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Review: ‘Vikings,’ Season 3, Episode 9, ‘Breaking Point’

It’s been a week since the massacre at Paris that left the Vikings emotionally and physically wounded. I say emotionally, because Floki is about to have an internal revelation to gigantic proportions. I say physically, because there is no way that the Vikings didn’t lose a massive chunk of their fighting population in Ragnar’s costly and out-of-character lesson plan. However, tensions are high. Extraordinarily high. The entire season has felt like the tuning of a string instrument, tightening and winding the strings until they snap under the pressure. This episode, we will see what Floki’s reckless (cowardly) leading has wrought upon his people and the new (cataclysmic) mistakes they have to rectify if they want to conquer Paris. Our Scooby gang is in rough shape. How, exactly, are they going to pull through this? With two episodes left, including this one, there are a lot of loose ends to tie up before season 3 comes to a close.

vikings_season3_cast

(I will also have you know that I had to pause my Netflix stream of Labyrinth for this episode. Sure, I have seen it approximately 800 times, but 801 sounds better tonight. it’s been that kind of a week).

 

Let’s get to it!

 

Finally. The show might’ve lost me mid-season, but I can’t disregard the allure of the past couple of episodes. So. Good. Will they conquer Paris? Who will survive the season?

 

Oh, dear and innocent Internal Monologue Me. Don’t go on Wikipedia. Ever.

 

We start this episode with Ragnar peeing blood. Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) has never peed blood before, so we can assume that this is not a good thing for him to be doing. Just a guess, though! Generally not a painless experience! While he is cradling his aching member –

 

Member? What is this, a free bin smut book?

 

No, this is a blog that might have members that are sensitive to sensitive content. Despite my swears and my general abuse of grammar I care, okay? I care. Anyway, so, Ragnar is in pain while he looks around at the mass of people around him. They are living in relative squalor, which makes me think that this is taking place a few months after last episode. I can’t say that for sure, of course, because this show is allergic to time frames, but considering how not thrown-from-a-tower Ragnar is looking, I will consider it a lucky guess. THEN AGAIN, he’s peeing blood. So, even if it is a few months after the incident, there is something obviously internally wrong.

 

But, yeah, back to the scenario at hand – the Vikings are not in good shape. They’re eating food they don’t like and don’t recognize, there isn’t enough of it, and I’m sure they’re feeling the vice grip of being absolutely fucking obliterated by the French.

 

Ragnar visits Floki who is in his Peter Pan-ish series of treehouses and bridges and Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård) is obviously still in shock about his complete failure. Ragnar, being the good friend he is, doesn’t confirm nor deny the fact that he lost spectacularly and just tells Floki that they will be trying again to night against Paris. It is then, under the cloak of darkness (uh, this seems so obvious?) and Lagertha’s (Katheryn Winnick) hair is shining like a halo in the darkness. They decide to swim to Paris.

 

What?

 

It is subtler than taking a giant pack of boats? They’re probably just gauging their competition.

 

Honestly, it seems to have worked, because the next thing we know is that they have made it into one of the pathways to Paris and are stabbing the shit out of the soldiers that are standing guard. It’s a badass moment, with Vikings lurking through the shadows like way-too-scary ninjas with flawless hair. Eventually, they’re caught and the French soldiers bring out the hot oil. They ruin the life and the hair-do of a fair shieldmaiden. Around this exact time, Princess Gisla has gotten word that the Vikings have invaded. How, exactly? Is she telepathic? Is she sexting one of the guards? This feels ridiculously historically inaccurate. Alas. She alerts everyone that the heathens have arrived! It’s scary, obviously, so she arms her ladies in waiting with daggers.

 

Yet again! the Vikings main strategy is “fight a horde of people down a very long hallway that has no hiding spots and the end is our goal.” Oh guys, that worked out so well last time! I’m glad you considered the success of the last raid while planning this one. Good job.

 

Seeing as there was no way to take down the people internally, Lagertha calls for recruitments by lighting the door into Paris on fire. There are literal hordes of Vikings waiting to enter (naturally!) down a narrow corridor (!) where they have magically reloaded crossbows and a historical backbone that tells us this will end well, especially when Princess Gisla appears in the fray with her…uh, dagger? Okay, so, at least we have established that both sides are capable of absolutely numbskulled planning. Good to know!

