This episode is an increasingly dark, doom-laden build-up toward the battle that is looming between, essentially, the sons of Ragnar. But I want to talk about that later. First, let’s look at the other three elements in this episode (it was a COMPLICATED episode!): Family Matters; The Iceland Settlement; and Philosophy.
Bjorn is back in Kattegat, and he confesses that he doesn’t love his wife any more. He feels bad about it, and you may remember that last season Torvi killed her nasty husband Erland to save Bjorn’s life. He SHOULD feel bad! Poor Torvi. This is the third husband she’s lost. She’s quite philosophical about it, though. She tells Ubbe later, “We all die. We musn’t try too hard to hold on to things that pass.” A good philosophy for the wife of a viking warrior.
Bjorn promises to always care for Torvi and the children, and he gives her son, Guthrum, a knife because he’s such a good dad. Then he goes to the tent of the Sami princess Snaefrid (who treats him pretty much the way Lagertha treated King Harald when he was her prisoner. Rough sex. Hunh. If Bjorn grows tired of this one, he’d better be careful. She’s not likely to just smile sadly and walk away, like Torvi.
Ubbe offers sympathetic kisses to Torvi, observed by his sweetie Margrethe, who whines about it. Then she takes on the Lady Macbeth role, telling him not to fight Ivar, not to support Lagertha when the battle comes. “If Bjorn dies,” she purrs, “you will be king and I’ll be queen.” Ubbe, of course, is listening. How could he not?
But there is a basic fallacy in Margrethe’s thinking. Consider how Ragnar became king by killing Horvath; and how Lagertha became queen by killing Aslaug. That has been presented as the viking way. Margrethe, though, is not encouraging Ubbe to fight anyone, but to merely allow them to slaughter each other and then step in as the last man standing. And she is completely forgetting about Ivar.
Lagertha questions Halfdan about his divided loyalties between his brother Harald and Bjorn. Halfdan assures her that Bjorn saved his life, and he will be loyal. We don’t know whether to believe him, or if Lagertha believes him.
Over in Vestfold Astrid is pregnant and not happy about it. Why, I wonder? Because it’s Harald’s? Because it might not be Harald’s? Because she’s a shield maiden and doesn’t want a baby at all? Hard to say. Harald, though, is ecstatic.
THE ICELAND SETTLEMENT
Upon seeing the site that Floki has chosen for their settlement, with it’s bubbling hot springs and a geyser, there are mumblings of rebellion. Can’t blame them. It must have smelled like rotten eggs, too. Plucky Aud, though, looks on the bright side. “This hot water has been given us by the gods to make our lives easier!” She is definitely a Viking Age Pollyanna.
When the question of leadership arises, Floki says they will govern themselves. Eyvind, who never has anything good to say, accuses Floki of wanting to be king. But the Iceland settlement would develop, historically, just as Floki has suggested. They institute the Althing, where the chieftains and their people would meet for 2 weeks at midsummer to pass laws, resolve disagreements and discuss politics. Probably not beside the stinky hot springs though.
While Heahmund and Ivar play tæfl – a game of war strategy – they discuss the coming conflict, but also fate, free will, and God’s plan. Later they discuss the fickleness of the moon, and Ivar tells the bishop that he wants to believe that in this world there is someone who never lies, who is always noble. “I am that man, Ivar,” the bishop assures him. Ivar, though, is standing behind him holding a knife to his head when this occurs and afterwards the bishop is shaken. He knows he’s just barely dodged a
At the Holy Isle, Alfred and the abbot also discuss the working of God’s will, especially in regard to the monk Athelstan whom Alfred reveres as a saint and the abbot condemns as an apostate. “We are all of us devils and angels,” Alfred says. More of that light and dark imagery we saw last week.
An aside: I especially liked Alfred’s recommendation that the abbot translate his Latin books into English, because this is something that Alfred the Great actually promoted.
And now: THE COMING CONFLICT
Ivar begins the episode by telling the bishop that this battle will be a whopper. “The world will tremble,” he says, “and the winner will inherit the earth.”
Bjorn, in an attempt to cheer Lagertha out of her dismal mood after she says that her life is full of ghosts, enthuses that the coming battle will be like Ragnarok! Ivar will be like the wolf Fenrir, with flames in his eyes as he tries to tear the sky apart!
Thanks, Bjorn. I don’t know about Lagertha, but I feel much better now.
Margrethe says that the world is coming to an end, and later Lagertha echoes it, saying “The end of our world is here.”
In case you were wondering, this will be a BIG BATTLE.
The penultimate scene, with Lagertha’s war council debating their strategy, their voices continuing over images of Ivar making moves on a tæfl board, is utterly brilliant. It ends with Ivar’s hand winning the game as ominous music builds.
I thought it would end there. I was really happy with that. I thought it was AMAZING! But there was one more scene. Alfred, at the Holy Isle, recites the Lord’s Prayer, and Athelstan’s voice joins in. As he says the final words of the prayer, Alfred disappears and we see instead those who are conflicted:
Lead us not into temptation – Ubbe
But deliver us from evil – Halfdan
For ever and ever – Lagertha
Photos of VIKINGS © The History Channel