Another work week, another week spent thinking about the next episode of Vikings. I don’t know about you, but at least once during my lunch breaks this week, my mind returned to last week’s premiere – the supposedly firm alliance between Ecbert and Ragnar, love challenges ranging from fear (Floki) to possessiveness (Bjorn), Lagertha’s wish to till the earth and create a new home for her people, and what might have been the most bizarre was strategy that we have seen in thus far (seriously, Kwenthrith’s brother asks “why are they just attacking my uncle?” and the resounding yell from the audience was “well, DUH!”). While I feel like some of the plot points they began will grow much stronger with time, others had me wondering where they can go from episode one, because they feel pretty weak and contrived from the get go. It was a solid premiere, but I was left wanting more.
Precisely the point. You’re supposed to tune into episode two.
Hush. I demand instant gratification!
Let’s get onto the show, shall we?
Right, so anyway, glass in hand I am prepared to take us into this season.
How? With bodies. The army of Princess Kwenthrith’s (Amy Bailey) brother looks on the bloody, absolutely demolished scene of his formerly alive uncle’s army with disbelief. How, just how could their army have been defeated when they essentially had the ratio of the battle at the Black Gate with Princess K’s uncle and his army as Viggo Mortensen’s hair and the Vikings as the orcs. Without the addition of magic, they were done for.
The Vikings, however, are celebrating their victory. Torstein (who I am pretty fond of and who is played by Jefferson Hall) seems to be going through an extraordinary rough patch, seeing as he was shot in the arm with an arrow, ripped it out, and this is the age before Neosporin. He’s pale and looking a bit like death, to the point where Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) and Rollo (Clive Standen) notice. They’re concerned about his health and how he hasn’t been eating, so they give him some mystical and likely hallucinogenic mushrooms to help him push through the pain. Ah, Viking first aid. Makes you glad for hot water at will and bandaids.
Meanwhile, Princess K is getting wine drunk in the wake of her dearly departed uncle’s defeat. She almost can’t believe it’s happened, she slurs to Ragnar, despite having seen it with her own eyes. She can’t believe it until she sees his detached head. Ragnar obviously finds this to be an odd request, but hey, he’s not supposed to understand the Princess, just follow her wishes to stay in tight with King Ecbert (Linus Roache), despite being Princess K’s patsies not being a part of the initial plan. He calls on Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård) who is munching on First Aid Mushrooms; he readily unsheathes his hatchet to go beheading.
Ragnar asks Princess K why she hates her uncle so much, and she reveals (with great, convincing acting – no snark – by Amy, I swear there were tears in her eyes) that her uncle was part of the group that led her to be serially raped and violated, starting as a child. Not just that, she asserts that he was the first to do the deed and then insisted that she be passed around to his pervy, rich friends (my words). Her brother? Well. Naturally, he joined in. Ragnar stares at her in a way that says “I’m not quite sure what I can say to that, but I guess I’ll let go of your neck now while I question you on your past.” (Travis Fimmel makes it work).
So, after Floki has his hatchet fun, he returns to the pair with the head of Uncle Brihtwulf. Princess K does what any person in her position, with some wine and a fuckton of pent up anger running through her system, would do – she proceeds to stab the head multiple times. I can only imagine what she sees. Actually, I don’t want to imagine it. Even Ragnar exits left while she has her moment.
Man. That is…
Really, really dark.
Well, we knew it would have to be. Last season we heard hints of what happened to her. While I’m not sure practice like that actually happened in England and places beyond at that point in time (any history buffs out there? Feel free to chime in in the comment section, I’m actually very curious!), considering they’ve entwined it into her plot, it was bound to be fleshed out – though I wasn’t sure it would happen with literal flesh – at one point of time or another.
Meanwhile, in another part of the camp, Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig) takes the time to tell his significant other Thorunn (Gaia Weiss) that while she performed well in battle, she took too many risks as a whole during the fight. Thorunn wonders just why she has to stay by his side in battle, when she was obviously doing just fine fighting for herself. Bjorn assures her that he’s only being this protective because he cares about her, she wonders aloud if it’s because she’s a woman. Suddenly, I am 100% team Thorunn.
Let me guess, Team Girl Power?
You bet your bottom dollar! Seriously, this show slays me with its strong women. You go girls. Continue being fabulous role models with fabulous hair. I can dig it every day of the week.
