It’s official! Vikings has been renewed for a fourth season! I know some of you talked about it weeks ago, but this is one of the first written confirmations that I’ve seen that says – without a doubt – that we are getting more sweaty, bloody, and chiseled Viking action courtesy of Ragnar&Co. Are you excited? Scratch that, I know you are. However, before we get to next season, we’ve still got to get through the rest of this season.
I seemed to be in the minority last week with not really feeling the episode (the vast majority, at that!), but it did seem like it was setting up for a follow-up episode, so let’s see how this episode goes!
Last episode, we found out that Judith is carrying Athelstan’s (George Blagden) child, King Ecbert (Linus Roache) is a dastardly villain of Shakespearean proportions, his son is a loony banana who doesn’t know how to deal with his emotional problems in a constructive way, Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland) is also expecting a child (seriously, are women in this show that fertile? I swear!), Thorunn will live! (not without scarring emotionally and physically), Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig) will love her anyway (he’s a good dude who is at being a real character sometimes), Kalf took up some screentime for pissing of Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick), Rollo (Clive Standen) got stinking drunk at the news of Siggy’s death, Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård) was as cryptic as ever, and Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) was just as elusive in his plots as Ragnar has ever been. Oh. Except he wants to go to Paris. Let’s all go to Paris!
How’s that for a nutshell recap? I’m sure all of these plots will be resolved in a peaceful manner. I’m sure. Positive. Anyone else feel a bit worried?
We start off the episode with two little boys building sandcastles and pretending they are Paris. Just kidding! It’s actually Athelstan and Ragnar building sandcastles and pretending they are Paris. Ragnar has been completely captivated by the former monk’s experience in Frankia, the women, the layout of the city, and the wealth. Athelstan obliges the curiosity with everything he knows about the city, even if his visit was when he was a monk, so he paid less attention to the defenses of the city and more on the churches within. Still, with a fresh perspective and some educated guessing, he rules the city impregnable. That is a challenge Ragnar wants to take on, to be sure.
Looking on like a jealous friend (because he is, we know he is), Floki is building a ship with angry eyeliner and a scowl. It has absolutely not been a shock to anyone to see Floki’s hatred of Athelstan grow stronger through the seasons. It isn’t just because Floki used to be Ragnar’s BFF (remember the first season? It seems very wistful now), but also because Floki blames the Christian religion for all of the ill-times the Viking camp has been having – he has never once believed that Athelstan has given up on his first faith.
Can’t he get over it?
A zealot doesn’t just get over things. Things fester and burn and eat away.
Also, apparently there has been a rather large time hop! Know how I know? Thorunn (Gaia Weiss) is giving birth to Bjorn’s daughter. That’s, what? a seven-month time difference, give or take? Thorunn is obviously in pain, because this was a time that didn’t have advil and spinal anesthesia. Aslaug and Helga (Maude Hirst) are trying to soothe her pain as much as they can, but considering she keeps yelling “I don’t want this child!” things aren’t looking bright and sunny for the relatively young pair. But, don’t worry! Bjorn is here to save the day by telling his contracting wife that – she might be in a lot of pain right now – but he does want that child. So kind!
She’s worried that the child will be weak and deformed (I understand that Vikings might not have known what we know about birth, but she does know that women’s bodies are practically tanks in that they are made to protect their children, right?), which is sort of awkward because she makes that exclamation in front of Aslaug, who quipped “and maybe you would love it just the same,” because there has never been a moment that she has not tried her best for Ivar. Even if it means boning a Wandering scruffy man and then getting impregnated by him.
Soon enough, and with Lagertha slinking into the room looking much more like a farmer than an Earl –
Wait, why wasn’t she invited to the birthing party? That’s weird.
I don’t know. She’s been farming and bitter for seven months, maybe she was working out her anger on the field?
And we have a screaming, seemingly healthy baby girl! Bjorn immediately gravitates to the child, calling her beautiful (which makes Thorunn, who seems to be not passed out from pain at the natural birth which I find surprising and admirable – Viking women are hardier than I), and also naming the child…Siggy. Siggy, because she protected his nephews from harm.
Wow, this is just an insanely awkward five minutes for Aslaug, isn’t it?
Oh, you betcha.
However, I’m surprised he didn’t name the child Gyda, after his sister. That would have been a nice, sentimental twist considering no one mentions Gyda.