 

So, the French release an Indiana Jones-level booby trap of a spiked wheel ball thing and it barrels down the corridor like it means business. The Vikings try to retreat in a hurry, but not before some people are lost to the crazy device. Well, I’d say lost, but they are still alive. Writhing in pain because they’re stabbed with giant nails and haven’t died from the impact. Ugh. Their screams of mercy were rough.

 

Rollo (Clive Standen) is having none of it, though. He takes an arrow head spear and GOES FOR IT. He climbs that fucking death wheel and winches it into place. Floki helps him and he uses his sheer strength to hinder it, opening up the door for a ton of warriors to make their way through to fight. You know who notices Rollo slaughtering? Gisla. With RAPT attention. You know that look. We all know that look. Aw yeah. (It’s business time).

 

Count Odo, obviously trying to damage control the situation, goes to King Charles for some insight into how they will deal with the invaders. Charlie is pretty much like fuck that shit, I’m not putting myself in danger even if it would strengthen the resolve of my people. On one level, I understand this. On another level, get it the fuck together, Ruler of Paris. Be a leader for your people. Of course, he doesn’t bite because he is a coward. Count Odo tries to evoke the image of Charlemagne to get Charlie to go out onto the bridge, but he ultimately refuses. Despite wanting to be compared to Charlemagne and to be mentioned alongside him (as per what previous episodes want us to believe), he wants to do it without putting his delicate curls out of place..oh, precious.

 

Surprisingly, albeit somewhat surprisingly, the Vikings are making legitimate progress through to the city beyond. It is still a deadly conflict, but it is obvious that attacking at night (somewhat unexpectedly?) as helped. The Parisian forces seem somewhat weakened, but ultimately, they call to fall back to their camp. Not without putting legitimate fear into their opposition.

 

Meanwhile, Ragnar watches on. He pukes violently as the cross pendulums from his neck. With his newly shorn hair, it is very, very evocative of Athelstan and is still a horrible sign for the future of Ragnar. Soon, he falls into a delirious state where he envisions Athelstan. Athelstan calls him to a light beyond the woods, but when Ragnar comes to he realizes that he’s just been puking a puddle of blood and proceeds to curl into a fetal position inside of it. His mind brings forth visions of Odin and his birds, a stronger Ragnar, and an enigmatic Athelstan. “Don’t abandon me,” he pleads through his illness. It’s clear that his situation is dire.

 

Wait, is this show saying that Ragnar is dying?

 

Yes. Bleeding from multiple areas profusely usually indicates that much.

 

This show has been renewed for a fourth season, are they really going to continue on without Ragnar?

 

Who is to say for sure? Until the legitimate season finale (and not looking at filming spoilers), it is anyone’s guess. A large part of the charm is Ragnar’s enigmatic aloofness and the show has given little opportunity for other characters to test the waters as a lead, so I’m leaning towards no…but it is Vikings. It is anyone’s ballgame.

 

The Parisians have captured one of the Viking soldiers that didn’t retreat immediately with the rest of the pack. He is brought to questioning before the French rulers. Oh! OH! It isn’t necessarily a Viking that has been captured by the French! It is the bizarrely androgenous fantastic character from a few episodes ago that just told Ragnar all about France! With his cascading locks and eyeliner, how could I forget about this marvel? He confirms that he does understand French and can speak it, because he is a wanderer that patently means absolutely no harm. He just wanders around. It is what he does. “I belong to no country, I belong to no people, I just belong to the wide, wide world!” he exclaims as another captured (actual Viking) looks on. Man. If this guy doesn’t make it out of this situation dead (shh, grammatically that made sense maybe), that other captured Viking bro will surely kill him. Did you see that side-eye? That was a murderous side-eye.

 

So, being that this guy was a canary in his last life, he gives up the information that the other man who was captured is Earl Sigfried. Without referencing past episodes, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that that’s the same guy Kalf brought along as back-up. Being a loud as hell canary, he also gives the French nobelmen the name of Rollo (even referring to him as a bear of a man). This guy is horrible at negotiating – what he should be saying is, hey, if you spare my life I can tell you information about these guys who want to invade you! not willingly volunteering the information without some sort of deal! COME ON MAN!

