I scheduled this one to go live a little bit later on Saturday than usual, hoping that after a bacon-laden breakfast I would proofread this entry before it went live and I would avoid embarrassing mistakes like the incorrect episode name or the negation of actor names. If this little blurb is still in by the time it goes live, you can bet your bottom dollar that Shanbanana is still asleep in her bed right now (or enjoying a leisurely Saturday breakfast!) instead of staring at a computer screen. In that case, I am dreadfully sorry. How sorry? Probably not that sorry, because I’m currently eating toast and drinking coffee. (Just a guess.)
Still, I’m am super hyped about this episode! Episodes after filler episodes (like last week) are usually phenomenal, so I’ve been sitting on my haunches waiting for Thursday to roll around and then Friday to roll around after it because I just know it will be a wild ride. I do have some reservations…
Well. Anyone with a cursory knowledge (or at least a Wiki-influenced one) of French history knows precisely how this episode will go. Despite my aforementioned struggle with basic history in our previous episodes (I own up to it! Ask me about Germany and I’ll do well. France? Perhaps…less well.), that basic history leads me to believe one particular pathway for the episode about saccing Paris. Nevertheless, the show has been hinting at the coming failure of the raid for a few episodes and my heart is heavy with the upcoming events. On the other hand, Vikings is absolutely at its best when there is physical conflict involved and if anything hints towards a righteously awesome episode, it’s one centralized around insane conflict. That is a lot of words to say I am so ready for this episode. Are you ready? Yes? Let’s go.
We start with Floki tantrically dancing in front of his towers like last episode, but this time, the floor below is filled with a sea of bustling Vikings readying themselves for war. Ragnar watches on, Athelstan’s cross in hand, as scores of men and women gear up with axes and shields in hand. They load the boats and ready for the encounter and their spirits seem relatively high, despite Ragnar’s barely (and I mean barely) concealed grimace.
It isn’t long until the raid by land and sea has begun, the two groups hoping to overwhelm the defenses of Paris with brute force. Inside, Paris is burning. I mean, not literally, but doesn’t that phrase sound amazing? But, no, really, everyone is panicking as they see Lagertha’s flawless self saunter up the field like she owns the world. I would quiver as well, can you blame them?
Paris won’t be so easy, though, because their weaponry is far more advanced than the Vikings were giving them credit for (even with the insight provided by Athelstan and the mountainous – in size and quantity! – towers that Floki has provided them). Internally, Parisians are scared out of their mind with the approach, alternating praying and panicking within the walls, but the forces seem sound.
Lagertha’s group bring a fortified battering ram to the fight to start things off –
Wait, while Lagertha was giving orders, why weren’t the crossbows firing like bloody murder?
Respect for their opponent? I have no idea.
However, when Floki sounds the war horn Count Odo signifies their arrival and the vibe changes immediately. Right from the start, some things strike me as weird (what is this instant reloading of crossbows? Those things took forever, didn’t they? AT least their atrocious accuracy is being represented!), but the daylight provides an orange glow and already there is blood being spilt.
WOAH HELLO, SHIRTLESS ROLLO ALERT.
When was the last time we have seen that giant hunk of man go full hulk around a swarm of dead bodies? Too long, my friends. Too long. Our rape-y, behemoth Rollyoda has been missed.
Right, anyway. The fight continues and Kalf/Lagertha are still trying in vain to get down the gate to Paris. Meanwhile, Floki’s towers are being put to good use against the water-adjacent walls of the city. The only negative? Well. I mean. A lot of people seem to be dying. No, seriously. A lot of people seem to be dying. With the Vikings set below them, they are easy pickings for the men above. There are continuous splashes of dead bodies sounding as the fight rages on and Vikings attempt to climb Floki’s ladders, but it’s honestly for nought. Floki cries to his fighters that the gods are with them and he believes his own words more than his own soldiers do, but he believes them with the conviction of several hundred men. With the backing of his best friend, with the backing of the gods, he fears nothing.
