Previously on Vikings, ‘Born Again’
Ragnar and Floki have a staring contest on the way to Paris, which appears on the horizon. The iron-handed Count Odo watches from the walls, bells tolling, as the fleet pulls into the harbor. In the throne room (and in Old French), he tells Emperor Charles he has prepared the city for a summer of siege, urging Charles to consider withdrawing from the city.
Watching Ragnar-style through a grate, Charles’ daughter Gisla observes the exchange, then stiffly counsels him against being the weenie he clearly is. Charles affirms to the crowd that he’ll stay, but obviously doesn’t want to. Count Odo suggests asking his emperor brothers for help, but the Emperor, grandson of Charlemagne, has something to prove.
Snakes and Mice
During dinner with Ecbert, Aethelwulf confesses that he’s struggling with forgiving Judith. Ecbert wonders how she might feel if he, say, overthrew her father? Aethelwulf questions his father invading a friend’s territory, but Ecbert has no friends, certainly not Fat Elvis. After all, how will he become Bretwealda over all of England if he doesn’t overthrow a few buddies, eh? Judith brings in Alfred, and Ecbert holds him, wondering aloud how Athelstan is. Aethelwulf explodes, calling Judith a Jezebel Harlot Whore. Not so much with the forgiveness, then. Ecbert slaps him and pats Judith like a pet. She is very toned down in a loose brown shift, her hair awkwardly styled over the missing ear.
Speaking of Athelstan, Floki finds Ragnar with a snake in one hand and a mouse in the other. Toying with the mouse, Ragnar says he misses Athelstan and feels he would be useful now. Floki replies that his cross makes him ever present anyway. Ragnar Crazy Eyes states that they have no choice, laughs humorlessly, and puts the mouse back in its cage. In symbolic summary, Ragnar shelves his Snake O’ Vengeance and saves the mouse (Floki) for another day. But snakes do get hungry eventually. Foreshadowing alert on multiple levels.
Aethelwulf scourges himself in penance for being such a jerk, but a messenger interrupts with a dying noble, one they’d sent with Kwenthrith. She’s killed six, in fact, reneged on their contract, and is consolidating her power. “She is quite mad,” the dying lord reports. Or is she?
Ragnar tells Floki that he has always believed in him. Re-friended and it feels so good! He gives Floki command of the raid, seating him in the big chair where all the figureheads wait at the table. Floki looks unsure until Kalf starts reviewing the invasion plan, then he tut-tut-tut’s devilishly to announce that HE is in charge. If side eyes were arrows, this tent would be a massacre. An argument erupts on who will lead each of the simultaneous attacks. Ragnar just observes, and Lagertha shuts down both Kalf and Erlendur. Floki promises to make something “truly astonishing” to scale the walls, then giggles as he flits away.
Ecbert requests that Aethelwulf go visit Mercia and allow Kwenthrith to redeem herself. After all, something horrible could happen to Mercia like, say, Aelle invading. It’s totally for her own protection! Aethelwulf catches the drift and agrees, “Those closest, but unexpected, can sow a terrible harvest.” If she says no? Drawing and quartering (another anachronistic punishment). The priest side eyes him. Or you know, something like that, God forbid. Ecbert sloppily crosses himself.
Days of our Bjorn
Aslaug dyes a woven shawl red while chanting in Norse. Porunn, looking better but still struggling, asks Aslaug to raise baby Siggy with her boys so that she becomes a strong Viking. She just can’t handle motherhood or Bjorn’s love. Aslaug tells her to stop being selfish, reminding her that the gods have woven their destinies. Porunn sobs.
Bjorn tries to apologize to Torvi for taking advantage, but she’s all, “I’m not with child and I’m not a child,” so chill out. He gives her a brooch, which is sweet but also a little awkward. Was that payment? A love token? Erlendur rips it out of her hand, calling her a whore. Die soon, Erlendur.
Night falls and Ragnar stares across the bay at Paris, listening to the bells and holding Athelstan’s cross on his staff—a conjunction of Odin and Christ, not unlike Ragnar himself.
Odo advises Charles that the Northmen will attack any day now. Gisla reports that the population is growing hysterical, then shifts the conversation back into her father’s hands. He punks out and goes to bed. Odo pursues her with a second marriage request, noting she is a serial decliner of all proposals. She slyly doesn’t say no, but she sure doesn’t say yes.
Helga brings Floki a meal, but he’s drunk on his creations, swinging through the trees like an emo monkey on crack. He grows fervent as he contemplates the gods working through his hands, thanks to his sacrifice of Athelstan. She runs away, disturbed.
Ecbert shares a Roman manuscript with Judith, one that Athelstan helped translate. He reads them aloud and she swoons at his words, imagining Athelstan speaking. “Don’t trust tomorrow’s bough for fruit. Pluck this, here, now.” He pulls back her hair, swearing to protect her and Alfred, then kisses her. Judith, you in danger, girl.
After husky talking his way through Kwen’s forest guard, Aethelwulf enters her stronghold, which is sumptuously decorated with silks and exotic animals. In the background, she moans in ecstasy, driving him mad with the sound and animal noises. Suddenly she appears, revealing her legs, while he starts with “his father, country, and god” and all their complaints. She asks what Ecbert wants to do to her, crawling over him with suggestions. Whipping, perhaps? Oh, you like whipping? “Why not enjoy what your father enjoyed?” she entreats, inviting him to her bed. When you put it that way, EVEN MORE NOPE. He recites the Lord’s Prayer, agonized.
The next morning, guards drag him from bed in his dressing gown to the throne room to meet her son, Magnus, supposedly thanks to Ragnar. She says any day Ragnar will be returning for his settlement and her son. Aethelwulf laughs, doubting her story, andplusalso? They totally killed those farmers. Stepping boldly into her guards’ swords, he notes that Mercia is essentially screwed.
Eve of Battle
Ragnar strides through the camp and each one of his leaders fall in line behind him without comment, including the shirtless Rollo, who apparently went on a tattoo binge to cope with Siggy’s death. At the water’s edge, Floki stands on a scaffold, waving madly over his symphony of siege towers.
In Paris, the bells toll as the masked emperor and princess enter the cathedral for Mass, passing through the amazed commoners. Once behind the guard, Gisla reveals herself, ever the smart politician. All assembled watch in amazement while the monks chant and their royals pray.
By torchlight across the river, the Viking leaders watch from a cliff, their horde behind in the forest. Floki leads their own chant, quoting from a writing on Ragnarok: “Shield time! Sword time! Shields are splintered!” The chant goes on into the night.
The slower set-up episodes are typically not as fantastic, but there are some key situations to note: both Ragnar and Ecbert continue to parallel in their serpentine use of those they “love.” Fret not that Ragnar will let Floki get by on Athelstan’s murder—Ragnar never forgets, but he needs his construction genius at the moment. Porunn and Judith share another interesting parallel: Judith’s elaborate hairdo hides her scar, while Porunn is still shaving hers, making her scar even more prominent. They’re both haunted by shame and trapped in motherhood, although one is only in danger from herself. Next week will be the real treat as the infamous siege and battle of Paris begins.