 

Ultimately, the one wanderer strikes a deal and Gisla tells Count Odo that if he cares for her, he will bring her [Sigfried’s] head. She’s ruthless. To me, she’s still very one-dimensional, but man, she is ruthless.

 

We then cut to Wessex, because WILL HE OR WON’T HE BEHEAD A MAN FOR GISLA.

 

He probably will.

 

Anyway, in Wessex, which we still bafflingly care about, we cut to Judith and her perfect side-braid meeting King Ecbert (Linus Roache). He wants to see her (in more than one way, hubba hubba winking smiley face) and inquires about his grandsons with dispassion. Ecbert has received word that he was successful in his meeting with Princess K and will be returning back promptly. “Thank God,” Judith says, like that will stop her lech-as-hell father-in-law from trying to get with her. That doesn’t stop him from essentially offering her protection from her husband in exchange for sex, of course. Because all leaders have to boil down to power-play sex in this show! Ugh, really? Really? Ecbert has always used sex as a tool but sexuality in this show is constantly problematic for me, because it is so rare (the exclusion being Princess K), that women are actually in charge of their own sexuality and not just using it to sate the urges of the men in the cast. Sometimes, you might think “oh, she’s having fun! sex is great!” or “oh! she’s using sex to get ahead like a commonwealth Hollywood starlet!” only for it to shatter in a million pieces and for the man to (pardon the pun) come out on top. It’s just discouraging. It’s a little gross.

 

However, I do find it interesting that he always places the protection of Alfred (Athelstan’s bastard son) over his biological grandson. Man, the men in this show crushed on Athelstan hard. It must have been those dreamboat eyes. Sigh.

 

In Kattegat, we zone over to Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland) ruling over her people with an ironclad-yet-insightful fist. The sting of her having cheated on Ragnar (even without texting I feel like that sort of news gets around) has seemingly abated and she’s ruling well, in my opinion. She is judicious, but stern. Honestly, I like seeing her like this, so I found the scene compelling. Do I feel bad for the missionary? Ehhhh. Eeeeh. (Kind of, because ouch!!!) Respect other religions, man. (Easy to say from my perspective, yes, but just be accepting. It’s okay!) How did he even get there, anyway?

 

Back in Paris, Siegfried is about to have a hard time. He is lead to his own personal judgment day among spitwads and rocks from onlookers. He handles it like a baller, though, and requests that his hair is held off to the side so a clean cut is made. What. I aspire to be that nonchalantly badass one day. Preferably without the beheading. So, at the last minute, motherfucker moves his head just enough so the axe comes down onto the hands of the man holding his head, lopping it off. OH MAN THIS GUY. THIS GUY is going to be dead soon but CAN WE KEEP HIM? that was gross but AMAZING.

 

Well, now that we have momentum, let’s go back to Wessex!

 

Whyyy?

 

I’m not entirely sure. I really enjoy Ecbert a sa character, but the entire scene is flowery script ultimately boiling down to how Ecbert wants to get his hump on with his son’s “harlot” wife. Judith is willing to become Ecbert’s mistress as long as Alfred is protected. What is the other kid’s name, even? Honestly. I can’t remember. The juxtaposition of this scene with the French scene feels out of place and disconnected (Wessex, Wessex, you were once so pivotal). so we hop back to Franch where Siegfried’s head hang’s as a beacon of hope amongst plagued Parisians. They are incredibly sickly (you can tell by the writhing in the streets) and all I can think is – MAN – now is the PERFECT time to invade. Kicking someone when they’re down (and dying and puking and plagued)? Sure! It seems as if droves of civilians are dying. The city is beginning to starve from their lockdown.

 

They are aware that the pagans are outside of the city gates, just itching for an opportunity like this. Count Odo wants to make peace with them, fearing their ability to maintain a successful defense. Gisla begs her father not to succumb to cowardice, because when they are judged by God, that will appear a subscript. Dear Charlie “understands both these points of view” and requests time alone to think about his ultimate decision. I am sure he is just dying in nerves.

