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Review: ‘Vikings,’ Season 3, Episode 5, ‘Usurped’

It’s Friday again, which means it is time to sit down with a glass of wine and rant, vent, love, and watch Vikings with my favorite people. Seriously! Even if I don’t show it and even if I don’t have time to reply to all of the comments week after week, it is honestly such an amazing and spectacular part of my week that I always look forward to. Seeing and reading what you guys feel about each episode, noting the popular moments and the most what-the-hell??-moments with a virtual friend circle (I assure you, I’m sharing virtual popcorn with you all at this very moment) is one of my favorite parts of the week. Ahh. It seriously warms my heart.

 

Get onto it!

 

Alright, alright!

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Last week was a rough one. We had some lows (also known as horrendously weak plots, like Kalf&Co. staying absolutely basic and boring, with the possibility of redemption falling farther and farther away) and some highs (disguised as lows, because even though I will miss Siggy so much, her death was a strong and confident one that was one of the cinematic high points of the season thus far), and I had so many feelings about the episode involving death, urine, and hello obvious future betrayals. Where will this episode fall? Will it be filler or continue the rigorous pace this season has set? Considering the title of this episode is called The Usurper, I am sensing some serious drama brewing. If the writers of Vikings are anything, it isn’t subtle.

 

Ragnar and his brood are returning back to Kattegat when the episode starts, because they had to go home eventually and after the Wessex ordeal, they probably need a little T.L.C. Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) is usually excited about his return home, but this time around he is filled with nothing but grimaces. Could it be the stab wound in his abdomen? Could it be that they aren’t returning come with literal tons of swag from raiding? Could it be that they’re returning empty handed and Ragnar is trying to figure out how to tell so many loyal subjects that people have died in the vague cause of greater good, which always seems elusive to the audience until they’re experiencing the greater good taking place (eg every large foe in this series, Floki’s long con….I find it hard to believe that Ragnar never has a few tricks up his sleeve, but the nature of tricks means that he can’t exactly talk about them around the Viking campfire or the surprise would be ruined. You know? I know you know. I’m just saying, he’s probably grimacing because he’s thinking about proper and correct phrasing so people don’t get pissed at him).

 

So, he does what a lot of us do in the time of intense stress: he distracts himself. He wants Athelstan (George Balgden) to tell him about Paris. Again. Athelstan, liberated from the bizarre sexual tension of Judith, happily tells Ragnar about his singular trip to Paris. He went during his former monastery days and that’s when he saw it, with it’s huge walls and marble structures and giant bells that tolled when church was in session. Screw all that though. What Athelstan really remembers was the hot ladies in Paris. Really Athelstan? Really? Apparently, Judith liberated him in more ways than one. Also, this is where we learn that Athelstan actually wishes that he had roots! Actually, all I can think is please don’t get Judith pregnant as you wish for kids! But, knowing Vikings, she is totally pregnant.

 

Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård) side eyes this in a way that warms the cold, dead chambers of my heart. Sure, he just doesn’t like to see the resumed bromance between Ragnar and Athelstan (who he sees as Ultimate Christ Guy, despite dude believing in both faiths – he’s still a traitor to what he perceives as a master faith, and that’s extremist…but true to Floki form). Still. It’s a sassy look that I love. “It sickens me,” he says. Don’t worry, Floki. I feel the same way when I order breakfast at a restaurant and they bring me white bread instead of rye. Sometimes we are all a little Floki.

 

Just kidding. I think we’re all a little Rollo (Clive Standen), because when Floki voices his opinion he visibly sighs to the point of his shoulders sagging. That sort of unspoken acting in the name of “I’m tired of your bullshit, man, lay off,” is simply amazing. Rollyoda has many things to teach us.

 

Back on Ragnar’s ship, he murmurs, “I would not come back here if it were not for my children.” He thinks Athelstan is lucky that he has not been married, though I actually view this out of a desire to wander than a hatred for his homelife – even if he has seemed more disinterested in his homelife from the second season on than when we were first introduced to him. He’s just got the wanderlust that can only be sated by power, gold, and land. Basic life necessities.

 

Also, probably on another ship, Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig) visits a scarred and maimed (but alive!) Thorunn (Gaia Weiss). It actually tugs at my heart a little (just a smidge), because Bjorn doesn’t shy away from looking at Thorunn even though she’s not pristinely beautiful, while she absolutely avoids avoiding eye contact with him, because she’s convinced that without her looks she is nothing to him. There have been so many pop songs written about this exact subject. Will you sing them with me? Let’s have a musical interlude. Have you had your fill of pop? Good. Let’s continue.

 

Where other Kattegat arrivals have been signified with gold glimmering in literal sunshine, the tone of this one has been set with dreary colors and weather. The main characters are desperately clamoring for their loved ones and carrying the wounded onto dry land. Torstein’s (RIP!) two babymamas, for instance, awaited his arrival and did not take his being in Valhalla as an ultimate comfort. And, the commentators on the last episode reminded me that I totally forgot about Rollo’s possibly horrible reaction to Siggy being gone, considering she was his main squeeze and pretty much the only one that ordered his ass to get in line when he had hit the very bottom. I waited for this part of the episode after that, because she really was a rock for Rollo and I knew it would end in…well, sadness. And anger. And guilt, at least on the part of Aslaug, who had left Siggy to care for her sons while she boned the Wanderer (not shaming her sex drive here, just sighing at her aloofness before running off with a vagrant for booty. Priorities, Aslaug, you should have had them). Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland) delivers the news (about Siggy) to Ragnar amidst cries from Rollo for her presence. The news that Ragnar’s sons are alive because of her, but she is dead from the deed of saving them, hits everyone hard. For the first time since it has happened, it feels solidified.

