Previously on Vikings, “Yol”
The unnecessarily gauzy honeymoon continues with Rollo wishing he could just leave and set up their Northern territories, but Gisla suggests that perhaps if Odo caught a spear in the back, Rollo could be of more use to her father, reminding him that he’s no longer a Viking.
As Odo and Rollo steel their resolve to protect Paris at all costs, Roland rolls up on the Emperor to drop his suspicions off about Odo, verified by Therese who proves to be, not his wife, but his SISTER.
“A man will tell the truth first to his mistress; then, if at all, to his wife.”
The Emperor shakily urges them both to continue gathering evidence of Odo’s ambitions. Then he laughs. Crazy or crazy like a fox?
I hate to say this, but this is the first writing choice I would label a mistake. Even though Vikings is the history that Game of Thrones was inspired by, due to the larger audience and budget, the former often suffers accusations of story theft from fans of the latter. Even if there was a notorious sibling couple in the Frankish court, which there wasn’t, no other incestuous power couple can stand up to Jaime and Cersei Lannister, nor can they avoid comparison, and for that reason it should have been eliminated. Before this reveal, I was pretty interested in this pair, but, now, Frank-ly, I hope they burn at the stake. Annoying.
Ragnar’s Rave Cave
Despite being supposedly boat-napped, Yidu somehow produces her Tang-Dynasty garb from China…which is not a word until the 16th century. She expounds that Emperor Dezong has many daughters from his wives and concubines, cared for by palace eunuchs. Ragnar’s confused by the word.
“Their manhood was cut off.”
“…I don’t like that.”
Ragnar doesn’t quite buy her “my father was a merchant with a ship” story, and circles her, asking if she is the emperor’s daughter. Backing her up predatorily, he wonders why he feels compelled to share his secrets, but only will if she shares hers. Rave #2 time!
Later they watch the pre-raid party from a new screen—the neighboring roof. He admits to feeling old and worn out, not up to raiding Paris. Finally he confesses his big secret that “nobody knows,” the failure of their Wessex settlement, and she confesses back: her father is indeed the Emperor. A moving exchange, except someone does know that: Floki.
Consummating their new intimacy, Ragnar washes her feet in the bath… and more. After some suggestive knife play, he cuts her hair short like it used to be in Not Yet China and kisses her. Welcome, new female Athelstan.
Before Aelle returns home to Northumbria, Ecbert holds a final council to decide about Mercia. Kwenthrith stands firm on them invading to oust the Small Council, and Goo-Goo Eyes Aethelwulf agrees. But when she explains who W is, one can almost see the anachronistic round table turn. Wigstan, the most powerful Mercian warlord, has royal blood and only looks out for his own interests. Sound familiar?
Judith has enough of Aethelwulf’s self-flagellating Christian guilt and refuses to come to bed, telling him in a heated argument that nearly comes to blows that sure, she’s the king’s whore, and if he wants to sleep in Kwenthrith’s bed, he should. This frees her to visit Ecbert, who offers her his late wife’s ring in an official mistress capacity, I suppose.
As Aelle finally leaves, the two kings loudly declare their intent to invade Mercia, with a private nod to Werferth the Scout, so… probably not so much. Judith gets brazen as hell about doing what she likes, and then Kwenthrith demands Ecbert reassure her:
“I don’t trust you for one reason only: that you and I are somewhat alike.”
“Then do not judge yourself too harshly.”
Ecbert throws himself prostrate in front of his private crucifix, knowing he’s doomed already.
“Yet I would sup with the devil if he would show me how to achieve my earthly goals.”
Holding his hand over the altar until it burns, he crushes the flame. Welp! Linus Roache played the hell out of his scenes this week, especially this one. On the other hand, I am less than impressed by Aethelwulf’s giddy cosign on Kwenthrith’s plans. I wish they were more devious as a pair, because seem in danger of being played, not unlike Roland and Therese.
Now that spring has sprung, preparations for their next Parisian raid begin in earnest. With Bjorn in the foreground, Ragnar confronts him about what he sees as poor fatherhood—ignoring little Siggy and leaving Guthrum behind. Bad memories, Bjorn excuses. After an argument over who left whom when Lagertha split, Ragnar admits that he probably failed as a father, but as a husband, he is the actual worst.
Harald Finehair attempts to engage Bjorn, promising to never give him a reason to kill him. Bjorn finds this unlikely, using his father’s signature Ragnar Swagger (Swagnar?) and clipped tones to inform him that maybe he would find reason where others would not. And furthermore…
“Fame won’t make your small kingdom any bigger.”
