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Review: ‘Vikings,’ Season 3, Episode 1, ‘Mercenary’

Oh geez, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? This whole year has been one of complete, total life changes. Ones that have stopped me in my tracks, ones that have propelled me forward, and ones that I will carry with me while I figure out what I’m going to do on this giant journey called life. Somehow, someway, in that span of time, it has also almost been a total and full year. And, more important than all of the life changes (for better or worse) in the whole world, do you know what that means? It means Vikings Season 3. Thank goodness!


Really? After all of that you’re going to say that a TV show is the most important aspect of your life?


We all have priorities. Mine are bearded and ripped. I’m also single. Cut a girl some slack!


Alright, alright. Let’s just get to those aforementioned bearded and ripped men and women of Vikings.


Now you’re speaking my language.


Last season was totally bananas, completely crazy, a little (a lot) sexy, and I am so, so prepared for this wild, crazy, Parisian-raiding ride to start.


The season premiere starts the way my morning starts, with groans and rattling bones.


You’re twenty-four.


I’m an old soul. Also? Not a morning person.


The Seer (John Kavanagh) is questioning flawless how-have-I-lived-without-you-Queen Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick). She’s pining for the answer that all of the men on the show have had on their minds ever since she swaggered onto the screen in season one – will she have another child? He seems lost in his visions and informs her that, no, she doesn’t see another child. But, he does see a bloody harvest, he sees betrayal, he sees a boiling ocean and he sees a marble city. Basically, just another Tuesday in Lagertha’s life.


But, she does have her questions about life, doesn’t she?


Aside from wanting to know whether or not she will have another child, yes, she does wonder about her own mortality. The Seer essentially says, “nope, sorry, come again!” with a shoo out of his tent. Even if the threads of fate have been woven long before he can see the quilt, they’ve still been woven all the same.


I think you’ve gotten both your quilt metaphor and your mythologies confused.


And I think you’ve forgotten my love of wine during Vikings reviews. Step aside, I’m practically a pro at this.


Meanwhile, Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) is feeling super frosty and it’s not just because he’s currently surrounded by glacial cold in the middle of a meditative mountain spot. Cloaked in fur that would make a Michael Kors ready-to-wear line in a millisecond, he tells Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig) that he plans on obtaining the land promised to him by King Ecbert (Linus Roache) at all costs. Bjorn agrees, but not because it’s a great power venture (which I’m pretty sure Ragnar has his eyes on), but because he wants to raid and he wants to fight.


Sure, he’s still a young buck, but man, he’s showing some of the barbaric tendencies of Rollo (Clive Standen) isn’t he? Rape! Pillage! Plunder! Stab stab stab!


Well, I think he was just stab-ily repressed when he was a kid and living with Lagertha, so he never got to live his dreams of…stabbing. Yet, now that he’s with his father, he’s able to raid side-by-side with him. Sure, Ragnar will probably maybe ultimately turn on him because of an inbred jealousy that Bjorn will surpass him (not unfounded, Bjorn Ironside has a longer Wikipedia entry. If that isn’t the gauge for ultimate success, what is?), but Bjorn doesn’t realize this and still yearns to impress his father. Also, he hasn’t raped anyone on screen yet, so I’m still pretty much team baby Bjorn all the way, okay? Okay.


Besides, Ragnar tries to instill some fatherly goodness to Bjorn. “Power is always dangerous. It attracts the worst. And corrupts the best.” Well, everyone go home, quote of the episode has already happened. It leaves Bjorn as speechless as I am, because he’s dumbfounded and staring brutally into the ice flow in front of him with abject determination.


You’re three minutes into the episode, you can’t write it off just yet.


Okay, okay, geez. It was just a really good quote, alright?


