It’s been a week of crazy highs, bizarre lows, and weird emotional roller-coaster…ing. But! If there was one, bright, shiny moment in my tiring week, it’s that I knew on Thursday, after the cork was forcefully removed from my bottle of wine and my grungy sweatpants assured me that the public would not see my comfort clothing indiscretion, I would be reunited with Vikings and the crazy supportive Vikings fanbase (seriously, y’all are the best). It’s been a long time coming, but here we are at the crest of season 2. Hello beautifuls, welcome back.
It’s about time that this show started airing again. What has it been, fourteen Viking years?
I’m not sure how long you think Viking years are, but it has felt like ages. Here is where I could synopsize the entire last episode for all of you, however, I won’t. There were too many twists and turns, too many clusters of nonsense, and too many deaths for me to be able to give you a bit sized and entirely coherent recap of season numero uno – you’re just going to have to watch it yourself or read my hilarious reviews. Also, I’m lazy.
Chances are, if you have to call your own work hilarious, it probably isn’t.
Hush, sassy inside voice! We have Vikings to discuss!
Scandinavia, 796: We open to Rollo (Clive Standen) riding in with some of his new bros (since he’s parted ways with his biological bro to earn his own power) riding majestically on horseback through the hills. Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) notes that he hasn’t heard from his brother in quite some time, but he believes – in his heartest of hearts – that Rollo would never betray him. Considering the way Rollo threw himself under the bus multiple times last season to further Ragnar’s progress in society all in the name of brotherly love (seriously, was Philadelphia named after him?), it’s a fair assumption that the bond they have is unbreakable.
But! There’s always a but!
Yes. That would be hunky dory reasoning, except for the fact that Rollo has been sowing his own seeds of discontent for at least a third of a season. Besides, Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård), Viking God of Eyeliner, says that someone doesn’t really need a reason to betray someone; keep your opinions low and humanity is a lot less likely to disappoint you. Especially if you define “disappointment” as “attempting to shank your kin.” Ragnar huffs and leaves only to pout pensively in his tent.
What’s he thinking about?
Honestly, there’s a lot he could be thinking about. The way half of his city has died by the plague. The (I’m sure) pending drama from his new baby mama. The way he’s having visions of Rollo covered in blood. Perhaps a lifetime of war has left some bizarre mental scarring on Mister Ragnar.
And, as he spots Jarl Borg (Thorbjørn Harr), his brother, and his crew coming down the mountain à la the Huns in Mulan, Floki pats himself on the back. Man, he called this one. Absolutely no one say this coming. What a twist! Etc, etc, etc. Also, how did no one notice the hundreds of men accruing on the mountainside? Do Vikings have really bad peripheral vision? Anywho, Jarl Borg and Rollo get gather some herbs (ground up, probably ceremonial) in their palms, shake hands, and eat whatever they grabbed out of the bowl – I imagine this is as accepted as a randy game of boxer-only beer pong at a frat house; we may think it weird, but it’s just male bonding.
Ragnar sends Arne a.k.a. One Eye (Tadhg Murphy) to go talk to his brother, essentially asking why Rollo has decided to raise his axe against those he has fought alongside for years and years. How does Rollo respond? He will “answer [Ragnar] with blood.” Unfortunately, I don’t think they’re talking about either Bloody Marys. TO WAR THEY GO! With a very similar fighting style. Soon, shields and spears go a-flying, lives are lost, and brother are fighting against brothers. Blood was spilt, but the only named character that died – sorry extras, plenty of you died, too – was good ‘ol One Eye with a ferocious spear to the gut and parts beyond. Maybe, he’ll have two eyes in the afterlife? We can only poetically ruminate.
You’re not even going to mention how he almost killed Floki? Your bizarre main squeeze?
I would, but they would never kill off such a beacon of sass, whimsical wonderment, make up application, and fandom this early in the season. If this were episode six or seven, perhaps. But no, Floki was apprehended by Ragnar taken away. Thank all that is held as holy in the Viking universe, because if Floki died this review would be fully abandoned in favor of tears and comfort Triscuits.
