Previously on Vikings, ‘Mercenary’
While the Vikings celebrate their victory, Ragnar and Rollo bring Torstein, sitting apart with his wound, some shrooms to dull the pain and pretty soon both he and Rollo are trippin’ balls. Likewise Kwinthrith gets Vikings Wasted and demands her uncle’s head—music to Floki’s ears. Finally she tells Ragnar why all the family hate: her uncle raped her as a child and passed her around to the rest of the family and his friends. Horrified in his understated way, Ragnar leaves her to purge the demons by stabbing Brihtwulf’s head. After her frenzy, she joins the Torstein/Rollo Rave and teaches the caddish Rollo his first English word: NO.
Speaking of issues, Bjorn dresses down an elated Porunn for taking too many risks. She mocks his caution, but then he proposes. Shocked, she happily agrees. My take? IT’S A TRAP! He probably just wants to forbid her from fighting. Look at that jaw grit he’s working.
Rollo then demonstrates that no matter how bad you think your OCD is, it ain’t that bad: lost in his berserker haze, he grabs an axe and hacks up a dozing prisoner because the angle of his leg makes his pulse boil. See? Don’t you feel better about your non-touching shoes facing north?
Meanwhile the sniveling Burgred is still waiting on the shoreline looking fancy, and the Vikings don’t disappoint. When the longboats, now with 100% more Saxon heads swinging from the masts, cut through the fog, his army splits pronto. Despite Kwen’s assurances for his safety if he surrenders, he bugs out too.
Ragnar regroups his men at camp and sends Aethelwulf to seek Burgred’s hiding place. Aethelwulf, only too happy to leave, near-tortures it out of a messenger then offers the man supper because he’s “not like the Northmen.” Keep on telling yourself that, Emo.
Torstein slips further downhill and calls for his comrades, aka “Hey, bastards,” to relieve him of his arm. “Why not keep it?” Rollo tries. “I don’t want it. In fact I’ve always hated this arm. It has to go,” Torstein replies, putting his trust in the sure strike of Floki’s boat-builder arms. Not unlike Athelstan’s crucifixion, they stretch him out on a board, heat up the axe, and do the deed. Yet again, consider the squeamish factor topped—he was yelling, they were yelling, I was yelling.
Aethelwulf reports back that Kwen’s brother is now in a hill encampment, away from the boats’ reach. The Vikings prepare to head out, but pause a moment to circle Torstein, now spread out on the beach, black blood pooling in the sand. Wordless looks declare his fate. Powerful.
Ecbert admits that he forcibly encouraged some Saxon farmers to move along, but personally swears to their protection. Through Athelstan he asks Lagertha: Are you a free woman? Check YES, YES, or YES. He scoops up a handful of rich land, saying this is his gift to her. She smells it, saying that it’s worth more to her than jewelry.
Some workers bound to the land arrive to assist, laughing a little at what they consider outdated tools, but no matter—Lagertha’s prepared to work it herself. As she digs, she hears the Seer’s words again, this time with a new sentence about working the land with a sword and plow “until you become a virgin again”—a reference to Gefjon, Norse goddess of the plow. Ecbert tests Athelstan’s religion by asking him to bless the new farmhouse, but mid-prayer a Norseman shoulder-checks him, placing an idol of Odin on the stairway defiantly. Awkward!
Having gotten the farming party settled, Ecbert requests through Athelstan that Lagertha come back to his villa for a few days. She laughs about needing a bath and agrees.
An informal dinner at Ecbert’s villa finds Judith wondering about Athelstan’s experience in the Viking world. He keeps it to philosophy, drawing the parallel from Odin’s crucifixion and eternal existence to Jesus’s own. Upon hearing “Odin,” Lagertha asks what he’s saying. Athelstan replies in Old Norse, “I love Odin.” Then turns to Ecbert in Old English, “And I love Christ. What more can I say?” Before anyone can get their heretic hackles up, Ecbert, smooth as silk, turns the conversation to a sumptuous opal necklace he wraps around Lagertha’s neck.
You know what’s even better than jewelry AND dirt? Smut. Judith tracks Athelstan down in his former calligraphy studio, asking that he hear her confession. Athelstan protests that he was only a monk and a crap one at that, but she insists. Suffice to say, Judith’s been writing Priest-Princess Cuckold Fanfic, and tells him all about it in the dramatically lit (and not quite time appropriate) confessional cabinet. Gulp.
On their way out, Lagertha thanks Ecbert through Athelstan once more, saying the necklace is so lovely that it must be made by dwarves. Ecbert chuckles and in OE says they don’t have dwarves in England. Having caught his drift, she sasses in Old Norse that he just doesn’t know they’re there.
Once alone with his daughter in law, Ecbert warns Judith: the more fascinating a person is, the more dangerous they are. So many meanings.
Visions & Dreams
Hedeby. Kalf announces to the surprisingly compliant village that he’s their new earl, crudely insulting Lagertha’s womanhood. Privately, he tells Einar that he’s had a dream: Ragnar tears his liver out and eats it. He goes on to say he wants Ragnar’s fame and hasn’t yet mentioned any concern for his citizens. So, in summary, he sucks as a leader and deserves to die.
Moving on to Kattegat, Helga, Siggy, and Aslaug discover their Psychic Cycle is synchronizing and they’ve all having the same dream: a stranger, holding a flaming ball of snow in one hand and blood dripping from the other, sizzling as it hits the snow. Siggy asks Aslaug as a völva what it means but she’s not sure. Their second dream is of the Seer, bound and dying. The third, of the Traveler approaching Kattegat. Indeed, a hooded traveler arrives at the village, drops of blood sizzling on the snow, asking Helga if she can help.
One last stop at Viking farms. In a dream-like scene, Lagertha turns from food preparation to see Athelstan stepping into a beam of sunlight and holding out his hands, bleeding once more, tears brimming in his eyes. His stance mirrors the Wanderer’s. Is he, too, a prophet and seer in his own right? What could this mean?
While certainly a transitional/building episode, “The Wanderer” was not without its dark beauty—I loved the high-contrast shots of the confessional and the foggy dread of the longships decked in decapitated heads. Kwinthreth’s revelation softened the side eyes I’ve been throwing over her loose-cannon quest for the throne, whereas Rollo’s outburst worried me for his state of mind as he continues to give himself over to the berserker inside. Likewise I’m anxious for Athelstan—his reopened wounds and potential affair with the king’s daughter-in-law can only create more danger for everyone’s wannabe BFF—and for Lagertha. Are Ecbert’s intentions genuine, calculated, both? On the downside, Ragnar had very few lines, but does he really need to say anything?
I’m interested to see how the Wanderer changes life in Kattegat. Michael Hirsch explained this dream phenomenon as one of Viking legend, that when something terrible or amazing was on the horizon, many people in the same village would have a dream about it. The character is Harbard, a Loki-like iteration of Odin, played by Kevin Durand, who also plays my favorite character Vasiliy Fet on The Strain, so I am excited about the possibilities.