reviews

Review: ‘Vikings,’ Episode 7, ‘A King’s Ransom’

Somewhere between drinking too much wine with my mom while watching Goonies and Overboard, thusly becoming very hungover and making the week seem like ninety days of “I’m never going to drink again—wait, it’s only Friday?”, some family-oriented festivities (Alles Gute Oma!), this is the week that never ends. It just goes on and on (my friends), and it has felt like a stone’s age since I’ve been able to sit down, watch Vikings, and recap it for your enjoyment. Ah, with my liver back in working order and the bags beneath my eyes gone, I can soundly say that it’s good to be back. Oh yeah, it’s good to be back. Do I want a drink? No, no… but thank you. Come back in a couple days, we’ll have a deal.

Are you done talking to yourself?

Yes.

Can we get on with the show?

….yes.

Let’s start with a recap of what happened last week, you’re not the only one who is booze-laden and filled with partial regrets.

 

Well, last week, things were shaken up like a soda can that wasn’t tapped on top before being opened. Tensions bubbled over into a sticky mess. Sticky with blood. Earl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne) and Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) had it out, because it was quickly becoming clear that talking out their problems and differences wasn’t going to help them anymore. When a fight goes beyond the territory of being solved by having a heart to heart and then a manly hug, like a cherry on top of the good feelings sundae, that’s when you know it’s serious. Sure, they could try working on their A.B.S., but we know they won’t. So, they do what any redblooded men would do in such a situation: a fight to the death. Seriously! Earl Haraldson dies. A massive party breaks out and everyone is chanting “All Hail Earl Ragnar!” and people are hailing left, right, and center (except for in the back room, where Rollo [Clive Standen] is conspiring with Siggy [Jessalyn Gilsig], and if by “conspiring” you think “copulate,” you are a clever duck). Ragnar doesn’t even know how his day could get any better, and then Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) announces that she’s pregnant. Right about now, Ragnar is in a state of Ice Cube-ism. We’re then shown England, where King Aelle (Ivan Kaye) is plotting the death of Ragnar – hey, man, let him have his moment.

And now we’re here?

You know it! It’s time, my friends.

We start off watching a Viking ship sail into Northumberland, cool as a couple cucumbers and yes, Ragnar’s head tattoo is still as hideous as the last time we saw it. England is in the process of evacuating their towns and sending the people into safekeeping; King Aelle’s brother Lord Aethelwulf arrives, rather boisterous and altogether slightly too cheerful for the seemingly terrifying death by heathens on the horizon. The brothers joke, but it immediately becomes somber as King Aelle appoints his brother to lead their men into war against the Vikings. Everyone has heard praises sung about his ability to fight, to which he jokes that he paid the poets to sing them, “if you paid them, they’d sing your praises, too. That’s poets for you.” I was initially turned off by this, being a struggling writer and someone who would probably be something thoroughly embarrassing and emotional in a JRPG, like a Bard that you toss into the back row and hope they don’t croak after one hit, but then it hit me—if you paid me enough, I could fake liking something (within reason) if it meant I wouldn’t be killed or I could earn enough money to eat.

Have some dignity! You’re not Edward Chris von Muir, here!

You’re too kind…and possibly have too much faith in me.

The Vikings are a couple days away from creating mass chaos and are crafting enough weaponry for an ultimate showdown. Toastegg, my new favorite (sorry Floki [Gustaf Skarsgård], I mean, since he’s probably going to die soon, my heart will again belong to you) is really, really ready for war – it’s actually kind of creepy. Is he getting off on this? Oh, wait, no. I don’t want to know.

Back in Scandinavia, we’re taken to the inner chamber of the Viking City Hall, where Lagertha surprises no one by being an incredibly strong leader. A man and his wife come before her, as the wife coddles the child into her bosom, the husband asserts that it isn’t his child, that they had tried to conceive for years before she got pregnant and it only seemed to work after a mysterious young man came to their door one night. The husband remembers it vividly, he was making a loom, after all. Nine months later, they had a bouncing baby. When questioned about the paternity of her child, the wife admits that she’s unsure – they all had shared a bed and the details are fuzzy.

Lagertha crooks her finger and asks the woman to give her more information, ultimately declaring that it was none other than the god Heimdallr who had visited the home and impregnated the wife. The husband voices anger towards this ruling, which Lagertha stomps on with her leather padded shoes, because how dare you not recognize the virtue of being blessed by a god and how dare you not trust your wife. She orders the husband and wife to rejoice in the child, rejoice in each other, sacrifice an animal in honor of Heimdallr, and, oh, by the way, if Lagertha hears that you’ve even looked at her in the wrong way, you’re going to personally answer to her.

