Previously on Vikings, ‘Breaking Point’
The Franks drop off their Vacate the Premises treasure with a dismissal, and the raiders make it rain gold. Rollo delivers the news to Ragnar, who couldn’t give a rip, seeing as how he’s still dying horribly. Outside, Lagertha wonders if Ragnar’s conversion is real; Rollo didn’t mean his own baptism, so the gods protected him from “the Christian magic,” but Athelstan’s cooties must’ve rubbed off on Ragnar. That’s how it works, right? Kalf and Erlendur agree that Vikings shouldn’t have a Christian king, Erlendur suggesting he should be killed, because dying of the bloody pees isn’t harsh enough.
After mass, Gisla turns Odo down again, then insults her father for paying the war ransom. NotCharlemagne exclaims at their glorious “victory,” then predictably goes to take a nap. A beautiful noblewoman named Therese (heretofore named “Thirsty”) offers to show Odo her “gratitude.” Ew.
Helga and Floki are impervious to the Viking revelry, and yet again she refuses to forgive him. Privately, Ragnar counsels Bjorn that soon he will lead the Vikings, and when that happens, he should do so with his head, not his heart; then he entrusts him with a secret task. Rollo stares across the Seine at Paris, meditating on the Seer’s prophecy.
Don’t Do It, Anna!
Thirsty tells Odo that her husband is too drunk to care where she is, and Gisla is too uptight. Odo creepily notes that he might enjoy breaking Gisla in, but in the meantime, he leads Thirsty by torchlight to his dungeon of pain. No fun mazes or satin sheets here, madam; this is the Dark Ages. He offers to let her choose the whip and say Halt, although he’d rather her not. Apparently the upgrade is worth the price. Naked and cuffed, she tells him to strike. And he does.
Note from my friends at Two Historical Fiction Authors: Odo eventually married Theodrate de Troyes, which could be translated as Theresa.
One Last Boat
A month passes, but the Vikings don’t leave. Helga looks in on Floki’s Ewok Village (tm The Wild Hunt podcast) and finds him looking haunted, carving Ragnar “one last boat”—a coffin intricately engraved with a prow. When Odo inquires at their Not Leaving, Bjorn replies that their king is lingering like Beth March in Little Women, showing Ragnar shivering and gray in his tent. His non-negotiable request: a proper Christian burial. While Ragnar coughs dramatically, Odo sympathetically allows for a party of unarmed men to bring his body to the cathedral. Ragnar chuckles a little, patting Bjorn’s hand.
After a night in the rain, drums and a soprano keening a chilling melody that echoes across the Seine to the guards on the wall, Bjorn closes the lid over Ragnar’s body, walking out into the camp where Lagertha crouches in the rain, awaiting the news. The Vikings shuffle forward sadly and Bjorn announces: “You can go talk to him now.”
Lagertha tearfully reveals her true heart:
“If you have gone to heaven, then we will never meet again. And yet, I think Odin will ride like the wind and rescue you, and take you to Valhalla where you belong, my own sweet Ragnar. And there we shall meet again and fight and drink and love one another.”
Rollo affectionately recounts his lifelong resentment, noting that they both thought the gods favored Ragnar, but maybe not. Floki, too, has his anger.
“I made the boat that took you to fame and I made the boat that will take you to your heaven. Give my regards to Athelstan, by the way… I hate you, Ragnar Lothbrok! And I love you with all my heart. Why do you tear me away from myself?!”
He sobs in agony, embracing the coffin.
In the morning, a great singing horde follows the coffin to the city gates where the bishop admits the unarmed pallbearers and leads them through the streets. Fantastic music cues here—once the gates close, Gregorian chants replace the Norse ones, then fade to the single soprano, and then return inside the cathedral where royalty awaits. After the bishop censes the coffin…
Ragnar tosses the top off and stands on wobbly legs that transform into swagger. He leaps down and holds the king at knife point while his pallbearers grab axes from his coffin, and then stabs Bishop Infidels Go to Hell with a signature Ragnar Crazy Tongue. Gisla tries to intervene, but Ragnar holds her back easily by the throat, gloating “I win.” With Gisla by the hair, he backs out of the church as Charles faints like wiener he is.
Odo follows their retreat to wave the guards off, and Ragnar’s men cut the drawbridge ropes, opening the city gates. Bjorn awaits in the mist, flicking his wrists with Lothbrok flair to signal the pillage. Ragnar, ever the softie for royal children, forcefully shoos Gisla back to Odo, because that works out so well for him EVERY. TIME. He collapses in Bjorn’s arms, spent, and his five fellow leaders file past in varying degrees of awe, annoyance, and betrayal—Lagertha lingers the longest, setting her jaw before entering the city. The Seer’s prophecy about the dead conquering Paris echoes.
