Vikings S4E8 Review: “Portage”

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“Portage”
Warnings: Spoilers

Hey guys, we’re back from Emerald City Comic Con, and here with a (late) Vikings review, getting you ready for episode 9 on Thursday!

Like I’ve done in a couple reviews before, we’re going to break this down by geographic area. This episode bounced around quite a bit, so I want to try and center things around the major plot pieces. I’ll be saving France and Paris, our largest and most major areas for last (and really, that’s what you guys care about right now, I know.)

 

Kattegat

Very little happened back in the vikings’ home port. That isn’t to say the little that did didn’t have significant import. Everyone seems to be having a grand ole time with Harbard, but Sigurd continues to look miserable. Which hey–I can’t blame him. Harbard is not making things easy for him, and after Sigurd storms off, Harbard claims that the young boy has the wrong idea, but that he loves everyone. The key word here, really, though, is everyone. Which isn’t something Aslaug is every happy about, it seems. That’s confirmed when Sigurd takes his mother to where Harbard is having sex with two other women, and surprisingly, Aslaug didn’t know that the man was sleeping with half the village? Given the scene where he was communing with all the women, kissing, touching, and caressing them…I find that really surprising, but maybe she was just being willfully ignorant.

Aslaug goes on a fit of destruction and Harbard tries to reason with her, basically telling her that he sleeps with other women because he needs them, but he doesn’t love them like he loves her. Please. Spare me. I understand that he’s supposed to symbolize a demigod, or a man so in touch with the gods, but the healing-cock trope is just overplayed. Women don’t need men to have sex with them to heal them. Lagertha is a lovely example of that. Aslaug doesn’t believe Harbard, and after he says that she can’t try to possess him (and that he’s selfless for having all this ‘healing sex’ –I can’t roll my eyes any harder), he leaves. Hopefully never to return? I realize Aslaug is going to be left bereft because of this, but she has always sought out men to solve her problems–she needs to find strength in herself.

 

Wessex

Everything in Wessex centers around the fallout from Ecbert’s talk with Wigston, and his triumph over the small council in Mercia. Upon his return, Queen Kwenthrith is ecstatic, but we all know she shouldn’t be. Every answer that Ecbert gives to her is non-committal towards her renewed ruling over Mercia, and he simply checks on Judith instead, inquiring about Aethewulf, about whom no word has been heard.

Later on, Kwenthrith visits Ecbert alone and announces that she is pregnant with Aethewulf’s child. Ecbert, despite seemingly taken aback by the news, announces that she will not be Queen any longer. I have made it clear that I’ve never truly warmed to Kwenthrith, but her pure dejection and devastation over losing her crown is heartfelt. Men have controlled her her entire life, and again another man has outmaneuvered her, leaving her at his mercy once more.

In a sad misstep, Kwenthrith goes to Judith, confessing that she is both pregnant, and that Ecbert has taken her crown. She begs Judith to help her escape, and Judith agrees. I believe it’s a lie but it’s clear that the lie sits uneasily with Judith. This isn’t in her nature. She directly goes to Ecbert to confront him with what Kwenthrith told her and he admits to it without blinking and simply asks for her forgiveness because he loves her. I genuinely believe it, too. But that doesn’t change the horrible position Judith finds herself in.

While she has found her spine as of late, how can Judith not relate to Kwenthrith’s desire to escape a man who seeks to possess and subjugate her?  But in the end, she betrays Kwenthrith all the same, who is caught while trying to exit the castle.

In desperation, Kwenthrith kills a guard in the dead of night and secrets herself into Ecbert’s chamber, putting a knife to his throat. It’s clear she has no real true plan, but is simply just so hurt and has no options left. “I should have been born a man,” she tells Ecbert, and in this time and place, I can’t help but agree with her–even Lagertha, our strongest female, faces barriers that no man would have to face. And in no real surprise, Judith was in the bedroom as well, hiding, and stabs Kwenthrith from behind, killing her. It’s a true turn for Judith, who seems shocked and saddened by what she has done–because she has not only killed her friend, but an unborn child, as well.

While Ecbert is grateful, Judith simply drops the knife, and with blood dripping from her hands reminiscent of Lady MacBeth, she simply stares at her lover and says, “Look at what you made me do.”

Same, Judith. Same.