Outside, Rollo has found the sandcastle of Paris Athelstan and Ragnar built. He steps around it, probably feeling a twinge of jealousy – he wasn’t asked to build sandcastles with his brother regarding their upcoming raid. He was left out of the Athelstan/Ragnar bromance. Tell me, silent Rollo, did you and Ragnar build sandcastles in your youth? Did you not? Is this kicking up some more psychological drama that you’ve buried since you were a child?
We may never know.
At home, Ragnar is catching some Zs with his little ones. Floki catches him off guard and accidentally flings one of them off his lap – which is actually hilarious because the boy does not budge from sleep at all. He will be a miraculous airplane sleeper, that one! – but Floki actually has something important to say, versus just liking to interrupt the sleepytime of bossman. One of the only survivors of FarmVille: Scandinavia Edition has returned with one hell of a horror story to tell. He tells the pair about Aethelwulf, about how few survivors there were, about how he watched the slaughter of friends and family and could do nothing.
Ragnar’s face is unreadable, minus a few unshed tears gathering in his fan of eyelashes. The man tells Ragnar that he just wanted to die so he could join his wife and children on the return home, but the gods denied him. He sobs into Ragnar and the King returns unreadable compassion as Floki re-voices his opinions on the Wessex crew (Floki’s always had a knack for timing, but his conviction is real), but it’s fruitless because Ragnar is already brewing a plan in his bottled fury.
“Aethelwulf. And his father. Will feel the wrath of the gods.”
Well, you had him up to there, Floki. And then the ship builder brings Athelstan into the conversation, because – again – Floki thinks that it is Athelstan’s fault for all of this, that he was the one that convinced them falsely of the Christian good faith. He’s angry for the losses they’ve had, but he can’t see beyond his own hatred of the monk to see that maybe Athelstan didn’t help plan the destruction of a people he cares for. Ragnar tells Floki that he is exclusively to blame and then tells him to leave, leaving him alone with the lone farmer.
Ragnar asks the man if he has told anyone else (he says no), he tells the man he is courageous (he says thank you), and then Ragnar tells the man that he can now be with his family. And then? Ragnar kills him via strangulation. The man has no chance and slowly gives way to the strength of the King.
Well, death by strangulation takes a couple minutes to actually work, maybe…maybe Ragnar just wanted to expedite the man’s daily nap.
And then covered him with his robe as a makeshift blanket? I…Well. if you choose to believe that, you can. Ragnar’s motivations for his actions are largely unclear, but this scene was actually sort of surprising for me. It;s obvious he has a lot of passion for his people, but killing the lone survivor has to have some sort of political sway or purpose that will weave its way into the story again soon. Time will tell, however, Ragnar doesn’t really work without having a plan.
The whole of the Lothbrok home is pretty rough at the moment, though. Aslaug is plagued with nightmares regarding the death of Siggy and the endangerment of her children. Ragnar, naturally, is nurturing, as she wakes up from her nightmare with him standing above her. “You could have had sex with him in front of the children for all I care, just as long as you were watching over them.”
Well, I know who isn’t getting a Husband of the Year mug for Christmas.
Aslaug attacks him as well as a thin pregnant woman can before curling back into the fetal position. I guess that’s one way to keep that plotline going! I have to say though, I don’t really want to watch the car crash that is Aslaug and Ragnar’s marriage. It’s painful and mean.
In a different part of Kattegat, Athelstan is asleep as a rat crawls on top of him. He sees a beam of light shooting across the room and follows it, the sheer brightness of the beam drawing him to a hole in the wall. When Athelstan looks into the hole, he is knocked back and might’ve possibly had a miniature come to Jesus moment.
Speaking of Jesus! Our chariot to Wessex awaits. Judith has given birth to a child as well, a son. To the son Aethelwulf says “congratulations,” and there is definitely no warm feelings of love in the room. Judith asks to hold her baby, but before she has the chance, soldiers storm into the room and take her to an undisclosed location on the order of the King. She screams “my children need me!” as she is dragged through the streets and called a lot of horrible, awful names. At the end of the path King Ecbert and Aethelwulf, and even though she begs for mercy, she’s not getting out of this so easily. She is charged with adultery is the punishment is that her ears will be cut off.
Unless, of course, she reveals the name of the father of her child. Initially, she denies. One ear later, she admits that it was Athelstan and Ecbert stops the soldier (and Aethelwulf), because they can’t punish her for having a child with a holy man. Ecbert spins it into god reaching through Aethelstan to impregnate Judith, making the child a gift of the highest measure. So, Judith will live, the child will live, and they will name the child Alfred. Honestly, I had to look away at this part – it seemed particularly brutal and made me uncomfortable on many levels. I don’t really care that Ecbert still has a massive affection for the monk who left, and I’m sure it is all for political reasons that he’s done what he’s done, but it was just really hard to watch.