 

Aslaug can’t keep eye contact with Rollo, but he places the blame on himself. The gods took her back because he “did not treat her well,” which spirals him into the pit that Siggy had pulled him out of. It’s filled with guilt, it’s very pragmatically sad, and he takes his sorrow away from the pier.

 

Ragnar, after searching for his brother (he does care for him, after all, on a level that is very hard to understand but has been a thread through all the seasons), asks Aslaug why Siggy was the one taking care of their sons. Helga tries to defend her, but Ragnar extinguishes her excuses. He doesn’t like the excuse (or what he perceives as one) that Aslaug has given.

 

I can’t blame him. I can’t help but feel that Ragnar didn’t want to return home after this trip for a wellness check, but now he’s realizing that, because he hadn’t performed one sooner, things are in much dire straits than he thought.

 

Yeah, pretty sure this is not the kind of housekeeping he wanted to do.

 

Aslaug escapes that situation by going to visit Thorunn. I admire Aslaug’s determination to help the young woman, despite her desire not to be seen by anyone. The wound is awful – seriously – and the makeup applied makes her look like she’s about to be turned into a Resident Evil zombie. It’s shocking and Aslaug is suitably shocked…but, come on, this is a culture where raiding was something done on the regular, why would she be so shocked that Thorunn got hurt so badly during a bloody raid? They literally cut off Torstein’s arm earlier in the season.

 

I mean, okay. I don’t understand Aslaug’s shock at Thorunn’s visage, but I understand the grief that comes from Thorunn at her new face. Thorunn’s worry about her wounds has to be completely superficial in that she is worried at how others will perceive her with facial scars and I hope the writers don’t spin away from that twist because even if it seems silly, it is fairly valid. She thinks she won Bjorn over with her body and looks, the irrational fear that he will lose his love for her because she doesn’t look exactly the same is founded, even if seemingly ridiculous. I like that they’re playing on vulnerability, because she’s probably pretty young and she has a lot of feelings about who she will have to be now that she isn’t conventionally beautiful. I think it can be a really good stepping stone for her character if she’s going to be permanent, however, the shock that other women of the village feel in regards to her scarring is just so weird to me – it isn’t like women in combat was bizarre. I’m sure these wounds happened more often than not. Thorunn will have to grow into her new face and grow into a new person, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

 

Besides, I feel the same way when I have a zit the morning I go to work. It’s a hard life, we heal, we go through it.

 

I think it is a little different….

 

Is it? Is it?

 

(Yes.)

 

So. Anyway. At the news of Siggy, Rollo has gone from Sober to Drunk in .02 seconds. He’s stumbling around and drinking out his anger. That’s not surprising, that’s how he dealt with his issues before, so it’s natural that he would fall on his crutch again. The crowd he has is less sympathetic, because they all lost someone in the fighting for the Christians – what makes him so special? Well. considering Rollo has been looking for a reason to be special all of his life, he takes offense to that. They all should feel his grief. Pissed off, he takes a swing at one of the bar patrons and Bjorn, trying to defend his uncle during his emotional tirade, soon becomes to focus of his punches. Listen kid, if you see your drunk uncle – who has a violent, drunk, emotional, clusterfuck past – sometimes you honestly can’t help him. That doesn’t mean you should punch him, but sure, whatever Bjorn.

 

Maybe, he is like his father and he is just trying to think of the greater good.

 

So punching him in the gut would….what? Make him barf up the beer? I don’t think that’s what this is about. Admittedly, I have no idea what this is about, but I think Bjorn just reverted to self-defense mode. Even with that in mind, it was really hard to see Rollo calling out for his nephew to punch him. The guy seems to be in a really vulnerable space and I think Bjorn is altruistic to a fault, so he was probably trying to help him snap out of it. Bjorn, there is no snapping out of grief. Just let him feel.

 

I can’t say I liked the scene very much. I understood where it came from, but I guess the honesty of anger (irrational though it is) just really put me off. I assume Rollo will get his shit together without Siggy (historical canon and all), it’s just hard to watch in the meantime. I feel bad for him. I feel so bad for so many people in this show right now.

 

Even Aslaug. Honestly, while I watched her do the naughty tango with the Wanderer last episode, all I could think was she is going to get pregnant from this and it’s obvious from her half-hearted attempt to seduce Ragnar that she’s trying to cover up her indiscretion with another sexual encounter in the same general time frame. It doesn’t work and Ragnar walks out of their bedchambers. I don’t know, I kind of like this internal conflict in Aslaug (her nostril flare was great!) but I wish she had more of a character than “perpetually fertile woman.” I hope this season gives us that. We’ve seen hints of her fire, now I want to see what makes her burn, you know?

 

Meanwhile, Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick)  is telling people about the settlement (that is totally not doomed) with pride. She wants to establish more people there and she finds it to be a huge success so far. Floki laughs it off, because obviously he has no desire to work under a Christian king, he also manages to offend Athelstan and get him to leave the room prematurely. I feel like this was a part of his plan, perhaps subconsciously.

 

After Athelstan excuses himself, Bjorn enters and everyone is wondering what the hell happened to his face. He tells Lagertha that he got into a fight with his uncle and everyone seems mildly surprised that he got into a fight with Rollo and actually lived to to tell the tale. Also? Familial fights! Not a great sign! Anyway, within ten seconds Bjorn is off the screen and I can’t help but feel like the scene was thrown in there for exposition.

