After last week’s insanely amazing episode, it was extremely hard to wait until Thursday night for some quality time with my favorite dirty, murderous, emotionally distant, muscled men and their (frequently awesome) feminist counterparts. Left on pins and needles after last week, I had no idea what to expect – would Lagertha and Aslaug have a cliché butting of heads over Ragnar? Will Athelstan live past episode seven? Will Ragnar bake a cake for every birthday of Bjorn’s he missed and throw an insane reunion party featuring a drunk Floki and Siggy’s questionable back tattoo? The questions never end. Besides, what would a Viking birthday cake even taste like? Did they celebrate birthdays like we celebrate birthdays (no, probably not)? Would the cake be barley flavored? It’s probably barely flavored. Their cake might actually be a massive pint of beer. “Who cares if you’re four years old and a young female child? Grow some chest hair and drink your mead!” I can see it now.
Now, onto Vikings season 2, episode 5, “Answers in Blood” – which is that sort of like finding answers in tea leaves, only more Viking-y.
We start the episode with the farmstead being introduced to the sudden wave of unknown soldiers, the cherry on top of the surprise sundae being when Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) walks through the door like she owns the place. Rollo (Clive Standen) is the first to meet her at the door, thanking her for showing her flawless (my words) face and saving their asses (my words); it’s refreshing to see Rollo being humble enough to admit that their hovel is in dire straits to someone he respects like Lagertha. She basically says it’s nothing and when Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig) enters the room, it’s another miniature family reunion summed up in a laugh that basically said “my, my – how you’ve grown!” When Rollo slaps Bjorn’s face and quips about how he still “can’t grow a beard,” I’d be lying if I didn’t giddily grin.
Lagertha and Siggy (Jessalyn Gilsig) hug for a long awaited reunion and Bjorn’s voice floats across the room saying “all is new now.” Honestly, his optimism is refreshing and just what the series needed. Sure, times are dire, but if you don’t have the punky overly optimistic asshole telling you everything is going to be all right while you sharpen your halberd and avoid stepping in chicken excrement in the hovel you hijacked, it just isn’t a life worth living.
Of course, the touching moment is semi-tainted when Siggy looks back at Aslaug with a look that says “sorry, I sort of promised her that I’d be her bff for the winter term.” Lagertha brushes it off and greets Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland) like an equal; when she greets Ragnar’s new sons, she remarks that she always knew she would see more of them during her lifespan – of course, she probably figured she’d be their mother, but the sentiment is actually rather sweet. A silent olive branch.
Praise Hirst that it looks like the MTV-esque woman-on-woman drama isn’t going to play a major part in the series. I’m so ecstatic that this (probably) won’t turn into a Ryan Murphy-clusterfuck of women hating women.
Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) comes in, probably expecting something much worse, is nonetheless so over the pleasantries. He was also probably slightly weirded out by Lagertha holding his recently newborn and not giving him an evil eye.
Getting down to business, the core group immediately gathers around a table to discuss the retaking of Kattegat. You see, even with Lagertha’s help, the chances of reclamation remain slim. Rollo proposes that the only way they stand a snowball’s chance is to drive Jarl Borg (Thorbjørn Harr) from Kattegat and split his military resources. How, you ask? Food. By destroying their winter reserves, they will be forced to forage. Floki volunteers (he revels in mischievous shit like this), but Ragnar tells him that he and Bjorn will go as a sort of father-son bonding exercise.
Wouldn’t Ragnar going to Kattegat be the worst idea though? Like the people in Kattegat and all of Jarl Borg’s men wouldn’t know what his bearded ass looks like? I know Instagram didn’t exist back then, but it seems like Ragnar’s just stirring shit.
And…you’re…surprised? You must be new here. Ragnar loves and revels in partially-bad-but-somehow-it-works-out plans.
