Previously on Vikings, ‘A Good Treason’
Bjorn stomps through the deep snow drifts to the hunter’s cabin. For some reason, he’s averse to snowshoes, but you can’t tell teens anything, amiright? He hauls up a nice juicy fish for dinner, listening the wolves howl. And that’s pretty much it. Goodnight! Kidding, there’s more:
Ragnar rolls his eyes at the sound of guard dogs heralding Floki’s escape. He hobbles to the chilly docks where a bedraggled Helga and coughing Angrboda scrape for food as one of Floki’s majestic ships floats in the background. Ragnar doesn’t blame her for helping Floki escape, but refuses her assurance of Floki’s love.
“He loves only himself. You know that better than anyone.”
As a good king and estranged friend, he leaves them a large bag of food because Winter Is Coming. Poor sprites, how far they’ve fallen.
Ubbe leads the hunt for Floki across the scenic countryside to a guitar solo, because, eyeliner. As Ragnar meditates on his errant friend, Ubbe spots the trickster underwater, echoing Loki’s capture in the myths when he turned into a salmon to escape the gods’ notice. Ragnar once again gives Floki a public chance to admit that he killed Athelstan out of jealousy, which he could totally pardon, but Floki refuses, leading to Ragnar flipping tables in the great hall. Aslaug purposefully misses the point, wondering what was so damn wrong about killing a Just a Christian, and Ragnar smacks her across the face for not understanding that this is about loyalty and trust. I think she understands just fine.
Tragedy strikes. Ragnar follows Helga up into howling winds on the frozen mountain to find her digging a grave for wee Angrboda. Alas! Despite his lingering pain, he digs it himself, then lays the body in the grave as she sobs on his shoulder.
Meanwhile, Floki screams alone in a cave, strung up from side to side as water beats down on him drop by drop by drop…
Mercia is apparently full of rebels, because now the leftover lords that Kwenthrith didn’t kill have sequestered her and Magnus (the baby she claims is Ragnar’s) in a tower. Ecbert and Aethelwulf, now feeling his princely role quite a bit more, tell their people to whip up a standing army, so that when their envoys return predictably in a box, Se7en style, Aethelwulf has an excuse to go kill more people with Ecbert’s advice, “Think as I would think.”
Judith resentfully declares that she is not warming Ecbert’s bed again—clearer in this cut that she wasn’t so willing—but he offers something similarly tantalizing: freedom, in the form of whatever she wants, which is to paint like Athelstan, unheard of for a woman at that time. He grins at her challenge and hires a Frankish priest, Prudentius, to teach her how to illuminate sacred texts. Prudentius takes a little convincing, but Ecbert always gets what he wants, especially when it involves riding the line between the sacred and profane.
The forces close in on Mercia’s tower, one side wanting the queen dead sooner and the other preferring later. Aethelwulf, today’s “later” side, battles through the front line after the key, as hellcat Kwenthrith protects her son against her female guards. She beats one chick to death and is almost strangled by the second but Aethelwulf bursts through the door just in time. Wouldn’t it be ironic, but also kind of awesome, if they hooked up and allied against Ecbert? #Kwenthelwulf
On a model of the Seine, Rollo shows Odo and Roland how to keep the Vikings out of the city: Blackwater style with a chain, more boats, and explosions.
Odo reports this news to Therese in their Room of Pain, gloating over the fact that the royal marriage hasn’t been consummated. They sneer at Emperor Weaksauce and his wimpy daughter before getting to the nightly beating. Afterwards, surprise of surprises, who is Therese’s allegedly-drunk-and-clueless husband? None other than He of Zero Fucks, Roland, who tenderly dresses her wounds and downloads the latest gossip haul in the future hopes of discrediting Odo to Emperor Charles. I see you, boo. It’s all making sense now.
Attempting to fit into his new Frankish life, Rollo gets a haircut and fancy robes. Gisla’s just laughs. He does look ridiculous, but it still seems ill advised.
The name of the game this episode is “setup.” It was certainly beautiful geographically, but continued to be light on its signature thematic cohesiveness, with four fronts in differing tones, other than perhaps a thread regarding loyalty. Kattegat had the most emotional punch but still felt a bit limp, given the outcome. Mythically, Floki’s punishment matches Loki’s after the death of Baldur. Knowing that Ragnar would be satisfied with Floki’s admission to his face, not to his coffin, that he loves him above all else, however, one cannot help but be aggravated with the most stubborn pair of friends possibly ever, especially once we know about Angrboda. Helga cuts such a tragic figure, alone in the blue winter, carving her child’s grave into the rocks. Bravo to Maude Hirst for packing such heartbreak into her short scenes.
Ragnar’s shocking beating of Aslaug underscores his slowly dissolving control. I certainly can’t excuse it, no matter how right his point was, but I can provide some potential foreshadowing. In Njal’s Saga, Gunnar slapped his similarly fiery wife, Hallgerð, and she responded, “I will repay that blow one day.” Later, she refused to help him when attacked by enemies, leading to his demise. (Sources: Wikipedia, SagaThing) Given Aslaug’s trajectory, I don’t think this ultimate outcome is a stretch.
Historically, Judith’s turn as an illuminator is, as per usual with Ecbert, cutting edge. While women at that time (approaching 900 AD) were forbidden from illuminating, by the end of the Middle Ages, nuns and pious noblewomen were common painters of sacred texts, most notably Hildegard of Bingen, some two centuries after this time period. Art at that time was solely religious, so this was really her only hope of artistic outlet, other than embroidery. On a very minor note, I had a terribly difficult time deciding whether or not the lone surviving Mercian scout and the Mercian commander were the same person. They aren’t, but the actors do look a lot alike, in case you were as flummoxed as I was.
“Kill the Queen” had us hopping all over the map with setup material. There is some mirroring between Ragnar/Ubbe, Ecbert/Aethelwulf, with perhaps a wee bit of Kwenthrith/Magnus, although a huge question mark remains over whether the child is even hers, much less Ragnar’s. I must admit, however, to being thoroughly impressed with the Kwenthelwulf fighting team, and hope we get more of that. We revisit Ragnar’s loss of a singular loyal friend, and see the real cost of Floki’s devotion to his ideals in Angrboda’s death, although I felt both lacked some of the poignancy of past seasons.