 

Back in Viking Camp, Ragnar is exhibiting Torstein (RIP) levels of sickness and fever. I know this is building up to Ragnar dying (I know, I know) but unless he appears as a Hogwarts-level ghost next season in presence, we all know (seriously, we all know) that he will be surviving. I will literally be blown away like a decayed leaf in wind if he dies and I will put it down in writing that I don’t think he will die, he is going to live to see season 4 and I don’t mean it in a flashback way. That doubt, that honest doubt, makes it hard for me to buy into these scenes – especially because Ragnar always always has something up his sleeves.

 

Still, only time will tell.

 

In the meantime, it feels like a Wessex break!

 

Whyyyyyyyy?

 

Aethelwulf is back, obviously! It’s a very awkward family dinner. I would not want to be there.

 

Now that that’s over, let’s go to Viking camp.

 

Not everyone is looking quite so great (Bjorn seems to have an active limp), but the crowds part to allow French soldiers through on horseback. The captured Wanderer serves as a translator, telling the Vikings that the French believe that it would be in their best interest to stop trying to blow their house down because it totally isn’t going to work so just stop it, guys. The Vikings (understandably) aren’t buying this. After this offer (Bjorn tells the soldiers that they will think on it for a day. Also, Rollo frees our Wanderer), the dire situation becomes a bit clearer. They have lost over a thousand men in the failed Floki attack, it isn’t like they have continuous men to throw that the walls of Paris – but on the other hand, if they feel weak enough to offer a deal, should they stop there? Why should they stop the siege without any reasoning?

 

Ragnar takes this chance to have a pep-rally of sorts. He frames his success as the reaction to other people’s actions (meeeh I dunno Ragnar) and – after he takes a small blood-puke break, continues. He’s fucking King. He lets everyone knows that he is King, he makes the decisions, and he has the last say. After all of this talk for his people, he takes the time to make an absolute point that he is the end-all-be-all. It is a strong Ragnar speech, but it is still a weak Ragnar speech. After all of his talk of calling power corrupting, he fails to listen to anything anyone else is saying because he ultimately has the power not to do so. Absolute power corrupts absolutely thy name is Ragnar.

 

And, honestly, I know that this will be explained away as ~Ragnar secretly knew what was going to happen, because life is a chess game and Ragnar is the Alpha and Omega of chess~, but I am getting very, very tired of that being a substitute for actual plot. He could buy a 52 pack of crayons next episode and it could be explained away as part if Ragnar’s Grand Scheme. It just feels so easy.

 

Anyway, whatever, they’re going to meet France in the morning. No one seems happy. But grand plan, guys. grand plan.

 

In Kattegat, the boys have obviously grown older – the first indication (other than the lack of open wounds on Bjorn’s face) that there has been a significant time leap. Ivar has grown noticeably larger and is now nearly a toddler. Oh and by the way, go ahead and kill that Christian.

 

That was a cute-weird segue. So back to France. There, we see Ragnar meeting the French men alone (uhhhhhh dumb? Dumb.). He lets them know that he doesn’t want just treasure, but that might be because he wants to be baptised so he can see Athelstan in the afterlife.

 

Wait. Wait. What?

 

Yup. That’s the reason he gives. And then he practically forces to be baptized.

 

My face pretty much mirrored the face of the Vikings as they approached. Floki’s disgust aside, I physically embodied Lagertha and Rollo’s bewilderment. Seriously, bro, what the fuck is wrong with you?

 

And that’s where we end the episode.

 

I, uh. Well, Okay. Ok. That’s….

 

I’m sure it is part of a…plan. However, all I can say is ?????????????????????

 

In case that wasn’t enough confusion. ??????????

 

Huh. Well, with next week being the season finale, we are coming to a close on the season and that’s when all of the loose ends are tied into a neat bow in Vikingland.

 

Will that happen this season? Who knows. With Ragnar’s supposed death approaching and the situation in France looking dire, it is hard to say where it will be going. Overall, I give this episode seven out of ten B-Movie-War-Props. Some parts were captivating, other parts felt completely and utterly out of place.

