Previously on Vikings
Return to Kattegat
After the Vikings’ plunder of Paris, they return to Kattegat in the late fall, perhaps two years gone, judging by the children’s, and the city’s, growth. Ragnar is still quite ill, hallucinating visions of being shut out of the golden doors of Valhalla thanks to his murder of the Essex survivor and responsibility for Athelstan’s death, among others. Fever dreams are the worst! As he suffers, a very queenly, hardened Aslaug pushes the Seer to name the woman destined to rule Kattegat after Ragnar’s death, but he declines, as is his way.
Still faithful despite their conflict, Floki carves healing runes for Ragnar, while Bjorn has a difficult time accepting Porunn’s absence and doesn’t warm up to little Siggy. Instead, he hosts a Plunder Pep Rally, re-focusing the citizens’ attention on Ragnar’s greatness, and has Floki arrested and pilloried in the center of town for Athelstan’s murder. Angrboda, now a precious poppet of maybe 3, feeds him a bit before he begs help from his wife. The Danger Smudge Meter on Helga’s eyeliner is at 11, so that is a definite no… For now.
As we saw with the raid of Athelstan’s church in season 1, human plunder was part of most raids, so Aslaug purchases an Asian slave from Paris (Yidu, a traditionally Chinese name). This is significant for a few reasons; firstly, this is a sign that an early version of the Silk Road is developing. Secondly, Aslaug chooses her after a silent exchange, and knowing she is a völva (seer) in her own right, perhaps there is something special about this particular woman. Or, it might be strategy, considering Ragnar can’t resist the unique.
Much to Aslaug’s open chagrin, Ragnar finally struggles out of bed, not entirely happy to be alive himself, while Bjorn is busy formulating a future as he studies a plundered map of the Mediterranean. Customarily hiding behind the nearest object, Ragnar sneaks into the celebratory dinner and seats a son on his lap, muttering at Aslaug’s coldness and Bjorn’s public display—if he’d wanted Floki arrested, he would’ve done it ages ago. And then there’s Rollo…
“Whose stupid idea was it to leave Rollo behind in Paris?”
I know, right? Later, weakly hiding behind his carved staff, Ragnar watches the village transition to early winter. Floki is still shivering on the post, eyes on Ragnar. Then Bjorn announces that he’s going all Spartan out in the wilderness to prove his strength to Ragnar and himself. Sensing he’s stalled long enough, Ragnar draws a circle around Floki and gives him one last chance to admit it was pure jealousy and not the will of the gods, perhaps hoping for an opening to pardon him, but Floki, of course, refuses. Ragnar then sends Bjorn off into the winter with this final fatherly advice:
“Watch for fresh snow drifts. And for what’s pissing in front of you as well as behind you. Prove me wrong.”
Hard to argue with that.
When Lagertha and Kalf arrive victorious, Kalf declares Lagertha as equal ruler. Naturally Einar isn’t here for that and presumes to inform Kalf that he, his family, and Erlendur aren’t about to support this. Kalf smiles in his snakey way, saying he “understands.” And so, it’s no surprise to anyone but Einar’s equally dense kin that when Kalf holds a public vote for Lagertha’s ouster, it ends in the detractors’ slaughter. Erlendur even offers to finish Einar, but Lagertha steps in for the kill, finally giving him the John Wayne Bobbitt he deserves. Blood spattered, Lagertha and Kalf nod in respect. Aww, Viking lurve.
At his cathedral wedding, Rollo is still a big oaf but at least tries to look pleasant, a feat Princess Gisla can’t manage, crying and carrying on. The Emperor pushes her head down to pray, and Odo’s lieutenant hauls her over his shoulder to the bedding, thanking her for spitting in his face, much to Odo’s amusement. But Rollo isn’t into the public spectacle of Dark Ages royal bedding and orders them all out. As Gisla dramatically crosses herself nonstop, he simply crawls over her, laughs at her knife threats, and fake snores while she sputters indignantly. Hilarious.
Sinric the Wanderer gets bored, so he leaves Rollo to the France Immersion Program, which is probably for the best—Rollo can be pretty lazy without motivation. Then, Eirik, one of the camp Vikings, reports to him that at least half of the camp is unhappy with this situation, although he claims not to be one of them… But it sure looks like he’s one of them. Rollo promises to return and put all their minds at ease. And by that he means, at ease in a dirt nap.
Sadly, because they did not watch Kalf’s similar speech to Einar, nor are they apparently very familiar with Rollo or with Michael Hirst’s love of parallelism, they aren’t prepared for the ambush Rollo brings to their strangely indefensible location. Rollo silently watches as the last Vikings go down fighting, and Eirik swears…
“Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!” Just kidding, it was…
“Rollo, you coward! Ragnar is coming! He will revenge us!”
Eh, maybe. But he’s pretty booked at the moment.
As a season opener, “A Good Treason” was pretty delicious, although still light on the layers. We landed right in the middle of the raiders’ uncomfortable transition back into their villages, feeling once again the germinating consequences of leaving behind the power hungry and entitled. Bjorn tries to flex a bit of authority after winning renown in France, but, back home, he is still his parents’ son, and must strike out on his own for any real glory. Aslaug reminds everyone that she herself has a birthright to fulfill, while Ragnar is fully aware of the proverbial and literal wolves hungering for his power on every front. His feigned disinterest in Valhalla of Season 3? Not so much.
As horrible as his betrayal of Rollo’s own people is, I admit to shrugging a bit, if only because his adventures in Frankia are quite amusing. On the nerdy side, I particularly loved their use of language on the wedding night—while we understand everything, they understand nothing but facial cues. And yet, the longer they speak their respective dead languages, the easier it is to understand. So fascinating. However, I must question the unlikely presence of a child in the leftover siege settlement as manufactured TV drama. This is not an Essex-level settlement, but rather a placeholder for the return raid. Similarly, Gisla’s melodramatic crying was a bit much for a princess of those times, particularly if she indeed feared marrying someone she imagines to be a violent brute, a persona that is, unfortunately, not beyond Rollo’s experience.
Visually, Vikings continues to please the eye with more elaborate costumes and sets than ever, although I did chuckle a bit when a “snow flake” feather caught noticeably on Ragnar’s beard. Fun fact: The antler runes were made with a rare sandstone 3-D printer. The carved doors to Valhalla were fantastic, and the wintery furs are always my favorite costume texture. Technology-wise, I appreciated the wordless emphasis of cross-bow integration into their weaponry. Time indeed marches on in every way in Vikings.
Which “treason” most interested you? What story are you looking forward to this season?
Vikings opened season 4 in a solid, visually satisfying way, if not with a few unusually blatant made-for-TV tweaks. Just violent enough to hook us back in as it lays a ton of groundwork, the premiere promises much for the upcoming season.