 

Seemingly, Lagertha has disappeared from the scene as well, because Floki pulls Helga down for a little one-on-one. He senses that something else also happened while they were gone, something that lead to the death of Siggy that the two women hadn’t told them. The two mystical-leaning characters seem similarly enraptured in the tale of Harbard (a name and detail that Floki is hung up on), and Helga tells her husband about how he seduced Aslaug, about how he was the reason that Siggy was watching over the children. Floki seems similarly seduced about the idea of this Wanderer, but for a different reason. It is obvious to Floki that the Wanderer was a god in disguise and where there is death, there is also life (that is what a god does, they grant with one hand what they take with the other), and then says it is his duty to tell Ragnar of what happened. Sure Floki, you tell Ragnar that his wife was slept with by a god and have him not take it the wrong way. You go ahead and do that.

 

The next morning the rain has cleared and a messenger on horseback has appeared for Earl Ingstad, aka Lagertha. Within a millisecond the messenger telling Lagertha that she has been usurped from power, he is on his knees asking for forgiveness because UH, YEAH, BRO. We have seen what happens to people who get on Lagertha’s bad side. Do you really want to be on it for this weak ass sub plot? The answer is no. Grovel away. She wants to know who it was who dared do this to her and when the name Kalf is uttered, she nearly loses it. When she gets the names of the supporters and the fury has really started to bloom, we cut to Lagertha and Ragnar. She wants Ragnar to support her fight against the usurpers on a vague promise, but Ragnar side-steps all of her assertions like a ballerino, which (rightfully) pisses Lagertha off. Oh, so he can fight for his kingship and earldom, but she can’t fight for hers? Oh, go fuck right off Ragnar. Still, that grin he had for Lagertha when she said “it is mine” was unmistakable. Was that pride? Who knows. Ragnar is unreadable in this scene, but his affection for Lagertha has never, ever wavered. Even through mistress-wives. She’s an Achilles heel.

 

That semi-humor is a huge contrast to the way he conducts himself around Aslaug. It always has been a purposeful contrast between the two, but in this situation it seems as black-and-white as ever. His distance is further from Aslaug than it was from Lagertha, his body language defensive, and he is asking about Harbard. Aslaug is stiff-jawed when she tells him about Harbard’s relationship with Ivar (“the son [Ragnar] leaves behind”) and focuses on the fact that Harbard was the one to take away the suffering from their child (“he sleeps now, he never slept before.”). However, word travels fast in Kattegat and Ragnar follows that with “was he good?”

 

Aslaug responds with, “yes. He was a good man.” And I applaud her. Fight vinegar with vinegar, apparently. What a loving relationship!

 

Wordlessly, Ragnar goes to pick up the now-quiet Ivar from his crib. The child begins crying. We can real between the lines here.

 

Back in Wessex, we spy Judith innocently needlepointing. When she pricks her finger, she sucks the bite wound and gets a semi-thrill from it, because E.L. James and her particular brand of edgy sexiness is apparently timeless. Aethelwulf. finding his wife’s new kinks disturbing on certain levels that he would rather not visit, offers to get her a monk physician to oversee her, like a good, concerned husband. She tells him that she suffers from Hornyitus and it cannot be cured by a monk physician. Just a former monk that now lives in Scandinavia and also believes that Viking gods are real. Just kidding! She didn’t say that. She just tells him that monk physicians can’t help her with her affliction. So then, she tells him that she’s with child. Does that seem weird? Does that seem strangely connected to Athelstan’s morose comment about not having progeny at the start of the episode? Yes? Well. I am sure they are not connected. No way.

 

Anyway, Aethelwulf threatens her with physical violence (as is this show’s way!) and she doesn’t give up the name of Athelstan of her lover, even if A+B=You’re Not The Father has pushed him over the brink of pissed-off-ness. This goes against so many of the rules he adheres to, but, like a plague King Ecbert (Linus Roache) appears to grab his son to send him on a new mission. It’s about the new northmen settlement and the displaced Englishmen. King Ecbert wants the disputes put to an end, so he sends his pissed off son to go fix the problem in the name of the treaty he has with Ragnar Lothbrok. Right! I see no problem with this plan. Surely, it’s not enough to send Aethelwulf to go and destroy the settlement with absolute abandon.

 

Only, it is. It definitely is.

 

Yup.

 

In Kattegat, Ragnar visits the seer and asks him about Paris. The Seer (John Kavanaugh) tells him that it isn’t the living that will conquer Paris, “but the dead.” He also tells Ragnar that the “bear will be crowned by a princess,” which I can only imagine is aimed toward Rollo…which leaves me scratching my head a little. Was Siggy just a throwaway kill to make way for some princess? Ugh. Ugh. Still, the Seer laughs and Ragnar takes this into consideration.

 

Soon, Ragnar joins a party-thing in the great hall, but he and Aslaug do not sit together. He tells the group that their next target is Paris in the land of Frankia. Ragnar wants to know why they’re just learning now and Rollo is baffled just as to what Paris is, which is really solid ground for a raid, I think. It’s a huge city that is ripe for the picking, a city that he has dreamed of in so many ways. It is the next spot on the map and we all have known this was coming, and, honestly, the way Travis Fimmel is able to deliver the lines gets me stoked – he really nails Ragnar as a charismatic leader. The only one in the crowd not completely stoked by this idea is Lagertha, because she’s had Ragnar’s back five ways ‘til midnight and he is seemingly leaving her high and dry while she deals with her drama back at her homestead.