Paris

 

Back in Paris, Odo and the Emperor Charles speak. Odo finally makes his play against Rollo, and says that he cannot be trusted and needs to be taken down, as he is no longer of use to them–and surprisingly, Roland agrees. Charles seems to take their ideas into consideration, hoping that Gilsa will simply ‘get over’ Rollo (fat chance). I have no doubt this is part of Roland’s plan, but we’ll see. Everything in Paris is about intrigue and playing ‘the game,’ and Odo is clearly so bad at it, he’s going to pay. Terribly.

At a later dinner, Rollo and Gilsa seem to sense that the Emperor is already planning something, and quickly cut him off at the pass, both explaining that, 1) Ragnar will be back–he isn’t fully defeated, and 2) Gilsa is pregnant. The latter makes me so happy. Rollo and Gilsa seem genuinely happy, and we haven’t had a couple so happy on the show in some time. I really hope it lasts.

On a more nefarious note, Roland and Therese finally snap their trap around Odo. Therese manages to get Odo tied up in their little whipping game, but instead of her whipping him, Roland is there to do the whipping. And in another reveal…I guess I wasn’t wrong about the whole incest thing. Suprise! It is a big surprise to Odo, too…but he doesn’t really get any time to process it, as he’s whipped to death by Roland, as Therese watches on, enjoying herself immensely as she’s splattered with blood. These are the two people who Gilsa and Rollo are truly going to have to watch out for. And I love it.

So basically, Rollo is given Odo’s metal hand… (Apparently it’s a symbol? I had no idea) and told that he’s now the protector of Paris and France.

 

France

In greater France, we have the vikings moving downriver. King Harald and Halfdan openly state to Lagertha that someone is always responsible for failure, and that they were deceived by the stories of Ragnar. She, in turn, warns them never to talk about Ragnar like that in her presence. She may not be with him any longer, but there is still deep abiding feeling between them, it seems. Her words are strong, but Lagertha is near tears, looking over at Ragnar who is a mess. Meanwhile, Bjorn simply looks disgusted with him. Same, Bjorn.

Ragnar, for his part, is being incredibly inscrutable. He demands that everyone camp on the bank of a cliff face, and start to prepare to raise their boats up the cliffs. To what end, you might ask? Well, they are going to walk/roll the boats over hill and dale…and put them back in the river past the towers. It’s a brilliant plan, in theory–but an insane amount of work. Amazingly enough, that is what happened historically. Seriously guys–look it up. This plan is based on the true history of the viking’s attack on Paris. Harald and Halfdan seem to be impressed with the plan, but like Roland and Therese in Paris, I believe these two are going to be the true counterpoints to Ragnar and Lagertha. The ones to start causing true trouble.

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The boats seem to be raised without much trouble, with Floki leading the effort. Bjorn is doing his own part as well, and despite Tovi having a vision of Erlandur killing Bjorn…nothing happens. Again, I’ve expressed that I feel this Erlandur versus Bjorn plotline has dragged on too long. As we go towards the midseason finale, I can only hope that it’s wrapped up by then.

As they prepare the boats towards their roll into the woods, Floki goes to check on Helga, who has seemingly recovered. I’m surprised by that (as she seemed to have been in a coma last time we saw her), but I am happy to see her well. She looks sad, but tells Floki to leave, as she will be fine.

And here comes the biggest moment of the episode. Ragnar goes to see Yidu, tells her she will not be going with him, and demands the rest of the medicine from her. He’s been reduced to an addict, and it’s pathetic. Yidu is insulted that she can’t go with him and calls Ragnar a liar–and in the worst mistake of her life, mentions that she knows his big secret: that the entire Wessex settlement is dead.

 

He drowns her. He drags her into the water, drowns her, and then steals the rest of the medicine off her body as his sons look on.

 

I’m going to be honest. I have never really liked Yidu. Her character bordered on an asian stereotype, and we were told to care about her, more than actually allowed to care about her. This death doesn’t have the same sort of emotional weight that Athelstan’s death carried, or even Kwenthrith’s. But still, it seems almost too much, too quick–and leads me to believe that Yidu’s death is only to serve as a setpiece to Ragnar’s spiral. She’s being used as a prop. Which is not something this show usually does, and I’m a bit…uncomfortable with it.

I feel in some ways this is an event horizon for Ragnar, and I’m not sure how he will come back from this. I trust this show, but there will have to be some sort of fallout in the next episodes to make Yidu’s death worth it, in my eyes.

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