In the Kingdom of Wessex, a hooded figure approaches King Ecbert (Linus Roache) claiming to be “the ex-wife of Christ” and she cannot show her face to any man. Arguing that he’s not just any man (“I’m King Ecbert!”), he demands that she decloakify herself before him; relenting, she lowers her hood to reveal a severely beaten face by her husband on the grounds that she had been unfaithful. She claims that she had never been. King Ecbert then summons his Resident Pagan Expert: Athelstan, to analyze the situation by Viking standards. Athelstan (George Blagden) hobbles up on his crutches and says that, if she were a free woman, the Viking court would believe her word.
Baffled and curious, King Ecbert says that a man has every right over his women, even if Athelstan says that that’s not What Pagans Would Do. He says Pagans laws are not correct in every situation (and by turn, Christian laws not being correct in every situation either), but they would be confident in the woman’s claim. After a beat of consideration, King Ecbert tells the woman that he releases her husband’s right to brand her in public and says that she can thank Athelstan (sorry, “this Pagan”) for the ruling.
What is King Ecbert’s end-goal with Athelstan? Is he going to pull a Ragnar and keep him in his custody to find more about the religion he’s lived in until he falls into another bout of Stockholm Syndrome and becomes Christian again?
Round and round and round it [it being Athelstan’s faith] goes, where it stops, nobody knows (though it might get him killed).
Back in Kattegat, the nightly raid against the food supply has begun. The group of four split up – the two grunts to create a diversion, the father-son duo left to do the burning. They both seem particularly touched that they are going to fight together. As for me, I’ll take bonding over normal things like hikes, bad science fiction movies, and home-baked desserts any day. Anywho, they create the distraction and the shenanigans begin (featuring some Arrested Development Realness with Ragnar’s chicken interpretation).
One of the guys dies being ripped apart by dogs, the other one surprisingly lives after his leg muscle is slit open (he claims he’s okay, but is he really). Meanwhile, in camp I’m-Gonna-Live, Ragnar and Bjorn get to filing down the security and lighting some fires. With their severely wounded friend supported between them, they skip off into the night having completed their duty.
Needless to say, when Jarl Borg finds out about this the next morning he’s not pleased. He’s going man-hunting (not in the slightly kinky MTV way, more like The Most Dangerous Game) and his wife is not happy with his decision to leave her alone in Kattegat; she’s pregnant and she doesn’t like the farming/tradepost community. That doesn’t stop him and they set off, following the scent of the wounded man with their apparently well trained tracking hounds.
I’ll just add in that the dogs are adorable, too.
They catch wind of a viable trail, the pot at the end of the rainbow being the rigor mortis corpse of the casualty from the night before (it’s an honorable death, right?), posed dramatically with a spear. The quiet is broken when Floki blows the war horn. A small amount of men appear out of the woods with Ragnar in the center; the initial impression of thirteen or so men against Jarl Borg’s massive army was underwhelming, but when Lagertha’s army emerges behind them geared to hell and looking to fight? Oh yeah, it’s going down.
So, they fight! It’s awesome to see Bjorn in action and Lagertha (sidenote: how do her flaxen braids remain so clean during this insane battle? What shampoo/conditioner combo does she use?) picking her sword back up. I know they weren’t gone for more than 30-in-episode minutes, but how did we go that long without them? Ugh, it’s good to have them back. Right. The righting. Rollo hurls people around like the hulking behemoth that he is while chucking weapons into their esophagus and then it happens, Ragnar gets his business face on. He pummels his way through the crowd of warring bodies, gets saved by Rollo, and gets a hatchet right into the chest of Jarl Borg-look-a-like before he tells them to retreat.
Ragnar looks at Bjorn and tells him that he has “a lot to learn.”
No duh, dude. Like last week this kid was hoping that he’d be able to live in the woods by himself in order to find himself, it’s not like he regularly practiced his warring techniques on wayward sheep in the Earl Sigvard’s kingdom. Was he supposed to learn by osmosis or something? Right. Okay. Whatever.
Bjorn similarly rolls his eyes like “Ugh, okay dad. Geez.”