So, seeing that this conversation is maybe not going as well as he thought it would, he decides that it’s a fantastic time to pop the question. When she says yes and is clearly ecstatic, he stomps away without so much as a touch or a hug or a smile. Just a good. Oh, hell no, bro. Not-so-Baby Bjorn, I’m going to need to see you a little bit more excited about this fabulous woman agreeing to deal with your petty bullshit on the daily, okay? Okay.
Back in camp Rollo, dude is tripping balls and Torstein is also tripping balls, but with the addition of an infected wound. He sees a sleeping Englishmen and does what any normal person does and axes him in the head until the poor, innocent guy is dead. Torstein, confused, asks him why. Rollo says it was the “angle of the leg.” He couldn’t help himself. Rollo needs to adopt a new hobby instead of doing shit like that, whenever he wants to impulse kill someone, he should just…I don’t know. Have a stick of gum and chew until it goes away.
Anywho, Princess K comes around looking for Ragnar (I think?) and then drunk laughs when she realizes that they have no idea what she’s saying. So, she then has a mushroom and then Rollo takes the time to grope her. She doesn’t necessarily push him away, so Rollo takes that as a sign of orgy time, only for her to push him away and slap him when he advances. They laugh about it instead of being insulted, because, remember, they’re high as shit.
Is that the technical term?
No. The technical term is, “totally fucked up.”
Back in Wessex, King Ecbert is completely taken by the total beauty of Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick). She asks (through Athelstan, played by George Blagden) who used to farm the lands Ecbert gave them. Ecbert admits that he had to uproot many farmers and their farms (ha, pun) to give the Vikings their land and Lagertha wants a guarantee that they will not be hostile and will not retaliate against the Viking farms and communities she plans to establish. He personally promises their safety and she thanks him – although it was once Ragnar’s dream to create and cultivate an interest in agriculture in young families, she’s found passion in it as well. It’s her goal.
Naturally, King Ecbert then asks if Lagertha is a free woman. She seems surprised, but why? She is the actual and textbook definition of flawless.
What does Lagertha say?
Not sure. It cut to commercial.
But when we come back, we are not in Wessex anymore, Toto! We are approaching the other shores of the Viking assault and meeting Princess K’s brother, with surprise Christmas decorations made up of decapitated heads of the fallen. Rightfully, it frightens people off. Princess K tries to get her brother to stay, but ultimately he heeds the advice of one of his advisors and heads for the hills. Later, Torstein’s condition worsens. Knowing Vikings, I’m already lighting candles in a prayer circle for him, because he’s for sure not surviving this unless he has a so-called “Come to Jesus” moment and miraculously heals.
Back in Farmtown, Lagertha is informed that Ecbert has arranged for some of the English farmers who were excavated to come back to the area to continue their work. They mock the Viking’s farming technology, but still, Ecbert brings a handful of soil of Lagertha as a means to show the lushness of the soil. She tells him that the soil means more to her than any precious stone and she thanks him with all of her heart. Meanwhile, Athelstan watches the interaction with a grin. Is it a grin of satisfaction? Who knows at this point. Whenever Athelstan has any remote sense of happiness, it’s completely shattered in a usually violent manner. I can’t trust his smiles anymore.
In Kattegat, the winter has frosted the hills and we see Helga (Maude Hirst), Siggy (Jessalyn Gilsig) and Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland) having the girltalk pow wow I have always dreamed of. Helga has prophesized a new visitor to Kattegat, one that carries a ball of flaming snow in one hand in his other hand is colored with blood. Surprisingly, both Aslaug and Siggy have also had this dream, but none of the women were necessarily afraid of the unnerving dream. In fact, they were all disappointed when they woke up in the morning and it was over. Aslaug cannot see the veracity of the visit and she is equally befuddled.
Speaking of prophecies! The Seer (John Kavanagh) foresees a “harvest celebrated in blood,” a “trickster whose weapon cleaves [you],” he sees that a “marriage of soil and sword will sustain [you] until [you] become a virgin once more,” and I don’t know about you guys, but that pretty much sounds like my Tuesday.
I am worried for your workplace.
As if to say “fuck your maybe-Viking religion!” King Ecbert tells Athelstan to bless one of the barns (barns?) in the new farmland community. I don’t know, that definitely seems like a giant middle finger to the new inhabitants of the area, but what do I know? This one guy from the audience seems to agree and pushes through to place a wooden idol on some steps and walks away moodily. It silences the prayer pretty effectively.
