Season 4 Episode 1
“A Good Treason”
We open up Season 4, Episode 1 with a shot of Ragnar riding upon a horse; considering how unwell he was at the end of Season 3, we have either jumped far in time, or this is not entirely what it seems. Sure enough, it seems that Ragnar’s having a vision, for he sees the golden halls of Odin open to him. He seems incredibly happy and moves towards them, but once he gets close, they shut, disappearing. It’s ominous, and clearly a signal for Ragnar, and will most likely be a theme for the rest of the season. After all, Ragnar spent most of the last season enthralled by the idea of Christianity and Athelstan…and it seems that perhaps he may now be paying for such loyalty. If not in reality, he at least fears that he might pay for transgressions against his Gods.
The scene quickly cuts to Queen Aslaug, who seeks out the Seer, asking if a woman will succeed the throne of Kattegat; the Seer, being, well the Seer, is obligated to always be cryptic and obtuse, so he tells Aslaug that it is unwise to imagine the death of kings, but that one day a woman will rule. When asked if it will be Aslaug, though, he just starts to laugh. Again, it’s clear that certain plots that were set up in Season 3 are coming home to roost, now. The rift between Ragnar and Aslaug is now a canyon wide–and the Queen clearly is more interested in gaining the throne and a position for her children than the life of her husband. Though, given how much Ragnar has been away, really, who can blame her? Ragnar may have condemned her for decisions she made in the last season, but I honestly believe he doesn’t have any room to foist blame on her. Ragnar often refuses to take any blame for anything–and as Lagertha ended up leaving him due to his choices, I won’t be surprised if Aslaug ends up doing the same…in a way that is not healthy for Ragnar, in the end.
And we cut to the introduction credits…which has changed for the first time in four seasons! So much more fire!
Back in Kattegat, Ragnar’s children are looking well, including Ivar, who is talking, laughing and smiling. It’s good to see that whatever sacrifices were made by Siggy for those children has been lasting. I’m still going to miss her presence on the show, but I’m glad to see that the writers haven’t wasted her death and are continuing that plotline, even if it is in subtle ways.
Bjorn arrives at the meeting house, asking Aslaug about the whereabouts of Þórunn, who still hasn’t returned from her walk off into the mountains last season. In an incredibly frustrating scene, Bjorn also rejects his daughter Siggy when presented with her. Aslaug angrily states that they will continue to care for her, as they have been–it’s clear that she’s reaching her breaking point and the men in her life are just one let down after another. It’s disappointing to see Bjorn act this way, as well. Well through Season 3 he tended to take after his mother, and was more compassionate and reasonable, less willing to be pig-headed like his father. But it seems the more time Bjorn spends around Ragnar, the more he’s prone to make horrible decisions. Though one thing can be said for Ragnar–he has never abandoned a child.
While Ragnar lies in a coma, Bjorn stands before the people to speak on their time in Paris and to–surprise!!–arrest Floki on behalf of Ragnar, for the murder of Athelstan. While the historical Floki is credited for finding Iceland, I am sure our trickster will find a way out of this yet. In some ways, especially with the way they shackle him, it reminds me of the trials of Loki–I doubt that is unintentional.
Meanwhile in Hedeby, Earl Kalf proclaims that despite not being married to Lagertha, that they shall rule side by side. While the people seem very pleased by this, our favorite (and by favorite I mean not) douche canoe Einar is unhappy about this. But really, when is that man ever happy when it comes to Lagertha? It’s clear Kalf has completely outplayed him on this gambit, and he is determined to try and find a way to correct this. What is unclear, though, is how Erlendur feels about this situation. While we see him in the scene, he does not speak to Kalf directly against the joint Earldom.
Back in Kattegat, a new shipment of slaves arrives, this time from Paris. Aslaug looks over the bunch, and after finding one who seems to be particularly defiant, purchases her. While we aren’t given a name, there’s enough screen time to say she’s going to be an important plot point later on in the season. More importantly, though, Ragnar’s awake… much to Aslaug’s disappointment. That woman really wants to be queen–without having a husband around for it, at this point.