In Kattegat, things aren’t going much better. Remember in season 2 when Athelstan had all of those religious hallucinations? They’re back! After his potential come-to-Jesus moment, he’s freaking the fuck out and talking to himself. We’ve been here before, folks, and Athelstan’s internal demons have only grown worse with time.
When daylight breaks, Athelstan is at the river for a born-again Christian baptism. He bathes himself in the waters of Kattegat as he speaks to God, his cross hanging low on his chest. He takes the bracelet that Ragnar gifted him years ago and tosses it into the lake, as a once-and-for-all moment that he has given up his roots in the Viking religion. Of course, Floki is watching this from the shoreline. He doesn’t know about Athelstan’s Jesus Moment (I doubt he would care) and all he sees is Athelstan tossing the gift Ragnar gave him into the frosty, frigid waters.
Afterwards, he runs to Ragnar (who I’m sure is wondering what to do with the body of the innocent man he killed) and tells him that he was visited by his lord. Instead of disregarding Athelstan or taking it as a slight, Ragnar is curious. When Athelstan tells him that he is “born again,” Ragnar is confused and gives us a comedic gold piece for the episode. “Like…a baby?” It gives a splash of lightness and, I’ll be honest, I laughed.
When Athelstans explains it and tells Ragnar that it might be best that he leaves, Ragnar reacts quickly and filled with fret. Athelstan can’t leave. He can’t. He is the only one Ragnar trusts and Ragnar loves him. It’s a vulnerable moment and it’s a true, honest sign of how much Ragnar cares about his monk. He tells Athelstan that as long as he is there, he will be protected, but Athelstan – bright eyed – tells him that it doesn’t matter where he goes, it matters where [Ragnar’s] going. He doesn’t know about the dead farmer and the vengeance he wants on Wessex – he thinks they are still only looking at France, their next raid. It’s heartbreakingly sweet.
I have a bad feeling about this. Like, a really bad feeling about this.
Just let us enjoy this moment, okay?
Now we see Bjorn and he wants to know why Floki isn’t working on the boats. Floki is distracted and tells Bjorn that his heart isn’t in it (duh). He shows Bjorn the bracelet and Bjorn voices his fear for his father; like so many Vikings (I’m assuming), he doesn’t understand his father’s fascination with the Christians. As for Floki? He is going to head home to his family to think about what’s happening. In the meantime, he wants Bjorn to tell the other Vikings about Athelstan’s discarding of the bracelet. Not Ragnar, the others. Always the pot stirrer, to a degree that i can’t defend anymore – bitchin’ eyeliner or not.
As if my mood couldn’t be dampened further in this episode, Kalf has arrived on what was once Lagertha’s ships. He has grown out his hair and looks rugged, but as he introduces people I forgot the name of and Jarl Borg’s widow and son, I keep drifting my attention to things like tumblr, crackers, and the way my dog is snoring right now. “I’m a little…caught off guard.” Ragnar says as Erlander weasel-y asks to join the Parisian raid. I wish I were, Ragnar. I wish this weren’t happening, too. It’s like a friend bringing an ex of yours to a house party that you have obligations at so you can’t leave early, only instead of an ex it’s the son of a guy you brutally murdered.
That night, a party is going down. Lagertha is skulking around Kalf and biding her time and Bjorn tells her that she can’t avoid him forever. Lagertha is trying to stay out of shanking distance, because they will be fighting side-by-side by the time they reach Paris. She’s willing to (impatiently) wait for her return to power. Still, she goes and attempts to make nice (honestly, not really) and he notes that their destinies are already intertwined. Gag. The side eye Lagertha gives him almost redeems the interaction. There might be some validity to the claim of them being interlocked future-wise, but he’s still as interesting as a napkin.
After heckling his mom, a drunk Bjorn finds Thorunn, wearing a veil and staying at the outskirts of the party. He comes onto her strongly, but she rebuffs his advances because (I guess?) she doesn’t feel worthy of his advances. So what does she do instead of talking about her feelings? She tells him, oh, don’t worry, we’ll find someone else for you to sex. UGH. REALLY SHOW? Stop treating women like commodities in really bizarre ways. Stop it. It’s really uncomfortable at this point.