 

She follows Ragnar up on his piecrust promise a moment later they are in Hedeby looking for some answers. Man, I wish I could travel that quickly, it’d make rush hour a breeze. Lagertha approaches Kalf with 18 layers of anger, and uggh why are we even here. I can feel myself tuning out, especially as he follow Ragnar’s orders but not Lagertha’s. UGH. Still, Ragnar pulls the man aside and plays towards his ego, asking if he can call him Earl, asking him if he wants to raid with him in Paris, and all I can hope is that this is some huge grand plan to get him killed Viking style because I can’t see a reason that Ragnar would take this doe-eyed bro with him on raids except as a reason to appease his One True Only (Lagertha) and eliminate a headache. For once, prove me right, Vikings writers. Make this another predictable, annoying twist like Floki last season. Stop making me say ugh.

 

Kalf proceeds to be a jackass to Lagertha after he dares to call her Earldom his Earldom and knocks on the way Lagertha used to be attracted to him (NEWSFLASH: not anymore). Since he’s had so much time to practice this speech about nation pride and whatever, he speaks it like it isn’t being read by cue cards on the side of the screen and – sign – I just hate this plot so much someone make me care please. It’s such a politician speech, it feels so one-note in comparison to Ragnar’s speech to his people about Paris. Whatever Kalf is selling, I’m not buying it. Or this weak ass plot. When he tells Lagertha that he triumphed over his desire to bone her to complete his goal to become Earl and then has the cajones to ask “what do [you] want to do with that knowledge?” I just wanted her to punch him in the face or rip his beard off one hair at a time. Awful. Rude.. Get. Out. Of. Here.

 

We get it, you don’t like this plotline. Can you suck it up for a moment, though?

 

I don’t know. I mean, this episode has had a decent amount of great Ragnar moments (comedic timing is everything to convey the welcomed humor into spots of this show), but this is absolutely the weakest subplot of the season. I have read fanfiction better developed than this Kalf nonsense.

 

But, whatever. It is what it is.

 

So, Rollo visits the Seer much in the way his one-Lady-Love did. He talks about his inferiority complex candidly, telling the Seer that it has always been the Ragnar show (much in the way Jan complained about Marcia). “He is everything. He is everything I cannot be. […] He is my everything […] but tell me, why am I so angry? Tell me, oh wise one.” And even if I am paraphrasing, let me give honest props to Clive Standen’s anger as Rollo here. I believe it. You can hear the frustration in his voice as he talks about the favoritism of Ragnar (in family, in love), and it feels genuine and dark. He has so much anger about the ways that he’s failed before and so much anguish over what he has become, that the Seer just laughs. (Side note: when did the Seer become the resident bartender of everyone’s problem on this show? Do I make this observation every season? I hope so. It deserves to be made, this poor guy dealing with so many messed up people). “I will tell you as I told Ragnar,” the Seer begins, “a bear will marry a princess and you will be present at the ceremony.”

Now, Lick My Palm and get out of here.

 

Back at Farmville: Scandinavia Edition, Aethelwulf decides to kill all of the pagans even if they are just farming cabbages and doing lowkey shit. So they do. Men, women, children. They’re slaughtered in a scene I don’t enjoy watching because there were kids, man. There were innocent people. That makes a difference. At the end, they all pray before a burning cross and UGGGHH as if Lagertha needs more shit to deal with. I don’t know. Great music and all, I couldn’t get into that scene. It was too brutal and senseless for me, though – on some level – he might’ve been working out marital aggression and dealing with his hatred for the Pagans/Vikings in an ultimate way (read: death), but it was just so ruthless. Etc, etc, innocent people, etc. I’m sure this was a way to dehumanize Aethelwulf. It worked.

 

So, much like Lagertha feels like doing, I want to ride off into the sunset with middle fingers in the air.

 

I’m pretty sure that’s not what she is going to do.

 

I’m sure you’re right, so she can live vicariously through me.

 

She rides off in anger despite Bjorn being like “Mooooom I know you want to go to Paris and kill a bunch of people and get so much gold and marble and priceless stuff, come on moooom,”

 

“Bjorn, you are a man now. Act like one.”

 

Be. Still. My. Heart.

 

Really, though, everyone seems on edge right about now. So, it’s a perfect time to stir the pot further.

 

Floki finds Ragnar and tells him all about the ifs-ands-and-butts, about Harbard and his wife. As in, that Wanderer got dat booty. He tells Ragnar that Aslaug was seduced by this Wanderer, leaving her sons behind, and their copulation practices happened more than once (in fact, she often came home smelling like fish, from where they knocked boots in the fish market). In this giant truth!bomb drop, Floki takes a moment to tell Ragnar that Harbard is another name for Odin (is it really?), so he shouldn’t even be pressed about his wife sleeping with another man. Because it could have been Odin. Ragnar leaves in a huff. Floki gets huffy.

 

In Wessex, King Ecbert is goddamn (pardon the blasphemy!) pissed about the whole Farmtown incident. He did not want the Viking settlers killed (as far as we can tell) and is absolutely beside himself about how the treaty has been violated. He has 99% of the men arrested for treason for going against his word.

 

The .01% is left. Athelwulf stands to meet his father and King Ecbert greets him with a psychotic grin. “You did the business so well.” This was all part of a plan.

 

“Even Charlemagne would’ve approved, don’t you think so?”

 

And then we come to a close.

What’s your opinion of this episode?

 

Honestly, I have so many thoughts. I couldn’t get into a lot of this episode. I loved the fact that they matched the weather with the mood of their arrival (sometimes not-so-subtle details make it worth it), but the emphasis on Kalf this episode just felt like wasted minutes in this episode, as they do with every episode. I hated the raid of Lagertha’s little farmtown (even though we saw it coming episodes ago, doomed from the start) and the fact that Judith got pregnant (of course she did), because it felt easy, but I like that the hardcore mirror of Aethelwulf is Floki (and they will probably soon share a hatred of Athelstan, for veeery different reasons). Then again, I loved the development of Rollo and his ever shifting character (the change of tempo, the acknowledgement of mistakes) and I loved the snipbits of the Seer and his cryptic kind of love. Honestly, I give this episode seven bloody cabbage patches out of eleven. It tried and it was dark, but I didn’t love enough of it to tip the scales into infatuation.

