I am missing my cohort as I type this. Historical fiction author Lissa Bryan, who wrote the wonderful Tudor love story, Under These Restless Skies, is a brilliant researcher. But, alas, she didn’t make it to Paris last night, so I’m on my own today. Next week, she’ll be here!
I’d also like to encourage my readers to check out the podcast done for last week’s episode by The Wild Hunt of the No Ship Network. They do a podcast for every VIKINGS episode and their insights are keen and broad. Also, they include interesting cultural references that I’ve found entertaining.
On to the show!
Last week, in episode six, there was nonstop action, beginning even before the first commercial on my end, which culminated with the murder of Athelstan. This week, things were all about preparation.
This struck me as particularly apt, as there is a great deal of preparation to be done before any major military undertaking. This whole season, as I see it, has been about undergirding Ragnar and those who look to him to ready him for the invasion of Paris. There has also been a great deal of politicking in Wessex and Mercia that has occupied the fans of this show and this has not abated.
The episode begins with a seeming face-off between Ragnar and Floki. At this juncture, we have no idea if Ragnar knows that Floki was the one who killed Athelstan, but as it appears the men are playing a sort of mental chess game, I imagined that Ragnar does indeed suspect Floki’s guilt.
Of course, Floki would not acknowledge any guilt. As he tells Helga later, he performed a needed sacrifice and he’s not unhappy about that at all.
The silhouette of a well fortified Paris looms in the background and next thing we know, we’re in the court of the Emperor Charles of France. He’s known in history to be steadfast against the Northern Invaders, insisting on fortifications to be erected, among other things. When Charles is advised by the iron-handed Count Odo to leave the city for his own safety, he refuses.
He is no doubt at least partially influenced by his daughter, the Princess Gisla. Now, here is a woman with a backbone. I look forward to seeing great things from her in future episodes. She is dignified, proud, and seems fearless as she confronts the men of power in her sphere. Is she the Princess who has been prophesied by the Seer to wed the Bear? I believe so.
Back at the Viking encampment, Floki—looking a bit wild and electrified—and Ragnar have a little chat. Ragnar doesn’t confront his old friend on the Athelstan issue, but he does decide to make Floki the leader of battle for the invasion. Which visibly freaks the shipbuilder out, but he steps up to the task. Everyone else, as they meet around the planning table, is also rather unnerved at Floki’s appointment. (To say nothing of the Game of Thrones-type chair in which he sits.) Lagertha and Rollo impress me with their decisiveness, while Jarl Kalf (I still call him the Kalfling) seems to continually encroach upon Lagertha’s space. Björn and Rollo together make up the best part of the battle plans, after which Rollo looks to Floki—who has been squirming uncomfortably in his chair—and tells him to build whatever was necessary.
Floki agrees. Let’s face it, we all know who was really in charge of that meeting, don’t we? Aside from Ragnar who roamed behind the seated participants, watching carefully with an intrigued light in his eye.
Back in Wessex, King Ecbert is unmanning his son, Aethelwulf. Now, I’m not a fan of the prince, but he’s been given a bit of a raw deal. Ecbert has clearly expected his son to acknowledge—despite a public declaration of cuckoldry—his wife’s son by Athelstan: Alfred. And Ecbert is asking Aethelwulf about his wife’s opinions regarding King Aelle (her father) to see if Ecbert would cause a massive row if he were to seek to overthrow the other king. In addition, there is talk of disenfranchising Princess, er, Queen Kwethrith of Mercia!
King Ecbert is showing himself to be an ambitious, corrupt man who looks smooth and persuasive but is actually quite heartless, no matter how soft his words are. He sends Aethelwulf to see Kwenthrith as a warning, no matter that many Wessex nobles have perished at her hand.
And while Aethelfwulf is obeying his father? Ecbert is applying the same academic seduction techniques he was using early on with Athelstan – with his focus now being his daughter-in-law, Judith.
I saw this coming weeks ago. He kissed Judith, who was trapped, really. Judith is in a really bad place for her own peace of mind, I think. Now that she has proven herself unfaithful toward her spouse, and now that King Ecbert has promised (like anyone can believe a promise of his?) to protect her, she is unable to leave. She’s married. She has position – but everyone knows what she’s done. She’s disfigured. And if her lord and king and father-in-law puts the moves on her, how can she say no? A truly untenable position and I am worried for her.
Let’s peek in at Kattegat. Porunn—also disfigured this season—tries to give her daughter, Björn’s daughter, to Aslaug to raise. We have no clear idea as to why, except that Porunn seems to feel ill-equipped to raise the girl as a Viking. Jill on Facebook said:
I think Porrun has some PTSD or brain damage from her head injuries… I felt horrible for her, but at the same time wanted to shake her!
I fear for Porunn if she were to relinquish care of her daughter. She might do herself further injury, run, or worse.
Aslaug, though, stepped up and imparted wisdom to her stepdaughter-in-law and managed to keep Porunn with her and to engage the younger woman to keep her child for the time being. The domestic sphere is Aslaug’s and she inhabits it well.
Floki finally tells Helga that he killed Athelstan. He does this while gripped in a passionate frenzy of faith in himself and his gods, and Helga listens to him as she always has, but there is a hesitancy in her expression, now. Her husband has hurt her and she won’t forget that, though she forgives. But when he grabs her face, her concern is clear. And when he confesses, she breaks from him and runs. We never find out what happened with her after that, but I am very curious. Will she keep this knowledge to herself? Will she run to Ragnar?
We go back then to Mercia, where Aethelwulf is finally in a meeting with Kwenthrith. She tries to seduce him, but he prays audibly to be delivered from temptation and…she leaves him. In the morning, though, she threatens him with death. He, with a show of his own spine, defies the naked blades at this throat and reminds her that she is in the inferior position, no matter that she waves Ragnar’s supposed son in his face. Ragnar is said to have had many children—far more than we have yet seen in this series—but none of them are named Magnus.
In France, Princess Gisla meets with Count Odo and he reminds her he has offered for her hand. She still isn’t accepting it, though she does say she’d be in his debt if he managed to save Paris. She herself goes masked to Mass, which would seem to indicate she was not expected to be there. But it also shows the strength of her faith and, when she takes off her mask, that she wants others to know she was there, praying for her people, the night before the Vikings were due to invade.
For of course they’d been seen that day. Approaching the seaward wall in the longships, Rollo and his crews were attacked by ready crossbowmen. The power of the crossbow is what made it a superior weapon in many ways to the longbow. The bolts from a crossbow could pierce armor and shields where a regular arrow might not, so much power went into the firing of them. Still, it seemed that Rollo and the men came through that well enough.
Well enough that he was able, back on shore with his men, to engage in a fight. Where, yes, fangirls, he fought shirtless once again. His hair, though, had been wrapped into a semblance of a flat bun on the back of his head. This would keep it out of enemy hands during a battle.
As the episode concluded, Floki himself was with the main cast on a ridge overlooking Paris. He led a battle cry and the people took it up, shouting into the torchlit night. It seems that, at last, Paris will be invaded next week.
Now, I know that without Lissa I’ve missed a bunch of stuff, so if you have anything you’d like to discuss about this episode, let me know! See you next week!
Heill þú farir, heill þú aftr komir, heill þú á sinnum sér!
Hale go forth, hale return, hale on your ways! – Vafþrúðnismál 4