We check in on Floki again, who is being fed a bit of food by his young daughter as Helga watches on. While the scene is initially touching (it’s one of the few scenes where we see Floki interact positively with his daughter), it sours when Folki confesses that he is positive that Ragnar will have him killed, and asks Helga to help him escape. Disgusted, she refuses and leaves him. In all honesty, I’m struggling to have sympathy for Floki, though I’m not sure if we are actually supposed to feel any for him. While a fascinating and complex character, I find myself hating him, more often than not, for his actions. While Ragnar was obsessed with Athelstan, so was Floki–and it was more destructive to Floki than it ever was to Ragnar, in my opinion.
This scene also cements what appears to be the theme of this episode in many ways–rejection. Aslaug is beginning to reject Ragnar in many ways, and we see here Helga turning her back on Folki (a rarity for her). There are already brewings of this theme in Hedeby, and given what is coming in Paris…I believe it is clear as well. Rollo isn’t going to be having a change of heart about his choice last season, I have no doubt.
In a small interlude, we see Bjorn looking over a map of Europe, trying to suss out what exactly he’s looking at. When asked by one of his half-brothers why it is so important that he understand the map, he simply answers that it is his ‘destiny’ to discover this world. Despite being a complete mess when it comes to his personal life, it’s moments like these that remind me why Bjorn is my favorite of the male Vikings. There is something so entirely joyful about him, still. He is very much his mother’s son–and as much as he wishes for his father’s approval, he may very well be better off without it.
During the celebration feast in Kattegat, Ragnar appears to hold court, much to the happiness of his subjects, and the continued displeasure of Aslaug. Despite not being healthy, Ragnar doesn’t lose time upsetting the status quo that has been established since his coma. He’s already showing interest in the new Paris slave (and continues to make eyes at her throughout the rest of the episode–a bit heavy handedly for the show, I think), and is openly displeased with Bjorn’s decision to arrest Floki and his ‘stupid idea’ of leaving Rollo behind in Paris. Which, let’s all agree here–was a stupid idea. Rollo, every time he’s left behind somewhere, ends up being swayed to betray his brother in one way or fashion, and this time it is no different. Speaking of Rollo, though…
…Paris! City of lights, and of horrible arranged marriages for my new favorite character, Princess Gilsa. Her intelligence, sheer force of will and bravery are the most refreshing things to come out of S3, and I will be so happy to see more of her. At the end of Season 3, if you don’t recall, she vowed that she would never marry Rollo. It doesn’t seem that she is getting any choice in that matter, but it doesn’t mean she’s going quietly. While she spends most of the wedding and bedding ceremony in tears, they aren’t the tears of someone who is afraid–they are those of someone who is angry and frustrated at their situation–who knows they have no choice, no allies, and no way out. She isn’t allowed to voice her objection, so instead the tears come–something I certainly have experienced. Emotion has to find an outlet somehow, and ‘angry tears’ are definitely a thing, especially when you can’t express yourself in any other way. Contrast this with Rollo, who clearly still has a very poor understanding of French. The longer the ceremony goes on, especially the bedding ceremony, he becomes more and more disturbed, and eventually demands that everyone leave, so that he and Gilsa can be alone.
This is where I was actually nervous, as a viewer. Despite his relationship with Siggy, Rollo doesn’t have a very good track record with treating women with any sort of respect–we’ve seen him rape slaves before, and bedding his wife is part of the rights of a husband in this culture, especially on the wedding night. I wasn’t looking forward to seeing a sexual assault, but at the same time, I was highly prepared for it. So when he approached Gilsa, and she pulled a knife on him, I couldn’t help but whisper ‘good girl’ at the screen. The amount of vitriol and utter fire that woman has is amazing. She may not be a viking, but she certainly knows how to put up a fight–and was ready to make things difficult for him. I actually think that act was what made Rollo change his mind. Instead of claiming his right to bedding, he instead decided that sleeping was a better option and, even as Gilsa continued to yell at how much she wished him dead, simply fell asleep. The rest of the episode implies that he has yet to bed her, as well. It makes me pretty damn hopeful for their relationship, despite the unwilling start of it.
