I had every intention of gaining some ground on my behind status this week, but went to the coast with my family instead. It was for a good reason, promise! On Saturday, my Opa (grandfather) turned 90. I know, I know, wow. It was wonderful – more food than you can ever imagine/ever need, fantastic company, and a grand celebration of life completely deserved.
Let it be known that I read every single comment left on the last review and yearned deeply to reply to them, but then it was time for bed? and then work? and then my dog needed to be taken on a walk because he’s a chunky monkey? and before you know it, I was at the beach and if it came down to being on my phone replying to comments or spending time with my awesome Opa, well, let me tell you, my phone had no chance. However, I love every bit of feedback you all give me. Also, I greatly appreciate the lack of spoilers! I will catch up to you guys, I promise.
Let’s get this show on the road!
We open with a wide shot of snowy woods and what I am guessing will turn into The Revenant: Bjorn Edition, where Bjorn is Leo DiCaprio and the Academy is Ragnar.
Immediately, the camera finds our lost soul, draped in more furs than the wife of a Russian oligarch, and he looks cold and frustrated. That does seem to be expected. Luckily for Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig), he finds the wooden cabin that he will now call home. For a season, at least.
I feel like the terms “come back when your father is less disappointed with you” are both vague and steep.
Yeah. Yeah. How, exactly, is that gauged?
Only time will tell. Maybe, with a father-son heart-to-heart.
By a father-son heart-to-heart, I very obviously mean “Ragnar Will Stare At His Son Enigmatically And Everyone Will Read Into It.”
Cut back to civilization.
Speaking of Disapproving Papa Bear, he is eating some food when he hears the dogs start wildly barking. If water is wet and fire is hot, than two plus two equals Floki has escaped. I am sure he 1. is super stoked about this development, and 2. absolutely doesn’t believe that Helga is involved in the plot in any way.
So, Floki is on the run, over the valley and through the woods, away from his home he goes. But, because we can’t watch him run through the woods and towards his inevitable capture for the whole episode, despite the curiousness of the camera zooming in double-time on Ubbe like I am supposed to care about him (am I? he seems like a little snot. opinion opened to being changed, but it probably won’t), we cut to everyone’s favorite limping storyline: Wessex.
King Ecbert (Linus Roache) has gotten wind of another loose Vikings thread, Queen Kwenthrith (Amy Bailey) – evidently, the nobles have risen against the polarizing figure and are holding she and her son (not only her son, but also Ragnar’s – because I won’t let you guys forget that frankly uncomfortable urine-based copulation) captive in a tower. Surprisingly, King Ecbert doesn’t smell trap written all over this and teams up with King Aelle to send forces to save her, even if his own people are complaining about the costs of having a standing army march out when there is even the remotest possibility that it is all a farce.
It isn’t a luxury, of course. The standing army is needed just in case Ragnar and his homies decide to roll up and waylay their kingdom to the ground. Or so King Ecbert says. Given that this dude straight up has his own motivations, he’s probably spinning this yarn about Ragnar (who has probably forgotten all about Wessex now that his fave monk isn’t there) for his own endgame. Hell, he’ll probably send his son Aethelwulf (Moe Dunford) in some weird invisible chess game ploy, or like he knows the weird tension between he and Kwenthrith and is 100% on board with mortifying his son. Like Ragnar, I think this dude has omniscience on his side.
In Kattegat, a maimed Ragnar tracks down Helga (Maude Hirst) and her child, asking point blank whether or not she freed Floki. That, my friends, is what we call a rhetorical question.
What was that about Ragnar saying that it was her job to free Floki? I mean, I am glad that he was somewhat lenient, but all the same, as a woman I don’t really feel like it is my duty to cover up the tracks of every dumbshit action my significant other does. If Lagertha did that every time Ragnar did something boneheaded (I’ll confess, murder is a little more than boneheaded), where would she be right now?
Who knows, broski. All I know is that Helga is still alive and I am grateful. I love that sweet sunchild. Her loyalty may be wounded and indicative of a very deep insecurity and very deep hurt (“Floki loves you,” she told Ragnar and he countered with: “He only loves himself, you know that better than anyone.” – ugh my heart), but everyone can see that she is a good person. Protect her.
In seems as if Ragnar has a couple of those protective inclinations in his ailing body, because he gives her food for the winter, with an obvious hat-tip towards another Mega-Famous series. It’s like a tiny little glimmer into the Ragnar we once knew. Sigh, I may get a little wistful here.
In Wessex, crates of decapitated heads and limbs are delivered to the gates of the keep, but not all have been completely decimated: a wounded soldier still survives with information of where she is being held, information fed to him by a mysterious W – a dissenter of the current forum trying to tear
Princess Queen K from her throne. King Ecbert does not believe this soldier, with the dubious claims of W and the seeming likelihood that it is a trap, this is only the bait, but Aethelwulf believes him enough to confirm the orders to Mercia. Operation: Kwenthrith is a go. King Ecbert assures his son that he has god on his side, the best soldiers, and – oh – by the way, if this all goes to hell, make sure Magnus survives.
