Hello again! Has it been a week already? It almost feels as if I just blinked once, channeled Rip Van Winkle, and here we are again. But, I am so, so excited for this week and this episode! Last week was a huge success (at least on my blog and judging by the comments that popped up within a few days), which leads me to believe that after a slow start, Season 3 is finally starting to find its stride. Now, with one war on the tail end, Paris in the future, a scarred lover (possible foreshadowing in the title of the episode? HMM, I wonder!), and a possible serial killer on the prowl, this episode is sure to deliver on some level. Or just leave us with an intense cliffhanger. Hey. It’s Vikings. Anything can happen!
For the first time in a long time, we start the episode in Kattegat. Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland) is attempting to comfort a pained Ivar and asks Siggy (Jessalyn Gilsig) if she has seen Harbard (Kevin Durand), otherwise known as the mysterious stranger that both Aslaug and Helga (Maude Hirst) have welcomed into their home, despite his one known characteristic being “he showed up in our dreams with blood on his hands!”, which seems to me to be a giant red flag, but who knows. Maybe I don’t like excitement (I don’t), and maybe I don’t like making friends with creeps (I don’t), or potential serial killers (to my knowledge, nope), so I find this entire situation to be a little weird. Also? Delightful. I like twists. Weird twists. Go forth, Harbard plot. Just don’t disappoint me.
Still, Siggy and I must be soulmates, because she sideeyes the shit out of Harbard when he magically appears to comfort Ivar out of the blue. At least someone finds this guy to be a little offputting. He quiets Ivar to sleep and Siggy finds his demeanor increasingly unsettling. Team Siggy, folks. If something(one) seems too good to be true, they probably are.
In Mercia, the battered (but alive! Mostly!) army is leaving after their victory. I guess that is what you do? I’m assuming they’re returning to King Ecbert, but as there has been no real exposition at this point, that’s just a guess. We see Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig) carrying a maimed, engaged, and with-child Thorunn (Gaia Weiss), who still manages too look fierce and have amazing hair despite half of her face being covered with a bloody bandage and being passed out. Those who have Viking genetics must be incredibly lucky people – I look like an ogre first thing in the morning and that’s without taking a sword to the face. Consider me jealous.
Really? That’s what you’re focusing on as Bjorn heartbrokenly carries her through the camp? Not his concern for her? Not how scared he is as to whether or not she’ll be the Thorunn he fell in love with when she wakes up? When she can move on her own again? But, her hair?
All I’m saying is that the Vikings had one hell of a dry shampoo at their disposal. Also, the way Thorunn stopped Bjorn from looking at her face fully hurt my heart. Deal with it.
Meanwhile, Aethelwulf (Moe Dunford) approaches Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård) and Rollo (Clive Standen) like he’s a friend, because he apparently has a very perverse sense of humor. They stare at him like he is an alien. Floki sort of looks like he’s going to barf (I guess his hatred for all things Christian means they won’t be biffles. Ever.), but at least Rollo humors Aethelwulf’s interesting attempts at speaking their language. It’s more than he’s ever done before to connect with them, so he’s probably looking for ways to turn on them. Just a guess. It’s pretty transparent. Gold star for trying?
The moment Aethelwulf walks away, Floki questions Rollo’s beliefs and Rolloyoda plays politician (since approximately one episode ago, he has this capability) and tells Floki that “this” (he waves with a spoon here) “is the future.” I’ll give that to him. In some ways, he’s right. The only way to increase their power is through alliances. Floki seems to be taking this less well. He brings up Rollo’s Christian baptism and proclaims that they all have taken a swig from the “poison chalice,” and all I can think during this season is oh god they’re setting up to kill Floki for his strong beliefs, because what better way to show that times are progressing by offing the resident zealot? PS: please prove me wrong. Floki might be all over the place sometimes, but he is truly one of the best parts of this show for me.
All the while, Ragnar is laying in a field and nursing his wound that he got last episode that the writers seemed to have remembered, so they can use it as a plot point. His steely eyes are staring at the sky, but I don’t think he sees what Torstein (RIP!) saw, he seems to just be taking a breather while the gash in his stomach oxidizes. Princess Kwenthrith (Amy Bailey) appears and offers to heal the wound with the healing powers…of…her…vagina? I don’t know, man.
