As some of you remember from past season reviews, due to the way that the show breaks up characters by geography, I often break down reviews by that as well–this is one of those reviews. The bulk of our review takes place in England, so I’ll be focusing on the characters still there.
We start the episode with Ivar speaking to a slave who he is thinking of sacrificing. He asks her to strip, to kiss him–it’s a scene that could be incredibly disgusting, but the pure vulnerability that Ivar shows underlies the hurt boy that exists under all his bravado. He truly just wants people to care about him. This slave girl says that she believes his deformities make him favored by the Gods–it’s an interesting take on it, and one that I don’t think we’ve heard before. Touched by her words, he sets her free–not just free from sacrifice, but free completely–she is a free woman now. It is truly interesting to see how they are trying to soften Ivar in the first two episodes this season, after spending so much time last season making him wild and hard. When your lead has to be sympathetic, you have to repair some characteristics, I suppose.
Upon word that the walls of York are undefended, the Saxons break through, with little trouble. Not only do Aethelwulf and Bishop Heahmund go to fight, but Alfred and Aethelred go, as well. Given that neither of these young men have seen any fighting, and are the heirs to the throne–I find this highly suspect, but I suppose we aren’t supposed to question this.
Of course, letting the Saxons into York so easily is a trap, and once the men are spread thin, the Vikings attack, with Ivar watching from on high. There are traps, pitch and fire…spikes–just a lot of nasty things that make things hell for the English. Alfred has to be saved by Aethelwulf, as does Aethelred (too many A names, Brits. Find other names for your children!).
While Ubbe and Hvitserk seem to be enjoying themselves, Ivar seems frustrated he can’t fight–and so he eventually brings himself out with his chariot, only to be thrown off quickly. He ends up pinned against it, but is defiant. The Saxons come upon him, but his screaming scares them off long enough for other Vikings to arrive, and a giant fight ensues. It’s a well choreographed fight in the rain; the music swells, and Bishop Heahmund seems defiant even in the face of defeat, realizing he’s been bested by these ‘heathens’. The show truly shines in moments like these, where characterization development can happen, even on the battlefield.
The Saxons retreat, leaving the Vikings triumphant. Ubbe feels that this would be the best time to press their chance for peace, to settle down and take their land–however Ivar thinks that is foolish, and they should continue to fight. I’ve made no secret of my fondness of Ubbe; I know that he can’t win in this fight, but I still feel bad for him–he’s trying to be a good person, and that just doesn’t work in the world of Vikings.
In scenes that make me incredibly frustrated for the characters, Ubbe decides to go behind Ivar’s back and take Hvitserk to the Saxons and try to broker peace. It could have worked, really–Alfred seems interested in it. Aethelwulf and Heahmund however, aren’t, and humiliate the boys, sending them back after a beating. Ivar of course laughs in their faces, and leaves them powerless and humiliated.
Of course, Ubbe has no other choice but to decide to go back to Kattegat with whatever men will go with him–which are very few…including Hvitserk. Ivar is taunting him the entire way, like a small child lashing out at someone rather than let himself get hurt, first. I understand why Ubbe needs to leave; but I truly wonder what place he has in this world, when he just wants peace. It’s going to be interesting to see what he does next, when he reaches Lagertha.
Gulf of Cadiz
We only get to see a brief scene of Halfdan and Bjorn, where they each admit they have something to prove, and Halfdan says he would like to live his life with the greatest intensity–whatever he may be doing. They are also advised to get rid of most of their raiders–to send them home, and appear as traders when they arrive in the new land. As their guide says, “better to be naked, than be dead.” So Bjorn will be sending men back, Ubbe and his men are going back…it should be interesting to see what all that means.
Harald throws a feast in celebration for returning triumphant. He presents Astrid as his future queen, and genuinely, despite being kidnapped, I think it would be hard to turn down. She still continues to, even while playing the game in some ways. He surprisingly doesn’t try to force himself on her, even after she spurns his advances. I do think she will eventually give in and fully turn against Lagertha by the end of this.
And what is Floki doing? Well, just wandering. He hallucinates a few women, and thinks he is meant to die here, but then is miraculously saved. What these women stand for, I’m not sure of just yet–and I don’t think he knows yet, either. Given their ability to turn into dust and ravens, I’m quite certain they aren’t real…but what they portend…well. That’s for later episodes to tell us.