Hello again, lovely readers! I am so sorry for the delay of review – sometimes time gets away from us and unplanned events pop up out of nowhere, leading to things like early nights and late blog posts. Enough about that, though! It’s been a week since the last episode of Vikings, and honestly, last week left me feeling emotionally drained for a variety of reasons.
I don’t want to spend too long mourning the loss of Athelstan in this opening blurb, or the weirdness that is Aslaug’s disappearing pregnancy (I could have sworn she would have been pregnant – the show did that tell-tale zoom in suggestively at the abdomen post-coitus shot after she had her fling with the Wanderer that is usually indicative of an upcoming baby, but I was lead super astray in this assumption and I apologize for my error). I don’t want to spend too long thinking about the eventual demise of Floki, or the way Baby Bjorn has not grown into a character I completely love. I just want to sit back and see more of why we started watching this show to begin with – the compassion, the chemistry between characters, the unpredictability of a plot that felt so fresh. After two major character deaths by midseason, it’s unfortunate that I feel so disheartened. Paris can’t come soon enough.
And, well, considering this episode is called Paris, I’d say my prayers are about to be answered!
It’s about time! We need a change in scenery.
No kidding! Besides, it is really hard to feel invested in Wessex now that the Vikings aren’t arbitrarily fighting fights for the sake of peace that we all knew wasn’t going to last. I mean, Wessex is trying really hard to cling to relevancy, but the Judith treatment and lack of concrete characters (Linus Roache’s amazing, phenomenal King Ecbert aside) makes it easy to disregard now that we’re not knee-deep in war. So. I’m ready for change.
We start this episode with a freshly shorn Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) and Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård) locked in an intense staring contest on a boat, that is within a fleet of Viking boats. With Paris in their sights, the group gathers and watches their target ebb ever closer.
It isn’t like a massive fleet of ships goes unnoticed, however, and a very stern looking man watches their approach and sounds the alarm, immediately causing panic within the streets. The man (Count Odo) takes the news to King Charles of West Francia and the King wants to know how they’ve been allowed to come this far, anyway, only to be met with confirmation that rumors of an attack have been circulating for a while. In fact, they had spread the word to towns along the way so they would be able to fortify defenses and be prepared, but a lot of the towns brushed off the threats as idle and nothing more. Only to be bulldozed through by the Northmen, because – uh, yeah – Ragnar&Co. were practically made for this. As for Paris, Count Odo has taken the time to fortify the city as much as he can. The city has enough food and water for a long summer.
Count Odo then tells the King that it might be a good idea for him to leave Paris for the sake of protection. The King, fearing this might be taken as abandoning a city in need, retreats to think about this. His daughter has been watching in the wings and she does not like the idea of her father leaving, so she advizes him to tell Count Odo to shove it where it hurts. In a nice, polite way. He can’t leave! Not while his people need him!
Count Odo, a man who is probably looking for a power play, seems put out. However, King Charles, now that his daughter has told him what to do, is resolute in his convictions. He will not be asking his brothers for help, he will not back down, and he wants to prove himself worthy of succession to Charlemagne’s former throne. Well, if this is any hint or indication, I’m sure he’ll prove to be a lacklustre military leader.
I should have read royal France’s wikipedia page before tonight…
You are not the only one. Is there a Cliffnotes packet to French history that I can browse through during a commercial break? No?
Anyway, the Vikings are ever-approaching and they are met with the first line of French defense – arrows! They’re easily avoided with the Vikings’ handy-dandy shield tactics.
In with the new and in with the…old, because in the name of Charlemagne (or so King Ecbert would really love us to believe), we’re up for a Quality of Life check in Wessex. Father and son are supping when Ecbert casually, nonchalantly asks his son how his marriage is faring. Aethelwulf is finding it difficult to forgive Judith for her indiscretion, even if Ecbert has done a decent job in convincing his son that his not-son was actually a gift from God. Quickly, the conversation moves away from that because Ecbert has his own goals. Naturally! He was probably hoping that times were decent between his son and his wife, because Judith is the daughter of King Aelle and Ecbert has a mind (and means) to just go and overthrone that guy for his stuff.
After all, he might be an ally to Aelle (“I don’t have any friends, it is better that way.”), but if he’s going to be King of England, some more bridges need to be burned. Besides, there is no love lost between Judith and her father, so that’s motive enough to go through with it…though I sincerely doubt that Ecbert would have cared either way. He’s already chopped off one of her ears, what’s killing a father that he sees as being in the way?
