Discussion

The #ShieldGeeks Talk Vikings: S4 E16 Crossings

 

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“100% more evisceration talk than expected.” 
 

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Heillir! The Shieldmaidens of History (Protecting the Innocent from Anachronisms) welcome you to our ongoing series on the History Channel show Vikings. 
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Lissa Bryan is a delightful historian as well as being a wonderful writer. Her latest book, Dominionis a dystopian romance taking place at a time in the not-too-far-distant future.




Lissa: I think we’re both still a bit shaken by the last episode and wondering how the show will continue with the loss of such an incredible presence.

Sandi: Perhaps, and I could see that in some of the tone of the commentary last night. There was a lot of humor and poking fun. Like folks do at a wake, in some respects. I don’t imagine it was just us, either.

Lissa: We opened with a cold, desolate shot of the place where Ragnar lies, the cage still creaking as it dangles from the trees.

Sandi: An appropriate opening, I feel, as we move on from where we were last week to the new directions and foci of this week. The cage is there, a visible reminder and, if I may say it, grave/site marker, after a fashion, for Ragnar’s final resting place. His death has placed an onus on his sons, left feelings behind in his ex-wife, and renewed ambition in a man who would take his place.

Lissa: In Kattegat, Lagertha can’t believe Ragnar is dead. She insists to Joan Jett that Ivar didn’t actually see him die, and so it’s possible he’s still alive. But all she can do is continue to rule. She tells Joan Jett that Ragnar hated ruling – it might have been what killed him. And that seems to be true, or at least what drove him to abdicate his responsibilities for so long. Ragnar was a warrior, one who fought until he found himself at the top, and at the top when there were no more enemies to battle, he didn’t quite know what to do with himself. That’s why all of his happy memories were of simpler times when he was raiding and fighting, and living the simple life of a farmer. Lagertha says Ragnar is watching her, and so are all of the men and women who have fought at her side. She cannot let them down. How would she explain herself to them in Valhalla?

Sandi: This is so true. Not all leaders of men in battle can lead others in peace or in civil manners. In Éire’s Devil King, Tuirgeis (the first Norse high king of Ireland) has to learn that conquering a village is a far different thing from ruling a people. Ragnar’s backside was less suited to that wooden throne than it was to riding a horse or sailing in a skipniu.

Lissa: We next go to Wessex, where King Ecbert is dining with his son and Judith. Aethelwulf tells his father it was a mistake to release Ivar.

Sandi: It’s interesting, to me, to see the lessening of pomp and circumstance in this scene. The room is dark. There are few servants. Burger King is looking far less self-aware than normal… We discussed a bit about this on twitter and one theory is that Ecbert is in mourning for Ragnar and has had a shift in self-perception as a result.

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Lissa: Judith primly tells Aethelwulf he shouldn’t contradict his father’s judgment like that. She puts a hand over Ecbert’s and says she trusts him and believes in him. Ecbert tells Aethelwulf he’s right to worry about Ragnar’s sons taking revenge, and in fact, Aethelwulf is just the guy who should go meet this challenge head-on and fight for his Christian homeland.  Aethelwulf asks what his dad is going to be doing in the meantime, and Ecbert says he’s going to stay put, teaching Alfred how to govern.

Sandi: Because of course, King Ecbert is still obsessing over Athelstan, though he, too, is gone from the world. This devotion to dead men is eerie, as is Ecbert’s overall demeanor. Linus Roache plays him brilliantly. I felt rather bad for Judith, though. She has long since learned who butters her bread, and she goes out of her way to verbally support her father-in-law/lover against her husband (which is all kinds of weird to type, by the way) and is verbally shunted aside even so. So she gets nothing from her input. Is this to show us that Judith is still trying to figure out the power dynamic or that Ecbert is clearly changing in some manner?

Lissa: Ubbe and Sigurd are bathing in the river as Ivar… watches from the bank. Seriously, he looks uber-creepy lurking up there, cloaked in black, staring at his bathing brothers. The two in the water are discussing what to do about their father and mother.

Sandi: Ivar really is a creepy stalker kind of guy. He needs to develop a spy network. He could use, for example, a good Thomas Cromwell. (Don’t shoot me, Lissa!)