Anyway, in Hedeby, Scandinavia, a herd of horses rides through the nosy wooded wilderness. It’s Lagertha and her brood looking super majestic, naturally. She’s welcomed home with a bit of fanfare and takes her assistant (is that the right term?) Kalf (played by Ben Robson) into the back room. She wants to take him raiding and he declines, hoping to stay at the stead and watch over her territories while she’s gone. He has Jared Leto eyes and he’s earned her trust, so she accepts this as a possibilities. He’s also got her lust, because she asks why he hasn’t asked her to marry him (good question!) and he replies that, though the attraction is obvious (they have on-screen attraction, mmk), he would have nothing to offer her. Their union would not further her empire. Lagertha, in all honesty, seems pleased with this rationale – not only is he stroking her ego by saying he wants to further the empire, he’s also not denying his desire to wed her. Kalf also proceeds to give her valuable information about potential opponents (like the family of her ex-husband that was an awful douchecanoe and she dethroned with a knife to the abdomen), which truly does make him invaluable.


Really, though?


I mean, as tenuous as that position is in this show – and he’ll probably turn on her later, let’s be real – she actually does seem to trust this new character.


Back in Kattegat (home sweet home!), Thorunn (Gaia Weiss), Bjorn’s previous-and-still love interest is expressing her yearning for life beyond the shores of Kattegat while she watches the ships being loaded. Bjorn tsk-tsks and says that he’s not sure he wants her to go, but he should know by now that she’s pretty much the Miley Cyrus of the Viking crew and cannot be tamed. She had training from Lagertha, obviously! She’s ready! But, of course, Bjorn pulls a Ragnar and says that she should probably stay home because their hot naked loving might have created a child and if he loses her, he’ll also lose his child. This puts pause in her stride, but she’s not hearing it because she’s also allowed to sate her thirst for violence and she’s going, okay???


I am 100% okay with Bjorn being with the baby version of his mother.


We also see some adorable moments of Ragnar joking with his little boys (à la Aslaug, played by Alyssa Sutherland), which I love seeing because it brings some humanity back to Ragnar after he’s a petulant asshole for episodes on end. Aslaug seriously dotes on her boys (and I believe it!), including Ivar (the boneless). She cherishes all of her children and expects Ragnar to do the same, growing stubborn when he has reticence towards his only child that was not born to complete perfection. Again, I respect her for this. I was initially not Team Aslaug, but I’ve grown to like the way she’s molded Ragnar to love his kids, all of them equally, as much as he can. It isn’t a burden he can forget. I think that’s important.


She is ballsy enough to bring the question of love into the relationship. Does he love his child? (he does). Does he love Aslaug? (he’s silent). It’s good acting that tugs at those heartstrings, folks.


Speaking of kids! Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård)) and Helga (Maude Hirst) are celebrating the birth and adorableness of their own child that Floki initially seemed hesitant of (do you remember that?), and still seems semi-hesitant of. In a glossy eyed, I-love-my-child sort of way. He feels trapped by the happiness I’m feeling and, yes, Helga’s angry, but tells him that when he comes back “maybe [he’ll] see sense.” He tell her that maybe he will die there. And then runs off. And suddenly, viscerally, I am reminded of how much I hate the direction they’ve taken Floki. Give me my eyeliner wearing God(dess)-whisperer without the deep internal and somewhat supernatural baggage!


Is he seriously mad at how happy he is?


On one hand, I get it, because attachments to home make going to war harder. On the other hand, bro, you have a wife(ish) and a child that love you endlessly. There are worse things.


So, Lagertha, Shieldmaiden, Earless, and fucking badass, goes riding off from Hedeby and immediately Kalf is accosted by Einar (Steve Wall). He tries to draw Kalf into talk of betrayal and murder, Einar tries to resist, and Einar is promptly taken into custody. Viking Jared Leno is too good to be true, he’s definitely going to be an issue at one point in time or another.


So little faith?


I have no faith in the redeemable attributes of the characters on this show. Unless your name is Lagertha. Sure, she’s killed people, but I would happily live in her town.