 

What do you all give this episode?

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27 thoughts on “Review: ‘Vikings,’ Season 3, Episode 5, ‘Usurped’

  1. It was a good one (and to be honest, the first one I really watched multiple times). While I am still not behind the notion that someone like Kalf would be able to usurp Lagertha, at least the story isn’t predictable so far. Though Ragnar and Lagertha better hatched a plan between them, or I will be really upset with Ragnar.

    Athelstan/Judith is still meh. They better don’t kill him off this season, because I would be very upset if THIS is the last storyline he is involved in.

    Ragnar’s whole body eyeroll was epic. Just shut up, Floki.

    They should add a scene with Lagertha talking to Thorunn, now that Siggy isn’t around any longer to talk sense into the other women.

    I suspect that the seer only insist on the hand licking because otherwise the messed up Vikings would constantly want therapy session from him. I liked him better, though, when his visions were “so vague he could just guess”.

    I think I knew what his last prophecy means. I just hope that they won’t rob Bjorn of his glory should I be right.

    • Oh gosh, I hadn’t thought about the potential finality of Athelstan this season. If this Judith storyline is his last one, I’ll be furious! He’s such an interesting character but they’re really just devolving him into a horndog with a babymama this season.

      I love the idea of some sense-talking happening between the women. They really need some togetherness and girl power right about now, because they are all over the board in terms of feelings (without the inclusion of, like, Helga, who I am pretty sure lives in her own brain of a daisy field all the time). I’m also surprised that Lagertha did not mourn Siggy on-screen. They were close at one point.

      • The actor has another role…now I think he can do both, but who knows. That was btw the reason for Siggy dying, the actress wanted out of the show because she couldn’t live semi-permanent in Ireland anymore for private reasons.

  2. I always look forward to your recaps!

    Some random thoughts…I didn’t care for Lagatha in this episode. Her response to Radnar when asked about why she cared about her Earldom, “Because it’s mine.” made her sound childish, rather than the powerful woman she is. Could she have totally misread Kalf and not seen the possibility of this usurping? This subplot just doesn’t ring true to me. I think she and Ragnar have cooked something up…

    And neither does the subplot about Thorunn. She is a shield maiden after all, and must have witnessed many returning soldiers with battle scars. Wouldn’t her scars be seen as a source of pride? She wanted Bjorn and others to take her career choice seriously. If so, she would be mourning the lack fighting skills that almost got her killed, rather than the loss of her looks.

    Loved Clive Stanton in this episode. Rollo’s response to the news of Siggy’s death and the scene with the Seer gripped my heart. You could genuinely feel his pain. Tough to live your whole life in Ragnar’s shadow.

    Why would the “Christians” burn the symbol of their faith after the destruction of the colony of Wessex? Wouldn’t they have burned pagan symbols instead?

    And how about that backflip off the ship’s mast that abruptly ended Ragnar’s discussion with Floki? Awesome!

    • Yeah. Lagertha felt a little petulant in this episode, and a little dumb? I mean, how can one not see that Kalf has the personality of an empty cereal box and then she leaves her earldom to him while she’s off and about? It seems weird. However, I do totally think that Ragnar is going to eliminate Kalf in his Ragnar-y way. (brutally. and over the course of the season).

      Yes! That Thorunn plot baffled me for similar reasons. Why would you be so vain when you have been brought up to be a soldier? It all felt very convenient and flat for her to be focusing on that when her whole. life. she’s been trying to be a shield maiden.

      Rollo was amazing in this episode. I loved his anger and his sadness and his guilt, and he’s so matter-of-fact about it all! I love that.

      Good call! I didn’t think about that at the time. I’m not sure why they would burn the cross versus throwing all of the Viking totems in a pile and lighting them on fire like old disco records.

  3. Hi, hotdiggitydaffodil:
    First, let me say your comments on the latest episode of Vikings are the first thing I check Saturday a.m. before I head out for a walk or to the grocery store. I love your sense of humor and your take on things.
    As for “Usurpers,” I felt it was paled in comparison to the previous week – except for the final scenes with King Ecbert and Athelwulf and the slaughter of the settlers. Wonder how long it’ll take for word of that to get back to Ragnar? Or does he have time to exact revenge, now that he has his eyes set on Paris?
    A question for you and others – I believe the name Bjorn means “bear” – so how does that figure into the Seer’s statement about the bear and the princess?
    I also wonder what will happen to Judith, now that Athelwulf knows the child is not his? Not that I really care about her as a character. In fact when she and Athelstan were going to it, I kept saying, “Please let this be a dream sequence! Just a dream.”
    Maybe she’ll be consigned to a nunnery; but as for the child (assuming the pregnancy goes full-term), I guess I don’t see Ecbert or Athelwulf overtly practicing infanticide, since everyone else would still think the child was Athelwulf’s; but maybe there’ll be an unfortunate accident as in, “Whoops, the servant just dropped the little tyke on its head! Oh, well …”
    As always, I’ll be looking forward to next week’s episode and your comments.
    Momcat from northern Minnesota

    • Thank you! I’m so flattered!

