Murder Most Foul
Another week, another episode! We spend most of our time in Wessex in this episode, which makes sense given the amount of players, right now–though there are some interesting developments in Kattegat, as well. I’ll be honest, I’ll only be mentioning Iceland at the end of this review, and in passing. I don’t want to belabor any point, but given how we spend barely any time in that location in any episode, it seems the writers care about Floki’s group as much as I do–not much at all.
So with that, let’s jump right into Wessex, and what’s in store for all our Norse caught up with the Englishmen.
We start immediately where we left off last week; the vikings are led off to a cell as Heahmund is taken to speak with Aethelfred and Alfred, while Judith watches on. It’s clear that both brothers fear Heahmund might have turned pagan while he spent time with the Vikings to survive. While I understand why Aethelfred has some animosity against the idea, given who Alfred’s father was (and his history–which he knows well), the idea that Heahmund might have turned pagan to survive shouldn’t be that hard to swallow. Still, Heamund insists that he stayed true to Christ–and in his own mind, perhaps he has. Still, he has a less than Christ-like reaction to finding out that Lord Cuthred was given his Bishopship in his absence, and due to the current situation in Wessex, can’t have it back.
As an aside–Jonathan Rhys Meyers is really struggling in this role in a lot of ways, I think. He seems to have only one mode–which is to speak with the same monotone voice and look slightly bug-eyed throughout. I know he’s gone through a lot of struggles in the past few years, and it seems his acting has suffered due to it. He’s always the weakest link in any scene he’s in on the show, despite how I might actually like the concept of the character.
In the cell, Ubbe and Bjorn both think they have been betrayed, while Lagertha stays true to Heahmund. Bjorn, true to form, has a snide comment for his mother–and Torvi steps in to snap back. I appreciate that she is still bitter about their marriage breaking up, and is willing to call out Bjorn on his hypocrisy.
Once the Vikings are brought before Alfred, he states that he was honest about granting them safe passage, but due to the situation in his own country, he can’t guarantee them land unless they pledge themselves to him. His own situation is too precarious. However, he will provide them everything he has access to: the villa, servants, kitchens–all are theirs for the taking, if they so choose. Of course, this is in front of quite a few of his advisers, who are less than pleased over the situation.
Some of the advisors are apparently so displeased they are talking about a coup; we don’t hear much rumblings of it in this episode, but Cuthred makes it clear that the Church wants to keep Alfred from making any changes, and expresses that to Heahmund, setting things up for a showdown.
Adding to the dangers in Wessex is Lagertha and Heahmund’s relationship. While it’s clear both of them want to continue it, sneaking around isn’t that easy, and spies are everywhere (spies that definitely see them shacking up). I don’t know if they should be more careful, or that it’s super convenient that the Church thinks Heahmund turned pagan for Lagertha specifically (hence they see the couple ‘in flagrante’). Nothing good is going to come of this, and I have a feeling Lagertha is going to be the one who pays for it in the end.
Speaking of interesting relationships, Judith brings in her neice, Princess Elsewith, to meet and eventually wed Alfred. [Note: Historically Elsewith shouldn’t be Judith’s neice, nor a Princess, but I’ve long given up with true history on this show]. Which will work I suppose–both she and Alfred are honest about not knowing what they want. One issue, however, is Elsewith’s interest in the Vikings, Bjorn especially. And of course, Bjorn being the ridiculous hornball he is, definitely indulges in kissing the woman–and I’m sure he’ll bed her eventually, which will lead to issues.
For all his youth, I still really like Alfred; while I understand why the Vikings are frustrated with him, he is in a difficult position–he explains that his father Eckbert played them before his death, but he will honor the contract to provide them lands once he is more secure in his position. Ubbe is understandably wary, but is willing to provide Alfred some ammunition against his enemies–he and Torvi will become Christians. That will help prove that they mean the people in Wessex no harm, and could smooth the path towards them getting their rightful lands.
As you may have noticed, this episode is called ‘A Murder Most Foul’ so we have our first of our two murders this episode, where Cuthbert plays his hand against Heahmund–he says he knows everything about what he and Lagertha are doing, and he’ll tell the king. Of course, that’s the most idiotic thing he could have done, because Heahmund, again, not being really good at this ‘Christ-like’ thing… murders the crap out of Cuthbert. Of course, he does it in the name of protecting the king, but really.
Marriages seem to be a theme in this episode, as Ivar has decided to marry Freydis, the slave he freed at the beginning of the season. She’s a conniver who is either hungry for power, or is genuinely swayed by the cult of Ivar–either way, their match is not going to be good for anyone. Harald knows it, and definitely makes his feelings known to Hitsvek and Margrethe. They assure Harald that since Ivar can’t have children (“He’s boneless”), they don’t need to worry about any bloodline being carried forward.
I wouldn’t be so confident, however. Freydis is determined that she will be able to give Ivar a child, as he’s a God. Of course, her method of ensuring her pregnancy is to shack up with one of the slaves. In a dream sequence we see her proclaiming that she’s having Ivar’s child, only to stab him, and turn into Margrethe.
Of course, this causes Ivar to believe he’s had a sort of vision, and that Margrethe needs to be killed. I don’t disagree that she can be a danger–but only when not watched. It seems she’s being well controlled now by Hitsvek, and isn’t in danger of harming anyone.
Hitsvek has her locked up in a small cabin, away from everyone. I have to commend Ida Marie Nielsen’s handling of Margrethe in this sequence; for a character I’ve never liked, there is something so genuinely heartbreaking and sad about her ravings. It’s almost Ophelia-like in how she mutters and begs for someone to listen to her.
Of course, for all his sympathy towards her, Hitsvek doesn’t listen to her, and when he leaves her alone, assassins come and commit the second ‘murder most foul’ of the episode. Ivar has two men stab her repeatedly, even as she begs for them to stop, promising she’ll be good from now on.
Despite all the horrible things she did last season, I felt truly sorry for Margrethe. No one deserves to have to die like that, especially when they were that mentally ill.
Overall this episode was a good one. Again, the Iceland plot didn’t go anywhere–Floki is still upset and worried he didn’t actually see the Gods now, and tensions are still running high around everyone in the settlement. So basically, that plot is spinning its wheels–there is no point for us to be shown that plotline until they actually decide to do something with it. Time would be better spent with the Wessex and Kattegat plots, where things are moving along at a good pace.