That said, it seems as if maiming and murdering some of his previous raid-mates has truly spooked Rollo, because as soon as his brother shows up with a more eloquent version of “what the hell, bro?” Rollo almost immediately relents. He can’t fight his brother. Jarl Borg looks like he is severely disappointed in his choice of a lackey, exacerbated by Rollo’s kneeling down to Ragnar in emotional defeat, opening his arms wide in an attempt to beg for death. It would be almost sad if Rollo’s attractive abs hadn’t been totally douche-y in recent memory.
Rollo is apprehended and put into custody. The two Jarls (well, one King and one Jarl – I’m sure them walking into a bar is a joke that would write itself) meet to talk about their feelings, butting heads about the land they’re standing on. Ragnar grows increasingly pissy, asking why they keep looking inward, why they keep raiding and killing their own people and land that is known to them, when there is an entirely continent out there just begging to be explored, plundered and pillaged. It’s almost like we have meditative Ragnar back from way back in the day! Eventually, they finish concocting a deal to raid the west together. Let’s all sail west! We can have a giant ship that even Caligula would blush at!
Was pointless, put Rollo in Viking Jail, and almost robbed us of Floki-isms. Yes. Rollo pretty much gets left in the dust, told coldly by Ragnar that Gyda (Ruby O’Leary) – his niece – is dead. Because we all needed that icy dagger lodged back into our souls. So they head homeward, with Rollo in shackles and much of their crew battered and bloody. The would-be ecstatic Rollo fanclub is seriously put-out when they see their (albeit very rape-y) naught tango partner being lead out in shackles. Floki’s significant other Helga (Maude Hirst) clutches him on the makeshift gurney and sighs that he’s dying. It’s hardly the welcome they all wanted.
Man, Siggy (Jessalyn Gilsig) knows how to pick them.
Prayer circle for our girl Siggy.
Queen Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) chides Ragnar for getting into affairs that weren’t his own, because look at what’s happened. A brother in jail, an old friend dead, and one gravely wounded. Ragnar tells Lagertha that it’s all Rollo’s fault that it happened. Good Kid Bjorn (Nathan O’Toole) tells them to stop fighting, which they do for approximately….three seconds. After a moment’s contemplation Lagertha asks “who is Aslaug?”
Ragnar growls and throws his chicken leg angrily at the ground, telling her to stop. Lagertha, emboldened by this repeats the question. “Who is Aslaug?” Ragnar says that she’s a princess and – oh – they met. Mama didn’t raise no fool shieldmaiden and Lagertha goads him further, even with Siggy shaking her head in the background telling her not to go there and Bjorn looking like he’s going to be seasick. He asks Bjorn what he told Lagertha but she isn’t having any of it, saying that it doesn’t matter what Bjorn says, it’s a matter of what he’s done.
Because he’s an adult, Ragnar storms out claiming that they shouldn’t discuss this in front of people. His wife follows him into the back room and proceeds to throw objects at him, incensed because Ragnar, the man she’s loved for so long and has trusted with most of her confidences, isn’t being honest with something he practically bragged about before. But it’s okay! You know why? He doesn’t love her. That magically washes away everything, right?
Apparently so, because on the flimsy promise to ~never see her again~ they’re carnally making up.
SIIIGH. At least Bjorn is keeping his head on straight, wondering why Ragnar can’t just be honest with his mom and wondering why they constantly fight. He asks about his uncle (who will be tried before an assembly). He tries to understand the value of a gold coin. I hereby give this Voice of Reason point to Bjorn. Go you, formerly-annoying-yet-now-totally-endearing-character.
Meanwhile, Siggy goes to visit Failed Relationship Number Who Knows, shackled and looking despondently at a wooden board. The man on guard gives him a serious “judging u” face before she dramatically throws a cape over him and tries to have a conversation with him, but she shouldn’t bother because “you can’t warm up a dead man.” Deep words, Rollo.
He’s not really going to die though? Like, there is no way.
No, there isn’t. He is spared. Even though he fought with their enemies, against his brother, and killed their own – he is spared because if the Gods wanted him dead, they would have killed them on the battlefield. He behaved unexpectedly and threw himself at his brother’s feet. The Gods made their own judgment, he is to live and he is ultimately set free.
Of course, only we see the lawgiver kiss a golden coin after delivering his verdict. Oo. Scandalous.