Damn. Hell hath no fury like a strong, feminist, pregnant woman.

Don’t you forget that for a singular second of your life, that is a beautiful piece of advice for the real world, too.

Lord Aethelwulf has found the Viking camp (I’m sure I can make a clever name for that), and wonders aloud how he can get the Vikings to vacate their prime campsite to swing the fight into their favor. Ragnar and Rollo saw them, of course, and Rollo asks Ragnar why they don’t go axe-swinging in their direction for some good old fashioned bloodshed; you see, Rollo has a lot of pent up anger and frustration after being tortured, he has some feelings he needs to get out of his system by way of other people’s death. Ragnar frustrates him when he says that they’re going to wait and see what the Englishmen do, which prompts Rollo to roll his eyes and stalk off like a high schooler that was told he couldn’t go on a date on Friday.

During the night, Floki plays horse whisperer and the Vikings make their way through the English camp.

Is no one hearing this? Don’t they have people standing guard?

Well, if they did, Rollo’s already killed them and set fire to their tent. Seriously, what is in the English water? It takes like three gurgling throats of blood to make the soldiers wake up and think “oh, you know, this doesn’t seem right.” The surprise attack continues and the Englishmen are getting quite a walloping. Lord Aethelwulf hears this and is doing his pre-killing spree pray-sesh. Unfortunately, by the time he finishes, Floki has cut the string to the tent, slacking it, and trapping Lord Aethelwulf like I trap my dog beneath a blanket when he’s turned into a grumpbucket. I’m betting that Lord Aethelwulf is thinking that the whole ordeal was pretty anticlimactic. I imagine his mental thought process is along the lines of: But what will the poets say back home? Will they still sing my praises? Will I have to pay them even more to do so? I mean, shit, their rates were already pretty high.

Now that the Englishmen are all rounded up, Ragnar takes to questioning them. He finds it peculiar that King Aelle sent his brother to fight his battles, just as I’m sure Lord Aethelwulf finds it peculiar that some guy with a tacky head tattoo and ratty braid is looking down on his life choices. The Vikings are stoked, though, because the English army’s metal is stronger and they’ve saddled up some horses – not eight minutes into the episode and they have some pretty bitchin’ swag.

I imagine King Aelle isn’t very happy with this situation; his brother, who is apparently a better soldier than Will Smith in Independence Day, failed. He didn’t just fail, he failed in literal blazes of fire.

 

Yeah, I mean, he might as well be dead – King Aelle’s words, not mine. I’m sure he’s really not appreciating the apparent voice of religion in his chamber that is spouting off that the Vikings were sent down from God as punishment, or the apparent voice of the people’s fear that is spouting off that the Vikings were sent up from the Devil as punishment.

So…rock/hard place?

Pretty much. If he listens to the church-dude, he orders his people to just take it; if he listens to the other guy, they put up every man, woman, and child into the fight until one side has won over the other. It isn’t completely black and white, though, because a man steps forward and offers the idea that they’re just barbarians who want to plunder and loot. Who invited this guy? Is he a mole? He knows too much. Of course, when he says “why don’t we just, you know, pay them to go away?” he’s met with jeers and NFL-grade boos. When someone else backs him up, the King decides to take these three options into consideration and banishes himself to his own private religious antechamber. He apparently takes a long time praying, too, because before he’s even finished the Vikings are at the city gates on the horses they stole. Seriously, is that a family trait? Talk about inconvenient at a time like this.

Ragnar and the cool crew ride up like badasses and are met with the English cavalry. The messenger, the same guy who offered to pay off the Vikings to get them to leave England alone, stutters out the message that the Viking leader has been invited to talk with King Aelle in his villa, and, you know, it’d be nice if you didn’t kill his brother in the meantime. Instead of accepting or denying the offer, Ragnar, with his smug grin, releases air out of his nostrils like a proud bull and turns the horses around, leaving the Englishmen staring at their wake. The messenger politely asks, “wh-where are you going?” and I can’t help but like this guy. Don’t die, guy! Or do. I can’t determine your fate.

You get attached to the strangest people.

Rollo, of course, wants to go in and slaughter everyone, hang them up by their toenails, and then beat his chest in victory. Ragnar isn’t too keen on the idea – he wants to see how the Englishmen live. Also, they needn’t fear, because if the bond between brothers in England is anything like the bond between brothers in Scandinavia, King Aelle wouldn’t dare harm them. The next day, they pretty much do the same thing and the same messenger leads them within the walls of the keep, where they’re greeted by hundreds of absolutely petrified English people. Know what I love most about this scene?

Nope, but you’ll tell me.