Ragnar finds some solace from his disabled baby and wife that woefully keeps reminding him of said baby, and is able to get some alone time with Athelstan (George Blagden), who is currently living the awesome torment of being torn between two sets of religious gods. I’m not sure he’s adjusting well? However, Ragnar assures him that he will be following his actions. It doesn’t seem to comfort him that much.


But, comfort isn’t always mental, as Torstein (Jefferson Hall) illustrates perfectly to Rollo and Bjorn. Two women are claiming that he’s the father of his child (who is the Viking version of Maury?), and Bjorn is wondering if that’s possible (c’mon Bjorn, are you THAT naïve?) and Rollo offers the idea of marrying one and having the other as the family concubine. Sweet. Also? Hilarious. Torstein blows these ideas out of the water because these women hate each other and he wants to leave as soon as humanly possible. Geez. This really is Maury episode. Sooner than later, people are complaining that their ladies our coming along for the ride (ugh, come on fellows, think about the rides along the way, amiright???), and ladies that they’re leaving behind. It’s a grungy, braided, leather-wearing mess.


I love it. Bravo TV’s next Real Housewife series will revolve around historical, wonderful divas. Real Housewives of Viking Scandinavia. Real Housewives of Pioneer America. Real Housewives of King Henry VIII.


By the way, Einar and Kalf are having a moment on a canoe in the middle of nowhere. Kalf nearly kills Einar but HOLD THE PHONE, Kalf then tells Einar about his intentions of becoming Earl and usurping the rein of Lagertha. Of glory. Of course. Who didn’t see this coming? This is either a long con or just lazy writing, because in this series, whenever someone appears that is too good to be true, they are. In spades. And then they are killed and the central character sphere continues.


Ugh. I hate when this show is predictable. Please prove me wrong.


Anyway, wassaaaap King Ecbert, we’re here again.


Who does he have at his side? The hella horny Princess Kwenthrith of Mercia (Amy Bailey). Remember her? Of course you do.


Ragnar, Athelstan, Bjorn, and Lagertha, all meet King Ecbert and inform him that Ragnar is now King Ragner after the unfortunate demise of King Horik (Donal Logue). They’re officially equals and dine together as such. Lagertha works through Ragnar as a translator (I love this) and doesn’t understand Princess Kwenthrith’s desire to use them as human shields as she reclaims territory. Ragnar legitimately shrugs when presented with reasoning. I agree. Now, Ragnar has to play politician, which as been super interesting to see him morph into over the seasons.  King Ecbert tells Ragnar that part of the land agreement means that some of Ragnar’s men will have to fight alongside Kwenthrith, Ragnar is astute enough to point out that, that was not a part of their original agreement. However, in good faith, he’s willing to agree.


Slowly, the table agrees. First Rollo, then Bjorn, then Thorunn. After some well-placed hesitation and knowing that Mercia is completely not their ballpark, Floki agrees. King Ecbert, wise as shit and should be watched with a hawk’s eye but what do I know, notices Lagertha’s hesitation and proposes that she watches the homestead on the mainland versus raiding, as she was less keen on the idea of fruitlessly dying than the rest of the crew. She agrees to this arrangement. Athelstan will stay as translator, as per the blessing as both King Ecbert and Ragnar.


Wait, so, the Athelstan torn-betwixt-two-religions-arc will continue?


Yes. Pretty much. There’s a reason that King Ecbert would prefer to have him around, you know? It seems like Judith (Jennie Jacques) – who is married to Aethelwulf (Moe Dunford), the son of King Ecbert – is especially keen on Athelstan staying. For religious, below-the-waist reasons. Bjorn tries again to make Thorunn stay with the farmstead because she’s for sure with child and they kiss and smile like that’s an answer. Seriously, can all the ladies not be regulated to the home? I want to see some Shieldmaiden BADASSNESS.


You want to see blood?


Yes. Yes I do. I think important, amazing, super strong, supermodel beautiful and amazing women are important in television. If it takes a sword or an axe to take people to take them seriously through their journey, I am all for it.