He looks down when he said that, and Ragnar is literally polishing the ship’s mast between his legs during the conversation. Simmer down, boys. Harald tries again later, starting a cheer over killing Christians. His brother the Halfdan arrives with their 20 boats and 600 warriors, but when Harald tries introducing him to Ragnar, the still-high king isn’t moved by Halfdan’s excitement for killing Christians. Is this like “Heil Hydra”? I can’t wait to have dinner… and kill Christians!
Speaking of dinner and Christian killing, the brothers watch Bjorn stalk through the pre-raid party and the whole room goes silent when Floki and Helga arrive. Is this their first public gathering since the incident? Halfdan asks why he fell out with Ragnar.
Skol! They all toast each other and Aslaug across the room… The chapter meeting of the local Hydras is called to order… Or is it?
As for Ivar, Floki teaches him runes but Ivar wants to play, so Floki scoops him up and plunks him in his wagon at the center of kids playing keep away. But, he’s too low and kids are jerks. When a boy tries to yank the ball way from Ivar, he grabs his little hatchet and sinks it in the boy’s skull. Aslaug swoops him up whispering that it isn’t his fault, but Floki seems excited. And here I thought Damien was on A&E.
Finally, Torvi catches Bjorn meditating on the ring and wants to talk. Why won’t he talk to her if he “took her away from her child”? He gives a staccato Ragnar laugh, saying he does talk to her (he doesn’t), then starts kissing up her leg while clutching the ring. The ring, she confirms, is Erlendur’s. DUN DUN DUNNN.
Hedeby is also in full pre-raid mode with Erlendur giving crossbow demonstrations, showing off a modified sight using a raven skull, and Lagertha training a new crew of shield maidens. Erlendur isn’t at all concerned about her or the Ragnarssons, since he’ll kill Torvi’s child unless she spies for him. But why would he do that since Guthrum is their backup play?
Watching the two conspire, Lagertha breaks up the meeting to talk to Kalf and tells him she’s pregnant. Elated, he proposes. Wedding preparations begin, and at last Lagertha looks stunning in their wedding tent, waiting for the groom as Kalf shakes hands down the line.
After a kiss, she looks sad as he circles her talking of her beauty, and when he leans in for another kiss, she stabs him, regretfully but thoroughly. Amusingly, he just smiles and doesn’t fight at all: she’s kept her promise. They kiss once more and he dies silently. She walks out with her warrior maiden bridal party, wedding dress covered artfully in his blood, and leads the cheer: LONG LIVE EARL INGSTAD!
Besides the mic drops from Floki and Lagertha, some stories jumped the tracks in “Promised;” and, while the acting remains top notch, I felt disappointed by loose threads and slowness. The bath scene was fairly excruciating, and I am just not buying this intimacy from Yidu’s side, whereas Ragnar’s unconventional closeness with Athelstan was seasons’ long in the making. Her character seems artificially accelerated, making it far less satisfying. I did, however, enjoy them sneaking around together. She does have a parallel in another storyline: if she is royalty and her foster father has his own boat, that ties her and Ivar together as a type. That is the only reason I suppose we must believe that she is actually a bastard princess; otherwise I would dismiss it as incredibly unlikely.
My biggest disappointment is with Kalf’s death. Although I have been looking forward to seeing Lagertha make good on her vow, I expected it to be much later after a great deal more scheming. So, Kalf didn’t have anything else up his sleeve besides recreating Ragnar’s life? Lame. The entire town, who just 2 years ago cheered the coup, is on her side again? Does Kalf have no family? Does his vision of Ragnar eating his liver just mean nothing? Are we now supposed to see him as genuine in his desire to run Hedeby? Bah! Meanwhile Erlendur is ready to discard Guthrum, which makes Torvi feel expendable and somewhat negates the big reveal that Erlendur had her and Guthrum this whole time.
Additionally, we could have used some transitional dialog to explain why Harald and Halfdan were suddenly invited to go raiding, when they seemed to appear randomly with trouble in mind. Perhaps this is the work of the censors, making time for more Viagra ads, or perhaps it was poor composition. Either way, “Promised” wasn’t my favorite episode this season.
While delivering on the “Promised” revenge of Lagertha upon Kalf, which was in its way delicious, this episode was inconsistent in speed and had a few clunker moments mixed in with greatness. I loved Ecbert prostrating himself in the dust before the crucifix only to swear a deal with the devil seconds later, and I’m enjoying Bjorn channeling early Ragnar. But, Torvi has the right of it: he’s not saying much. Neither is Lagertha, who’s barely said a paragraph’s worth since season start. Add in my disappointment with the Kalf plot, the Frankish incest, and molasses-like Yidu scenes, and I’m feeling a bit cranky. Perhaps this will all make more sense in retrospect or in the non-cut version on the DVD.