Holy Odin’s Wrath! It seems as if everyone is getting Norsefever, and it appears to be in the form of a second season renewal. If you’re reading this, you’ve also been infected (was I supposed to warn you about that? Oops!). Is your hair looking a little lighter lately? Are you waking up covered in blood with your mane done in ornate braids? Regardless of your gender, are you growing a beard? Do you have an intense craving for drinking alcoholic honey water? Yes? It’s just too late for you, then. There isn’t anything to be done. Don’t worry, I’m there with you. We all are, but you shouldn’t want to be anywhere else. This is the best company you could ask for.
It’s Monday morning.
It’s Viking time.
Last week, we had an amazingly intense episode. Earl Haraldson’s (Gabriel Byrne) obsession with Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) gets continuously creepier and more intense than any Odin-sanctioned restraining order could handle. You may not have thought that was possible, but alas, Earl has handled Ragnar’s popularity really poorly; instead of talking about his feelings, he decides to burn Ragnar’s village to the ground and kill his family. Miraculously, Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick), Athelstan (George Blagden), and the two little monster Lothbrok children float away to safety on their boat. Sadly, the same can’t be said for their farm animals or their farm, which definitely is an ashen nightmare that definitely looks like that time I hit broil on bread and realized it way too late. Ragnar doesn’t fair well at all in his fight against Earl’s goons and barely makes it out of the situation alive. The fact that he is still breathing is pretty surprising considering the massive wounds and the fact that he jumped off of a cliff. But you know, those Vikings had different diets back then, some of those fish and berries could have been magical – ah, who are we kidding, it’s the mead. They find safety within Floki’s abode, where the family nurses Ragnar to health while he grunts and sinks further into a sassy attitude.
Meanwhile, Earl secretly betroths his daughter Thyri (Elinor Crawly) to a Mall Santa Reject and in doing so ignites a silent war with his wife, Siggy (Jessalyn Gilsig). By the end of the episode, when the marriage vows have been said and the consummation has occurred – shudder – you can feel a major marital shift has occurred. Also throwing wrenches into the situation is Rollo (Clive Standen), who is looking to get into Earl Haraldson’s good graces to take the attention away from Ragnar. “Why’re you still looking for Ragnar? I totally promise that my brother is totally, completely dead. Like a doornail. No, deader than that. Super dead. How do I know? I’m his brother, it’s like…ESP or something! P.S. Can I work for you?” Earl doesn’t believe and proceeds to torture him via Glasgow smile. When word gets back to Ragnar, you can feel the shit rising in the room – it’s about to hit the fan. Brace thyselves, Vikings fans!
Holy hell, you had to use two paragraphs for that summary. Are you ill? Are you feeling okay? Do you need a hug?
Nope, beer in hand, I’m ready to conquer this mountain! Ragnar could use that hug, though.
Floki is brought in to deliver the message before the Earl, he received VIP treatment for mentioning “Ragnar Lothbrok.” It seems to work, like mentioning you’re the guest of a celebrity when you’re trying to get into a club (if the club dealt with death, obviously). Floki tells the Earl about the deal Ragnar proposes, that if he doesn’t accept the duel to the death, he’ll be damned by Odin and have absolutely no mead with his sons in the afterlife. Earl is looking at Floki like he’s nuts, his righthand man laughs at it and so does Earl – after all, if he were to accept, he would be making Ragnar into an equal, which would be absolutely blasphemous. A farmer? Equal to an Earl? Get the fuck out of here with that shit. His righthand man says that he declined the challenge, but the Earl, recalling the creepy, near-faceless sage’s advice at the end of last episode, disagrees and, to everyone’s surprise, accepts the challenge.
Meanwhile, Ragnar is trying to have sex with Lagertha. He’s doing attractive things like licking her face and keeping his hands below the covers (I hope he washed them first), trying to make her forget about the fact that he’s about to fight to the death for his family’s honor. She half-denies his advances and tells him that he should only fight if the odds are in his favor, but Ragnar states that their fates are already decided. During this whole conversation, you can pretty much tell that they’re in each other. They have the worst sex talk ever. Seriously. Cosmo offers better suggestions than that.