However, it’s interesting to see Lagertha have to start playing politics, since she’s actually been quite black and white since the beginning. You’re with me or you’re against me. You help me grow or I will watch you fall. I’m intrigued by the semi-acquaintance relationship of Lagertha and King Ecbert, especially because he’s completely infatuated with her naturally tendency to be the woman idea – a soldier, a mother, a farmer, a ruler. Lagertha for president.


Meanwhile, everyone else is off to fight the fight for Mercia and sigh, I’m not sure how I feel. She dances, unfeeling of the chaos that she’s brewing below her. The Viking men bemoan her situation. Torstein wants to be with her, Rollo understand her danger. Floki understands the danger of being attached and years to be young and free, he calls out the hypocrisy of Ragnar’s slight against simple beauty. It’s such a great bro moment, archaic as it is, as they watch Princess Kwenthrith dance in slight fog in the distance. Through the boozing, a messenger arrives and interrupts the super fun drunk times of the raid party. Kwenthrith is assuming that they’ll be victorious, even as arrows begin the plummet the oncoming Vikings towards the shores. Oh, you thought you’d just be going against just one brother? PSYCH! Two brothers with full armies. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.


This seems even less like an awesome idea than before…


I agree. Horrible idea. However, Ragnar supposedly sees the big picture and miraculously he’ll be leading us into the fourth season. Let’s just strap in for this crazytrain.


The initial pull of brutality is, well, brutal. The head for her uncle’s formidable (yet lesser) forces and head out with axes-a’blazing. Again, I know I noted this last season, but the fight choreography really shines in these moments, as well as the soundtrack. It is suitably intense for the first episode and men and women are both bloodstained to the end. Sure, they got scratches (or arrows to their bodies) towards the end, but they fought viciously and I love seeing those moments in Vikings come alive. It was bloodthirsty and dirty, but the English should have known what they were bargained for.


RIP Uncle.


While all that is happening, Lagertha is introduced to the land she is promised – it is lush, it is thick, and it is sure to be bountiful barring anything like plague or disease or TV-drama-central plot devises.


What do you rate this episode?


I rate it approximately 9 chalices of wine out of 10. Honestly, I really enjoyed the content, the new characters (barring any SUPER SUPER obvious plot devices) and the plot as a whole. This makes me SO excited for the full season. How do you all feel?




24 thoughts on “Review: ‘Vikings,’ Season 3, Episode 1, ‘Mercenary’

  1. By Odin’s beard! She’s back folks! It will be my pleasure to continue raiding with you this season.

    I totally loved the episode from start to finish, so much happend. Unedited (European version) it ran about an additional 5 minutes, the only major cut so far seems to be the extended Ragnar/Athelstan talk were Ragnar names Athelstan his John the Baptist.

    But let’s start at the beginning shall we, I’ve always loved the Seer, and this time is no different. His prophecy seem to lay an outline for the events of season.

    All the menfolks restlessness was very amusing to see. Only Floki can feel trapped by too much hapiness. But yet there is an interesting parallel here. The transition from carefree warrior to responsible husband and father is not an easy one. Bjorn tries to be caring and protecting but instead comes across as domineering and controlling.

    Ragnar (as echoed later in the episode when Rollo asks about his happiness, unless that scene was also cut) is living with chosing greatness over hapiness. Lagertha was his hapiness, Aslaug offered him greatness in the form of many sons. I’m pretty sure she did not get the answer she wanted from her question about love (Especially with Alyssa Sutherland tweeting a picture accompanied by William Congreave’s quote “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned,”)

    Speaking of Lagertha, and Kalf the Slimeball. Kalf dude, the best damn catch in Scandinavia is lusting after you and basically proposes to you and you still want to betray her with Einar the Coward. They did the long con with Floki last year, I don’t think they’re going there again. He really is that stupid. Lagertha being ursurped is the part of the Seer’s prophecy about a trickster cleaving her I’m sure. Warm up the Blood Eagle for these two.