The victory march back into Kattegat is nothing but a warm welcome. Even Lagertha has a troupe of young ladies proclaiming how much they missed her; Aslaug looks back at Lagertha and how she’s laughing with the commonwealth – something tells me that Princess Aslaug wouldn’t have received that warm of a reception even if she wasn’t holding a small infant. Maybe, she feels tacked on even to the villagers of Kattegat? Still, it’s a cute, happy moment for everyone involved. You know there will be a lot of boozy celebratory activities happening in Kattegat as soon as possible.
But, let’s not talk about boozy mistakes right now, let’s return to the staid village of Wessex where our wayward monk-turned-semi-raider-turned-Jesus-allegory is being held. King Ecbert’s son tells Athelstan that King Ecbert is thinking of traveling to Northumbria and it’d be totally awesome if they brought him along with them. Athelstan fails to see the point, King Ecbert’s son tells him a bit about Christianity and the important of High Mass. If he values his soul, he’ll re-reconvert to Christianity.
Oh, and then Athelstan hallucinates.
What kind of medieval pain meds are they giving him?
Ones that make him see the Virgin Mary in the streets of England, I guess. It’s not her (shocker!), it’s the disfigured woman that he helped earlier coming to repay her thanks personally. She gives him a kiss on the cheek after he tells her that no Christian woman should be treated the way she was. When she leaves and he sinks back into his seat, you can see the inner conflict swirling. As usual. Athelstan will probably never know a minute of peace in a singular episode of this show, except maybe that one episode where he took some hallucinogenic mushrooms and almost partook in an orgy – perhaps, that scene was weird and unnerving on a different level.
In Kattegat, Rollo takes charge of a sacrifice to Odin for their victory in taking back the village. Just as he’s about to behead the sacrifice, Ragnar interrupts the proceedings and takes the axe from Rollo. No, don’t worry, bloodthirsty fans! He hasn’t stopped the procedure, he gives the axe to Bjorn. Bjorn accepts the duty and chops off the man’s head, Rollo marking him with the blood of the now-very-dead dude. This is essentially the pop of a champagne cork to Vikings, because the festivities start immediately after. Ragnar looks at the crowd and spies the strong-jawed Lagertha surrounded by fawning fans and the villagers, then turns his eyes to Aslaug, a woman surrounded by children (but no fawning fans).
Know what this means? It’s time for a counseling session with the Seer (John Kavanagh).
I’m starting to feel bad for the Seer – he must hear everyone’s issues. Blah blah blah will I be glorious, blah blah blah blah will I have children, blah blah blah blah oh btw I’m in love with two women.
Ragnar tells the Seer that it would be most awesome if he could have both of the women in his wife simultaneously. The Seer grunt-laughs at it. He brings up the tale of Skaði and Njörðr, she was a giantess entitled to a husband on the catch that she chose him by his feet alone – she chose the shapeliest feet thinking they’d belong to the hunky Baldr, but they instead belonged to Njörðr. The Seer tries to continue the story but is interrupted by Ragnar – no, he doesn’t understand, he doesn’t want to choose them…but, if he were to choose one, the Seer wants him to choose her based on her feet? He seems completely baffled by the apparent symbolism.
I’m sure the Seer rolled his eyes as he told Ragnar to choose based on what was inside of them, inside of their hearts and livers and other organs. The Seer reminds him harshly, however, that the choice is not his to make and he’s completely fooling himself if he thinks that he really has a choice in the matter.
Ooph, it’s a good thing they’re in Scandinavia because he’s going to need some ice for that buuuurn.
Back in England, Athelstan attends High Mass (I assume). Athelstan would probably enjoy the service more if he weren’t hallucinating about the statue of Jesus bleeding and recollecting some of the more brutal properties of bloodletting and sacrifices in the Viking culture, but, he’s currently plagued by these things so he’s a regular hot mess express. He takes communion and King Ecbert’s son looks like he could spit vinegar.