Wait, really? Cosmo is also the magazine that tells you to stick banana mash up in your hoohaw. That….that can’t be right.
To their credit, they also gave peaches as a suggestion and peaches are delicious.
The Earl can’t stop talking about his sons and can’t stop talking about Ragnar – you see, he totally would have listened to Ragnar, obviously, he knew he was right, but all of his friends would have abandoned him if he did.
Right. Okay. That totally sounds like a cop out of a chieftain looking for a way to validate his dickish behavior.
Yeaaahhhh, I know. It’s a hunk of bullshit. It’s sort of like after a guy or girl you like actually goes for someone else and you have to play it cool, “I mean, oh yeah, I totally knew they weren’t really into me, you know? Like, I was just sitting back like, if I tell you I like you my friends won’t like me anymore, but you know, like, I totally think you’re cool still. You know?” Siggy tries to believe him, but we all know she doesn’t. Not even Athelstan at his most priestly moments would believe that.
Surprisingly, this is the least weird part of this interaction, because we’re immediately taken to a different part of the house, where Thyri is still trying to hold in her vomit whenever she looks over at Santa. To his credit, he seems equally as displeased with her performance and orders her to fetch him some picked herring, because nothing says aphrodisiac like the smell of vinegar laden rubbery fish. YUM. Time to call up my boyfriend, I have some steamy imagery to convey, especially as Santa yells out “I’m sure that’s our first child! And if you don’t fetch me pickled herring, I will beat you.”
Just kidding, it’s actually disgusting.
Can…can we move on? I want to move on.
Sure! It’s duel day and the men are preparing themselves for war. Ragnar awakens to his family staring at him while he has a look on his face that says he’s proud that he did the nasty with his babymama and everyone heard it, and Earl? Well, Earl is praying to Odin….it’s not working out for him, though, because Odin isn’t answering him. He throws his statuette of Odin into the fire (does he have a thing for that?) while Siggy tries to calm him down with a few kisses, but honestly, I don’t think that is going to make him less distracted and discouraged. That might be why she abandons that idea (a very wises choice) and instead presents him with a necklace made out of locks of hairs from their dead sons – if anything, it will fire him up. In a duel to the death, what do you have to lose?
Well, I mean…your life. If I were him, I’d be meditating in a far off room, trying to find my inner warrior that resides under my older, spongier skin.
The real question is: would you bring your kids to the fight? The answer is a resounding duh and we’re taken to the sandy fighting arena, where the loved ones of both parties have combined with the town of Kattegat to create a mighty ring of death. Each man is given two shields, if they lose one they cannot reclaim it. Immediately, Earl Haraldson throws away his first shield, prompting Ragnar to do the same. What is a duel to the death if not an extreme version of a contest of “who has the longer, stronger dick?” As you would expect in a fight of manhood, it’s intense, it’s met measure for measure, and it’s hard.
Eventually, Ragnar knocks Earl Haraldson to the ground, and he accepts defeat. It’s made permanent as Ragnar slits his wrist with his axe. You may think it brutal, but Earl H takes it in stride, even as Ragnar and Siggy kneel beside him; at long last, he will meet his destiny and dine at the table of Odin, he will meet with his deceased sons again.
Does that mean we’re finally done with the plotline to nowhere that is the Haraldson clan and their quest to find out who killed their two male heirs?
That’s right, Scooby Doo! Even as his righthand man voices that Ragnar should be killed, he’s soon met with his own death by axe to the chest (I bet Rollo has been wanting to do that for fucking eons).
Smarmy motherfucker…wait! Wouldn’t that Swedish king that Thyri married inherit everything?
I’m not up on my Viking mythology, but if it’s anything like how husbands usually work, the answer would have been yes, but –
Would have been?