 

As always, the remarkable and wonderful insight from the commentators was amazing. I learned a lot about crossbows (cool!) and a lot about the zealot tendencies of paganism (from at least one very rounded perspective). Throughout the weeks, you guys help me view every episode with a different perspective. For that, I can’t thank you enough! How did you all feel about this episode? Let me know below!

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10 thoughts on “Review: ‘Vikings,’ Season 3, Episode 9, ‘Breaking Point’

  1. I’m not really sure what to think about this episode but I feel kind of vindicated because you’ve been saying the Vikings are screwed after one defeat and I was like “Hey, it’s a siege, they aren’t out of it yet and Paris isn’t getting any food coming in.” Not to say I told you so or anything but eventually starvation is going to set in unless someone comes to bail them out.

    I liked when they told Ragnar they had troops on the way and the vikings were just like “Yeah, no. No one is coming.” Paris is going to fall.

    The most I’ve laughed this whole season is honestly when they held that dude’s hair away from his neck and he got that Frankish guy’s hands cut off. As far as the hands go, this was a rough episode. It was hilarious how Cinric was laughing at them too and he had to put his hands over his mouth because it was so unseemly.

    I don’t think the time frame was too huge between the last episode. Also keep in mind that these time points in other regions may not be happening at the exact same time – they might be showing interesting points at different time frames throughout Wessex and Kattegat. Honestly from a time standpoint, this show is kind of crazy. The raid on Lindesfarne 2 seasons ago happened in AD 793 and the siege of Paris occured around 845. That’s 50 years and in show that amount of time hasn’t passed.

    Good to see Bjorn on his feet. You don’t see a lot about the beatings that people took in those battles in stuff like Lord of the Rings but in medieval times you just got the hell beat out of you and you didn’t have real doctors to patch you up. That would kind of suck. Hope Ragnar pulls out of this pissing blood phase but I was surprised that he got baptised. Everyone always says this stuff fits into the master plan, but maybe he just feels like getting baptised because he legitimately wants to chill with Aethelstan in the afterlife and he just doesn’t have a full understanding of Christianity yet.

    I think somewhere it was said they had lost a thousand men. The Viking army led by Ragnar Lothbrok supposedly had 5000 men IRL so if that part is legit then they lost 1/5 of their force, which is kind of a lot but you can overcome that.

  2. I am p…. off again. Knowing history I know exactly what the show is doing and it angers me, because what Ragnar will pull next episode is actually something Bjorn did on his own conquer tour. They stole Bjorn’s big moment and gave it to freaking Ragnar, instead of finally allowing Bjorn to grow up and come up with the plan himself.

    I also didn’t appreciate the two totally senseless torture scenes which were thrown into the episode.

    I liked Ecbert well enough as cunning ruler. I didn’t like him as crazy old man who creeps on his own daughter in law. that’s just ewwwwwwww.

    I don’t think that a show has ever fallen from my grace that fast.

    • YOU ARE SO RIGHT!!!

      I just read Bjorn Ironside on wikipedia and now the previews make so much sense. I can see the story play out in the previews.

    • The producers have been borrowing from the oral traditions as convenient. I found at least one reference that Ivar the Boneless is the oldest, the youngest two sons are Snake- Eye and then Bjorn. Also, the Archbishop of Hamburg is the St. Ansgar that had good relations with the Danes and brought Christianity to the north, and yet Aslaug has a somewhat obnoxious missionary named Ansgar killed.

  3. So enough time has passed since the Paris raid that Bjorn has recovered from his near death experience, but Ragnar is *still* coughing and peeing blood? I’m very worried about Ragnar’s condition…

    The baptism caught me by surprise. However, I think it’s part of Ragnar’s game plan to use the appearance of embracing Christianity to gain access to and ultimately defeat Paris. Remember how he asked Athelstan for forgiveness for what he was “going to do”.

    The Wessex family dinner scene was well played by all! I’m so glad they are developing Aethewulf’s character more and that he is less of a fool than we were led to believe.