Lissa: Ubbe says that if Lagertha isn’t going to kill them, they can take their revenge later, when the right opportunity presents itself. But what to do about controlling Ivar, who might decide to strike before the time is right?

Sandi: Ubbe is not now the great adventurer in this story. He’s the farmer. The elder brother. The one who feels the responsibility to keep tabs on everyone. He has his more violent/passionate moments, but I see him as wanting to establish a peaceful existence for himself and his brothers, and to keep his status in the process. So controlling Ivar’s more violent/rash tendencies would feel like it was in his purview, I think. Ubbe seems, for all his conventionalities, to acknowledge Ivar’s more volatile qualities.

Lissa: On the hill above Kattegat, Ivar sits on a rock and weeps. He throws back his head and screams in grief and rage at the sky. We soon see him at a blacksmith’s forge, making a weapon.

Sandi: It’s interesting to see Ivar and all the skills he has acquired, for all he is disabled. It’s a positive to see that he’s been persistent and encouraged to excel. I imagine it startles the locals, too. After all, he was exposed at birth and has nevertheless managed to make a name for himself, even if he has mobility issues. I wonder if his very life will have a longterm effect on his people?

vikings-s4-e-16-pic-oneLissa: Lagertha enters the hall to thunderous applause and takes a seat in her throne.

Sandi: She certainly has a way. I think she’s come to wear a leadership mantle like a heavy cloak over the time jump. She wears it ponderously, I think, though she continues to command the room.

Lissa: Her owl is on a perch right beside it, and the throne room has been re-designed to have a pattern of carved wood stakes in the shape of spread wings behind it. Her banners hang from the ceiling.

vikings-s4-e6-pic-twoSandi: She has certainly made her mark.  This woman is quite a far cry from the younger farmer’s wife and mom—and legendary shieldmaiden!—we met in the first season. The weight of her words is apparent to others as well as to herself.

Lissa: She tells the gathered people that they’ve suffered too long without a real ruler. Her first plan of action is to fortify Kattegat, lest someone become jealous of their prosperous little city and try to take it. She asks the people if they consent, and they all shout “Aye!” in response.

Sandi: She is clearly taking the reins, making commentary as to her superiority over the “prior administration” and showing the people that she can be a good and fair leader. Taking the throne should, in effect, make her a queen of her people. None of Ragnar’s sons have claimed leadership for themselves.

vikings-s4-e16-pic-threeLissa: Ivar speaks up from a chair at the front of the room. He demands justice, for Lagertha killed his mother in cold blood for no reason.

Sandi: Well, he says for no reason, here, and for all administrative purposes this is so. But I’m pretty sure Ivar knows the backstories. That he’s confronting her in front of everyone is pretty brave of him; Lagertha is popular and her actions were not vilified by their community.

Lissa: Ubbe tries to stop him, but Ivar brushes him aside. He challenges her to single combat. Lagertha says that Ubbe perhaps understands the situation a bit better than Ivar does. Lagertha is gentle in her refusal, but she says she doesn’t want to kill Ivar, and will not fight him. Ivar tells her that one day, he will kill her. Her fate is sealed.

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Sandi: For the record, the above picture does a great job showcasing the differences in the Great Hall. The wings behind the throne, the new red-V shields held by the shieldmaidens, the open floor. Also visible is the wear of years; reminders of a the time that has passed in this hall.

Lissa: Björn’s ships are becalmed in a fog, and the Vikings are muttering. Björn keeps checking his scrap of map. (Perhaps he should have brought the bigger one that Rollo showed him back in France. Just sayin’.) Anyway, he’s not exactly sure where they are.

Sandi: Even the greatest navigators have their off days…

Lissa: Halfdan says he wonders if Björn is cursed like his father. Harald tells him that one day, he must overthrow the Ragnarssons (he calls them the Lothbrooks, but that’s not how they would have been known.) How else can he fulfill his destiny to become King of Norway? Halfdan says perhaps the time is now, but Harald prefers to wait for a sign from the gods. He says the gods love them.