Speaking of! Judith enters (rocking a clever side-pony to hide her wound) with baby Alfred and Ecbert immediately dotes on Athelstan’s progeny. Of course, Aethelwulf sees this as an opportunity to call his wife every name under the son for sleeping with Athelstan, a guy that he was probably chilly with before, but is now a man that Aethelwulf hates because Ecbert truly adored the former monk. This isn’t the first time Athelstan’s name has been brought up by Ecbert and I’m sure it isn’t the last, nor will this be the last time we see Aethelwulf’s burgeoning fury. He’s becoming more and more of a brute as the season goes on. Ecbert slaps his son to snap him out of his tirade and orders him to leave the room, giving him ample time suggestively run his hand down her arm. Wait. Ew.
What? Oh no…
Well, we know what is going to be happening eventually!
Aethelwulf is in a really, really dark place, though. Really dark. He flogs himself for his desires in front of the holy cross and I am willing to bet that he will only descend into madness as the episodes tick by. However, his private session is interrupted by a messenger from Mercia who has confirmed what we all absolutely have already known: Princess Kwenthrith is nuttier than a jar of Jiffy. She has killed the men from Wessex sent to safeguard their deal, she is a ruthless and crazy woman. Aethelwulf takes in the dying man’s last words.
Meanwhile, the Vikings have set up camp in Frankia and Floki is stalking through like a man on a mission. I’m sort of confused by this. I mean, I know that he would go to France with Ragnar, but I’m still surprised because he distinctly told Helga that he was going away for a while after killing Athelstan.
Oh well. That doesn’t matter so much right now. He goes to meet with Ragnar, who has a snake in one hand and a mouse in another, hamfisted imagery at its finest. Ragnar has called on Floki to tell Floki that he misses his monk and Floki tells him that as long as he carries Athelstan’s cross, he is with them on their journey. “He would have been useful” says Ragnar as he sets down the mouse, but it is “too late now.” This is the first actual hint we have had that Ragnar knows what Floki did (partially because Floki’s hatred was not unknown and he practically painted himself red and white like a target) and it makes me wonder if our eyeliner loving boat maker will make it until the end of the season. Considering how fast we’ve been blowing through main characters, I’d say it is unlikely.
The moment isn’t over. Ragnar acknowledges that their relationship has been strained (in a word), but tells Floki that he needs him “now more than ever.” Those are words Floki has been waiting to hear and it is candy to his ears. Ragnar wants Floki to lead the raid (“me?” asks a dumbstruck Floki), but he seems all-too-eager to fall into the helm of leader. As the rest of the group approaches, Kalf tries to ask Ragnar a question (only to be met with a hilarious bupbupbup by Floki) and tells Kalf (and also the rest of them) that Ragnar has told him to take command. He opens the floor for discussion and then it becomes very. obvious. why he didn’t want to take the reigns on this. The animosity between Lagertha, Kalf, and Erlander has only grown and Ragnar does one of his trademark “yep that is my ex-wife” eyebrow shrugs, because what else can you do with that group?
Before Floki runs off to start creating his wall-scaling mechanism, Ragnar stops him to say, “let’s hope the gods bless your efforts.” Ah, Ragnar. Nothing like setting up one of your oldest friends (who killed your monk best friend) to die.
Yeah, it’s pretty much been said already – there is no way Floki is going to survive the season.
A snowball has a better chance surviving in hell.
Back in Kattegat, Thorunn begs Aslaug to take baby Siggy so that the child can be raised like one of Aslaug’s sons. Thorunn wants desperately for her own child to be strong, but Aslaug refuses. She tells Thorunn that it doesn’t matter if her child is a tried and true Viking, all that matters is that, as a mother, she cares and nurtures her child to the absolute best of her abilities, so that in the future, her daughter might be able to produce grandchildren that will make her proud. Aslaug then asks Thorunn to think of Bjorn, but the young woman swears that she is – she has convinced herself that he is better off without her, despite his love for her. However, she tells Aslaug that she can’t help it, it’s what she believes.
Aslaug, in a very understanding and considerate way, tells Thorunn that women carry heavy burdens. It is a part of their lives. It’s a really polite way of saying suck it up, because hardships happen. Sometimes, you have to look beyond yourself to make the right decision. This scene could have felt extraneous, but I actually am glad to have seen 1. any sort of character development in Thorunn, and 2. introspection from Aslaug that we haven’t seen for a while.
In Wessex, Ecbert tells Aethelwulf that he is being sent to Mercia to reason with Princess K. By reason, he totally means “put the fear of God and/or death into her if she doesn’t pledge herself back to Wessex.” Seems like a solid plan, Ecbert. I mean, not that he would actually enjoy watching her be torn limb-from-limb by some horses (being a good Christian!) but, you know, sometimes things need to be done.
Awkwardly, at Camp Viking, Bjorn approaches Torvi about their (er) fling. Torvi thinks he is overreacting because she’s not with child and she’s not a child, so she can handle a roll in the hay. I sort of have my doubts about this, considering her dead husband made out with a skull and her son is a giant creepy douchecanoe, but you know, if she thinks she is sound in her agency then I am all for it. Know how sorry Bjorn is for doing sexytimes with her? He’s so sorry that he brought her a gift. A gift that her son sees received and he promptly maims her for it. This poor woman. Seriously.