They aced the height differences between insanely tall northern Europeans and anyone else in the world, I love the moment when the Vikings dismount and glower over the frightened villagers. You can just image how terrifying it would be – these giants have come into your town with massive axes, fur cloaks, face paint, and you have the knowledge that they’ve totally decimated towns in the kingdom and are still alive.

Ragnar walks before the King, probably assuming that he’s going to get an axe to the spine if he’s not careful. King Aelle tells Ragnar that he’s heard of him before, his reputation precedes him. Ragnar doesn’t reply and whispers start permeating the room as King Aelle goes from a mood of bullshit tolerating to nearly erupting anger. The messenger, who will never get paid enough for his job, says that perhaps, before negotiation gets under way, they could feed the Vikings? Ragnar, like anyone akin to me who lives for their tastebuds, enjoys a free meal and this sways him. They dine!

King Aelle introduces his wife and son to Ragnar and crew, and out of good faith, Rollo offers the child some ale, but the kid turns away. Probably to cry. What a pansy. The food is presented to the Vikings, which they dig full-fingered into before grace is said, disgusting the English in the room. Don’t worry, that’s not the only amount of disgust going on, because when the choir starts singing hymns in the corner, the Vikings stop eating long enough to pour all of their confused feelings into judgmental gazes. Rollo is looking like he seriously looking like he had his axe to end it all. Don’t worry! The tension is broken on the Viking side when they start breaking the clay dishes on the sides of their heads.

Ragnar, in front of everyone, engages the King into the ransom discussion. He wants two thousand pounds of gold and silver, and yes, woman in the back who repeated it in an aghast manner, that is exactly what he said. There are looks given between guards and they start closing in on the Vikings, who in turn unsheathe their swords and start their rumble engines. The King agrees to the terms, on the condition that he receives his brother first. Ragnar, not born yesterday, says that he’ll get his brother back as soon as he gets the gold and silver. The King harrumphs and says that as long as they stay in their camp, don’t kill anyone, and stay out of English business, he agrees to accumulate the vast amount of money over some time.

Sounds too easy, though. I seriously doubt that the people in the dining hall trust the Vikings as far as they can throw them.

Ahhh, therein lies the rub. The terms will be applied after one of the Vikings is baptized.

You are shitting me.

No, my friend. Further twist, Rollo elects himself.

Uhm. Wow. Let me have that sink in for a moment. Rollo elected himself to become a Christian? I know I’ve asked this before in previous recaps, but what can Rollo’s possible endgame be?

If we knew that, we’d have no more weird Rollo interactions to last us to the end of the series, would we? The King seems pleased with this, Ragnar doesn’t, and we’re transported back to Scandinavia. Siggy, who looks so much better without that black eyeliner, at least 15 years younger, requests the presence of Lagertha. Bjorn, in his first none-douchecanoe kid moment, has major spider senses tingling – he may not know exactly what’s wrong with the situation, but something’s fishy. Ultimately, Siggy is allowed into her presence and requests to become Lagertha’s maid, which Athelstan endorses because he fondly recalls the days when he worked as a servant for his former Father.

Lagertha accepts and Siggy dramatically falls to her feet.

Well, that’s suspicious. Someone with that much ego would never. This is the same woman who was about to hop into bed with Rollo if it meant that he’d kill his brother, become Earl, and restore her position as the Earl’s wife. This is the woman who was about to run away from the city to avoid the shame of being seen as a lesser version of herself. There is no way, no way, someone like Siggy is about to become a maid.

My thoughts exactly. This won’t end well. That’s a theme with this show, don’t you know?

Possible thought processes aside, the next scene features Rollo shirtless and every cognizant idea I could have had, every theory that could have been, is gone. Wisps in the wind. I need a cool glass of water for that tall glass of delicious. No, I don’t care that he’s being baptized. Let me have my moment. Or two.

You disgust me.

I’m feeling pretty good right now, even though I feel so torn between  my “HE’S A RAPIST” and “HE’S A TOTAL BABE” and “DID YOU FORGET THE RAPIST?” and “SOMETIMES HE’S SELFLESS” and “I FEEL SHAME FOR MY ATTRACTION” feelings.

Anyway, does a baptism count if the person has no idea what’s going on? Because there is no way Rollo has any idea as to what’s happening and has no idea why this guy in a bedazzled dress is touching him. He keeps looking to Ragnar like “can you be my adult?” and then he’s dunked and comes up, and I understand. I understand wet t-shirt contests now. He’s given a new Christian name (“Roth”…I hope that’s a one-episode thing, because…Roth), and sort of looks like he’s about to be ill. Ragnar goes upon one knee to follow the King and his men (minus Floki) follow. Floki is too busy spitting into the holy river. Stick to your guns, Floki! Have another conversation with that table in the dining hall! It misses you. The King dismisses Ragnar and the Cool Crew back to their camp, stating that he will honor the deal.