      I agree in that I enjoyed last week’s episode far more than this week’s – I’m not sure what it was about this week, but so much of it felt like filler and the pacing felt a bit off. However, Aethelwulf taking the Farmtown to task and Ecbert slimeballishly doing what he had to do was actually a great moment and a nice way to end the episode (not…nice, exactly, but it was a strong way to end the episode!). I’m actually wondering about whether or not Judith is going to have an…accident, Both she and her child will have to be very, very careful. I might not like the plotline and I might find her as dimensional as a paper towel, but she really put herself in a bind here.

      And Ecbert knew what he was doing all along. He’s a lot like Ragnar in that he sees a deck of cards that no one else sees. Now that Ragnar sees Paris, I sincerely doubt that he’ll give a damn about the little farm community. I feel like if that will be anyone’s fight, it will be Lagertha’s.

      OH YEAH! Bjorn DOES mean bear! Once upon a time, I knew that tidbit. Hmm. If that’s the case….things are looking bad for Thorunn.

  4. Okay my thoughts;

    Kalf’s response to Lagertha is a mirror image of the same one Lagertha gave Kalf in the beginning why she couldn’t marry Kalf. She has the title and she’d be marrying beneath herself and admitting that she liked Kalf. Now it’s the other way around with a heavy dollop of betrayal on Kalf’s side. Lagertha could have snapped it up..and I’d have to call Kalf both a fool with HUGE cojones. I could completely picture Lagertha shiv’ing Kalf while he slept in bed with her and reclaim the earlship for herself.

    But I strongly suspect an accident is gonna happen to Kalf..and that’s what Ragnar intends to set up on the raid to Paris. Still…I find Kalf to be utterly a cardboard character.

    From a religious standpoint, Floki and the Wessexians mirror each other in their adherence to religious orthodoxy. They’d gleefully murder the other if they were allowed to. And the Wessexians do that with the greatest of gusto led by Aethelwulf who’s quite upset by his wife’s being shtupped by some other man. And it’s just as well that both Athelstan and Lagertha left town – perhaps that was the proverbial nail in the coffin for the Viking town in Wessex for all concerned in Wessex. Convienient for a certain Ecbert.

    What a performance by Ecbert ! I actually believed he was genuinely outraged by the Wessex massacre….What an actor ! In more ways than one.

    Then after he kicks everyone out of the throne room with only Aethelwulf present, he turns about and right out of Villian’s Handbook 101, he starts laughing. Laughing. That’s straight out of Dr. Evil’s repertorie. I half expected to put the tip of his pinky finger at the corner of his lips and laugh again. But you had to marvel at the sheer diabolical cleverness of elimnating several problems at once: Elimnate a few troublesome nobles, placate his fellow Wessexians with religious orthodoxy, have “plausible deniability” for the massacre if Ragnar comes calling with an army at his back. And please Rome with his “religious cleansing” Aethelwulf’s just his stooge, that’s all and the fact that he was burning with rage at Judith’s betrayal is just frosting in the cake for Ecbert and assuring that even if Aethelwulf didn’t know Ecbert was gonna want exactly what he was hopping mad enough to do, Aethelwulf would do *exactly* what Ecbert wanted all along. Machiavelli would have approved even more than Charlemagne did.

    Now, that does bring to mind the conversation between Ecbert and Ragnar about being good but corrupt men. Would have Ragnar done the same thing ? It’s easy enough to be tolerant of different religions as long as there are reasons to continue doing that. Now, suppose Ragnar was in the same situation as Ecbert but with the religions and land reversed. I strongly suspect Ragnar would do exactly the same thing as Ecbert especially if the presence of Christians in Ragnar’s pagan realm created strife and dissension among his own nobles. It would be just easy enough to appoint the same troublesome nobles to deal with the settlement and pass it off as the work of out of control nobles who have since been executed. Makes you go “hmmm” doesn’t it ?

    Floki’s convo with Ragnar on Aslaug’s getting banged by Harbard..well that’s an impressive display of acrobatics by Ragnar trying to run away from those words from Floki. I suspect Floki is also incorporating just a *little* Loki. The God, of course…in his actions and words. He wants trouble. And by the gods, he’s gonna stir it up whenever he can. That’s why he doesn’t cotton to tranquility (See Helga and her daughter in a previous episode) And I liked the fact that he wore a costume with a feathery ruff around his neck and that bald head. He reminded me of a buzzard with bad tidings.

    Now this might be SPOILER ALERT. Read no further even if it concerns the prophecy made by the Seer:

    SPOILER:

    Bjorn is Swedish for “Bear” That means Porunn is almost 100% certainly on her way out.
    And that would explain why Rollo is going to be present too.

    • Hmm…honestly, you’re right. There is a lot of mirror images happening between Wessex and Kattegat, down to the zealot tendencies. I actually do think that Ragnar would do something similar to what Ecbert did, just perhaps not to the same degree. After all, he’s never batted an eye regarding a few deaths to better his chances at the end game. Like Ecbert and with Aethelwulf as a pawn, Ragnar is also one hell of a chess player. I actually enjoy their frenemy dynamic at all (and part of me thinks Ragnar knew that was going to happen the millisecond they turned their backs).

      I loved Floki’s mischievous streak this episode. He’s always a pot stirrer, but this time I couldn’t help but feel like he didn’t even know the pot he was stirring…he just wanted a taste. I think he does believe that Aslaug was bedded by a god and I think that the confirmation that their gods truly are around them all the time is comforting to him. I think he eagerly awaits the ~retribution for them all playing nice with the Christians (which I assume is why he thinks the gods are angry). We’ll see! (fantastic catch on the ruffly feather clothing! I didn’t notice that and wish I had now. In that final scene he looked like a hungry bird perched on a branch)

      OH YEAH! I forgot about the Bjorn/bear thing. I feel bad for Thorunn. I do. Poor thing…. I wonder how she’s going to go.

