You know, today was a pretty good day. I woke up on the right side of the bed, got a positive call about a job I applied for (gainful employment, here. I. come.), and had leftover pizza for lunch and dinner – which, I understand, might not seem like a positive to some of you, but for me? It’s delicious, scrumptious, carb-y satisfaction. Oh, and one more thing: Vikings. Combining the end of the last episode with the knowledge (slash, accepted rumor) that someone key to the group is going to die in this episode, I’ve been on pins and needles all day for the show to grace me with its sometimes confounding, yet always entertaining, presence.
Are you ready for Season 2, Episode 7: Blood Eagle? I know I am. Without stalling any further, let’s get down to some bloody, raid-centric business!
We start this episode off in an extremely tense Kattegat. The snow has returned and King Horik (Donal Logue) is a man on a mission, you can tell by his hazy, graying hair and peeved look on his face. Inside of the chamber, he asks Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) – who is currently dangling a rodent by its tail over some fire, because it’s cold and it’s not bizarre at all, just kidding, he slams it against the table and it dies – if he really intends on killing Jarl Borg (Thorbjørn Harr). While he starts converting the rodent into Grade A food and channeling some Grandmama Frump Realness, King Horik tells him that he understands the reasoning for wanting revenge, but the fact of the matter is that they won’t be able to successfully raid and take revenge on King Ecbert without Jarl Borg’s ships and his men.
Right, because Jarl Borg will totally agree to loaning his manpower to this cause after being beaten and tortured by Ragnar’s men. Furthermore, King Horik must have cajones of steel to talk to Ragnar about this when it’s effectively his fault that they’re in this position in the first place.
Rollo (Clive Standen) finds it similarly comical. He and his partial up-‘do seriously ask King Horik if he expects Ragnar to simply look away from the entire situation and King Horik responds with a semi-reasonable answer; no, he doesn’t expect him to look away (though he’d really like that), he just wants him to stay the execution until they find another ally that they can befriend and use their manpower. Ragnar reluctantly agrees to hold off on the execution until they find someone else to raid with, but not before King Horik makes it clear that he will get his revenge against King Ecbert with or without his help.
We’re taken to England, where we see King Aelle (Ivan Kaye) approaching King Ecbert’s (Linus Roache) territory. Remember that guy? He was a major foil in season one and seemingly posed a threat to our lovely Vikings, until they killed his brother to teach him that they were nothing to fool around with. I’m sure that left a charming impression on him and is surely the reason that he’s rolling up to King E’s doorstep. It becomes clear very quickly that King Aelle wants King Ecbert’s allegiance in the fight against Ragnar and company. Though it’s unclear where King Ecbert stands in that moment, he welcomes King Aelle with open arms to the chant of “God Save England.”
But, hold that thought. We’re again transported to Scandinavia, where Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård) is hammering away at an extraordinarily ornate shield. Helga (Maude Hirst) approaches him from behind and captures him in a shoulder hug, telling him that she’s with child. Yes, you heard me! Floki the carpenter, Floki the fisherman…NO: Floki the father. It is the sweetest thing I ever did see, even with the crippled self-esteem and instantaneous desire for a Viking-style shotgun wedding. He views the gods as friends to them and Helga desires a wedding filled with their mortal-world friends as well, even as Floki patently objects to Ragnar’s attendance.
Wait, why? Why would he object to Ragnar attending the wedding? I’m pretty sure he ranks high on his “friend list,” like, in MySpace terms, he’d definitely be in Floki’s top eight.
His reasoning is that everything in their reality revolves around Ragnar at that point; where they get their food, what they’re doing on the weekend, where they’re raiding – everything is Ragnar, Ragnar, Ragnar. Floki wants his wedding to Helga to be about them.
Still, isn’t that a little weird? If my best friend didn’t invite me to her wedding because she’d be afraid of me stealing her thunder, I’d be pissed. I guess I’m sort of disappointed in Floki’s petty weirdness that smells suspiciously like jealousy.
