whether or not it’s from their brutal Blood Eagle method (googled that straight away – YIKES) or otherwise is hard to say. Additionally, I don’t know the symbolism of eagles in Viking culture – it probably would impact the scene a lot. I’m not sure they’d consider the death of Jarl Borg a massive character death, actually…he’d just a villain and in this show, those are pretty disposable. Unfortunately, I think one of our favorites will bite the big one.

  4. Loved the Ragnar/Bjorn reunion. They will all fight together, Lagertha included, and will kick Borg’s ass, I don’t see Borg lasting another episode, he killed 75% of Ragnar’s people (village). Looks like most of the men Ecbert killed were Horik’s, don’t see Ragnar having an issue with this. I also think he was genuinely hurt when Athelstan didn’t accompany him back home, he’s like the family nanny. Can’t wait til next Thursday. Love the reviews, keep it up lady! Nice weekend all.

    • Thank so much!

      I agree. This episode was really strong character wise, there was a lot of growth in the characters which I really liked. Ragnar/Bjorn, Ragnar/Athelstan, Bjorn/Lagertha, Ragnar/Rollo – they all had really telling scenes that the show desperately needed to bind the plot together. I’m excited to see where it goes!

  5. Liked this episode better than last week’s. The highlight for me was Lagertha being awesome- glad she’s back in shieldmaiden form, she was beginning to feel a little out of character for me.

    Though Aslaug continues to unimpress me- I didn’t like how snobby and prissy she was being. I also thought she wasn’t being very smart- the farm was probably one of the last places Jarl Borg would look for them. I just don’t see what ragnar sees in her, especially after lagertha. Besides her ability to produce sons, that is.

    I hope the eagle prophecy wasn’t referring to the Blood Eagle- that is a particularly nasty way to die. Either way, I have a feeling Jarl Borg isn’t going to last very long. And I liked the reunion, though I thought Ragnar could have acknowledged Lagertha at least a *little* more.

  6. The father/son reunion was the strongpoint of this episode for me. New Bjørn is cool.

    Also I think Ecbert secretly wishes he was a salmon.

  7. I’m sad Jarl Borg is probably dead next episode. I still think he’s a pretty good guy. His wife playing with his hair this episode was adorable, and he has treated the people of Kattegat decently. He’s not pillaging the village, and he’s promised to bring it prosperity. I’m sure he would honor his pledge for Ragnar’s head, too.

    Sure, he’s an invader, but so are most of the characters in the series, and he actually has a legitimate grievance, unlike the attacks on the English.. Who treats defeated populations better than Borg has? Would you rather Jarl Borg or King Horik occupy your farming village?

    He did have a bit of a spastic moment with I WILL KILL RAGNAR LOTHBROOK, but that’s natural. Obviously his rule is in question while Ragnar lives, and killing him personally would put any questions to rest. We know that won’t happen, but he doesn’t.

    I’m not quite buying Rollo’s redemption angle yet either. Maybe eventually. But I mean, our introduction to Rollo was him raping a slave. Not forgetting that any time soon.

  8. Excellent review as always. Your reviews are just the big red cherry on top of the ice cream sundae that is this fantastic show.

    So, where to start. Let’s start with the spoiled princess, Aslaug. While i don’t hate her Michael Hirst isn’t exactly making it easy to feel anything other than “meh” about her. Suck it up your highness, It might be a dirty hovel, but you and your brood is alive. I’m really not feeling alot of love in her relationship with Ragnar either. I read a comparison somewhere else that they feel more like a high school tryst that ended with her knocked up and a shotgun wedding.

    There’s a lot more emotion in the other supporting relationships. Both Rollo & Siggy and Floki & Helga are awesome and precious. I totally hope Helga gets her wish of little Floki juniors.

    And really, as if Earl Sigvard didn’t rack up enough douchebag points last week. Now we add “possesive jealousy” and “sexual assault” to his resume. Lagertha let the creep of FAR too easy. If he doesn’t get shanked by someone before seasons end I will be disapointed

    Poor, lost, confused and tormented Athelstan. But if they didn’t kill him on the cross his odds for survival are looking alot better. I’m sure Hirst has more in store for him.

    And then there’s the highpoint of episode. Lagertha in full battle gear arriving with Bjorn at the head of a respectable amount of warriors. Ready to save ex-hubbys bacon. That father/son reunion was heartwarming. Travis and Alexander absolutely killed it in that scene.

    Really excited about next week. Lagertha and Aslaug under the same roof, but I really hope it doesn’t turn too catty. Would be interesting to get a scene with Bjorn reacting to his half-brothers too. Plus the whole family (Ragnar, Lagertha, Bjorn and uncle Rollo) opening a can of whup-ass on Jarl Borg!

    • And you probably have no idea what I’m talking about in regards to Floki & Helga. Just found out that particular scene was cut from the US broadcast.

      • Let me try to recap the scene for you then. It’s right after Ragnar has been introduced to his new baby Sigurd.

        Floki and Helga are sitting at a table, with Floki munching on some food.

        Floki: “Thank you Helga”.
        *Helga looks at him lovingly*
        Helga: “Let’s have a child”..
        *Floki gives her a look of surprise*
        Helga: “If we survive, let’s make a child”
        *Floki makes a noise *
        Helga: “I’m serious..you can’t laugh about everything. Don’t you want a child? I do..
        *Floki looks her in the eyes with those special Floki puppy eyes*
        Floki: “I would be worried that my child would be like me”
        Helga: “Why would that worry you?”
        Floki: “Oh sweet Helga….there are just things you don’t understand..”

        Camera cuts away

    • You’re continued support is awesome! I always look forward to your episode input.

      I feel the same about Aslaug. I don’t hate her, but he’s really making it hard to be on Team Aslaug when she cries about pigs and is afraid to get her hands dirty. It’s also hard when she’s stacked up against Siggy/Lagertha/Helga (who even though isn’t shown much is still a super strong/interesting character). It just makes her seem even blander.

      SERIOUSLY. Earl Sigvard needs his comeuppance. I hope it’s by Bjorn’s hand, but I’d also eat popcorn to Lagertha shanking him into submission.

      I think so, too. It will be interesting to see if Athelstan survives the seventh episode after he was so righteously spared this time around; you have to wonder where his character is going to be taken.

      I’m reaaaallllyyy hoping that they don’t ignite another catfight! I just want Lagertha to kick ass and not interact with Aslaug, but I am actually really excited for the Lagertha/Siggy reunion. Speaking of reunions, the Bjorn/Ragnar reunion really was done well! It felt super organic and it was well acted. Gold stars all around!

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