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Vikings – S4E3 – Mercy

Previously on Vikings,‘Kill the Queen’

Bjorn of the Tundra

Bjorn is such a beast that he can reach forward 500 years in time and pull a metal trap back into the past, which he sets up to catch some dinner. Alas, he finds only a bloody mess and bear tracks. They stumble across each other, the bear growling across the ice: Get back to catching me some more animals, bitch! Bjorn takes his one deer leg back to the hut, gets wasted, howls at the wolves, and falls asleep on the ice. So like his father, whoever that is.

Images: The History Channel

Images: The History Channel

After a series of confrontations, the bear and The Bear face off. Bjorn kills the sassy grizzly, bellowing in victory so deeply that Ragnar has a Raven Vision back in Kattegat. But not without a swipe to the shoulder, which Bjorn self-cauterizes, finishing his vision quest with a dip in the ice.

If you need me, I’ll be hiding under a heated blanket as I count the blessings of modern life.


Kalf and Lagertha have hot sex which he ends with a profession of love and a wish that they can have a child together. She receives both gently, knowing the Seer’s prophecy that she’ll never have another child, but says nothing. Smart, because he goes outside to pee and refers Erlendur to a berserker assassin to hunt down Bjorn. Back on the shit list, Kalf!

Erlendur pays the monstrous guy with Horik’s ring, made by Floki, and makes sure to name drop all up in his face so he’s sure who to blame when he dies horribly.


Therese and Roland make love before St Eulalia’s Feast, and Rollo struggles with fitting in at church. Gisla asks Emperor Lectures-A-Lot for the story of Eulalia, a virgin martyred by heathens and ascended to heaven as a dove, the perfect opportunity to publically humiliate Rollo and demand a divorce. When he tries to reassure her, “My woman” is all that comes out, so she throws wine in his face. He stomps out, roaring at a tittering noblewoman on the way out.

Charles Gisla dinner Vikings 4x03 Mercy

Charles asks Odo to intervene, and he does an admirable job “communicating” with Rollo. Holding up his signature iron glove, Odo gestures, “You… me… the city.” Rollo stuffs a turkey leg in his mouth and gestures that he wants to learn their language. There’s no translation from his side, hammering in the frustration, but Odo happily agrees to arrange it.
*Norman-accented Frankish later migrates to England.

Rollo’s priest tutor is not the most patient teacher for our beast. After much patronizing and excessively trilling r’s, Rollo finally loses his shit and tosses the friar across the room. In his defense, the guy kind of deserved it.


Prudentius prepares paint for Judith, who’s super saucy when asking for news of the Paris siege. He reports that Ragnar “Wrath of God” Lothbrok indeed led the attack but has no news of Athelstan. Ecbert chuckles to hear of his ruse, blowing more sunshine up her skirt about being the vessel of holiness, which she doesn’t buy at all. Instead, she wakes him with an offer:

“If I give myself freely to you, you must acknowledge me freely as an equal.”

Obviously he agrees as any straight male would, swearing on his love for Athelstan, Alfred, and herself. If you think this wasn’t his game all along…

Mercian Interlude

Kwenthrith begs Aethelwulf to start a fire for Magnus, but they’re still in Mercia, so he hands her some raw meat and wraps them in his own cloak, instructing, counter to his father’s instructions, “YOU have to live.” He coos to soothe her frazzled nerves, and I cannot believe this show just made me like Aethelwulf.

Ragnar throne vision Vikings 4x03


In the dead of night, Ragnar and Ecbert wake in their respective beds with a start. Ragnar takes a torch to his throne, Ecbert to the calligraphy room. Athelstan appears in his priestly robes. He crosses Ecbert silently, then disappears. For Ragnar, he washes his feet and advises in his soothing voice,

“Mercy… Mercy… Mercy.”

Wessex, fin

Ecbert approaches Judith painting with his received message: Athelstan is dead. They cry and embrace, but Aethelwulf returns with Kwen and Magnus, so they all put on a happy face. Kwenthrith can’t relax despite Ecbert’s assurances, because she has a brain, but oh ho, who is rapping at her chamber door? Mr Losing My Religion, Aethelwulf. It’s actually kind of sweet. 


In the style of Sigyn and Loki, Helga holds a bowl over Floki’s head to give him some rest. Quaking, she stumbles off of the rock and collapses to sleep, but as soon as the first drop hits him, he cries for her again. They whisper apologies to each other.