    • Again with the “Bjorn will marry a princess”

      Bjorn will NOT marry a princess or he won’t be able to fulfill his destiny of sailing around the sea that has no tide (a.ka the Mediteranean). Thorunn is going nowhere, mark my words.

      Rollo on the other hand, historically had a French princess for a wife.

      • That’s what I’m saaaayin’, Rollo’s definitely going to find a French lady (perhaps one of those that Athelstan had his eye on? Their charms are apparently notorious!).

      • I don’t know exactly how the prophecy will turn out. The series don’t quite exactly follow the sagas about Ragnar and his sons. In the sagas, Ivar the Boneless is apparently the oldest son, not the youngest as he is in the series.

        Second, Burghed is also the name of an actual Mercian king. However he’s actually regarded as the best of the Merccian kings and his character (and his demise) depart far from the historic Burghed.

        And the Wessexian troops are wearing burgonet helmets. That’s a helmet that won’t appear for at least 600 or so more years. Heh.

        I just overlook things like that because, damn, Vikings is entertaining as hell. I’m just saying that “Vikings” doesn’t follow the sagas *exactly*

        It wouldn’t disturb me if I was wrong about Bjorn and the prophecy..in fact if it’s different just makes it more interesting.

  5. My last post was very long and wanted to break it in two parts. The last part concerns Ragnar himself.

    This episode brought to the fore everything we loved about Ragnar..and why he is the king he is now.

    The “Travel with knowledge scene was TERRIFIC..right from Ragnar’s sly “I’m telling you now” when he’s asked why he hadn’t spoke up before about Paris and his bravura step on the table and whipping the crowd in a drink throwing frenzy. Totally nailed everything that Ragnar is all about. This is a man who could inspire others to follow him. A man who could rabble rouse with the best of them. I half was about to throw my own drink and cheer too. But I had to remember I didn’t want to ruin my wide screen TV.

    And I suspect there’s alot more in how he’ll handle the whole Kalf-Lagertha kerfluffle. He was at his best sly and un-pin-downable self in dealing with Lagertha and Kalf. Patience Lagertha. I suspect Kalf is going to eventually get his just desserts. Just remember how he handled Haraldson, Borg and Horik. You’d think some people *cough* Kalf *cough* should’ve caught on. And he’s the Viking version of Ecbert. I’d lay good coin on Kalf’s demise or usurpation before long..

    • I agree with both of these things! Ragnar was in his element when he was up on that table. He’s such an amazing, enigmatic speaker – naturally he’s the one to restore spirits to the town with a rousing speech. It was so good.

      And I totally think that Ragnar has something planned for Kalf (thank god), because he’s always been one for the slow burning plots. He knows what he’s doing and he’s not afraid to court his adversary over the course of a season; time and time again, they’ve fallen brutally. Kalf is for sure on that list.

  6. I have to be honest– not watching. I couldn’t watch them kill Siggy. I couldn’t watch this most recent episode. The reason? Otherwise intelligent characters acting TSTL. It’s bothering me terribly.
    I so looked forward to this season yet once it began I found myself oddly apathetic. Not as engaging as I’d hoped.

    • Perhaps you can take comfort in that Siggy’s death wasn’t for stupid plot reasons. Michael Hirst orginally had different plans for her, but Jessalyn Gilsig asked to be written of the show at the end of season 2 because living abroad so many months each year was hard on her family. And he respected that and gave her a worthy exit.

  7. I agree with you wholeheartedly on the whole Kalf thing. Boring and unnecessary. lagertha should have just challenged him to a fight in front of everyone and bashed his face in with an axe, bringing the subplot to a sudden (and much needed) end.

    Although I enjoyed the rest of the episode. Ragnar does eye rolls going into backflips look good. And ecbert is still the man. Amazing performance as always.

    On a side note, Bjorn is indeed the name for bear in modern Scandinavian. And Kalf.. well that’s the name for “lamb” .. fitting.

  8. Love your reviews! Agree with everything you’ve said here. So glad some mentioned P/Thournn so upset about her face. Ummmm…it wasn’t a picnic on the hillside you were attending. The main thing I have to say, though, is I cannot deal with the chemistry Ragnar (TF) and Lagartha (KW) have. I’m sure they are hooking up…we just don’t get to see it…lol

  9. Okay, goin to try and write some thoughts of my own and not just comment on others.

    The european version wasn’t any noticably longer, so for once i don’t think anything was lost between versions.

    The opening scene was interesting in it’s subdued, dour tones. I wonder if the pouring rain was something the production wanted or just the Irish weather showing it’s worst side.

    While everyone is betting on Aslaug being up the duff again from Mr. Wanderer Guy as she’s trying to cover her indiscretion with some quick hubby nookie I’m not so sure, she aldready have all the kids she had according to the sagas. Sure there will be a new baby introduced sometime at the end of the season (Katheryn Winnick told as much on her Twitter during filming). But the fact that Lagertha is involved in the scene makes a good case for it to be Thorunn’s no? Grandma Lagertha! I doubt Thorunn is going to join the raid to Paris with her injuries but I could be wrong.

    Also I read a great idea somewhere that Thorunn’s new face could be some form of visual reference to Hel (the godess who ruled the death realm with the same name). She’s in some sources portrayed as a woman of two faces. One side still beautiful while the other half is covered in shadow, injured or dead. Go ahead and google some pictures. That’s not a bad image to build a scary warrior reputation on.