Let’s just check in on Ragnar to see how he’s doing. He’s currently hanging out with his son, Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig). Bjorn is troubled because he believes his father doesn’t trust him, as he wasn’t informed of Ragnar’s intentions with Jarl Borg before that fateful night. Ragnar tells him that he would have told him of the actions, but he was mysteriously absent. Where was he?, he asks. He was with Porunn, the pretty slave girl played by Gaia Weiss that has single handedly won Bjorn over in the course of an episode. Ragnar then poses his worry that Bjorn will choose to be with Porunn over him, which of course is not an actual question of whether or not he and Porunn are going to pull a Romeo and Juliet and melodramatically kill each other, but a dig at the fact that Bjorn chose to be with Lagertha over him.
He then tells his son not to think with his Lower Bjorn, because it wouldn’t be a father-son convo without some weirdly comical intimacy references – don’t worry, Viking teens were still teens and Bjorn rolls his eyes and leaves the room. Ah, glad to know that times may change, but hormones absolutely do not.
Speaking of hormones! Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland) is with child and is worried about this pregnancy, because it is causing her much more pain than usual. Siggy (Jessalyn Gilsig) gently pries into the issue and Aslaug tells her that she told Ragnar that, if he and she consummated his return within 3 days of him coming home, she would bear a monster and not a child. She doesn’t know why she told the morbid prophecy to Ragnar and claims that it was the gods who chose the words and forced them through her; Siggy seems perturbed by the conversation. Me? While this is all sort of interesting and creepy, I’m wondering how I had no idea Vikings pioneered the art of weaving glitter.
Seriously, was that scene shot in JoAnn Fabrics?
Later that evening, a hooded figure pays off a guard and visits Jarl Borg – he is dirtied, shackled, and in low spirits.
Obviously. It’s really difficult to be chipper when all you can think about is your impending Blood Eagle fate.
The time he’s had to think about the method of torture ascribed to him has made him more solemn than usual. Additionally, there doesn’t seem to be his First Wife’s skull nearby, so he’s probably feeling a little lonely and confused. Where did he go wrong?
I know I’ve said this before, but I really think Jarl Borg got shafted in this whole situation. Puppetmaster Horik is the real bad guy – but no, common sense has apparently not made that abundantly clear.
Speak of the devil! It’s King Horik who has visited Jarl Borg. Kneeling next to him, he gives Jarl Borg some much needed water and Jarl Borg guzzles it like a dehydrated man approaching an oasis. You get the impression that our Vikings haven’t been holding Jarl Borg in the lap of luxury. King Horik tells Jarl Borg that he will take no pleasure in his death and Jarl Borg can see through his act – he knows that King Horik is (perhaps subconsciously) intimidated by Ragnar and upset that Ragnar went behind his back with the vengeance plot. He plants another seed of doubt in King Horik’s mind: as Ragnar’s star grows, King Horik’s dims.
Jarl Borg wants King Horik to help him escape, kill Ragnar, and promote Rollo to Earl – all so he can retake Kattegat. King Horik things about this proposition and then gives Jarl Borg a gift.
First Wife’s skull! Reunited and it feels so good!
King Horik up to No Good. This is pretty much par for the course, right?
Ragnar visits the Seer (John Kavanagh) and voices his worry about Athelstan while cradling a snake (which, I should note, have grown in frequency in appearances and references – from Ragnar’s snake pit to Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye). The Seer tells Ragnar that Athelstan (George Blagden) is alive, though his spirit is tormented; he is with someone Ragnar knows, “a foreigner, a king.” Ragnar seems to take this as little consolation.
Later that night, while Rollo fights men blindfolded in a makeshift Fight Club arena, he’s obviously distracted. After the round, Rollo wants to why Ragnar is waiting on King Horik’s word to commence the Blood Eagle treatment of Jarl Borg. He, like Aslaug, don’t understand why he always bends to the will of the shady king – but that’s just why Ragnar waits, because he’s the king.
