Previously on Vikings, “Murder Most Foul”
Three episodes into the second half of Vikings season 5, a strong paternity theme emerges. In every corner of Vikingdom, questions arise over who is truly a son and heir, whether it’s to earthly fathers like Ivar and Ragnar or heavenly fathers like the Christian God and Odin. In “A New God,” yet another chicken comes home to roost when SURPRISE! who should emerge from the cutthroat woods to rejoin his supposed brothers but Magnus, Kwenthrith’s son supposedly with Ragnar, and he’s got a bone to pick against his former foster brothers. Bjorn, fresh off of confronting his own paternity, seems willing to at least hear out any Ragnarsson who believes he is one.
Played by industry newcomer Dean Ridge, Magnus is searching for acceptance with his heart on his sleeve, and rejection of someone like this rarely pays off at such a volatile time. Magnus isn’t musclebound or even scarred, so something kept him alive in the woods, like maybe a genetic tendency towards wily manipulation. He quickly puts a bug in Bjorn’s ear about supporting Alfred when Aethelwulf banished him from the settlement as a mere preteen. We might know it was a desperate move to save his life, but wee Magnus doesn’t see it that way and blames Alfred for not righting this wrong. Although Bjorn calls him “brother” and listens to his complaints, he maintains his signature bemused, noncommittal aloofness, so it is difficult to predict where this might go, whether Bjorn truly believes Magnus is a son of Ragnar or simply believes that Magnus believes.
After butchering his rival on Sherbourne’s altar last episode, Heahmund takes sanctuary in the royal chapel and pleads that Cuthred was no true religious leader because he was conspiring to assassinate Alfred. Given this information and his apparent loyalty, Alfred is willing to restore him and leave Heahmund’s moral failings to God. Not surprisingly, Aethelred is spitting mad, and even Lagertha questions Heahmund’s judgment when he claims he was protecting their relationship but is now in prison. Although Lagertha hasn’t had much to do this season, watching her scold the erstwhile warrior Bishop is amusing enough, and it feels as though the acting relationship between Katheryn Winnick and Jonathan Rhys Meyers has at last hit its stride.
Ubbe throws his lot in with Alfred after arguing that even Ragnar questioned his faith and establishes the Viking claim to East Anglia by accepting baptism with his wife Torvi to the protest of all the lords and bishops. Bjorn then tosses a huge fit, wondering aloud if Ubbe is “even Ragnar’s son at all.” Someone is feeling resentful! Bolstered by Ubbe’s promise, Alfred restores Heahmund to his bishopric with an impassioned speech, and Heahmund baptizes their new allies. Neither has much to say about their conversion, but Torvi isn’t crazy about Ubbe removing his torc, gifted from Ragnar upon his coming of age. I imagine their casual, practical acceptance of this baptism as a common attitude of any Viking who “converted,” even when Heahmund comes on a little too strong with his “exorcising the demons” talk. It’s the first of two times this episode Heahmund gets out of pocket with his Viking friends, the second when he tells Lagertha in bed that she’s there to help him fight Satan. Because they’ve fought along side him and because she loves him, their reactions range from Ubbe’s mental “…k” to Lagertha’s pursed, “Aren’t you adorable” face. How strange it must be for Heahmund to feel humored rather than feared.
Alfred realizes he’s been a horrible fiance and offers Elsewith honesty and an out, but she eloquently counter-offers with an agreement to marry him, saying she would hope to keep surprising him. For all her distraction with Bjorn, she seems sincere and sweet and he’s pleasantly stunned, so there is hope for these crazy kids after all. Later, Heahmund oversees their wedding as well, but thankfully we are spared any more than the first part of the bedding ceremony, after which there are no awkward comments about her past experience, at least in the American cut of the episode. Aethelred, of course, is a rage monster about the entire thing and deflects Judith’s attempt to find him a wife because he already has one picked out, namely Cuthred’s daughter, Ethelfred. As Heahmund muses with Lagertha about the conspiracy’s depth, Aethelred meets with the bishops. Cue the ominous music.
Post a tension-filled pissing match with Harald, Ivar announces his wife is pregnant, and she uses Ivar’s hit squad to finish off her silent sperm donor. Hvitserk angrily curses Ivar for Margrethe’s death, so Ivar and Freydis intimate that if he doesn’t shut his whore mouth, he could end up a human sacrifice, which Ivar is planning to announce his ascension to the pantheon of gods. He’s not just a son of Odin, he’s a god, too. Hvitserk’s incredulity and absolute fed-upness with Ivar is quite priceless, but the ceremony proceeds.
As it turns out, the people of Kattegat are not kindly taking to his new leadership and have to be forced out into the streets at spear point, screaming and crying, to attend. The aesthetics are quite incredible, with Ivar in white and red paint with the crow-skull crown from the Season 5b poster and Freydis in an opposite creamy gown. Even the Seer rolls out of his ground-grave/bed in protest as their masked sacrifice is led out in chains. Who is under the hood? If Vikings doesn’t win an Emmy for this costuming, essentially the scary version of Alfred and Elsewith’s wedding garb, I will eat my hat.
Harald arrives in York and meets Ivar’s appointed governor/castellan Jarl Olavson, played by Tomi May, who, despite fewer than 10 years in the industry, has over 40 credits to his name. Harald tells Olavson not to get too comfortable, because after he’s done raiding England, Harald is heading back to Kattegat to overthrow Ivar and Olavson can put up or shut up. Despite his allegiance to being an ideological son of Ragnar, Olavson has his own ambitions, so he eventually agrees.
Iceland takes a turn for the even worse when Floki attempts to encourage his squabbling people to look to the children to build their future, because soon Helgi’s pregnant wife Thorunn is missing. His mother, Eyvind’s wife Rafarta, told him that she’d gone to the waterfall to pray for a safe delivery, but it’s still raining shadowcats and direwolves, so that isn’t likely to anyone. Killing his pregnant daughter-in-law would be a wild move even for Eyvind, who seems more like a Strongly Worded Letter type. What is really going on here and who is behind it?
Vikings S5E13 Review Score
"A New God"
Starring: Katheryn Winnick, Gustaf Skarsgård, Georgia Hirst, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Alexander Ludwig, Alex Høgh Andersen, Jordan Patrick Smith, Peter Franzén, Marco Ilsø, Jennie Jacques, Adam Copeland, Kris Holden-Ried, Leah McNamara, Jack McEvoy, Roisin Murphy, Dean Ridge, Alicia Agneson, Tomi May, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Darren Cahill | Director: Ciaran Donnelly | Writer: Michael Hirst