To your credit, Ragnar seemed equally unsettled.
As he should! Because she pees on him. And if anyone peed on an open wound of mine I would be both unsettled, pissed (ha!), and really grossed out. If I were a Viking and this happened and there was not an offending jellyfish nearby, I would deliberately create some Neosporin just to be able to slather my body with it to forget that this moment even happened.
“I suppose I should thank you.” EUGH. Princess says he should, because she might’ve just “saved [his] life” and EUGH oh god just the imagery is making me cringe. Yikes, man. Ew. No.
Take a sip of wine. We’ll get through this together.
I…guess this seems like a good time for Ragnar to bring up how he thinks Princess K’s tactically laughable brother is “weak.” This is also what I would talk about if someone just peed on the wound in my abdomen. Anything to change the subject. Yup. Carry on.
She denies it, because she loves her brother and doesn’t want to acknowledge that his honest cluelessness might lead to her downfall. She voices her uncertainties regarding King Ecbert (Linus Roache) and Ragnar seems keen to hear them, which isn’t surprising because he’s actually always been the sort to keep his ear to the ground in the most unsubtle ways ever. Ragnar tells her that he didn’t fight in Mercia for Ecbert, he fought for his people (sure ok) and also Princess K (sure ok). She asks how his wound is and he says it still hurts.
BECAUSE SHE PEED ON IT.
She tells him to lie back and then she straddles him again for potentially non-urination reasons.
Speaking of getting it on (tangentially, sort of. A season-old side-piece turned wife), Aslaug seems to be heading out and isn’t stoked to talk about it with Siggy who seems reasonably concerned that essentially the head of the village is about to head out in a clandestine affair while her kids stay behind. Aslaug pulls away from her queenly duties like she pulls away from Siggy, growing increasingly irritated as Siggy voices things like responsibilities that – hey, remember! – she knows EVERYTHING about. But no, just like the supposed ranting old person in Scooby Doo shows and Hollywood slashers, no one will listen to her. Aslaug does not come off well in this scene at all and it actually feels like a huge disconnect from the nurturer that she’s been set up as in the series as a whole. It feels disconnected.
Aslaug leaves anyway. Because of course. She’s charmed by the Wanderer like your most socially inept friend that you try to steer another direction but no they have to date that guy. Harbard talks to her like he’s some woolen James Bond, telling her stories of his past and about insane sex drives with beautiful nymphomaniacs, like the normal things you talk about with practical royalty. He was “forced” to sleep with her. Uh huh.
She then tells Harbard that she is forever in his debt, presumably for quieting Ivar. He says he would do the same for “any suffering creature, like [Aslaug].” Wow. I don’t know where I saw Harbard going in his plot, but knock me over with a feather, I didn’t see this coming. He reads her like an open book because she is one. He sees her worry about Ragnar and the tension we saw in the first episode between them (and the pee-laden-intimacy of the last scene) comes back around, because she’s worried that Ragnar no longer loves her and thinks about her.
They go into a Viking apartment (I guess) of sorts (with dead things hanging everywhere) and Harbard tells Aslaug to take off her clothes. She does. He’s also ripped. Oh, and then they get it on.
While Aslaug gets busy with a tall-taled vagrant, Siggy sits in Aslaug’s throne and dreams of being queen again. Power, manipulation, awful choices, and sex. That is the Vikings woman in a nutshell.
SPEAKING OF regrettable sex: Judith and Athelstan have done the dirty deed. I. Uh. What? I mean. I almost wish Vikings did flashbacks because otherwise that 100% came out of nowhere; last we heard, they were lusting after each other in towels while soaking wet, but they were standing firmly beside no means no. I guess the tension and temptation was too much for the two of them.
“Do you love me?” Judith asks, like that’s not weird to ask the guy you have treated as a monk-slash-priest-slash-love interest. (It’s not that weird. Still, a little weird).
Athelstan says yes, because he is dumb and absolutely has no clue about shitting where you eat. How did this even happen?
There is a lot of sexytimes in this episode and we’re not even a fraction in.
Far be it from me to complain! Yay sex! Sort out your issues, characters! I just don’t think “we need to fill in some time and develop the characters” should translate to “let’s do some shirtless grinding and grunting and pretend them boning develops the characters and their relationships for us!” As it is, all of these couplings seem insanely random (minus, maybe, Judith/Athelstan, who have been hinted at for a few episodes).