Rollo is upfront with Ragnar about wanting to step out of his shadow, to be a man who curated his own limelight. Ultimately, he decides to exile himself. Siggy barges in and asks him why he would flee without telling her and he concedes that it would have been better for her to not know that he had left, because he has nothing to offer her – remember, she used to be royalty, Rollo’s aware that she is not about to comfortably roll around in poverty. However, Siggy is Siggy, she’s the mistress of word-weaving and verbal manipulation; the Gods have given him another chance, one to be reborn and to recognized by Valhalla. Perhaps, his path to recreation lies in the very town he’s in. She might only partially believe that’s true, but she knows that half of the battle is getting Rollo to believe it as much as she does.
That was surprisingly deep.
I’m just eternally grateful that she’s no longer rocking raccoon eyes. We only need one eyeliner addict in the show, please and thank-you.
Meanwhile, Ragnar is found at the seaside saying goodbye – really saying goodbye – to his departed daughter. Honestly, it’s an extremely touching moment because we’re able to glimpse into the Non-Business side of Ragnar. Though he’s a man bent on having as many sons as possible, he viewed her as a light in his life and now, as she’s in Valhalla, he considers himself a peasant in comparison to her might and power. Who knew? Behind the face of a surly Viking with a regrettable skull tattoo, he really loved his daughter and laments her death.
That’s very sweet.
And then…this episode of Vikings turns into an episode of MTV’s Truelife: I Impregnated A Princess and we see a verrrryyyy pregnant Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland) approaching on ship. Do you hear that? In the distance? It’s shit hitting the fan. Bjorn rouses his father from his nap on the snowy coastline (???? Is that supposed to be good for the soul or something???) to inform him that someone is coming and the look on his face would be an absolutely perfect “oh, shit” reaction .gif. He sort of looks like he’s going to barf, buuuut he’s also pretty into it.
Cue: “I had no idea she was coming! It’s not like I invited her.”
Cue: Lagertha being completely and utterly unimpressed by her choice of husband.
Cue: The worst dinner party ever. This replaces last season’s worst dinner party ever in awkwardness. Lagertha tries to make small talk, asking if Aslaug’s mother was really the legendary Brunhilda (it was), asking if her father was also the hero she claims, with Aslaug returning the question of lineage (“just farmers”) with as much grace as you can have in that situation. Can you imagine how awkward it would be to be Athelstan or Bjorn in this very moment? They’re the fourth and fifth wheels of a very unpleasant blind date.
When Aslaug tries to make friends with Bjorn, Sassypants is having none.of.it. He tells her they have no bond and that he doesn’t want to forge one. He wants her to leave because she causes “unhappiness, difficulty,” and really pushes the boundaries of “total clichéness.” (okay, that part was mine) You can tell he’s as done with this love triangle as I am. Another gold star for Bjorn!
Who knew Baby Bjorn would become Badass Bjorn?
We saw vestiges of this attitude coming through last season, I’m so glad the writers decided to keep it in. I like that he’s blaming Ragnar for the strife in the village just as much as he’s blaming Aslaug for it, because it takes two participants to make a baby. Though, as a side note, in a society that was prolific with sexcapades, it’s really interesting to see how they’ve woven in modern morality into the Viking blanket.
And then we go into this conversation where a goat-holding-Ragnar tells Bjorn that he doesn’t deserve to be happy and how he is going to have to grow up and shed that illusion eventually. Man, I’m glad I was at least nineteen before losing hope in sustainable happiness.
The story he tells Bjorn in a feudal attempt to teach him some sort of vague lesson about long-term happiness goes something like this: once upon a time Ragnar was young and had friends. And then they died. The end.
Someone call Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. We have another fairy tale for them.
Bjorn can’t be the only one shaken up by his father’s very public mistress strolling into town.
Definitely not. Lagertha talks to Siggy about standard girl stuff. You know, nail polish, insecurities in her relationship, the way her main squeeze impregnated someone who is practically Folklore Royalty and is therefore giving her serious confidence issues, and how Lagertha needs to do right by herself and not be held down by the indiscretions of her partner (you can practically feel the z-snap behind Lagertha’s unshed tears). It’s times like these that I really hope Siggy isn’t pulling Lagertha’s friendship leg in a wormy way to get power, I really think Lagertha needs at least one person that she can be real with. Prove me wrong, Vikings tropes. Please. Prove me wrong.