We flash quickly back to the Lothbrok homestead and into the bedchamber of Lagertha, Gyda is having issues sleeping and is brought into Lagertha’s bed. She voices her concerns about her father and then she and Lagertha bond over the coming baby, noting how the baby has quite a kick. It’s an adorable scene. I guess they needed to add something cull to the horrible depression that’s floating around back in England.

Tension, unfortunately, has begun to build in the camp. Floki is pissed off at Rollo (sorry, Roth) for disrespecting the Viking gods – while Rollo might have seen it as hogwash, Floki saw it as renouncing of their gods. Floki’s had one of the strongest connections with the gods through this series, so when he notes that he’s sure Rollo has made the gods angry, the camp becomes pretty uncomfortable. “How will you get Odin to forgive you now?” Rollo looks like he’s about to deliver an axe blow to his head, but the look he gives as he ducks away leads us to believe that the seed of doubt has been planted.

At least we know that he probably won’t be killing Ragnar for whatever reason, now. After all, killing a supposed descendant of Odin is probably not a way to get back into his good graces.

Things only get worse when they discover that the first shipment of gold and silver is a bust. Know what that means? WAR. Do these guys really have no idea how long they’ve been waiting to do this? Do these guys really have no idea that a minimal amount of Vikings have been slaying hundreds of Englishmen without even trying over and over again?  Dudes. Know your limits. Know your battles. Above all: do not fuck with shieldmaidens.

This also means that Rollo’s re-Christian birth as Roth is even more worthless, how humiliating – it gets to him, too, and he’s seen brutally attacking injured men who are already on the ground waiting for death. He looks to Floki and asks “how many Christians did I kill, Floki? How many? Do you think Odin is still angry with me now?” Floki, our eyeliner, blood bespeckled instigator, only looks to Rollo and walks away.

On the only happy note: Toastegg finally gets what he wanted; he gets stabbed by a soldier and is well on his way to Valhalla.

Ragnar goes to Lord Aethelwulf and states that his brother, by his betrayal, has shown that he doesn’t care whether he lives or dies. Lord Aethelwulf laughs, stating that Ragnar can’t kill him, because he’d lose his only bargaining chip. To show the King that Ragnar is pissed off, he sends his brother’s corpse by horse to his doorstep. Surprise! You fucked up! After this, the King delivers the gold and silver, because he realized that his horrible calculating misstep ultimately lead to his brother’s death. He swears before God to avenge himself, especially as Ragnar smiles in a way that can only say “fuck y’all.”

The Viking camp may look to be in decent condition, but I can’t help feeling like things are only going to get worse. Tell me it stops?

It doesn’t. Lagertha has a miscarriage.

Really?

Yeah, it’s….it’s actually very sad. Siggy comes to her bedside and tries to comfort her, but there isn’t really much that you can do in a situation like that. Lagertha clings onto her and cries. That’s pretty much the note that the episode ends on, even though last week we were promised a baby Viking with scenes of the family and Athelstan being babysitter, it’s not happening. I don’t even want to think about next week, when Ragnar returns home and finds out. “Hey! We have two thousand pounds of gold and silver now, isn’t that nice?” “We need to have a talk.”

This show is turning into an incredible angsty fest of pure, unbridled angst. I hate to do this to you, but even with that, what would you give this episode?

 

Oh, I don’t know. 1886 pounds of loot. BUT WAS IT WORTH IT, GUYS? (Totally.)

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10 thoughts on “Review: ‘Vikings,’ Episode 7, ‘A King’s Ransom’

  1. Great review!

    Rolf it is. In reality he was baptized Robert and Rolf might have been his original name.

    If you’re ever in Normandy chances are you’ll bump into a statue of him. So, good things to come for him and his descendants!

    • Thank you! I really appreciate the support.

      I actually knew that he was going to live through the season, because he’s a pretty big Viking deal – but I had no idea that there was a statue to honor him! That’s really cool.

  2. Ivan Kaye who plays King Aelle is doing a FANTASTIC job with his role! Did you know Ivan and Clive Standen will also be in the movie ‘Hammer of the Gods’ due out in theatres July 5th. On Sunday night’s Ivan is on 2 shows at the same air time. Vikings o History and The Borgas on Showtime. Ivan plays Ludvico Sforza (aka Ii Moro)
    Like Ivan Kaye Fans for more news about Vikings, Hammer of the Gods and more on Facebook

  3. Love your style, just too funny. I almost broke down laughing a few times, earning evil looks from my very serious co students in this library.

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