Gisla finds her pathetic dad slumped next to the altar with Odo trying to push him into action; she snaps for him to get up, and he stumbles out.
Lagertha yells at Bjorn, but he says he was only doing what the KING asked. Furthermore, they’ll be raiding Paris again in the spring so someone needs to stay and hold their parking space. Floki volunteers, but Rollo vetoes that, looking Bjorn in the eye silently. What reason does Rollo have to go back with Siggy gone, Ragnar victorious, and Bjorn coming of age? Bjorn nods, and the group of hardened volunteers watches the ships paddle away, pennants and sails flapping. Ragnar pulls himself up and looks at his brother one last time, then sinks back down.
Relieved to be eating Fancy Food once more, Charles tells Gisla that the Northmen haven’t all left, including Rollo, and his brothers refuse to help. She snipes that maybe he can pay them even more treasure. He acknowledges that, indeed, he will have to pay them again, this time with the thing most precious to him: her hand in marriage. Horrified that he made this offer without her assent, she refuses, but he snatches back those balls she’s been holding out to him all season and says she will do what the emperor says. How ironic.
Je Vous Salue
Sinric translates their offer to Rollo: land, dukedom, and Gisla. Rollo asks what he must do in return.
“You will defend Paris against your brother.”
He raises his eyebrows and smirks. BTDT, bro. Girded in all of his furs, Rollo enters the cathedral with a contingent, dubious, as are the citizens. Charles greets him by name, but Gisla stands and, to Charles’ continued humiliation, launches into a tirade that no matter what, she’s not marrying him.
“I’m a princess of the blood, not a cheap whore.”
Rollo turns to Sinric for translation, but as Gisla spits that she’d rather burn than marry this soulless piece of meat, he turns back to her, amused and fascinated. No need for translation here—spiteful disgust is Rollo’s love language! She flounces into her throne, awaiting his preferably insulted reaction. Instead he smiles awkwardly, working his mouth around the unfamiliar syllables: “Je vous… salue.” (Hail, or, literally, I greet you.) He grins proudly, like a naughty schoolboy. Oh, Rollo. Never change.
The longship home is full of sleeping bodies except for the captain and Floki. Ragnar whispers his name. Floki tiptoes over and stares into his eyes for a long moment until Ragnar finally speaks.
“You killed Athelstan.”
What a finale! There are several versions of Ragnar in the Sagas, so it was a pleasure to watch this twist play out, not knowing for certain how it would go. How soon did Ragnar germinate this plan, knowing the Seer’s words? As far back as the first invasion? Before? Did he injure himself intentionally and get more than he bargained for? Think of him playing up how sick he was for a full month. Ragnar is the king of the long game.
Bjorn’s role in this was really lovely. After proving himself in battle and earning Ragnar’s respect, he truly stepped into his own, even displaying the Lothbrok talent for flare and dramatic lying. Katherine Winnick yet again brought emotional chills with Lagertha’s impassioned speech over Ragnar’s coffin. Now that she’s opened her heart to him, what decision will this betrayal force her to make? Speaking of betrayal, we’ll all spend the break wondering what Ragnar has in store for Floki, if Rollo will indeed take up arms against his brother once more, and if Gisla and the Bear will tame one another.
On an atmospheric note, as Paris blossomed back into action with its rich colors and food, the Viking camp’s colors were washed out entirely in many scenes, really conveying the cold, damp, and despair. The music this season has been amazing, and if you love it, check out the new Wardruna album. They do all the vocal Norse music and appear in most scenes requiring singers.
In closing, there has been debate to the necessity or gratuitousness of the 50 Shades of Odo reveal. While it felt flagrant in its modern reference, I believe it simply cemented that Gisla couldn’t possibly be with him. It’s also a reminder that variant sexuality is as old as time, and that the prissy accessories of today have darker origins. At any rate, this is not the most gratuitous Vikings scene ever, although they’re usually U.S. DVD extras.
Well, friends, the good news is, season 4 has already begun filming, but the bad news is, this season is a wrap. Until we meet again: Skeggǫld! Skálmǫld! Skildir ro Klofnir!
Spoilery hint for next season: Two little boys who have appeared as extras several times were cast as little Ecbert Jr. and Alfred, so there will be a several year time jump.