In Kattegat, Bjorn is playing with his brothers and roughhousing like brothers do and Ragnar proudly watches on. Aslaug joins him and she announces that she is going to bear him another son (even if a prophecy makes her wary). She asks about what he’s going to do with Lagertha and he tells Aslaug that it has never been in his power to decide if she goes or say, she pulls back with saying that perhaps she will go – he obviously prefers her because she’s a shieldmaiden – and he seems exasperated by the whole 10 second conversation. She wants to believe she’s loved and that she’s not second fiddle. It’s an honest plight from someone you’ve been with for four years, in my opinion. Ragnar just locks her in a kiss, because that’s sorta-kinda how he tries to solve all relationship issues.
Still, afterwards he goes to visit Siggy and Rollo’s hut, where Lagertha is staying as a guest. Rollo and Siggy promptly leave to give Ragnar and Lagertha some privacy – she concedes that Bjorn is very happy there (the competition was not fierce in that regard) and Ragnar tells her that he wants them both to say. She’s not an idiot and tells him that his wife would not be happy with that and he’s perfectly aware of that. Outside, Siggy notes that Ragnar is still in love with Lagertha (duuuh) and asks Rollo if he is (she’s a hot commodity!), and he answers honestly; in some ways, sure, he still holds a flame for her, but in a way that isn’t pertinent to who he is in that moment. It’s less of a life-long love and more like that relationship you had in high school that you still have fond memories of, so you still revisit those instances of drinking smoothies and hacking up bodies beside each other on the battlefield when you’re feeling blue to cheer yourself up.
Right. Normal experiences for everyone.
I personally didn’t date in high school, so for all I know, those are perfectly acceptable activities.
Athelstan tries to reconnect with Jesus but instead of having some one-on-one time with G-Man, a snake (or…something sort of b-list horror movie-y) is let loose in his room and starts terrorizing him. In this bizzarro land Athelstan has cultivated for himself, he probably thinks this is god’s way of saying “yo, bro, I’m just like…totally not into you.” Yup, Athelstan believes that he’s being haunted by the devil.
However, because that Athelstan plot is heavy as shit and we can only take it in bite sized portions, we’re taken back to Scandinavia. A messenger from England has come for Ragnar – he tells him about the Saxon raid on the Viking camp and how King Horik and his son barely escaped with his life. Ragnar wants to know why it took him so long to hear about this news and where is Athelstan? The messenger has no idea who Athelstan is and tells him that the reason he’s just hearing about this is because bad news travels a “good deal” slower than good news.
LIES! Lies and SLANDER! I promise you that I hear about a friend’s bad day way faster than a friend’s good day. Straight up lies.
Speaking of bad news! Lagertha and Bjorn enter into the hall. She begs counsel with those in the room and announces that she has given full permission to Bjorn to stay with Ragnar and his half-brothers in Kattegat, however, she will be returning back to Earl Sigvard’s. She tells them all that she’s leaving Bjorn in their hands and my heart feels like it’s breaking because if this is the last time we’re seeing Lagertha in this show I’m hanging up the towel and moving on. Siggy seems broken up by the decision and Ragnar looks passively upset, before we know it Lagertha is saddling up and moving to head out.
Aslaug meets her and personally, tearfully thanks her for all of her contributions and for what she’s done for the city of Kattegat and – more broadly – them. Lagertha tells her to believe in the gods and to be strong. They hug. Bjorn helps her onto the horse and tells her “not to take anymore shit,” but Lagertha has a feather in her cap now and rides off saying “who do you think I am?” With shieldmaidens in tow, they’re gone.
I know what I am. Distraught. Lagertha was seriously at least 23% of why I watched this show – are you telling me this is the last we’re going to see of her?
I hope not, but I don’t know everything (sadly). However, considering how wildly popular Lagertha is as a character, she’ll probably be back.
Well, with that being the end of the episode, what arbitrary rating would you give this one?
It wasn’t as mind-blowing as the last episode, but it was solid and it was strong – or at least the really strong parts covered up the weaker parts of the episode. Overall, I give it Seven Seer Relationship Advice Columns out of Ten. Really, I’m going to start routing all of my questions through that dude. I won’t even complain while licking his palm.
What about you guys? What did you all think of this episode?