The title of this episode seems to refer not just to the wounded and suffering Torstein, but also Porunn and, by extension, Bjorn. The battle that decides their fates was marvelously executed and filmed, which means it was horrible if you don’t like the violence. It certainly did an excellent job of portraying just how devastating bowmen could be, in case you had any doubts.
For my money, though, it was the post battle interplay between the various characters that was really intriguing. Kwenthrith seems awfully tight with the brother who she wants us to believe raped her. (Their interplay suggests that she could devour him for lunch.) Ragnar and Floki are at odds over the Mercians, the Anglo-Saxons and the Christian God. Rollo and Ragnar play good cop/bad cop with Bjorn in brief counseling sessions, and we’re reminded that Bjorn has a bond with his uncle Rollo that is quite different from the relationship he has with his father.
And so it goes: battles, blood, blame and belly-aching. Just another day in the life of a Viking.
Meanwhile, down in Wessex, Ecbert the Awesome is facing down detractors and cozying up to Lagertha.
He gives her a plow and she looks suitably overwhelmed – even more impressed than when he gave her that lovely necklace last episode, which she’s wearing. It’s what he says to her when she’s unwrapped the plow, though, that has me raising my eyebrows and gets my vote for this week’s best line:
Plowing and sowing seed are the very basis of life, he says, with an eloquently ardent, royal gaze.
Soon he’s playing realtor again, showing off his Roman bath with its portraits of frolicking gods and goddesses. We know what this is leading up to. We’ve seen the preview. Passion will blossom a few scenes later. For now, though, Lagertha opines that the gods are as real as you and me, and it’s the perfect segue to take us back to Kattegat and the mysterious wanderer, Harbard.
Harbard, in one of the sagas, is the name that Odin calls himself when he’s in disguise. And certainly this character appears to have a god’s healing gifts. He calms and soothes the fretful Ivarr (who is absolutely adorable and will, alas, grow up to become a fierce viking warrior) and so wins Aslaug’s favor. Harbard claims that he’s a skald, which makes some sense because skalds did wander about – entertaining in the jarls’ halls and carrying messages and news.
But there are some strange events that take place while Harbard is in Kattegat – events that cannot be easily explained. This was a society that saw the mystical in anything that was inexplicable, and so everyone is wondering about Harbard, including me. Siggi doesn’t trust him. She consults the spamaðr, but he is not the least bit comforting. His words, filled with portent, end the episode and make us shudder:
No one can help you.