This episode, save for one scene, takes place in two different locations, so like many of my reviews, we’ll go by locations, shall we? After last week’s shocking death, I felt this episode was a bit slower, but was necessary to set up the new pieces on the board now that Ragnar is gone.
So let’s get to it!
As I said before, there is one simple scene in Essex at the beginning of the episode, to show that Aethelwulf is more than a bit upset over his family situation (hey, I would be too if my wife was screwing my dad and my son wasn’t mine). Aethelwulf is also highly concerned about Ragnar’s sons showing up to seek revenge–as he should be. Sadly, Ecbert really thinks that Ragnar held up his end of the deal…it’s going to be a sad awakening on that. He does, however, tell Aethelwulf to start forming an army to prepare while he, well, teaches Alfred things. Gee, Ecbert, you really should treat your son better, or that is going to come and haunt you, too.
In Kattegat, people are still unsure if Ragnar is truly dead. For Lagertha it’s clear that she doesn’t want to believe it, more than actually believing it not to be true. However, she is determined to rule as Queen in his stead, even knowing how much he hated doing so, because that is what the people need from her. Astrid tries to help Lagertha think through all of this, and I genuinely like her character, but I wish we knew more. Why is she so devoted to Lagertha? Where does she come from? I feel the answers to those questions isn’t too much to ask, but sadly I don’t know if we will get them.
Meanwhile, Ubbe and Sigurd swim under the watch of shieldmaidens, and try to plot a way to take out our beloved Queen. They decide to play the long game and wait, but worry that Lagertha will kill them with Ragnar gone. They also seem much more concerned about Ivar. Which makes sense, given his emotional issues right now.
Speaking of ‘emotional issues’, Ivar sits alone on a hilltop, screaming his guts out as he cries. Genuinely, while I haven’t been very warm to this character, his grief towards the loss of his parents and his sheer feelings of helplessness help to humanize him. While he has gone through a great deal in the last few episodes, it has only helped me like him more.
Meanwhile, in the great hall, Lagertha enters with Torvi and Astrid to thunderous applause. I’m so glad to see the people respect and like her. One interesting thing to note–her throne area is set up so when she sits and/or stands, she looks like she has wooden-spiked wings, like a Valkyrie. It’s an awesome visual, and one I think is very telling to her story. Ivar of course has to rain on the parade, and while he doesn’t gain the duel with Lagertha he wished for, he does declare that he will kill her for killing his mother. While he is all frustration and anger, Lagertha has only acceptance and sadness. It’s a great contrast, and I feel it is a foretelling for the future.
Later, while in bed, Lagertha and Astrid discuss the situation, and while the younger woman pledges herself to protect her lover, Lagertha brushes away the offer, saying that if Aslaug’s sons wish to kill her, they will. It’s sad, really–to me it seems that it is an uneven relationship, with Astrid caring more for Lagertha. Lagertha, for her part, is caught up in the ghost of Ragnar, who ends up visiting her at night. It’s a vague scene, but one that touches her deeply. It’s clear from many aspects, that Lagertha simply doesn’t want to be forgotten.
She goes to see the Seer, who tells her after some hesitation that Aslaug’s sons will kill her, at some point. She hasn’t escaped a fate yet, so let me say now: I will be heartbroken to see Lagertha go.
Some side notes, that barely need mentioning: Ivar is working in the forge on something, Ubbe is still infatuated with Margurette, and is working on arrows.
Also, the AllFather comes to visit them and inform all the sons that Ragnar is indeed dead, as a storm rolls in. Forgive me, but the man with one eye looks highly familiar, but I can’t place him. I don’t believe we have seen him since season 2.
So we are back with Bjorn and crew, who, before reaching Spain, are lost in the fog. This sets up some of the emotional points that we will see through this plot line–Floki feels lost at his very core, Helga wants a child (Floki doesn’t), and Halfdan and Halbert wonder if they should kill Bjorn now, or wait–wanting to rule all of Norway, in time. Also, interestingly enough–Rollo knows about the Moors, and their religion; that makes sense, after some thought, as France is next to Spain.
Once the Vikings land, it’s chaos–again we see the brutality that the Vikings can bring against unsuspecting people, but there are some very interesting highlights, as well. Floki seems to find some solace in the Muslim call to prayer, and is drawn to a Mosque. It’s beautiful and reverent, and I really wonder what it means for him, as a character. While he does this, Helga struggles to find a purpose–and finds it in trying to save a child whose mother is killed by the (always brutal) brothers Halfdan and Halbert.
When the others find Floki in the Mosque, they are confused by the lack of God-figures in the temple, and, in typical fashion, kill the Imam. Another man takes his place to continue the prayer and Floki, in an amazing move, demands that no one harm any of the worshipers. I have a feeling this will bite him in the ass, later–but it was a beautiful gesture, and one that works.
Meanwhile, Bjorn and the rest of the men find a harem–and proceed to enslave the women, and possibly (it isn’t overly clear) rape the women off screen. While I dislike scenes like this, it isn’t untrue to history, and I thank the History Channel for not showing it–because we don’t need to see rape on screen anymore than we already do. Helga, for her part, does manage to find the young orphan girl, and despite Floki’s protests, is determined to take the girl with them–as she is the age of their dead daughter.
Note: Bjorn keeps making eye contact with one of the girls in the harem, and I really hope he doesn’t end up like his father and cheat on Torvi with her. I would like one male figure who is relatively ‘good’.
The show cuts soon after to Bjorn and Hvitserk overlooking the Mediterranean, relishing that they finally made it. However a murder of crows appear, as does AllFather–both sons quickly realize their father is dead.
Overall, I enjoyed this episode, even if it was overly plot heavy. While there are some things I find distasteful, I don’t think we are meant to enjoy them. Vikings weren’t always a pure or noble people–we have to take the good with the bad. I feel with this back half of season 4, the show has found its footing again, and I am so happy for it.