Season 4 Episode 3
After such a strong episode last week, I honestly felt this episode was just a bit weak. That isn’t to say it wasn’t still a good episode, but with such a strong showing last week, it isn’t surprising that the show couldn’t sustain the height. In general, this episode was more about moving the chess pieces around the board for future movements, than actual plot progression. Also, strangely it takes place during Christmas. Which, I suppose isn’t that strange, but it is March right now, and I’m honestly not used to shows having Christmas episodes outside of the holiday season. We did finally learn the name of one character, though, and meet another! So there’s that!
So let’s get started in Kattegat, with Ragnar taking a bath and giving a nice speech about how he can’t stop thinking about how death surrounds him, yet eludes him personally. The new slave listens, and explains that in her country one must have a life worth living before a person can even consider death. Ragnar looks intrigued and states, “I’m torn between killing myself and everyone around me,” and she counters that, as a slave, she feels the same. We finally learn her name, as well–Yidu. The scene ends with the reveal that Aslaug has been watching this entire conversation from the shadows like a creep. Lovely.
In Wessex, Judith’s father King Aelle is in town for Advent, and everyone (Ecbert, Aethelwulf, Kwenthrith, Judith and Aelle) sit around a table looking incredibly awkward. Kwenthrith announces that she fully expects that everyone will help her to invade Mercia (again) and gain her throne (again), like she wasn’t a pathetic ruler who couldn’t control her land for more than two seconds. King Aelle is understandably annoyed at this situation, but probably does the wrong thing and threatens Kwenthrith and Ragnar’s child in the process of telling her off. He’s apparently forgotten that this woman isn’t above poisoning and hacking people to death when she feels threatened.
Later on we visit Wessex to see King Aelle yet again being a dickbag, this time calling Judith out–he calls her a bad wife, a bad mother, and a horrible example of womanhood. And Judith, in a true testiment to how far she’s come over the course of the show, holds her head up high and simply says that no matter what weight she carries on her shoulders, she is a free woman, and that is all that matters. So fuck you, Dad. I was so proud of her, in that moment–she’s truly coming into her own, and I truly can’t wait to see what she does in the rest of the season.
Back in Kattegat the Yule festival is starting. It physically pains me to see Helga watching all the happy children celebrating around her–she has been through entirely too much. Show, give her a break, please. After the Yule log is presented to Ragnar, he attempts to bond with Ivar, with…mixed results. He accuses Aslaug of coddling him and refusing to treat him like all the other children–if he is treated like there is something wrong with him, he will always be ostracised from the others. Aslaug counters that he is different, and will always be disabled, and will never be like Rangar. It’s a tense scene and again, just reiterates the deep breach between the parents.
Meanwhile, Floki goes to see the Seer and in a very strange turn of events, it appears that Floki will become the new Seer once this one dies. …Floki seems happy with the turn of events. I’m not. The idea of Floki as the Seer is like putting the fox in charge of the hen house at this point. Nothing good can come of it.
Let’s head over to my favorite storyline now, shall we? France! During their Christmas celebration, a Cardinal shows up, all the way from Rome, with papers of annulment for Rollo and Gisla’s wedding. Since the wedding wasn’t consummated, well…it doesn’t exist, right? Rollo is incredibly upset, and–surprise! has learned french faster than anyone alive, and makes a passionate plea to Gisla–basically saying that she’s his destiny, and he will defend Paris to the death, just like she would do. Gisla, understandably, is in shock (I would be too if my husband goes from gibberish to fluent in ??? days), and demands everyone leave the room. They have a heartfelt discussion, and again I’m reminded why I find their dynamic to be one of the best on the show. There is such chemistry between the two actors, and I really find myself wanting more scenes between the two of them.
And and and–we got what I’ve been waiting for….the two of them finally consummate! In what is probably the most loving and steamiest sex scene on the show, Gisla and Rollo finally have sex, and make their marriage complete. They are truly a partnership, now, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.
But back to Kattegat, where Aslaug claims that she won’t be jealous if Ragnar and Yidu bang. Rangar doesn’t seem that interested, but let’s be honest. He isn’t that interested in being with Aslaug at this point, and is very interested in Yidu as a person. It’s only a matter of time. Yidu explains that she became a slave after her family was captured by pirates, and in a nice reverse of the trope, she rejects Ragnar’s assumption that she had been raped by her slavers, but instead informs him that they didn’t dare rape her. However, she doesn’t provide more information. I hope we get more explanation about this, because really…I don’t get it. I guess it’s to make her more mysterious? I will say Yidu comes off as incredibly sympathetic, and it’s all a credit to her actress, Dianne Doan.
Ragnar also leads Yidu to a cabin in some secluded part of the forest, where he says no one else has been besides him, until now. It reminds me greatly of the home that he used to share with Lagertha–I guess he wishes for a simpler time, but it also seems like a plot convenience™. He informs her that she is no longer a slave, and she can come and go as she pleases. All of this seems incredibly sudden. Perhaps it’s supposed to mirror what happened with Athelstan, but in many ways it feels hollow to me. We’ll see.
But hey, you know who we haven’t checked on? Bjorn! After packing up all his belongings (including that Europe map he was seen with in episode 1), he heads out, back to civilization. As predicted, the Berserker attacks; this show does fight scenes incredibly well, and this one is no different. Of course Bjorn wins the fight, and Erlendur’s ring in the process. He isn’t quite sure whose ring it is (despite the disemboweling, the Berserker refuses to talk), but again, it sets things up for later.
And you know what, let’s head over to Hedeby, now. Bjorn strides through the door, where Bjorn and Erlendur both look incredibly surprised and Lagertha looks happy (of course). Bjorn announces that he only returned to see his mother, and to take Tovi (Erlendur’s wife) back to Kattegat with him.
If you don’t remember, he had an affair with her back in season 3. Erlendur throws a fit and refuses to let Tovi’s child go with her, but after Lagertha promises to look after the boy, Tovi decides to take a chance and go with Bjorn. Again–it’s all about setting up pieces on the chess board, and I feel more could have been done. As it is… well,it’s a conflict that will be taken care of later.
Back in Kattegat, Aslaug takes Ivar to Helga and Floki, and implores Floki to teach the child the ‘deep and ancient ways’ of the Viking and to hate the Christian God. So… basically Aslaug is taking one of Ragnar’s kids and turning him against his father. Cool beans, Aslaug. Glad to know you’re really losing it. Back with Yidu and Ragnar, Yidu feeds Ragnar some ancient herbal Chinese medicine (really show??) and Ragnar has basically the weirdest, trippiest high of his life. It’s like a fugue state. Both of them almost kiss but then it cuts to–
Paris, where… well, nothing really happens, except Rollo and Gisla have sex loudly in a store room. Loudly enough that everyone can hear, and it’s hilarious. Bless them, I’m so glad they’re happy. Someone really should be.
Our last scene takes place in Kattegat again, where a newcomer shows up during the winter celebration–a mysterious King who claims that because a woman rejected him (lol) he wants to become King of all Norway. Which, of course would mean overthrowing Ragnar. …duhduhduhhhnnnn.
Again, this episode was just a bit uneven. I loved the stuff in Paris, but most of it simply felt like they needed to put things in place for later plotlines. I know that things will get better in later episodes, but out of the four we’ve had so far this season, I felt this one was the weakest.