Yeah, you should have let me finish. The answer would have been yes, but as Siggy realized what would have happened, she went over and gutted Santa like a sack of Christmas toys, effectively ending his chance at ruling over this part of Scandinavia. While that sounds that the grossest (or worst) Christmas present in the world, think of it this way: his chances of continuing his lineage through Thyri are pretty good, considering the unrefined art of contraception back then. Don’t want to think about that too long? I can’t blame you, it sounds like the worst gift ever. It’s a good thing we’re almost immediately distracted by Siggy, who commands everyone to hail Earl Ragnar.
Doesn’t that roll off your tongue? Earl Ragnar. Now, that’s grace in defeat.
For some reason, I don’t see her content with staying a disgraced woman.
Will she try to ascend to power through another man? Survey says: yes.
Ragnar takes his place upon his throne and surveys his goods, while not containing his smug ass look of “fuck yeaaaah, y’all should have all believed in me!”; he seems to have his priorities in order and begins blessing his compatriots that have stood by him with the highest honor. When he blesses Rollo, his brother considers himself an equal to his family and, specifically, his wife, “as long as good fortune holds.” Yeah. I bet he’s going to watch Lagertha.
With his penis.
Most important amongst this gaggle of fighting fortitude is a new addition named something that I couldn’t quite make out with a face that IMDB doesn’t mention, but sounds suspiciously like Toast-egg, which is my favorite kind of breakfast and which has instantly gained my favor. Toastegg asks to be taken upon the raiding ship next time they go abroad, which everyone kind of chuckles at. It’s returned with a scoff and an explanation that he has fought in wars all his life, yet remains alive. All his family, all his friends, everything he’s fought for is dead – if he were to fight, he would have nothing to lose. He wishes for a chance to die an honorable death and enter into those gilded gates of Valhalla. Being a good guy, Ragnar says yes.
But he’s an old man, won’t he hold them back during the next raid?
No, you shut your mouth. He represents the perfect union between buttery rye toast and any number of egg variations. Where others, like cereal and oatmeal, may revel in being mushy, he stands upon sturdy ground. He is an icon that we all can worship.
Anyway, by the time people are done rightfully worshipping the ground Toastegg walks upon, we see the town readying the expansive funeral of the former Earl Haraldson. Athelstan asks Ragnar why he insists upon such an extravagant affair when he was kind of a bastard to him and tried to kill him on multiple occasions. Ragnar asserts that Earl Haraldson was a good man and should be treated as such in the afterlife, because that’s the response of a smug motherfucker, which we all know is Ragnar’s ish. To shift the conversation, Ragnar decides to show Athelstan the drunken consort of Earl Haraldson who has decided to die with the formerly glorious man. This baffles Athelstan. Further baffling to him is the tradition of the slave banging many a man in her drunken stupor before her death, in honor of “their love for him.”
Thyri and Siggy are mourning the loss of their cashcow, which I’m sure Siggy loved somewhere in her heart. They make offerings of herbs, food, and other stuff while frowning over his dead body. The entire town has erupted into massive fanfare by now – they have loads to celebrate after all. A death! A new king! Probably some more death on the horizon! Athelstan is going to need a lot more mead if he’s going to forget this whole day, it’s a good thing Bjorn (Nathan O’Toole) is ready and willing to fill his cup to the brim before he even knows he’s empty. Aw, what a good little boozer! Every party needs one of those.
You know, if I were Athelstan, I’d probably try to blow that popsicle stand, too.
That’s very sweet of you, just like it was sweet of Athelstan, who desperately looked like he didn’t want to see the woman die, but was kept in place because Bjorn became a little prick douchey asshole who said that if he didn’t stay and watch her die in honor of Earl Haraldson, Ragnar would hear about it.
A plastered Ragnar appears with Lagertha and Gyda (Ruby O’Leary), the latter two of whom look like they’ve stepped out of a Free People catalogue in their knit maxi dresses, but seems to be channeling his son Bjorn when he denies the right to light the ceremonial fire of her husband’s body to Siggy. Oh, I get it. Respect thy wife, as long as it’s not your own. Speaking of wives! As Earl’s fiery boat drifts off into the distance and the crowd falls into a respectful hush, Lagertha tells Ragnar that she’s preggo.