Happy days, though! Floki is talking, the Gods have spared him death (ha, silly Gods). His lady love has been dutifully bringing him back up to snuff for their escapades abroad, which is good, because when he was in that half-life, mostly-dead stage that only rock stars with extreme drug addictions seem to breach he saw a variety of other places that reignited his lust for life and exploration. He even manages to attend dinner without keeling over. Winning!
Speaking of the dinner, Aslaug tries to gain favor with Lagertha by having prepared her a veritable feast of fish, fruits, and other stuff. Lagertha accepts the feast and admits that she didn’t know that Aslaug could cook (she can’t by the way, she bought the ingredients and her ladies in waiting cooked them). You know, you could almost see these two ladies being friends if it weren’t for the whole baby thing and the fact that they totally operate within different stratospheres. I’d believe it.
AND THEN IT HAPPENS.
I honestly cannot believe Ragnar proposed it.
He wants both Lagertha and Aslaug (both wonderful in their own ways, he adds) to live under one roof, one Viking man and his two very strong women.
Wait – okay, let me get this straight. He’s trying to get Viking Feminist Shieldmaiden-Slash-Scandinavian-Amazon Lagertha, who was repulsed by the very idea of him being with another woman, to agree to having a polygamist marriage?
Who knows? For another woman within this society, it might have worked. In fact, in this show we’ve seen plenty of women turn a blind eye to the extramarital actions of the men they’re with – but, nothing about Lagertha has ever asserted that she would be okay with such a set up. Even after Ragnar tells her that he has to invite her into their home because she’s carrying his child – which is sort of doing the right thing? – it’s with a twinge of apology because he knows her. However, when he said “you must accept [these circumstances]” I don’t think he really realized how much she had come into her own as a leader while he was away.
She’s silent as he brings up her miscarriage. She turns away from him.
And the next day? She’s packing her shit up and leaving.
No. Way. What about Bjorn? What about her entire social circle? Is she just going to pull a Floki and live in the woods in a shabby hut that has a pretty nice view of some body of water?
While I don’t know about her social circle, maybe people will decide to follow her after she led them for such a long time? Maybe she has pals in high places?, she does not force her decision to leave on Bjorn, telling him that the decision to leave or stay is his alone to make. When he says that he’s staying with his father, Katheryn Winnick breaks our hearts with seriously good acting that broke my heart just a little bit – with bags under her eyes that shows she had teary or sleepless nights and eyebrow crinkles that depict real sadness.
She says goodbye to Siggy tearfully, she looks back to Bjorn, and the little blonde boy weeps. When Bjorn tells his father that Lagertha’s left, he races to catch up with her. But, nope, her mind is made up and Bjorn catches up with them, siding with his mother. While it’s nice to see Ragnar face the repercussions of his actions (be humbled! Only to forget about that feeling when you go back to your mistress pregnant with child!), I’m more stoked about this soap opera story line being over. Next chapter. Please.
That’s it? That’s how it ends? With heartbreak and a weird family dynamic with Floki on crutches and Lagertha and Bjorn riding off into Gods-know-where to do who knows?
In short, yes. But if the end of the episode teaser is anything to write home about (and as I’m writing at home it inherently is), there will be pillaging! There will be Lagertha with weapons! There will be SIggy sleeping with people for power (UUUUUUUUUUUGH)! There will be bloodshed! There will be some other plotpoints that hopefully give Athelstan more than one word an episode (he said four whole words in the teaser, that’s promising)! There will be an older, teenage Bjorn! There will be much wine imbibed while reviewing!
I’m super jazzed about this. I was pretty nervous about how they would start tying off some of the loose ends, but Ragnar’s an interesting lead that makes stupid decisions that make him an even more interesting character. His family is still as dynamic as ever and the hints of future politics coming into play and intermingling with the wars fought will make a great season. What do you give this episode?
Arbitrary rating for this episode? 18 out of 21 “you go guuuurrrlllls!” Sign me up for this season, folks. This is going to be awesome. I even missed the vaguely foreign-y accents. What was your favorite part?