Meanwhile, King Charles hides behind his ceremonial mask like a man on a bad trip. Quite obviously, he’s an incapable leader, to the extent that he is unable to carry the Paris banner for his own people. Who does it? His daughter, Gisla. She’s proving herself to be a valuable-slash-only-interesting character from this French venture. In fact, she pulls a Joan of Arc and encourages her soldiers to continue fighting once the Vikings begin to breach the defenses – it’s so inspiring (I likely sound snarkier than I actually feel) that Count Odo is rendered speechless. I assure you, this will not quell his desires to marry her.
Kalagertha (ugliest team name, but go with me on this) make some headway into the front gates, bringing in horses (who are shot a lot by arrows, poor things 😦 ) to finish the final pull of the gate from the anchors they have established. I hate to say it (believe me, I do), but Kalagertha actually make a decent team. Which is refreshing when literally everyone else is dying around them. Even when giant rocks are being hurled against their shields, it is refreshing.
Still, it’s hard to find any comfort at all when Floki sees the giant piles of dead bodies around him. It’s hard to find any comfort when Parisian defenses bring scalding hot oil into the game. It’s hard to find any comfort when parisian defenses bring scalding hot oil into the game and then light that shit on fire, incinerating the wooden ladders with it. Dumbfounded, Floki hides within his own creations. Knowingly, Ragnar looks on.
Seriously? Ragnar is just watching while his people are legitimately being eviscerated?
That’s fucking cold-blooded. Has Ragnar always been so cold?
Well, between killing an innocent farmer and now, he’s certainly become more cold-blooded than we are accustomed to seeing him. But, seriously, you just knew that he knew the raid would go horribly. He promoted Floki for a reason. He’s not stepping in for a reason. However, I really don’t believe the end lesson (Floki’s moral of the story, if you will) justifies the means at all. This is pure carnage and he is royalty watching his people die around him.
Kalagertha manage to breach the gates and make their way to…another gate. Lagertha has raid on her mind while Kalf yells at her to stop. And yells at her to stop. And then slaps her and drags her back, because fucking stop, woman this is obviously a trap! This is just more proof that nobody listens to Kalf. However, considering this actually was a trap and Kalf totally saved Lagertha maybe it is…ugh. Maybe it is time that we actually should start listening to him.
Wait, wouldn’t Kalf eliminating Lagertha be legitimately strategic, though? He could go home, spin a yarn about how she died in battle to convert the remaining people to his side that still pine for their former Earless, and he would be able to reign freely after.
But their imagined secual tension! Think about that! Though, really, that is the only reason I can think of that he would spare her, for the same reason Lagertha should be (and will be) spared in the future – she is phenomenal, people find her attractive, and she’s one of the main characters of the show that is one of the only reasons this show isn’t a completely bloody sausage fest. She has longevity! Hopefully. No, but seriously, if they kill Lagertha I quit.
But, right! A GIANT TRAP. An obvious one! Erlendur is shot (boohoo),
To say shit is going poorly would be an understatement. Floki, from his hiding spot (that is now on fire while he is being dripped with blood by the carcusses around him of his own dead people), of course, blames Athelstan. He believes with his whole heart that the reason all of these bad things are happening is because Ragnar lost his way.
Real talk to those who know the Viking religion far better than I do: I am genuinely curious, was a zealot-like nature common in the ranks? There are outliers in every religion, but I just am curious to know whether or not they were so pressed about conversion to other religions and the acceptance of said differing religions. I’m wondering because we have Floki in one corner and then the rest of Kattegat’s population in the other corner that was seemingly ambivalent towards Athelstan and Christianity as long as there was respect involved. If you have any input in this, please discuss in the comments!
Magically! Bjorn and Rollo make it to the top (relatively) unscathed! They hack away vigilantly at their oppressors. Oh. And then Rollo is pushed off of his ladder and into the storming water (filled with bodies!) below. He is glassy-eyed as he stares upwards and drifts below. Wait. WHAT? No. Lord, Vikings, don’t do this to me! Rollo is supposed to have a shirtless wedding eventually to a French lady! You can’t just kill him! Especially not when he made meaningful eye contact with Gisla!