    Also glad to see Lagertha and Aslaug exercising their leadership. Aslaug’s decision to kill the missionary was extreme…I wonder if she overreacted because of her husband’s fascination with Athelstan/Christianity.

    Rollo the Shirtless amazes again! Quite impressive that he single handedly immobilized that torture device!

  4. My son keeps saying, Mom, get over it, they all die by the end of the century! I know. I know. But Ragnar! Although I have to admit I often think back fondly to the opening scene in Season One – Ragnar and Rollo kicking ass and seeing that raven…
    Oh, Ragnar was so young and innocent back then!
    So I guess the larger question is, can Bjorn carry the show? Or shall we follow Rollo? Or Kalf? (Gag.) Aslaug was better this week. She seems determined and decisive, less prissy.
    I’m kinda into Gisla. She is totally hot for Rollo. It’s like every woman who sees him goes a little berserker for him. He’s very much mesmerizing man-candy. Plus he seems almost more pragmatic of a leader than Ragnar. Remember, he too has been baptized.
    Regardless, we shall see. I suspect Ragnar will survive, at least for another season.
    Oh… Are we supposed to wonder what happens to his kid by Mercia crazy woman?
    P.S. No way would Ragnar go after Athelstan’s son. No. Way. Nevah! Ecbert will be devastated when he learns of Athelstan’s death. He’ll probably convert to viking-ism.

  5. Ragnar is still grieving Athelstan’s death. Athelstan is the only one Ragnar can trust (true test came season 1, episode 3). Apparently he doesn’t trust anyone else completely. And if Odin and the other gods exist, they haven’t done anything for Ragnar or the Vikings except conquer military. Their souls however remain empty. Each conquest is put into a bottomless pit of achievements.
    Ragnar will never be filled. Perhaps he’s looking for something more.
    He’s looking for authenticity that he will ultimately never find in the gods, those who follow them, or even himself.
    And it’s easy to spot phony religion as with the English. Theirs is a use for power, just like with Odin.
    I may be crazy, but there’s the ole 2 cents .

  6. Ragnar has to live onto Season 4. Wasn’t the legend that he met his demise after being thrown into a pit of vipers by the King of Northumbria?

  7. Due to the short seasons, there hasn’t been enough time — in my most worthwhile opinion — to really start to “feel” any of the other characters enough to allow them to lead us. Also..Ragnar (TF) is fine as hell/ragnarok. If he dies, I’m OUT.

  8. Okay, I’ve watched the finale and will comment on that later once your review goes live. But perhaps there was a few things to say about this one as well.

    (Sidenote: Labyrinth is a lovely movie though.)

    Lagertha and her Viking ninjas was spectacular, now this is the badass Lagertha we all want to see! That Spiked Spool of Doom was pretty impressive as well as was Rollo going beast mode and disabling it.

    Meanwhile in Wessex King Ecbert in prepairing a bid for Creep of the Year. And here I thought it was already odd to have your daughter in law share the Roman baths with your Monk-y mancrush and hot Viking dame. But noo, we had to go weirder still and the only thing I’m asking myself is, much like your inner monologue is….Why? What does that sideplot add?

    At least the check-in on Aslaug was a little more interesting, Ansgar is pretty well known as one of the first Christian missionaries to Scandinavia after all. And funny how things played out pretty similar to my musings last week. Aslaug was all “my gods, your gods. they’re all gods”. But noooo, Ansgar had to go all “Mine is the BEST and ONLY one and yours suck”. Though an “ordeal of fire” like they did is usually more of a Medival Christian thing. Also, the historical Ansgar lived to a ripe old 63. But Michael Hirst is starting to play a lot looser with history these days.

    Now, Siegfried’s beheading was really interesting. While a similar scene was precent in Kevin Costner’s Robin hood movie ‘Prince of Thieves’ the scene is far older than that. There is a book called (in English anyway) “The Long Ships” by Swedish author Frans G Bengtsson, published in English in 1955 where this exact sequence of event is played out as well. The book is somewhat considered the grandfather of more well known Viking based fiction (such as Bernard Cornwell’s books) and I would not be at least surprised if Michael Hirst is familiar with it.

    That’s it for now, see you on the season finale. Much more to say about that one…

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