Aethelwulf tosses back a goodbye to Judith (emphasis of the cardinal rule: don’t get married to anyone in this show, wives have it bad. very bad) and off he goes. This leaves lone-eared Judith with her lech of a father-in-law and she is the first to deny his advances. However, as always, he spins a slightly different yarn. It isn’t just about sex and sexuality, though those are probably ace fringe benefits, it is also about freedom. It hooks her, instantaneously, because the thought of freedom to be oneself is intoxicating even to those who don’t already have the luxury. Judith has been a princess her entire life, choices dictated by the whims and plans of others. Enticed but feeling a bit dubious, she asks about the terms.
What an incredibly awkward conversation to have with your father-in-law.
Ecbert inquires into her desires, asking her what she would like to be above all else. Growing increasingly starry-eyed, she replies “a painter.”
Aaahhh here it comes —
And there it is. There’s the crux of it all. If Athelstan knew how captivated everyone was with him, do you think he would even want to return?
Wherever Athelstan is right now, whichever afterlife he has found as his own, this is 100000% his face right now.
Regardless, King Ecbert vows to find her the most gifted teacher available and it is met with a light scoff, because Judith knows that no woman has ever been allowed to work on sacred texts. He proves her wrong (!!) and, indeed, gets her a tutor. Prudentius. What a name. Unsurprisingly, he is absolutely appalled at the idea of tutoring a woman (nonetheless a ~tainted one) and teaching her the ways of the sacred texts (score one: Judith), but when Ecbert takes Prudentius before a bishop, the bishop deigns it acceptable, because God allowed a tarnished woman to wash his limbs, therefore he would also allow one to deliver his word, which is actually very progressive and likely not at all what the bishop’s personal beliefs are, but , well, anyway, the right arm was twisted or the right pocket was padded, Judith gets to learn how to paint. Know what else I am sure of? That Ecbert has zero ulterior motives behind his actions, he is surely doing it out of the goodness of his heart.
Back in Kattegat, the hunt for Floki resumes and the former shipbuilder is employing a bevy of techniques to stay ahead of the pack, including traveling along water to disrupt the trail he leaves behind. It doesn’t work for long and he is soon captured while hiding beneath a pool of water. In case you were wondering – still not really giving a shit about Ubbe.
Oh, and then there’s Rollo (Clive Standen), who indiscriminately incinerated all bridges at the tail end of last episode. Let’s go check on him. Off to Paris.
For once, it looks as if Rollo has finally started sowing his own seeds in a legitimate sense this time, because even though he betrayed his brother (agaaaaaaaaaaain), he seems to be doing it whole-hog this time around – in the walls of Paris, he begins teaching the military strategists the ins-and-outs of Viking fighting, introducing plans and thoughts of his own, like how to best the Vikings’ formidable ships. How is this bro a better Frank than he ever was a Viking? Damn, Rollo. He must’ve been thinking about this for a long, long time.
Count Odo (Owen Roe) is so pleased with this turn of events, that he hits up his BDSM chamber with his mistress Therese (Karen Hassan). He is beyond stoked that Count Rollo is forthcoming with his bright ideas and he is super beyond stoked that Gisla (Morgane Polanski) is perpetually horrified at their union. As the scene goes on and Therese gets Odo talking with some ego-stroking, it feels as if she’s definitely doing it for ulterior motives. Aaah, you know, knowing what we know about Odo, I have a feeling that is the only way it would happen.
It doesn’t even take long to see just where her loyalties lie. As the massive whipping wounds on her back are being tended to by someone who vaguely looks familiar, but I can’t remember his name. If he has one. They are staging a coup, obviously, against the odious Odo. When the time is right, they plan on letting his highness the less than sqeaky-clean aspects of Odo with enough force that it (may) lead to his downfall.
Pro-Tip: Odo, don’t trash talk your king.
Has it ever worked out for anyone in this show? Anyone ever?
Outside of the chamber, Rollo is slowly transforming into Prince Farquaad. He grimaces. And so did I. You know what Gisla did? Laughed. Wow, between this and pulling the knife outta who-knows-where last episode, I have to say that she has more than the initial one-dimension presented to us. I am shocked, shocked I tell you! Also, grateful. Also, please tell me this hair style looks slightly less absurd as the episodes go on.
Back in Scandinavia, Floki’s brought back to face the music and Bjorn’s trying to ice fish, which seems cold and beyond miserable, but let’s focus on the former rather than the latter for a moment.
Ragnar has very little chill about the whole thing, goading Floki with comments like “well, if the gods loved you so much why was my snot-nosed son able to find you, in like, 20 in-episode minutes?” It’s a grilling. #teamnoone. Seven invisible points to Gustaf Skarsgård’s performance in this scene, because as he trembles before his former friend, you legitimately feel all kinds of emotions. You feel anger and fear. You feel a lack of remorse. It’s all there, with every tremor. It’s nothing short of electrifying.