    Let’s head on to Wessex shall we. As the old relationships at home crumble, they are certainly hinting at some interesting Viking/Saxon relationships. Kwentrith has her lusting eyes on Ragnar, Ecbert no doubt want to go……bathing with Lagertha and Judith is all religiously hot and bothered for Athelstan. If Athelstan is John the Baptist, we should probably start to worry for him.

    Sadly, that farming community is doomed. DOOMED I tell you.

    Onward! To battle! I’m not sure what to make of the Saxons strategy, who would divide their army so that they can’t support each other and then be surprised when the enemy heads for the weaker one (had the weaker one been a trap with more men hidden out of sight perhaps). Thorunn was suffeciently kickass in the battle, Lagertha taught her well. Bjorn of course is distracted by worrying for her. And Floki’s look as he axes the uncle and picks up the crown was both awesome and omnious. Power corrupts. Seeing her uncle put to the axe apparently caused Kwentrith some for of traumatic orgasm and her look of horrified ecstacy was nothing short of brilliant. Excquisite work by Amy Bailey!

    Next week, the gals left behind in Kategat meet their mysterious wanderer. I’m really looking forward to that storyline.

    • There was more….they also cut part of the scene with Ecbert and Athelstan (oh, the feels!!!!) and a scene between Rollo and Siggy which explains what the problem between them is (Siggy is angry that Rollo doesn’t have any big goals any longer).

      I am soooooo angry about the cuts.

      • Poor Athelstan always gets his character development shortchanged. And cutting Siggy’s only scene in the episode was harsh. You needed to show that Rollo had lady trouble too, just as well as Floki, Bjorn and Torstein.

      • Gosh, how frustrating about the cuts! I hate it because it definitely abridges the the depth of so many characters. I am actually very glad that some of the scenes were extended beyond what they showed us, because some of the cutaways were actually very noticeable (or maybe I just have an eye for them after two seasons!).

    • Honestly, the Seer has always been magnificently cryptic and I loved his prophecy. So dark, so exciting – I can’t wait to see how it unfolds!

      I love love love your point about Bjorn and Floki. Floki is doting, though he tries to shun it. Bjorn tries to dote, but it feels suffocating. I sort of wonder if his headstrong attitude will come back to bite him a bit? We all know he will be legendary, but it will be interesting to see whether or not they show his bumps along the way. I almost wonder if he won’t draw even more parallels to Ragnar in his lovelife, will there be a lady love that represents passion, and another that represents victory? Time will tell.

      Einar/Kalf as allies feels too easy to me. These two will be goners early in the season if their plot has the depth of a puddle in a drought.

      NOOOO they can’t take Athelstan away from us! (again!) Poor guy, he really can’t catch a break, can he? Everyone else gets to have his fun, yet the monk-turned-Viking-turned-who-knows never gets to sample the sin. Sigh.

      I am interested in seeing Princess K’s fate. Amy Bailey brings her to life, but there has to be more to her, right? Where will they take her? How far will she go?

      I always, always appreciate you and Swanpride stepping in to let us know what our broadcast has cut. UGH, so frustrating!! At least we can live vicariously through you guys until we get them via DVD.

  2. Well, I’m lifting a bottle of beer to a Lagertha – Ecbert hookup. Hope so! He’s hilariously unkingly. And I suspect Ragnar will then get it on with Mercia. You know, just for the fun of it.
    I understand Floki. He knows the gods are fickle and what they give with the right hand they take with the left. He’s unhappy because he knows how much he can lose.
    It was a good beginning. Not great, but good. I am, however, waiting for some Rollo deliciousness. Need me some bare chest!
    My daughter asked – what’s with everyone’s bromance with Athelstan? He’s just a lovable kinda guy, I guess.

    • I mean, Ragnar clearly doesn’t have qualms about sleeping for power, you know? I would definitely not be surprised if he and Princess K got down and dirty!

      Yeah, I understand Floki as well. The more this episode went on, the more I got it. He’s so happy that his happiness has become a weakness.

