Velkomin, fellow berserkers and shieldmaidens, to season 4 of the History Channel’s Vikings!
Before we set sail once again towards the Old World, here are the top 10 cut and deleted scenes from season 3’s American airings, and why they are important, in order of appearance:
1: As they part ways in Essex, Bjorn tells Lagertha that their fates are tied together and he has known this for a long time. Episode 1 (deleted)
Message: Bjorn is a visionary, and this more distinctly ties Bjorn’s future to Lagertha, rather than to Ragnar and his half-brothers.
2: After Judith’s confessional, Athelstan stops her from leaving, tells her that she has nothing to be sorry for, and kisses her. Episode 2
Message: Athelstan was much more aggressive in his pursuit of Judith—it didn’t just jump from her confession to his Mack Daddy Bath Stretch to bed. While her confession was certainly brazen, she was quite conflicted about acting on it, whereas he was not.
3: After Aethelwulf returns with Ragnar, Aelle threatens Judith explicitly to do her duty and produce more sons in order to secure their foothold in Ecbert’s kingdom. Or else. Episode 4
Message: We haven’t seen much from Aelle, a strange choice considering his historical importance in Ragnar’s story. This demonstrates the pressures Judith was under from all sides and a lack of autonomy, creating sympathy for her affection towards Athelstan and an understanding of her precarious position.
4: In the Euro version of Harbard’s story about Astrid, she escaped slaughter while pregnant with her murdered husband’s child, whom her creepy father in law Lousebeard helps deliver, then offers his sexual “services.” She has misgivings, so she sleeps with Harbard instead and has his son who becomes a Duke in Russia. Later when they have sex, Aslaug looks quite terrified the entire time, rather than the US cut where she seems startled by his size, if you know what I mean, then closes her eyes. Episode 4
Message: Substitute Astrid with Judith, Harbard with Athelstan, Lousebeard with Ecbert, and the Duke with Alfred, and we’d all know what was going to happen the rest of the season. It also shows that Aslaug understood Harbard’s demigod status and felt obligated and intimidated. She is fearful and believes she is paying for his favor towards her son, while we know his price is more sinister.
5: During the party in Essex, Lagertha’s conversation with Rollo is affectionate and longing on both sides, not a snarky, starry-eyed drool fest over Kalf. After he admits that he cares for anything having to do with her, she replies pointedly that Rollo has looked after Bjorn “almost as if he was your own son.” He seems stunned and happy, but accepts her unwillingness to say more. Episode 4
Message: SAY WHAT?! This is easily the most egregious, shocking cut. It explains why Rollo and Bjorn are tied by “bear” imagery, why Bjorn’s nature is more emotional than Ragnar’s, and why Lagertha quit Kattegat (and Ragnar) several times. It cements the inevitable divide between Bjorn and his brothers and gives Rollo a reason to establish his own legacy. HUGE.
6: As Lagertha saddles up to confront Kalf alone after Ragnar seems uninterested, Bjorn asks her to stay and ensure that Ragnar continues favoring him over Aslaug’s children to protect his right of succession. Episode 5
Message: This concern is hammered into the European version, telegraphing a coming conflict, whereas in the American version, Lagertha simply tells him to grow up and act like a man, as though he were whining about his mommy leaving. How very American.
7: As the pre-departure celebration begins on the beach, Erlendur grabs one of the recognizable shieldmaidens and screws her right on the table in front of everyone, including Torvi. Episode 6
Message: Public humiliation of one’s spouse was frowned upon strongly by Viking society, which granted women equal rights to dissolve marriages. Public humiliation led to Lagertha leaving Ragnar. This flagrant insult not only establishes that Erlendur is a slimebag, but allows equal footing for Torvi’s fling with Bjorn later that night—þorrun gave him permission, and Erlendur disgraced Torvi. Instead, we get the Puritanical spin that Torvi’s a harlot married to a misunderstood guy who keeps literally getting screwed by Ragnar’s family. Gross. Further, this was a bad move for Erlendur, a landless prince, while Torvi has her son’s interests to consider. Jarl Borg Jr. could still inherit Götaland as a vassal, so Bjorn would be a better choice for Torvi politically, and vice versa.
8: Judith sits wide-eyed in her dark bedroom contemplating Ecbert’s “recompense” speech, hugging herself and rubbing her severed ear when little Alfred’s cry reminds her of the stakes. She then goes to Ecbert’s room for the “Is the reward what I think it is?” scene. When he tells her to get in the bed, she says, “Come to me, my king, my lord.” Episode 9
Message: The US cut makes it seem as though Judith is a willing participant in Ecbert’s scheme to cuckold Aethelwulf, making him the third powerful man she’s bedded. But, the original shows that, after being threatened by her father and mutilated by her husband and father in law, she was driven to protect Athelstan’s bastard child by submitting to the king’s wishes.
9: Lagertha finishes her speech to Ragnar’s coffin with a strong admission: “For I have never stopped loving you. Not for one moment. You and I were born to be together.” Episode 10
Message: What a shame this was cut. Not only is it a delicious moment for shippers (Ragertha? Lagnar?), but reveals the embarrassing power play in Ragnar’s non-death. Lagertha had remained at court, off and on, quietly supporting him and pretending not to care. Now he knows, and Lagertha cannot abide appearing weak. They’re through.
10: Along that vein, Rollo tells the coffin, “You thought you were a god, but in the end, you were just a man.” In a deleted scene, he goes on to say that he feels his destiny is in Paris. Episode 10
Message: Rollo wants his own territory without Ragnar’s influence looming over it, so we shouldn’t be surprised at his alliance with France. This isn’t just an affectionately rueful goodbye to his sibling rival—Rollo is 100% done with Ragnar’s legacy tour and, once he realizes Ragnar heard him, feels he cannot go back.
Allow me to wax disapproving. It is interesting that the vast majority of the cuts re-frame women of a pre-Christian society into standard post-Christian Mary Magdalene/whore narratives and the men into the accepted Aloof Uncontrollable Sexuality trope so common to American media, and by “interesting,” I mean “disgusting.” The actual story shows valuable, semi-powerful women in dangerous circumstances paying a price to intentionally aggressive men to protect their lives and their children’s interests. Still other cuts blend several very distinct families rightfully vying for their own power into one “happy” family with a few selfishly disgruntled members.
Do directors believe that American audiences can’t handle foreshadowing that “spoils” historical events or that we’re too dense to understand subtext? Would we rather believe that Rollo is a traitorous bad seed without a cause and that Bjorn is an entitled mama’s boy? Would we prefer to think of Lagertha as a tarty cougar? Is it better to see Torvi and Judith as power-hungry whores? The hell you say!
That said, now that I know they’re out there, I can’t wait to see how these parallel stories play into the expanded season 4 of Vikings. Starting tonight, February 18, 10 episodes will air in the spring, and another set of 10 will air in the fall. Twenty in one year instead of 10 with a year break! Praise Odin.
What are you most looking forward to seeing this season?