Meanwhile, Bjorn tries to chase down Porunn only for her to rebuff him yet gain. Bjorn goes to Floki for advice, complaining about how Rollo says she’s a slave girl and Bjorn can have her “anytime he likes.” He doesn’t want to think of her that way, he is a young bloke in the throes of young love, after all! Floki tells him that Rollo is heavy handed because warriors aren’t allowed to show their emotions so flippantly, to which Bjorn proclaims Floki’s wiseness. Luckily, we don’t have to watch his pathetic attempts to be smooth for long, because we pan to Aslaug giving Jarl Borg’s wife a drink; Aslaug tells her that she feels sorry for her and the situation she’s in, but the woman says that it’s all the same for women – they are there to give birth to the slaughtered.
Yeah, Aslaug doesn’t really know what to say to that, either.
Speaking of pregnancy, while in a conversation with Siggy, Helga makes it clear that she wants Ragnar’s blessing for the wedding, even if Floki doesn’t. When Siggy hears this, she immediately starts whispering in King Horik’s ear that Floki is upset with Ragnar – something she’s positive he’ll be able to use against our protagonist. Horik doesn’t buy it, saying that Floki loves Ragnar.
Well, I don’t even think Floki knows what’s going on inside of his head, so I’m not sure what we’re supposed to be getting out of these interactions.
Fear not! We’re transported to England, where King Aelle is talking to King Ecbert. King Ecbert is perfectly happy siding with King Aelle and forming an alliance, but he also wants to get rid of some excess baggage along the way – like their shared neighboring kingdom, that has been in a state of turmoil and violence since the death of their king. King Aelle is hesitant, because he knows that King Ecbert’s kingdom is very large and there would be nothing to hold him back from taking over his kingdom when he saw fit.
As if expecting this response, King Ecbert proposes the marriage of his eldest son to Aelle’s daughter Judith, forever binding their kingdoms in a marital contract.
King Aelle accepts.
King Ecbert is a genius.
That can’t be said enough. Seriously, though – that man is a genius.
The next day, Ethelwulf marries Judith. Meanwhile, we have a Very Viking Wedding, complete with Helga sailing in on a flower-embellished raft and excellent eyeliner courtesy of Floki. The ceremony is sweet and the couple is as happy as happy can be – however, true to his wishes, Ragnar is not in the audience. That’s probably a good thing, because a messenger arrives for Ragnar on behalf of Earl Engstad.
All in good time. All that Ragnar needs to know is that Earl Engstad has a fleet of ships and a horde of men that they wish to align with him. Of course, he sends the messenger back to Earl Engstad with a resounding yes. Rollo tells Siggy about the mysterious Earl Engstad and then they engage in some rough hanky-panky; Rollo has found out about her sleeping with King Horik (they made it awfully obvious) and hasn’t taken the news well. He also doesn’t react well when she tells him that she sleeps with Horik for him.
That makes no damn sense, like he’s supposed to be cool with that? I know this is a morally grey part of history and culture, but that’s is just the weirdest reason for infidelity I have heard in recent television memory.
Also, do you know what is probably the unsexiest post-coital topic of discussion? How sleeping with a gross king and his son is a good way to politically align yourself with both your brother and said creepy king. Siggy tells Rollo that in the event that Ragnar and King Horik have a falling out, she’s creating a sex-based safety net that would allow Rollo to survive the resulting violence. Word is out on whether or not Rollo finds her level of crazy-to-sexy to be acceptable enough to continue the relationship.
King Horik (speak of the devil!) visits Jarl Borg in his cell and tells him that they have already set the plans to break him out in motion. He then confirms that when he’s out, they will kill Ragnar.
While Ragnar is bathing that evening –
Okay, he spent way too much time with King Ecbert. Before that communal bath we never saw him wading in water. Is this a sign that he’s going to gain some strategic fortitude like the English King or is he suddenly discovering hygiene?