      I agree that it could have been stronger in some ways. I’m just waiting to see how they pace the season?

  3. Next up: The Wanderer. Is that going to go all Richard Wagner on us (the wanderer being Wotan’s alias at the beginning of Siegfried when he comes to Midgaard to play twenty questions and recap the previous two operas.)

    • Oh jeez, if they’re going to start bringing in operatic inspiration, I’m REALLY going to have to dive head first into some Wikipedia articles so I can avoid sounding clueless!

  4. My two cents;

    I didn’t care that they telegraphed Kalf’s planned “betrayal” so simply and clearly…out of the sheer deviltry that Loki has seen to plague my soul with, I’m hoping Kalf is also getting set up in turn by his “co-conspirator” Einar. I mean after all, it’s HIS family that Lagertha kicked out of power. Sure, Einar might support Kalf long enough to overthrow Lagertha, but were I Einar, the first thing after that I’d so is to off Kalf so I take the earlship for MYSELF.

    And amen to Ragnar’s bromance with Athelstan. It’s right up there with Pullo and Vorenus in “Rome” I can’t help but root for it.

    And Floki..yeah I’d agree that if he’s too happy..he’s feeling that the *inevitable* ‘other shoe” is about to come down on his head with all the force of the Acme anvil that’s always dropped on poor Wile E. Coyote’s head.

    • I think those are all really good observations. Especially regarding Kalf/Einar! I can’t help but feel like Kalf’s storyline so far is too obvious, there has got to be a twist (eg Einar turning on him) involved, right? Otherwise, what a snore of a plot!

  5. I love the series and am looking very much forward to the new season., but I have to admit, I wasn’t blown over by this first episode. I suppose what bothered me most was the unbelievably poor storyline in terms of the war on both sides of the river. Why would a warlord ever decide to split up his army into a very weak and an immensely strong group, and make absolutely sure, by means of a very deep and extremely wide river, these two groups cannot fight together. Where’s the logics in this? Anyone?

    • I am sort of hoping that a history/war buff can fill us in on any possible advantages of that sort of strategy, because it really was a moment that I sat back and thought, “wait…what??” They’re both against the Princess, wouldn’t they unite their forces against her? It felt completely baffling.

    • The only explanation I can possibly think of for that boneheaded tactic is that the weaker army could signal a trap (more men hidden out of sight, much like in the battle with Jarl Borg’s forces last season) and thus a commander might not want to attack it. Or some form of misguided attempt to illustrate that the Vikings don’t follow the Saxons “rules of honorable combat”

      I’ve also seen suggestion of a more sinister plot, that Ecbert & co expected Ragnar and his warriors to be slaughtered like the mercenary force, thus ridding them of a problem. And that’s the cause of Princess K’s surprised yelps when her uncle got the axe.

      • Hm, quite possibly! I actually prefer the darker suggestion, because it makes a lot of sense that Ecbert&Co. aren’t as friendly and jovial as they might appear. It adds a lot of depth and tension to a relationship that feels very chummy? I haven’t had the chance to watch episode 2 yet (so no spoilers until later tonight when I watch and recap!), but i am verrry interested in seeing how it all pans out!

  6. I thought it was kind of dumb that the Mercians split their armies up on both sides of the river with no way to back each other up. Like come on, do you really expect anyone to fall for that?

  7. Well third year of Vikings, third year of tuning into this blog to read the recap. Glad you’re sticking to your guns, an keep being funny ;D

  8. Hi Shanbanna, it’s great that you do S3! I just started watching it (I’m at S3E3 and it’s really cool to know that the day after I’ve watched an episode, I will have my morning coffee-cigarette combo reading your inimitable reviews. If you remember, I’m the French guy who told you last year this hilarious story of “monk” being translated by the amateur French subtitle-makers as “singe” (monkey) in a touching Athelstan scene (you can see a screenshot here Nothing funny came up during the first three episodes, but I’ll keep looking ;). Anyways, thanks for your blog and your good humor and humour!

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