Speaking of sex, the one relative that supposedly has not boned his sister (poor, inept Burgred) is talking to Princess K about how he’s a bit shellshocked about the whole war thing. Princess K sees the world through rose-colored glasses, so she assumes that they’ll rule Mercia like Ecbert doesn’t have a plan for them that Princess K didn’t foresee happening literally 3 minutes earlier in this episode. Burgred’s trepidation is founded. He sees them both as prisoners of Ragnar and Ecbert. Is he wrong? No. And he doesn’t like the sounds of the prison.
Despite being angry at Ragnar, Floki goes over to Bjorn and tells him that it isn’t Ragnar’s fault that Thorunn is in such a bad state. He could have used this time to be a cool uncle, but then he blames the Christians for her wound. Technically, he’s not…wrong. But, it feels wrong and cheap. True to how Floki is feeling in the moment, but still intentionally flammable.
With Floki on everyone’s mind, Rollo voices the eyeliner enthusiasts worries to Ragnar, who shrugs them off in the same way that Ragnar shrugs off all issues. He says that as a King, it’s his duty to bring about the success he wants to see in his people, and he is unafraid to forging alliances to do so. It isn’t necessarily a diversion of faith, but a tactic. How can he know his limits if he doesn’t push them? How will he not know what Odin wants unless he meets them? The plot thickens. Sort of.
At the Villa, Lathera (Katheryn Winnick) is redressing after having a steamy (hopefully not disappointing) affair with Ecbert. He talks about Ragnar’s return like it isn’t awkward talking about an ex the morning after an aforementioned steamy affair, and Lagertha seems slightly unbothered. Ecbert wants her to stay at the Villa to stay and watch over the Farmville and she reminds him that she is an Earl. She has her own affairs with thinly developed antagonists to deal with and sexytimes will have to be shelved for adult matters. Lagertha stands her ground. Even though she’s enjoyed the booty and she feels fulfilled, she can’t shirk her responsibilities as a ruler. She also tells Ecbert that the only person he cares about is himself. And that’s why she’s amazing.
Next, appearing on the screen like they’re not completely bland, are Einar (Steve Wall) and Kalf (Ben Robson). Kalf is acting as Earl in the stead of Lagertha and is obviously already tripping in his power. He’s invited someone to make sure that Lagertha’s arrival home doesn’t erupt in bloodshed and blah blah I just can’t care about that plot at all.
So. We’re moving on.
We find ourselves back in Kattegat, where Siggy is semi-raising Aslaug’s sons. She tells Aslaug’s boys that Aslaug goes to Ivar for herself and for Ivar, and then does the shitty kid thing and run out into the blizzard like two little jerks. Siggy feels compelled to run after them and search, because she was once a mother and once a ruler, she was once a woman that lost everyting (her sons, her husband) in the span of a few short episodes. This instincts have kicked in and she runs off like Little Red after the two boys, Ubbe and Hvitserk. They don’t listen to her pleads to stop and soon fall through thin ice over the lake, which I was sure meant the death of them, but not so – with a courage that isn’t usually shown in such an emotional way in this show, Siggy dives down for the two boys to save them from the cold waters. She didn’t think twice to run after them with bare feet on the ice. She didn’t think to give her life for the two boys.
And her death has hit me harder than any death in the series.
The shots under water as she carries the boys to the surface, the serenity of her gaze as she sees her dead daughter (smiling), the shot of her muted (but vibrant) colors against the dim pastels of the ice, the way she looked at Harbard and knew. It was beautiful. Honestly. So sad, really tragically sad. I can’t even think about the weirdness of Harbard being there to pull the second son out of the icy waters, because it was such an unexpected twist for a character that I have always found well-deep and underappreciated.
Wow. I mean. Wow. I didn’t see that coming.
I’m going to need a minute.
Are you…are you crying?
But, this show is never one to dwell on tragedy for long. We’re taken back to Wessex where Ecbert welcomes home his son and Northmen soldiers. This sounds like a righteous excuse for a rager. Also, some soap opera drama between Judith and Athelstan because – woah, awkward, not predictable at all! – her husband is back in town and expecting things to be back to normal (read: that his wife is not getting down with a monk-turned-Viking-turned-artist-turned-??? while he was gone). Ecbert, I’m sure, knows about the affair and plays it up so awkwardly. The whole thing is awkward.