Rollo, overhearing this, has his heart broken for the eight-hundredth time by Lagertha, because you know that he has always had a thin, tiny ray of home that one day she’d leave the man she loved to come fight wars with him. He’s not stupid, though, that Lothbrok brother, and he’s at the ready to pick up the fallen shards of a fucked up life and glue them together to form a rebound. Where would we be without his creep-ass? At least he aims the rebound high, because not everyone would be able to get into the pants of a widowed Earl, and Lordy Loo, is he trying. What do Rollo and Siggy have to lose? Especially when the offer of “Earl Rollo” is so tempting! It must be the scars. After all, like I told my miniature Dachshund after his spinal surgery, “that scar only makes you more rugged. Those bitches will be all over you!”
I thought that Rollo was on the side of Ragnar, though? When did he decide to jump ship again? Will he ever pick a side? With the writers ever allow him to have a consistent character instead of using him solely as a foil to Ragnar?
KNOW WHAT? I’m not even going to answer that, and it’s not even because I have no freakin’ clue (but it’s actually because I really have no idea).
A cut scene later, we’re watching a bunch of burly men get ready for their next trip abroad to England, where the most hilarious and simultaneously insulting interaction between Ragnar and Bjorn occurs. Bjorn, who is looking over the pigs, notes to his father that they are “fattening nicely.” Ragnar looks at him, an eyebrow raised, and notes “just like your mother.” Bjorn quickly changes the subject, “OH IT’S COLD, HUH?” because he wants to think about his parent’s sex life as much as the next person.
Exactly. He doesn’t.
Okay, guttermind. Enough about sex, copulation, and all that mating jazz. This is the History Channel, it wouldn’t be complete without a little history, right? If I wanted to watch the History of Sex, I’d just listen to that one song in Avenue Q.
Have you ever actually watched the history channel? Well, this one time, you’re actually right. Athelstan, probably more than a little drunk (bro, we’ve all been there), asked Ragnar to explain Ragnarak, his namesake. I actually didn’t mind this, considering my only experience with the term is in the game Golden Sun for GBA as a mediocre move Isaac gets at like level 7, but the rest of the crew is rolling their eyes like this is the most rudimentary knowledge.
Wait, I mean, I hate to channel adorable Athelstan at this moment, but I got a little lost during that entire, freaky scene.
It must have been the ~mysterious leaves~ they were burning in the fire that got you distracted; don’t worry if it’s true, you can tell your mom that it wasn’t directly inhaled, only a contact high. If you would like a bit of a recap, you can check out a good one here. Basically, it’s the beginning of the end. It’s doom, it’s gloom, it’s ultimate destruction. Joyous!
On that happy note, we’re now taken to Northumberland, England, where the Vikings are just about to dock and King Aelle is flipping tables, because these barbarians are up in his shit. One of the remaining men from the previous Northumberland is killed because he failed to stop the Vikings before they became a real thorn in Aelle’s side and gets tossed into…well, would you look at that terrifying pit of snakes. All I’ve got to say, as that guy writhes to his death in total, merciful, damned agony, is that you should try not to think about Ragnar’s mythological counterpart Ragnar Lodbrok’s cause of death when you look at it. Try not to think of the possible foreshadowing. Just think of Indiana Jones and how we would not like where this is going. Neither do I, Indy. Neither do I.
SNAKES? REALLY? WELL SHIT. Ugghhhh, I told Jennifer Lopez before and I’ll tell you now, I just can’t deal with serpents.
Yeah, I know. I have a lot of friends who are terrified of snakes, I’m sure they’re all cringing in sympathetic agony. If anything, this is foreshadowing a next episode of venomous death and poisoning rage. Is that hyperbolic enough? Good, because I’ll need your support as Ragnar toes the waters of negotiation (oh boy, next Sunday night, it looks like I’ll have to ready myself with a bottle of wine).
Well, damn. If anything, you’ll know I’ll be here to see you through the potential second-hand embarrassment. What would you give this episode?
I’d give it six out of seven surprise cameos from Odin’s ravens.