That evening, Ragnar hikes to the top of the hill to view Paris. It seems only slightly less romantic than its depiction in Moulin Rouge, but I can dig it. Of course, he thinks about Athelstan while he has his moment and clutches the cross of his friend that would have helped lead the charge into the Parisian walls.
Would he have, though? Athelstan was very resolute in his born-again Christianity. Would he have helped them raid?
Let’s take a look at Wessex again, are Christians any less averse to creating war in this show? Not particularly. They just slap a different reasoning onto it.
In Paris, Emperor Charles is kicking himself for not sending his daughter away during the tides of war. But Charles! Who would make the decisions for you if you sent your daughter away? She wanted to stay, anyway. So there.
When Charles makes his exit, Gisla is left with Count Odo and she seems to find him odious as a default. Obviously, he wants her hand in marriage and wants her to reconsider his proposal for marriage if he saves Paris from the northmen, because she’s pretty and powerful and intelligent. By all accounts, she’s an incredible catch! Still, how about no.
Though, sidenote, I do love that Charles is absolutely not about hard conversations that involve him making decisions or saying anything with heft. “I must to bed.” Can I start using that in real life?
In Camp Vikings, we see manic, panicked, electric Floki for the first time in what feels like ages as he works on constructing a way to breach Paris. I’ve almost forgotten what his unbridled enthusiasm looks like, with wide eyes emphasized by coal-black eyeliner and a body twitching across the screen like a bug. Helga has brought him some food, but he can’t accept it – he has work to attend to, work that nourishes him, work that will propel him to victory and power. He views this as an opportunity for him to shine as an individual and show that he is so much more than a boat maker, he is a vessel for the gods and he feels like he is being rewarded for eradicating Athelstan and the Christian influence from their camp. When he tells Helga this (gripping her face too quickly), she recoils in horror. I’m not sure she’s seen Floki like this. About now, I bet she is wishing that he really was the boat maker that she fell for.
It really has crossed over from passionate to extremist. The dreaminess of Floki is gone.
Truly and utterly.
Aethelwulf is met with resistance in Mercia, obviously, though he manages to shoulder his way through with some potentially-not-so-idle threats. This is the perfect time for Ecbert to make a move on Judith, amiright? So he does. All for the sake of, uh, education on Rome? Sure, that’s a clever ruse. But hey, as Ecbert reads Athelstan’s words, she’s practically envisioning the once-dashing monk in front of her and she doesn’t seem immediately turned off from sleeping with her father-in-law.
I might need a shower after that.
Well, maybe I’ll wait until after the Mercia menagerie orgy happening with Princess K, who is still categorically defined by her wantonness. He wants to talk about business, she wants to get down to it. He is obviously very attracted to the absolutely batty queen and she doesn’t take any of the threats of violence seriously, because she knows how to manipulate the poor, frustrated prince to the point of humiliation. Also, I really do not think she gives a shit about what happens. Now that she has the power she was after, why should she adhere to the rules? She never has in the past. Aethelwulf, through his fiery words, might have convinced her to sign the treaty. It is hard to say.
Oh, and she also bore a son by Ragnar. Supposedly. His name is Magnus. Man, those Vikings! So virile.
In Viking Camp, the raiders are practicing their hand-to-hand combat and preparing themselves for the Parisian siege. Floki, the shipbuilder. Floki, the tower maker. He buzzes with excitement as he looks at the skeleton towers in the water, giggling and declaring that their attack on Paris is imminent. It doesn’t matter how hard they pray or the precautions they take, there is no denying that the raid will be brutal and ruthless, especially if Floki is at the helm.
“Axe time! Sword time! Shields are splintered!”
And that brings us to a close!
How did you feel about this episode?
Man. I mean. I have a huge love-hate relationship with filler episodes and there is absolutely no denying that this was one of those (in this show, it’s usually the calm before the bloody storm). The unspoken drama and tension between Ragnar and Floki was nothing short of magnificent, the suspicion and near-hatred, the passion and the angst. It was really wonderful and those were the parts of the episode that really shined bright. The problem? They only took up a minimal chunk of the actual episode. I found a lot of the episode to be backstory and information that is useless at best. I can’t help but feel like Wessex is a chore and I don’t know why there was so much exposition about the drama in the French court system when we don’t have any motivation to care right now. I don’t know, lump that together with how Bjorn and Thorunn seem similarly threadbare plotwise and how they haven’t really been fleshing out any of the secondary characters, leaves me feeling really meh about this episode as a whole. We needed more Ragnar/Floki and on-screen chemistry, I feel like that lacked significantly.
So. My rating? Let’s call it eight out of fifteen nearly-built towers. How about you guys? How did you feel about this episode?