Ragnar, finally, maybe, is starting to realize the shitty realness of the situation, because as his son is being pounded on like a chef tenderizing a piece of pork, he gets a look on his face that finally registers how much trouble they are all waist-deep in. This would be a good time to retreat, guys. Seriously. Any. Time. Or, you know, you can chuck yourself over the side of the wall and into a hill of dead bodies while you wistfully stare at the city that you failed to conquer. That is also, apparently, an option.
Also, Bjorn looks dead. Super dead. Despite looking incredibly dead with a lot of arrows in his back and a floppy head, I can’t imagine that they would actually kill Bjorn. Would they? Would they? While Ragnar (not dead!) clutches at his son, Floki is having a very, very dark moment inside of his burning ladder. The gods have betrayed him, they didn’t heed his sacrifice, and he doesn’t understand why they are being so harsh with him despite him obeying their whims at every turn. It’s a turning point for Floki, because his world is literally crashing around him in the form of godlessness, bodies, and fire. It doesn’t get more symbolic than that. He is one, miniscule step away from killing himself before he is bombarded with a flaming body from above. Is it a sign? Well, if it is it isn’t a very good one.
On the opposite side of the fence, King Charles and Count Odo look at the dead bodies of their attackers with distaste and satisfaction (in that order). Threat demolished, it is time to survey the carnage like weird Victorian era-obsessed murder chasers. “Now that I see them up close,” King Charles starts, “they’re so much less frightening than I suppose. Indeed. They appear almost human.” Time to go to church to celebrate! Well, at least I like Gisla. Ish. Does she make up for the worthlessness and unlikeableness of literally every other French character? Yeah, probably not. Still – Team Gisla! Tentatively!
Miraculously, there are survivors of the botched raid and they are being mended by Helga, Torvi, and scores of others that stayed at the camp. Ragnar drags his ston onto the shore, but we’re still not entirely sure whether or not he is alive.
Speaking of Bjorn, we flash over to Kattegat (uh, random?) and see that Thorunn is hooded and cloaked in the dusk light. She looks down on Kattegat, it’s obvious that she has made up her mind to flee for…reasons. I’m not entirely sure, considering how incredibly little the show bothered to develop her as a character. In case you are wondering, she has left Siggy behind with Aslaug. Seemingly for good. Does this mean that, assuming Bjorn is alive, the writers are going to keep the Erlendur/Torvi/Bjorn thing up? Ugh. Probably. Great.
Just like that, we’re brought back to France. Oh surprise! Lagertha is alive and she runs through the tent to see whether or not Bjorn is alive. Oh surprise! Bjorn is alive. And then, of course, Rollo comes pummeling through the tent doors. Surprise! He’s..alive? Wait, seriously? EVERYONE that the show set up to die is actually alive? That seems….hilarious. At this point, it’s like the show’s creators are even poking fun at how many people have died this season. Bjorn’s dead! Just kidding! Lagertha’s dead! Just kidding! Rollo’s dead! Just kidding! Or, they’re attempting to add depth to the episode, but I would really prefer to believe that it was a massive joke on the part of the writers. Man, that would just be genius.
Rollo says that they were close to succeeding. So close. He tells Ragnar that they will not make the same mistakes next time. NEXT TIME? Brollo. Look around you. You have like, 5 people left in your army. Unless you literally bust down the door with Uzis in hand, you have no chance.
Speaking of no chance (of living ‘til the end of the season), Floki is also alive. He is sitting in the river and afraid to face the others, because he knows that it is his fault that it failed so flamingly (though I actually think this was a technology/fortification issue) and he feels as if the gods has failed him. He’s still going through that identity crisis and understandably so, but now they’re just tacking on cowardice onto his character like he wasn’t already turning into a Disney-level evil villain. Even Helga thinks he is being selfish and she voices her anger – she abandons him, despite his cries for her to come to him. He weeps in tones of grey and blue, it’s a sad end to a mad man.