A-hem, like I was saying – while Ragnar is bathing that evening, he converses with Bjorn. He questions his son about his knowledge on the Blood Eagle (which I keep capitalizing for no reason, but now I’ve committed to it) and then proceeds to describe the gruesome torture method in extensive detail. I would type it out verbatim, but you can read the Wikipedia entry and I won’t get grossed out, so we all win. Torstein comes into the room and tells Ragnar that Earl Engstad has arrived and is waiting for him in the woods.
Ragnar and his crew go to the woods, where they see a man standing alone in a clearing. Ragnar approaches and asks if he’s Earl Engstad, but no, of course not, because as Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) appears from behind the trees on a flawless fucking horse looking like a picture of total Earless perfection, it becomes readily apparent that she is the (now infamous) Earl Engstad. “You bear a striking resemblance to my ex-wife.” You don’t say!
I’m not going to lie, this entire scene was hilarious and incredibly well acted. Ragnar’s “I can’t believe that I totally believe that Lagertha is an Earless” face was impeccable and the chemistry the two still share is palpable. Hilarious and awkward rolled into one.
She has four ships and over a hundred warriors that she is willing to lend to the cause, besides, she’s heard England is lovely this time of year. Ragnar accepts on the condition that she is Lagertha and not Earl Engstad. I can understand this reasoning, he doesn’t seem to have a good track record with Earls. Just saying.
While this reunion goes down, Bjorn brings Jarl Borg food and watches as he scarfs it down.
That Bjorn. Cavorting with prisoners, falling in love with slaves. He’s breaking all kinds of rules, isn’t he?
It’s a weird scene. At this point in time, Bjorn is really sensitive compared to those around him – that sort of compassion can be as large of an asset as it can be a flaw.
When Lagertha is settled in Kattegat, she sets up training camp right smack in the middle of the town. She trains with men and women alike and Aslaug approaches Ragnar for his opinion on the situation. He thinks the gods are playing a trick on him and you can’t help but believe him, just a little bit. Aslaug laughs and tells him that it isn’t a joke; she likes Lagertha, she finds her formidable. The lack of cattiness and the hint of charm fills me with total and complete joy.
Then, things take a darker turn. Horik unchains Jarl Borg and the skinny, underfed man walks out into the Kattegat night, where Jarl Borg very swiftly realizes he’s been tricked. He won’t be escaping, King Horik instilled him with false hope. Under the watchful eyes of Kattegat, he approaches the stage with his head held high, placing his First Wife’s skull on a stump where she can watch.
The following scene is tasteful (okay, tasteful considering the subject matter) and brutal. Believe me, I could sympathize with the people who fainted in the audience. It was hard to watch, but at the same time, the wordless communication through the scene, the anguished nods and urges to continue from Jarl Borg to Ragnar was some of the best acting of the episode – even if I don’t buy Ragnar as the detached surgeon at all. Throughout it all, Jarl Borg stays silent, knowing that if he screams in agony he will be denied entry into Valhalla, but if he stays silent, he will be gifted entry. We end the episode with Ragnar leaving the altar and Jarl Borg’s last breath.
Yeah. Wow. I don’t really have words to describe how pleased I am that they’re not dragging on the Jarl Borg storyline, even if I’m really sad that he’s gone (though honorable it may have been through the lens of the gods). Though eccentric (skull kissing?), he was a solid character that was more likeable than some of the other characters that are still alive. But, who knows, I could just be a total Borg Apologist. It’s okay, I’ll be a member of that club.
So, yeah. Wow. I give this episode 17 symbolic crows out of 21 – there were so many fantastic points that it almost made me forget Bjorn’s awkward pickup line. Now, excuse me, it’s time to rewatch that episode again.
What did you guys think of this episode? Did the plots go where you expected? Are they missing the mark totally? And what is wrong with Uncle Floki?