Back to Kalf and Lagertha in Hedeby. As a side note, I’m worried about the expansion of storylines here. While this episode takes place in three locations, if we expand back to England, we’re going to be pushing it into four (and possibly more, later). Genuinely, the show is strongest when the focus is on one or two locations–too many may stretch the plot too far. Time will tell.
However, back to the Hedeby situation. Before his township, Kalf states that perhaps he has made a mistake in making Lagertha joint-Earl, and that if the majority of the people disagree with his decision, he will banish her to ‘wander where she may’. Lagertha looks stunned, but given how shrewd of a politician Kalf has proven to be, I have no doubt he has something up his sleeve. He requests that each person who wishes to see Lagertha removed step forward and mark a pole in the middle of a clearing with a notch to signify their stance. And just as I thought, Kalf was totally kidding about banishing Lagertha. No, anyone who marked that pole just marked their own death sentence, as he calls on archers, including Erlendur (an interesting plot twist right there!) to kill them all. Einer finds himself shot through the throat and pinned to the pole, just barely holding onto his life. Lagertha, clearly moved by Kalf’s show of loyalty to her, moves foward to take care of the bastard herself. And since Einer has always coveted Lagertha as property, she removes his favorite property–she castrates him, leaving him to bleed out. A proper end to someone who clearly couldn’t get over being rejected by a woman.
Back in Paris we have an incredibly bored Rollo. To compound matters, a messenger arrives from the Viking encampment outside of Paris by way of Erik, one of Rollo’s friends. While happy to see Rollo, he comes bearing bad news: now that Rollo is a French Noble and a Christian, the others want nothing to do with him, and also have no desire to fight against Ragnar. Over half the warriors in the camp are against him, and request that he come to the camp to discuss matters. Erik states that he came to warn him, and despite his reservations, Rollo agrees to go to the camp. For some reason I don’t think this will be going well.
In Kattegat, Ragnar continues to focus on the slave (yes she has dark hair, Rangar. But she doesn’t really look like Athelstan–also, staring is creepy. Stop it). Pulling him away from his creeping is Bjorn, who states that he is leaving to wander the wilds, in an attempt to show that he can survive on his own. In typical fashion, Ragnar calls him a fool, states that he doesn’t believe he can survive, yet hopes he proves him wrong. This is the best thing for Bjorn, in the end–the farther he gets away from Ragnar, the better.
Then in one of my favorite scenes of the episode, Ragnar goes to talk to Floki, and tells him to stop hiding behind the Gods and tell the truth–that he killed Athelstan out of jealousy. Floki denies this, but seems shaken by the accusation, and loses some of his fire. The accusation is true, no matter how much Floki tries to deny it. It’s clear that while Athelstan may be gone, his presence will continue to be felt by the living–which makes me immensely glad, as Ragnar and Athelstan’s friendship was one of my favorite things, and I will sorely miss it.
Finally, back to Paris for our last scene of the episode. Rollo goes to the Viking camp, but he didn’t come alone. As suspected, he hasn’t come to talk. Instead, he slaughters everyone for even daring to speak up against him, and with his dying breaths, Erik screams, ‘Ragnar will avenge us! Ragnar is coming!’
All the while, Rollo is silent, never saying a word.
The lines have been drawn, that much is clear, with the pieces slowly moving against Ragnar in more ways than I think he can fully comprehend–and this is only the first episode. Overall, it was an excellent start to the season–and with the extended episode order, I’m incredibly excited to see what will happen.