It isn’t all lovelorn and sad in the Viking Camp, though! Kalagertha is actually happening. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I know. “WHY LAGERTHA?” we are all yelling into our screens (or is that just me?), even though I actually think I sort of understand why. From the start of the season, Lagertha’s attraction to Kalf has been established. Now that he’s saved her life (and stole her power), there’s this perverse bond between them that correlates to sexy times. He tells her that she can’t hate him (oh, she can) and that all he knows is that he desires her with “all [his] heart,” which is like – congrats! – you…have a pulse? Hello, have you seen Lagertha? She’s like the female Rollo in terms of pure hanky panky sex appeal. She swears that she will kill him, but if he wants to actually bone with that stipulation, then sure, they can go ahead and continue the exploration of each other’s bodies. That seems like a super solid foundation to build a relationship on.
“I want you.”
“I hate you.”
“I stole your power, you’re still salty about that?”
“Yes. But I still find you hot. It is problematic.”
“We can sex our way through our problems.”
“Hm. That is tempting. But I hate you.”
“Fine. But, one day, I will kill you. You know that?”
“Huh? Sorry I stopped listen–boobs.”
Ah, what a poetic interpretation of what that scene was about.b
Still. They do the naughty tango.
Oh! And Bjorn isn’t dead! He and Ragnar actually have a nice father/son moment while he’s on his deathbed. Bjorn has his confidence wrecked and he starts the conversation with the understatement of the century. “Today went badly.” Still, it is a very tender moment between father and son. I feel like they needed it – could it have happened before he was half-dead? Yeah. But maybe it would have lacked the poignancy.
To think about things, Ragnar goes and visits Athelstan in the middle of the woods. He talks to Ghost Athelstan about his agenda with Floki and Ghost Athelstan thinks that Ragnar went too far.
Okay. Wait. Are you telling me that Ragnar set up Floki for defeat to prove a point with the sacrifice of so many of his own people in the name of building the fury of a “Patient Man?” That seems like an expensive, reckless, and jackass thing to do as a whole. There would have been a lot of less costly ways to shove Floki’s betrayal down his own throat.
No. I mean. Yes, I completely agree with this assessment and this is the first, honest time that I feel bothered by Ragnar’s seeming omnipresence. He was so sure that the entire thing would be a bust and yet he still didn’t stop the strategy or the fight at all, considering the significant losses he would be facing in the aftermath. He tells Floki that obviously he knows that he killed Athelstan (no CSI-speed DNA testing needed), he doesn’t seem completely heartbroken that he is literally in command of a handful of individuals after the absolute carnage. It pulled me out of the show, because, even though Ragnar has always been methodical and playing by his own rules (by the way, did anyone else find the script exceedingly clunky this episode?), his X-Men level ability to seemingly predict the future demise of his own people and then deliberately not stopping it is just so… well. Stupid. And out of character. The sheer loss of life is absolutely not negated by Floki’s lesson.
Maybe, part of me is just really upset at the direction they took Floki. Sure, this season he has trod the path towards extremism deftly, but I feel like they could have made his character far more interesting without boiling him down to a zealot that simply fights for his beliefs to the point of being blind to anything else. Floki has been there for Ragnar from the first season, he helped Ragnar pull a very extensive long-con in the second season, and now, surely nearing the end of his place on the show, he’s been boiled down to a once-passionate man with lunatic views. He’s been boiled down to a one-note character and that makes me sad, excellent eyeliner game or not.
But, hey! The fight scene was excellent. In that way, the show really stuck to its strengths this episode. I always gravitate towards the brutality-slash-poeticness of the fight scenes in this show, because they are masterfully choreographed. Considering this episode was 80% gorgeously choreographed fight scene, I honestly, truthfully, can’t complain about it. Bizarre character twists (hello bizarre booty call, don’t think you’re getting off so easily!) aside, the fact that it was so combat heavy actually saved the episode to me. Where will we go from here? Honestly, who knows.
Yes, I know! I am really looking forward to the commentator interpretations.
Naturally. So, what do you arbitrarily rate this episode overall?
Hmmmm. Now, that’s a tough one. Overall, I rate this episode three and a half burning rivers of oil out of five. What did you guys think of this episode? Was it surprising? Did it live up to your expectations? And, furthermore, where do you think Vikings is going to go from here?