The Good King hits Floki where it hurts, sentencing him to a punishment that is not grand, nor heroic, on the grounds that it is something the gods will not recognize him for. He will not go out in a fiery battle, nor a blaze of glory.
Which is cool and all, because he’s the king and he can sentence punishment however he pleases, but do you know what is not fucking cool Ragnar? Channeling your inner NFL player and cold-cocking your wife. Holy shit, dude. This show is absolutely determined to erase any decency from Ragnar.
But, like, she voiced her opinions! Such an egregious offense!!
You see, this is why we can’t have nice things. This show is absolute garbage to ladies like, actually all the time. Sure, she said that she thought the punishment didn’t fit the crime because she wasn’t rubbing elbows with the Christian monk that has – oh, I dunno if you have noticed – died, but that was a left hook straight out of left field. Wow. Fuck that dude. I know that they’re giving her a villain edit this season, but that is over the top.
Let’s go check on Queen K, locked in her tower. Wouldn’t you know! She is actually locked in a tower! Honestly, I thought this would be another super shocking twist and actually a trap, but nope – she is there. And looks miserable. I guess I would be, too, if I all had to do all day was needlepoint despondently while staring outside at the freedom I once had.
Have no fear, Aethelwulf and Co. have some to the rescue! It’s like, a super bloody rescue, but definitely a rescue all the same. There are a ton of close calls for Aethelwulf (WHO THREW THAT BRICK? #teambrickguy) and he is seemingly not the only one who mixed a little piss in their vinegar. Inside of the tower, Queen K has taken up a chair against some swordsman (? okay maybe not completely thought out, but the spirit was there) and actually manages to avoid being stabbed, but also manages to knock the forces out for a second or two. Hey, I guess she took after Rapunzel a bit more than I initially thought.
Sidenote, my sides actually started hurting when Aethelwulf started running up those stairs. As a Recently Seasoned Climber of Medieval Towers, the thought of running up those stairs at anything other than a leisurely pace makes me sort of want to vomit on my keyboard.
All the same, rejoice! Queen K is saved.
Know who is also saved? Bjorn! He finally got some grub. I always believed in you, champ. But mostly because I didn’t think they’d kill you off in the second episode, not when you have a whole season to find ways to win the respect, then lose the respect, of your father.
You have high hopes for him, don’t you?
Listen, idol worship is a bad thing. I’d like to think Bjorn was doing this survivalist challenge to prove to himself that he’s worthy of the Lothbrok name and, also, the legacy he’ll eventually carve for himself, but it is all about his ingrained daddy issues. Which doesn’t bode well for character development. Again! I am willing to be pleasantly surprised.
Unfortunately, elsewhere, shit is grim. Really grim. We cut to a scene of Helga violently attempting to dig a hole in the frozen ground —
no. no no no.
Her daughter has died. Ragnar seems legitimately wounded by the news, asking her “what did she die of?” and all Helga can choke out is, “does it matter?”
Yes, precious sunflower. It matters. It matters.
Ragnar, showing some decency (because, better late than never?) stills her hand and takes the lead on digging the grave for the small child. It no doubt causes him immense physical pain to do so, but there’s no mistaking how utterly destroyed Helga is, or how brutal her emotional pain is. “Have you told Floki?” feels heavy handed, but the new Ragnar isn’t always eloquent. I can’t help but feel as if he’s releasing some of his own pent up emotions as he starts shoveling.
I’m not crying, I swear I am not.
Speaking of Floki, with his inglorious punishment, we divert to the image of him tied and bound, arms splayed wide and ironically evoking the imagery of the crucifix (though, something tells me there is something else intensely symbolic about this torture, but as per usual, my Scandinavian lore needs work, so I hope my resident experts can help me find even more meaning in the striking imagery), and water drips deliberately on his skull as his daughter is buried beyond the cave. We end with him screaming in agony.
Yeah, honestly. It has been a while since Vikings has actually moved me like that. It was grim and cold and filled with despair (in fact, not much of this episode was humor-tinged at all) – that said, the delicately sad way that Helga held onto Ragnar as they looked at the wrapped corpse of her dead child was more tender and contained more compassion than I have felt from this show in what feels like forever. I can forget about all of the Mercia-mehs, I can postpone my caring of Paris. Just give me more moments like that. Quiet. Emotive. Sincere.
How did you feel about this episode?
Ah, right. My rating. This episode had a lot of running around and a lot of side-story development, which is both good and bad? On the one hand, it’s cool that they aren’t just dropping the character like Christopher Lee’s Saruman in the 3rd LOTR movie (not including extended cut), but I also find it really hard to care about these side stories when I feel like there’s not much actually happening. Paris is a little boring, but provides comedic relief, but Wessex? Without a main story anchor in Wessex, it feels like dead weight. Anyway, I give this episode five stormed towers out of seven. Like. Not bad, but not great.
Phew! Thank you all for keeping up with my slow-as-slugs pace, soon things will be right back on track. What did you guys think of this episode when you watched it?