In Hedeby, Scandinavia, I’m sure Einar (Steve Wall) and Kalf (Ben Robson) are hatching a plan to be the most predictable antagonists since Dr. Evil. How will Kalf become Earl? With some sexism! Einar’s family now supports him. And, ugh, seriously, wake me up when this subplot is over.
After that predictable whateverplot, we’re taken back to the farm where Lagertha agrees to go with Ecbert back to his Villa because she needs a bath and a break from the farm. Little does she know just what a bath means to Ecbert. Yikes, girl. Yikes. Soon, Judith, Athelstan, Lagertha, and Ecbert are all dining and Judith voices her fascination with the Pagans. Knowing that Lagertha won’t understand the slight, Athelstan wonders how he can describe that life to her because she’s a “good, Christian woman.” Still, she’s curious. He relents and describes to her their vision of Odin (which gets Lagertha’s attention, I’m sure she’s zoning out like the time I was in Italy and didn’t understand a single word being said by friends out at dinner, but at least I had pizza as a distraction) and she asks him if he believes in Odin. He pauses and says that he’s had to ask himself what is belief.
He loves Odin. He loves Jesus Christ. Athelstan keeps being poor, tortured Athelstan.
In lieu of the heavy conversation, Ecbert brings something more fun into the conversation – gifts! Stones are easier to wear than earth, after all (does this mean that Ecbert understands some of the Viking language? Oo, interesting). Lagertha is flattered because the necklace is gorgeous and she’s starting to realize that he’s really, honestly interested in at least some parts of her. Get it, Lagertha. As for you, Athelstan, staring at Judith like she’s the last slice of cake on a platter, you better watch yo’self.
Do you think Ecbert and Lagertha, and Athelstan and Judith will…you know?
While it’s obvious that some parties are obviously taken with the counterparts, I can only see it ending very very very badly for everyone involved if impulses were acted on. Again. Follow Rollo. Have a stick of gum whenever you’re horny and avoid being shanked and/or starting a war. It’s that easy.
In Kattegat, the lady trio have the same dream involving the gruesome defacing of the Seer. Nooo! I really enjoy the Seer and the role he plays in the series (similar to Floki in that there is a constant evoking of the Viking gods whenever he talks), so I will be legitimately sad if he goes in such a brutal way.
Back in England (man, this show certainly loves 30 second snipbits, doesn’t it? I should be used to this by now), Princess K tells Ragnar that she believes her brother has left to get reinforcements. Obviously this isn’t good, so he sends Prince Aethelwulf to go to the town that will likely have him searching for recruitments. Ragnar stays behind, because for once he’s opting not to have a giant, head-tattooed target on him saying “kill me first!” Aethelwulf’s men eventually capture one of Prince Burgred’s men and use good, old fashioned tortured to get details out of the bound soldier. He lets the man go once he gives information, because he’s not a heathen like the Northmen, obviously.
In Wessex, Athelstan is having a moment among the scrolls and Judith tries not to interrupt the artist as he remembers what he used to spend his days doing. There’s a reason for her appearing beside him, though. She wants him, as having served as a monk before, to hear her confession, despite him not being a priest. Athelstan agrees. Judith tells Athelstan that she has sinned in thought and not in deed, though her sins are still great; she has been having dreams of lying beside and doing the naughty tango with a man that is not her husband and she enjoyed it. Athelpriest inquires into the identity of the dream doer – which I’m not sure a priest would actually take the liberty of doing – and she admits that, duh, it is Athelstan. This leaves him speechless and she makes a quick retreat.
I am 100% sure that she planned that confession. I bet her priest wasn’t even away, I bet he was sitting in his house reading the olde English equivalent of GQ.
Yes. I agree. That is very likely, but I respect her ability to own up to it. I felt that the acting was also good at this point, I believe that she felt legitimately guilty. I’m just interested in seeing where it goes from here, since both parties involved know how patently wrong it would be to be involved with each other.
To chill the fire in (certain character’s) loins, we return to Kattegat to another joint dream of the cloaked man approaching. Honestly, I’m hoping he just fucks up Einar and Kalf at this point, because their plot is annoying and they’re on my screen and the wine is kicking in. They’re chewing meat and talking about dreams (I’m sensing a mystical-tinted theme to this episode); Kalf dreamed that Ragnar was eating his liver, even though he begged the superior Viking to stop. Ultimately, Kalf wants to be another Ragnar. He wants the fame, he wants to be known as the man who came from humble beginnings and rose up to the highest echelon. Seriously. He just wants fame. He’s not like Jared Leto, he’s like the Justin Bieber of the Viking world and I am similarly over it.