Ragnar later visits and can tell she still hasn’t told Floki about Angrboda’s death. Whether it’s to further torture his former friend or because Helga herself looks like death from keeping it inside, he says Floki has to know. She tearfully admits their daughter died of a fever. Floki screams in agony.

Dressing a fish for dinner, Ragnar regales his boys with Thor trying to cross a stream, finishing with the punchline: the ferryman was Harbard. He says the name harshly, biting the fish head off in Aslaug’s bruised face, implying she knows him. Rude. Wouldn’t they remember him? But that night, the vision of Athelstan comes to him, and he can at least do one thing…

He stalks from the great hall with an axe, returning to the cave. Floki mutters a tale of the gods and his wife trembles to hold the bowl.

“You’ve suffered enough, Helga.”

Ragnar cuts Floki down, leaving them in each other’s arms, and walks out into the light, dropping the hatchet at the doorway as Floki stares after him.

Floki freed cave Vikings 4x03 Mercy.bmp

Overall Thoughts

When it’s not raiding and pillaging, this is how I like Vikings: full of subtext. Four couplings were neither truly about love but rather conspiracy. Kalf stays consistent with his desire for all things Ragnar, claiming he loves Lagertha when clearly he seeks to supplant Ragnar’s heritage with his own. Roland and Therese are creeping on Odo. Ecbert’s Free Judith plan produced fruit, while Aethelwulf snuck from his wife’s bed to his father’s enemy’s. By contrast, Helga hit her lowest state, one thread from madness, proving her love for Floki.

There are also many transformations in progress, at least: Bjorn into a true Viking man, Judith into a “free” woman (but not too free), Rollo into a Frank, Aethelwulf into a reasonable adult, and Kwenthrith… Is this the first real love she’s had since her little brother? Bjorn, by the way, performed a classic mythical feat: Finnbogi the Mighty and Grettir the Strong killed bears as youths, in the sagas.

The term “mercy” easily applies to Floki, Helga, and Ragnar, but directly and indirectly elsewhere—the mercy of Odo listening to Rollo, of Aethelwulf sheltering Kwenthrith, that Lagertha showed Kalf in France, and that Ragnar showed Erlendur. Ah, irony. Yet he never relents with Aslaug. Washing of feet in Christianity was done by the apostles on holy days, before missions, and at death, a symbol of servitude but equality. Athelstan prepared Ragnar to act on his mission of mercy, but is also perhaps preparing him for the death Ragnar feels pursuing him.

One interesting detail—the sound of owls hooting throughout the episode, intermixed with the wolf howls and raven caws. I did find some suggestions associating the owl with Heimdallr, guardian of the Bifrost, the bridge between Midgard (earth) and Asgard. Considering the thin tissue between reality and vision, as well as the strong theme of rebirth, this seems to fit. Ragnar’s third eye opened with Bjorn’s “death” as a boy and awakening as a warrior, signified by the raven flight, and the door between worlds allowed Athelstan to reach out with two vital messages.

What was Floki muttering? “And you shall call my name nine times and nine times shall I come visit you.” I couldn’t find an exact reference, but two candidates: either Odin’s self-sacrifice on Yggdrasil for 9 days and nights, resurrecting with runic knowledge, or Hermod’s journey to release Baldr from Hel after Loki murdered him. Will he now be transformed into a full-time visionary? Will he seek to bury the hatchet literally?

Vikings S4E3
  • 9/10
    Plot - 9/10
  • 8/10
    Dialogue - 8/10
  • 9/10
    Action - 9/10
  • 10/10
    Performances - 10/10


Strong symbolic elements helped this disparate episode gel. It was lovely to see George Blagden again in any form. Judith is blowing my mind with looking different in nearly every scene, and Helga and Floki… wow. The perfect picture of tortured. Great work turned in this week by all with some sexy interludes and forward climbs. Huge kudos to Alexander Ludwig in his stunt fight with an actual fucking bear, and of course to the sassiest bear in the North.

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About Sarah de Poer (199 Articles)
Eminently sensible by day, by night, she can be found watching questionable scifi, pinning all the things, rewriting lists, pantry snacking, and not sleeping. She was once banned over an argument about Starbuck and Apollo, and she has to go right now because someone is wrong on the Internet.

1 Comment on Vikings – S4E3 – Mercy

  1. So glad that bears are finally getting the recognition they deserve.

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