Princess K and Burgred arrive and he spends the night apologizing to the King, his pets, his people’s pets, their goldfish, everyone, to make up for the slight indiscretion of killing people for a reason that I can’t seem to remember. Oh wait. For Mercia?
Ragnar then enters the room and, while he turns down kissing Ecbert’s hand, the two men find the camaraderie they usually settle into. They’re both corrupt (they acknowledge it), they both know the sacrifices needed to be an effective King. The two men have similar goals, similar perspective, and know the value of a strong ally that you know you might have to stab in the back later to get ahead. I respect that sort of non-friendship frienship. It feels honest. And, honestly, when Travis is given that leash, it’s when he does his best work as Ragnar – he can be so cold and so calculating, but incredibly charismatic. Even when he’s talking to his undying flame Lagertha and asking about the settlement, you can still feel the amazing tension between them. Would I want to be in the position where I said I had sex with a king who had the most disappointing mileage in all the land for the sake of the greater good while talking to my ex that I am still insanely attracted to? EEEhhh, no. But Lagertha does it well and throws it right back.
Which leads me to believe that, to Viking standards, Englishmen (and women) are just a tinge disappointing. Hilarious.
So, drinks are being drunk, Ragnar gets sassy (my favorite), and Bjorn visits Thorunn. She’s awake, she’s survived, but she’s looking worse for wear. Her face holds the ravages of brutal scarring and the bitterness of such an injury already seems to be seeping in. “Poor Bjorn,” she says, her voice poignant in the way that says I’m mad so I won’t cry, “you won’t want to marry me now, will you?” Bjorn denies the allegation. But, her pride is wounded. A kiss on the forehead won’t help that.
It’s dark, but this is a point in their story that they can have some actual, honest development beyond being two attractive people making attractive babies. I am very, very excited to see how both of these young (actors, characters) evolve through the sudden changes.
Less deep? The hinted soapy drama between Athelstan and Judith. They’re both moping like they didn’t know what was going to happen the millisecond they stepped over the line of propriety. Sure, Ecbert is trying to get Athelstan and Lagertha to stay in Wessex, but the underlying feeling is turmoilturmoilturmoil. “Judith has grown fond of you,” Ecbert said, because I AM SURE Athelstan isn’t trying to think of his closeness with the completely off-limits woman.
“We’re all free to do as we please.” Ragnar tells Athelstan in private.
“Are we still talking about women?” The former farmer then grunts, rolls his eyes, and exits stage right. I love that. I miss funny Ragnar. I miss when he was cheeky and not just an asshole and I am LOVING that we get hints of that in this episode again.
You were just saying that you were frustrated with his character last episode.
That’s true! And I am constantly frustrated with Ragnar as a character, but for the most part he is decently constant. I just love the moments where he’s a bit of a cad with the grin that gets him into trouble the most. Swoon. His bizarre kinship with Ecbert is actually amazing for that reason, they really have phenomenal banter together. The scene of the two of them talking to each other as kings and men is really fantastic.
But anyway, soap opera plot – Judith doesn’t want Athelstan to leave and they have a private kiss. Well. It would be private, if Floki wasn’t being KING CREEP in the corner. Man, Floki. Stop it. I love both you and Athelstan (mostly), so just accept that you both will have to share that throne. Sure, you both have been a little one-note in recent episodes, but I am willing to overlook the lapses in judgment and writing. I am willing to work through this. With both of you. Don’t fight me on this.
You know you are talking to characters, right?
Maybe if I internally talk really loudly (like, CAPS LOCK level loud), they’ll hear me.
Because Rollo has no ladies to go forth and bone (or was that just one of his Rollo past lives in a not-so-distant previous season?), he performs a welfare check of Floki. Floki has been conversing with the gods instead of reveling, because I guess spying on Athelstan got just a little bit boring, and he tells Rollo that he worries that one day he will have to choose between the gods and Ragnar. Rollo asserts that he’s already made the choice if that happens to be the case, and the Floki resumes pouting.