Anyway, she sets him up with Torvi. Jarl Borg’s widow. Will she get pregnant from their sexy moment? Survey says probably. Everyone else gets pregnant in this show after one round of naughty tango, why wouldn’t they?
To Bjorn’s credit, he doesn’t seem into it. It’s hardly a credit, though. The whole scene is weird.
So, let’s go back to the party.
Athelstan has joined the festivities and is immediately met with chilly stares. Apparently, word got around that he ditched the Viking bracelet. The hostility is palpable and even Rollo brushes him off, referring to him as priest. Ragnar ultimately comes to his aid and takes him away from the party. In a back room, he introduces Athelstan to a poof of a man who is very bilingual, very bizarre, is wearing makeup, and will guide them into the walls of Paris. I didn’t get his name, but I really wish I did. Will this character be around more? I hope so!
We flash over to Floki at his home, surrounded by the woods and ship parts. He is working on a masthead, when suddenly the wooden carving begins to bleed – a sign that blood needs to be spilled and a sacrifice needs to be made. Helga is obviously perturbed by this development and inquires into his plans with panic. Floki chokes her briefly, apologizing, and confirming her suspicions that he intends to hurt someone. I have an idea as to who that person is, but I really hope not. Proove me wrong, Vikings. Don’t. Do. It.
I mean, I’m sure it’s all over the internet, Internal Monologue. You could Google it. Me? I have avoided it like I avoided Book 7 Harry Potter spoilers, because someone is obviously going to die tonight and I just don’t want to know who.
In Kattegat, another ritual is taking place and the visitors are making themselves at home in the beachside town. Athelstan has kept himself in his room, making a Christian effigy to pray to as tension brews outside amidst a setting sun and violent chants. There is only one direction this is going, confirmed with two words.
Athelstan knows it is coming, but the blow is brutal. Deadly. The music stops and the deed is done, complete with Floki smearing the blood of his victim on his face.
Yeah, that just happened.
Yeah, no, seriously. Athelstan has been killed, straight out of left field, by his growing adversary. Honestly, I don’t have many words right now, other than….shit. and Wow. I didn’t see that coming, I mean, I knew that Floki and Athelstan would not be able to coexist, but I didn’t think that. You know. I just didn’t think that they would kill Athelstan, I didn’t think he would die. Honestly, I really thought that his friendship with Ragnar would save him in the end.
I…I mean. At least he found peace?
Maybe. We can only hope so at this point.
Next, we see Ragnar on horseback with another horse behind him with what is clearly a body on top. It’s hard to say whether or not it is the farmer or Athelstan, his expression is murky and you know he will take personal time to bury them both. After tying the horses up, we see Ragnar carrying the dead weight up a hill with his shovel, talking to the body as he goes. Mystery solved, it is Athelstan.
He carried him up the hill because it was the closest to his God that he could get him. After he is buried, a rain starts and Ragnar says, “I never knew what a martyr was. I still don’t.” It’s a funny moment, but it’s the beginning of a sad one with some amazing, moving acting. You believe that Ragnar will miss his friend. “You saw yourself as weak and conflicted, but to me you were fearless, because you dared to question.” He pauses and then asks, “Why did you have to die? We had so much more to talk about.” I feel the same. I feel like Athelstan’s death, like Siggy’s before him, was expedited, like there was so much for him to do. It’s hard to believe that he is gone.
It’s even harder, because Ragnar knows that they won’t meet in the afterlife. It’s hard, because Ragnar knows that he’s lost one of the closest things he has ever had to a confidant and a friend on a deep, spiritual level. “I am changed.” He is. This will be the start of a brutal Ragnar, I feel it.
He erects a cross. he shaves his head in the river. He finds Athelstan’s cross and wears it.
“Forgive me my friend, not for what I have done. For what I am about to do.”
And then the episode comes to a close.
Wow. I mean, I hate to sound like a one-note internal monologue this episode, but it was honestly an incredibly intense episode. I couldn’t snark that much. Believe me, I tried.
Yeah, I agree. While the relationships men in this show have with women are nothing short of problematic (sorry, it bothers me. I should be used to it by now), those issues were definitely outweighed by the intensity of the episode as a whole. Incredibly intense. Gripping. Depressing. Dreary. I knew the tension would boil over the pot, but I just didn’t foresee it happening like this.
My rating for this week? 8.5 blood spattered Bibles (is that inappropriate?) out of 10. What did you guys think of this episode? How are you feeling with the end of Athelstan?
PS: Everyone watch Athelstan’s Journal for this week. It’s a great retrospective of his tenure in the show.