Previously on Vikings, ‘The Wanderer’
Helga leads the Wanderer into the great hall, and he introduces himself to Siggy and Aslaug as Harbard. He claims to be a traveling bard, telling stories of the gods or his travels or both, so Aslaug asks him to stay to Siggy’s discomfort. Perhaps this visitor and his portents are more trouble than blessing.
On the trail back to Viking Farms, Ecbert confronts a few tagalong malcontent nobles over their shifty whispers. They think the Vikings should be giving up more for that land, like boat building workshops and conversion to Christianity. He’s like, did you forget about the entire other half of the Vikings, currently kicking ass on their behalf? “Besides,” he says, “who can say how the settlement will fare in the future?” Suspicious.
In parallel, Floki again throws down with Ragnar over fighting for these Christians when their gods are never going to get along. Ragnar is just trying to think of the cheeldren, ok? Floki still doesn’t buy it, worried that the Christians will overrun them eventually. Next, Kwen gets up in his business, begging Ragnar to spare her brother. I heard at least one of his eyeballs screaming, “This again?!” By the time he runs into Bjorn suggestively painting war stripes on Porunn’s face, he’s totally fed up.
Speaking of finished, the barely alive Torstein calls to Rollo to help him go fight, hauling himself up pathetically. Rollo initially tries to talk him out of it but agrees when Torstein insists that he’s never been better. Hard to blame the man for wanting to die in battle, but if he looks any worse, Michonne is going to start eyeing him for her next pair of Walker pets.
Ecbert’s riding party arrives at Viking Farms, and this time Lagertha speaks a greeting in his language. Thanks, Athelstan! Ecbert presents her with a powerful new plow and tosses in some suggestive metaphors for good measure. “I want to experiment between our cultures. Plowing, fertilizing, and sowing the seed are the very basis of life.” Aherm.
Flattened to the ground, the Viking horde impressively sneaks up the Hill of Ash. Torstein offers to go first, hobbling up the hill as his friends watch him walk to his death. He straightens as he clears the misty crest, causing the Mercians to wonder if he’s a specter. Indeed we all wonder what power drives such a man in this moment, withstanding two entire volleys of arrows. “I come to you,” he whispers, stabbing the first man to reach him with an arrow from his leg, and finally falls to the sword. In the end, his sacrifice was quite a genius bit of psychological warfare, as the Vikings overrun the hill and engage the distracted larger force.
During the vicious battle, Porunn falls after a brutal confrontation, sliced across the face, and Bjorn destroys her attacker in a berserker fit. Ragnar takes a spear across the gut but makes it through the line to the valley where the prince stands with his second flank, and even more archers on the ridge above them. It looks hopeless, but SURPRISE: the archers are Aethelwulf’s men. Like fish in a barrel, Burgred’s men fall, but Ragnar spares him as requested. Aethelwulf is not impressed.
Invited away to Ecbert’s battlements again, Lagertha and Athelstan follow his torchlight tour of the Roman bathhouse art. She’s fascinated by the pagan gods, “like hers” as he presses, but her gods, she replies, are real people.
Cut to Harbard regaling the Kattegat threesome with a tale of a drinking contest at the hall of giants and his attempt at wrestling a crone named Elli, who ends up being Old Age. “No one can withstand old age in the end,” he finishes. Siggy has none of it, saying that is a story of Thor. He agrees but says nevertheless, he was there. She’s unnerved, but Ivar starts screaming in the other room. Harbard follows Aslaug, calling both her and Ivar by name. Ivar points up at the man with chubby hands as Harbard takes Ivar’s pain and sends him drifting into peaceful sleep. This side eye is why Aslaug and Ragnar get along so well:
Ecbert, Lagertha, Athelstan, and surprisingly Judith hit the baths. The latter two stay in their corners while Athelstan stares her down, but Lagertha cuddles up close as Ecbert waxes poetic about Paris. Lagertha and Ecbert giggle drunkenly and kiss, but all this physical freedom is too much for Judith and she runs out. Athelstan follows, towel clad, and reassures her that nothing happened but still manages to be super intense. You know who’s not subject to religious guilt? Ecbert and Lagertha, getting it on in the hot tub. Aww yeahhh.
While the Vikings regroup and bind their wounds, Floki shames Ragnar for Torstein’s “pointless” death over an English hill, ruining his emo makeup. “Aren’t we all fated to die on a certain day?” Ragnar asks. Can’t you do anything you damn well please until then? Like come on raiding parties to England? “In the mean time, Floki, shut your face.” Harsh, but sometimes Floki needs to hear it.
Rollo summons Ragnar to Bjorn who is keeping watch over a near-death Porunn. Ragnar reassures him that this is the way of the warrior, but when Bjorn admits that she’s pregnant, Ragnar flips out that Bjorn didn’t forbid her from fighting and stomps off infuriated. Rollo steps in, ever the uncle, gently teaching Bjorn to talk her back from the gates of Valhalla. She doesn’t want to die, he says, with so much to live for, but since she’s already halfway there, she has to be reminded. Because Ragnar doesn’t have enough to deal with, Kwen jumps in yet again, this time with Burgred’s apology for fighting them. Ragnar headbutts him to the eye and stalks off.
Ecbert just can’t stay away from that farm. He arrives with Judith and his surly lords to celebrate the Mercian victory and the first plantings, which Lagertha plans to mark with a sacrifice to Frey, sending the nobles into a tizzy. The Norsemen parade through the forest, drumming and painting symbols on a sacrificial cow. Overwhelmed, the Christians cross themselves, even Ecbert. Lagertha, clad in white, passionately invokes a fertility blessing that puts Ecbert’s metaphors to shame, and a cow is sacrificed, blood spattering everywhere.
They gather the blood with bowls and pour it over Lagertha as she smiles defiantly. Ecbert can’t quite keep the shock off his face, while Judith grips Athelstan as he watches the rites with dark affection. The chanting swells as they sprinkle hewn earth with blood. The nobles practically froth at the mouth, demanding that Ecbert rid their land of this sacrilege. In the background, Athelstan mysteriously dusts his hands off into the wind, perhaps done with his homeland at last. But is it done with him?
Kattegat. A fisherman hauls in two small boys from the village, drowned. Siggy runs away angrily, staring at Harbard, and visits the Seer while wolves howl in the mountains. The Ancient One has no helpful information, perhaps blocked by Harbard’s presence, so she relates her own dreams, finishing that nobody could help them. The Seer agrees: nobody can help. BUM BUM BUMMMM.
This week I took it scene by scene rather than by location because each scene was tied tightly to the next. Both kings were harangued by the zealots in their midst, although it is easier for us to sympathize with Floki than the ever-miserable nobles. I loved Ecbert thinking he was so smooth with his plow pick-up line, then was nearly splattered in the face by how literally the Vikings take their fertility rites. Amateur! In another amateur move, Kwen’s insistence that her brother be spared will no doubt become a problem both for her and for Ecbert’s big plans: male heirs left alive are problematic when you’re trying to co-opt a territory; crazy nymphos, not so much. Lastly, could the two drowned boys be an unwitting exchange for Ivar’s health? Will it be worth it? There’s nothing I can point to that I didn’t like, but I suspect that this episode in particular with its abbreviated Roman bath sex scene and tamer-than-usual battle gore was made slightly bland by American censors.