    And oh my, the Kalf plot is so dull and annoying. Why the heck would they take Lagertha away from her position like that? It adds NOTHING. And I really don’t like seing my favorite shieldmaiden all angry and bitter. Ragnar and Lagertha BETTER have some form of sly underhanded plot going for reclaiming it or Ragnar just became Prince of Douchebags for not helping Lagertha the way she came to HIS aid with Jarl Borg. Well, they have five more episodes to fix this mess of subplot.

    Rollo’s pain at loosing Siggy and his later frustration with the Seer was awesomely acted scenes. But people writing these comments. Why would the ‘Bear’ prophecy be about Bjorn even if the names match. The Seer isn’t that much of an ass is he? There is Rollo mid therapy session wondering if he’ll have his own destiny away from Ragnar, hardly the time to say “Oh, yeah. You’re going to watch your nephew get married”. Rollo is obviously the Bear in this one. His destiny lies in Frankia after all.

    Finally on to the REAL proper villains of the show (a.ka not weaksauce Kalf). While I totally called both Judith being preggers from her tryst with Athelstan and Athelwulf taking his frustration out on Farmville I did NOT see the Ecbert twist coming.

    Ecbert, you magnificent diabolical bastard! That was Shakespeare worthy villainy! You even have your ass covered if Ragnar & Co come back. Doubt there will be time to both raid Paris, deal with Weaksauce and give Ecbert a royal asskicking this season. Ecbert will have to wait until next season when they go back to check on Farmville…

  10. I actually liked this week’s episode quite a lot: the strange and unexpected decision of Ragnar in terms of Lagertha’s earldom (how weak of him!), the eagerness of Floki to create as many intrigues around him as possible (how vicious of him), and the slaughtering of the Viking village by the English soldiers (how cowardish of them).
    I simply cannot get that little, screaming girl out of my head who ended up under the horses, or the cute boy who tried to escape in the woods and got shot in the back. Heart breaking to watch, but I presume that was life in the early Middle Ages.

    I agree with all of you that the side plot of Kalf the Usurper is weak; however, I seem to have read somehwere that Viking feuds lasted for generations until one side triumphed completely, i.e. massacred the other side . So historically, Erlendur’s return would not be wrong. The problem is that Kalf and company just don’t have ‘it’: no eyeroll or back flip like Ragnar, no vicious eyeliner like Floki and certainly not the talent of Eckbert 🙂

    I still miss Siggy and I loved Rollo’s reaction to her death. He is so believable in whatever he portrays whether its torment, ambition, rage or any other feeling. I think Bjørn fought him because if he hadn’t done so, than someone else would have, and the thought of another person beating up Rollo’ body, but especially pride was not something Bjørn was going to let happen. Bjørn was the only one who was allowed to floor Rollo without it becoming a matter of hurt pride later on. At least that’s how I saw it…Anyway, if we can believe history, Rollo will soon become the Duke of Normandy, and enjoy more fame than Ragnar.

    And Porunn…how can you afford to be vain when you are a shield maiden? But I do feel for her…

    The massacre was, in my opinion, a difficult moment in the episode. I could hardly watch. It was soooo controversial to have children killed off in such an ice cold manner. Television usually does not confront us with such horror, but it did make me think of the dangers and risks of settlers throughout history…

    For me, this episode was an emotional roller coaster.

  11. God, Kalf really is the most annoying villain. But Ecberth saves it for me. He is smooth, cunning and (if I may say so) pretty hot. The scene with Aethelwulf destroying the settlement was just… I had my eyes closed half the time. Ugh. I used to like that guy! Fingers crossed that Floki doesn´t stoop to that level of cruelty, if given the chance. My favourite scene was the fight between Rollo and Björn. I don´t think that this was just about Björn trying to defend himself and Rollo lashing out at everybody mindlessly. He wanted to get the beating he felt he deserved for not valuing Siggy enough. And Björn gave it to him. In a weird, sometimes-I-don´t-understand-guys way, this looked like some sort of Grieve Management Vikings style. And I hope we see more of the Wanderer. He was really interesting. Would be fun to watch him and Floki together… And I wouldn´t mind getting rid of Aslaug. She keeps annoying me. Looking Forward to the next Episode and your recap 🙂

  12. Don’t know if you still read comments weeks after, but I just watched this episode and I have a quick comment about Torunn’s reaction after she realizes she’s been defaced (is that the proper word?). It doesn’t surprise me at all. For me, Torunn is a servant who hoped of getting a better life, then she seduced the big man’s son, and went on with the most prestigious carreer path — being a shieldmaiden. But her injury changes everything. Bjorn might not want her anymore, leaving her a useless, defaced (?) babymama — and maybe not able to go into battle anymore. She had a meteoric rise and now she falls quite fast. Seems only logical that she’s depressed, to say the least. Not to mention that anyways, even if Bjorn keeps her and she still can fight, you can’t just shrug off the idea of living with a face like that — by the way, the wound doesn’t seem awfully awful to me. In a year or two, it should heal more or less. Sure, she’ll remain scarred, but she hasn’t lost an eye or half her face…

    • I do still read these! I have an alert in my email so I can keep up with comments and ideas long after the show has aired (after all, my favorite part of the reviews are always the comments that follow! I love talking to you all!). I has actually not thought about Thorunn’s vanity in terms of how it would (from her perspective) damage her relationship with Bjorn, especially because at that point in the show there wasn’t an indication that it would have led down that path. In hindsight, her deep, deep depression definitely stems from an insecurity. It didn’t occur to me at all at the time of the review, but I for sure see it now.

      I agree about the wound not being that bad, though! Honestly, the scar wouldn’t have been bad at all. Look at Rollo, he got a Dark Knight-Joker level defacing and now the scars are invisible. (Of course….that could just be the makeup crew’s preference).

      PS: defaced definitely works!

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