Athelstan is also acting a bit like a child, because he is so obviously pining after Judith with the way he has literally not-not stared at her ALL. NIGHT, because that’s a really clever way to hide an affair. By making it very obvious that something happened. Athelstan. Stop staring at her like she’s a piece of cake. She’s a human. A little one-dimensional, maybe, but still a person. He does an adult thing and tells Ecbert that he plans on going back with Ragnar and the King straight up tells him that he’s making the wrong choice. Is it? Eh. Maybe. We’ll find out.
Elsewhere, Rollo and Lagertha are talking and I’ve realized I’ve sort of missed them on-screen together. It doesn’t happen often. Rolloyoda inquires about the state of her home and she tells him that she’s left the town in the protection of one of her most trusted men. Ugh. Just when I was hoping for Rollo and Lagertha to bond over something, they cut to Kalf lounging in bed with a few women. he’s one of the thinnest (in terms of believability, likeability, and nefariousness) villains in this show, ever. I feel like every time they cut to him on the screen my eyes wander elsewhere. There is literally no part of the plot that is not contrived down to the letter.
BETTER YET! He’s brought King Horik’s (yup, that Horik) shitty son into the picture like a bad dream with a bad hair ‘do, like his being involved in this plot is somehow supposed to strengthen it (???). Erlendur, man. I was hoping I’d never have to type that name again. And yet, here we are. Somehow making a plot even weaker. Please, please, be one of those half-season arcs so we can all just move on in a few episodes.
Are you done?
Give me a few more seconds to roll my eyes.
Okay, we’re good now.
Once the party has died down a bit, Princess K takes the time to announce that with the violence of her past behind her, with the majority of the demons at bay, she’s ready to face the future as a new woman. She claims that she knows who she is and in that moment, I believe her. For the first time since she stabbed her uncle’s skull with a knife over and over and over, she carries a sense of vulnerability and believability. Still. The vibe is a little weird between she and her brother. Oh. And he was poisoned.
Well, someone spiked the wine and I would consider that a Grade A party foul.
If that doesn’t put a damper on any party, I don’t know what does. The hilarious part of this scene is that absolutely no one seems particularly bothered by the guy that just puked everywhere. Rollo and Lagertha stand like someone just turned the lights on at 3am after the party ran out of alcohol and the drunk munchies have turned into the drunk sleepies, and everyone else in the room look like they’ve seen better entertainment when they’ve had cereal in the morning. But hey! Princess K is now the sole heir. The Queen of Mercia.
And then everyone dumps out their cups of wine on the ground and – again – the whole scene is just so funny on so many levels. It’s candid. It’s sordid. It’s so, so dark. It’s the best.
In Kattegat, the weather has turned very sour. Everyone is housed in the Lothbrok home (including the two boys that escaped death, they seem to be hiding from Harbard now) and when the Wanderer arrives, Aslaug has a hard time meeting his eye – is it because of the fact that her friend just died? Is it shame that her two boys nearly died while she was in pursuit of booty? Is it embarrassment because of those two things? It’s hard to say, but the dynamic has rightly shifted. He announces that it is time that he is on his way, because he never stays anywhere too long out of restlessness. He tells Helga and Aslaug that Ivar will not cry as ferociously as before, as he has taken some of the boys pain upon himself. He also (cryptically) says that Siggy is happy with her sons, her husband, her daughter – they are altogether in Valhalla.
(If they don’t believe him, they can ask the Seer)
Suspicions are aroused. As he turns to leave, Aslaug asks who he is and he smiles and imp’s smile. “Just a wanderer.”
(Wow, okay guys, you all should go check on the Seer.)
Helga watches him disappear into a cloud of smoke, begging the question as to whether or not he has truly left.
And on that, we end the episode.
You know…not bad. Not bad at all.
I actually really enjoyed a lot of this episode (save for Kalf/Einar. For the life of me, I cannot get into that storyline at all without the risk of rolling my eyes straight out of my head), because it was charismatic and funny as well as deep and moving. I felt a lot of emotions in this episode and, honestly, a lot of it felt genuine. I would give this episode eight out of eleven overturned cups of wine (though the thought crushes me!). Dear Vikings, this is why character development is good.
Also, RIP Siggy. I will sincerely miss you.