In Mercia, the Viking camp is playing games until their next order for battle and Torstein’s condition significantly worsens. I feel like he will be our first Viking fatality this season, leaving two babymamas at home very, very disappointed. He interrupts the fun and tells the crew that he wants one of them to cut off his arm. Thorunn and Rollo look similarly beside themselves. “Why not just keep it?” Rollo asks, and Torstein replies that it is killing him. In fact. He’s always hated that arm, anyway, so it can just be chopped off an he wouldn’t miss it at all. I mean. He brings up a good point. It is probably literally killing him. HOWEVER, I doubt the sterileness of the tools that will be used to hack off his arm and LIKELY it will not be in one clean, even cut, so all I can think about is sliced up tendons just hanging out, completely not cauterized, and basically begging the environment to infect it. Is it really such a good idea? No. Probably not.
Bjorn offers. But, no. He wants Floki to do it. Whelp, that’s it folks. He’s a goner. I love Floki, but is he known for his grace and tact with a hatchet? No. They splay him like Jesus on the cross (I’m sure the symbolism is completely incidental and not planned) and mostly I’m just so thankful that they put the axe in the fire to heat it up before they tried their hand at de-arming someone. Floki and Ragnar make sure that he wants to go through with the act and he confirms. The act is legitimately chilling, especially as Thorunn and Bjorn cringe and watch on. However, they handled it well? I didn’t feel like it was gratuitously bloody or gory, despite the cries of pain from Torstein.
I’m going to interrupt this slightly to praise the people working the soundtrack, because without a doubt they always pick an amazing track to go along with what is happening on screen. It’s moving, it’s disturbing, it’s always a little bit beautiful. Though not as crazy brutal, the sound pairing and the use of silence in this scene reminds me of the blood eagle scene of Season 2.
Anyway, flash over to Wessex and Athelstan and Lagertha are getting the hell out of dodge after the sex dream confession and a bath has been achieved. Ecbert thanks Athelstan for showing him how to appreciate and respect two cultures and the two embrace while they move to embark back to Farmtown. Also, the bit about Lagertha telling Ecbert that the necklace was so beautiful it had to be crafted by dwarves was adorable. Can we have more of that? Sure, it’s semi-awkward flirting at best, but it was adorable, even as Judith stood in the background like the last person invited to dance at a middle school play. Is it wrong that I’m sort of rooting for those two betrayed awkward ducks? Yes. Yes, it is.
Ecbert has noticed the fascination because it’s obvious and he warns her against feeling anything but apathetic friendship towards Athelstan, as it is dangerous to allow feelings for someone so complicated. She turns the assessment back towards him and he wordlessly walks away. The women in this series continue to be amazing, the sky is blue, etc. Love is never easy in Vikings, I’m pretty sure that’s a message that also applies to life as a whole.
Know what is also a message that we should take away from Vikings? Impromptu amputation? Likely not a good idea. Torstein is straight tripping (again), but this time it isn’t the mushrooms. I’m pretty sure the pain/infection combo has turned his body into a veritable incarnation of a bad trip. It’s obvious and Floki watch on until Aethelwulf returns with the information on the Prince’s location (on top of a hill, far far away, and – as Bjorn wisely points out – away from the boats). He’s a half-step to dead by the time the episode is over.
In Kattegat, Helga is the first to notice the mysterious Wanderer on the horizon and he interrupts her session in the Viking farmer’s market. The recognition of him as the one who was in her dream is near-instantaneous, because his hand is bleeding and it boils so hot that it melts the snow that it touches beneath. Speaking of bloody palms, Athelstan approaches Lagertha with bloody hands and tears in his eyes. What does it all MEAN?
I don’t have any of those answers.
Well, okay, I wasn’t expecting you to know any of those answers, but my insane curiosity still made me ask.
Does that mean you like the episode?
You know….yes. I did. I did enjoy it.
You didn’t give an arbitrary rating for the last episode, is it time to break it out again?
Hmmm, sure! Yes! I will give this 15 out of 18 bloody palms. Because why not? Well, it’s actually more than that. While I don’t necessarily enjoy the filler plots (I feel like that time can be given to the cut scenes of the character we actually all care about), I do love when Vikings revisits the lore that it has originated from and incorporate the tension between Christianity/Paganism in a fluid matter. This episode excelled in that.
What did you all think of this episode? After the great feedback from the last episode, I’m excited to see what you think of the slightly new direction of the series.