Sandi: These guys are either doubting or nearly fanboying over someone. Halfdan is giving the impression of being the less restrained, Harald is more level-headed. Which is good, considering he will historically be king one day.

vikings-s4-e16-pic-fiveLissa: Helga asks Floki if he thinks they’re lost, and Floki takes this as an opening for an existential monologue. He feels lost, himself.  “I no longer know who I am. Why I am here? What is my purpose? … I feel like an empty vessel. I’m all alone. I need something to fill me up.” @DeeDonuts speculated last night that perhaps Floki somehow sensed Ragnar’s death.

Sandi: I believe he did sense it. I was rather surprised by this turn in Floki’s expressed consciousness, because he’s always relied on the gods, promoting their authority over everything, even when others were not as on board with them as he was.

Lissa: Helga recalls an illness she had a while back which was so severe she thought she was going to die and it made her think about what she  wants out of life. She wants to have another baby, but Floki refuses.

Sandi: Now, the man who says and believes in the inevitability of Fate would not be inclined to kick up a fuss, here. The man who is conflicted about what the world will present, though, is. So it is possible that it isn’t just Ecbert who was thrown by the death of Ragnar, but also Floki and everyone else so closely connected to Ragnar. Helga’s wish, after all, is perfectly natural in the scheme of things, even if she is “getting up there” in terms of reproductive lifespan for her time.

Lissa: Rollo is also on the ship, wearing a sleeveless leather tunic, and those guns are lookin’ fiiiiiine.

Sandi: Yeah, I confess, it was nice to see Rollo looking all Viking again. Especially after his stint of keelhauling. As he told his wife, he is Viking. It’s his heart, his soul. Rollo is the First Duke of Normandy, but he’s also an adventurer, a warrior, and that was quite evident in the episode.

Lissa: In Kattegat, Lagertha is getting ready for bed, unbraiding her hair. Joan Jett asks her if she thinks Ragnar’s sons will try to kill Lagertha and vows that she won’t let it happen. She will protect Lagertha. Lagertha replies that if the boys are determined to kill her, there’s no way to stop them. She lies back on the bed and tells Joan Jett that she used to sleep in this very bed with Ragnar. She is home.

Sandi: I’m really not buying into the Joan Jett character, though it’s been a few episodes that she’s been around. Is she there for Lagertha to have a sounding board for character building purposes? She’s good with hand-to-hand combat, but Lagertha has a phalanx of shieldmaidens and a highly trained army of her own; why the bodyguard? Is it to give Lagertha an expression of sexual freedom for the series? I’m still shaking my head. I do hope there is a plot-significant reason for Joan Jett to be lurking about as she is.

vikings-s4-e16-pic-sixLissa: Meanwhile, Ivar is still pounding away at the blacksmith’s forge. He has a fantasy about approaching Lagertha and sticking a knife in her eye.

Sandi: Okay, the way this was shown? Scary and awesome in the way the knife is imagined bending Lagertha’s cornea. It is, of course, a fantasy, but wow. Nice cinematography in such a tight focus. The fantasy is indicative of Ivar’s frame of mind, certainly, but he is not in a position at that moment to enact it. I am wondering if he’ll have to work on his stalking to get her alone to attempt to avenge his mother’s death.

Lissa: Outside, Ubbe runs into Margrethe and asks how she’s doing. Margrethe asks him where Ivar is and Ubbe tells her not to worry about that. Ivar has other things on his mind. Other chicks to murder. That sort of thing. Margrethe apologizes for tricking him into going to Hedeby, however the hell that happened, and Ubbe says not to worry about that, either. He has bigger betrayals to worry about. Margrethe says she has to get back to work, and Ubbe tells her he needs to see her again.

Sandi: Back to Ubbe-the-homebody, here. He seems—as Björn was before him—to be perhaps inappropriately attached to a slave girl. A pretty one, true, but one who is known and well known by his brothers. Is he just seeking to have her warm his bed again or is he wanting something more? And yes, Margrethe is a slave, but she was not Lagertha’s slave; she was Aslaug’s—or the slave of Aslaug’s family, including the sons of Ragnar. That Margrethe was co-opted to serve to the detriment of her owners would not reflect well on her, no matter how many other betrayals are worrying Ubbe.

Lissa: The Spanish coast appears and the Vikings land at Algeciras. That night, they invade, crushing aside the small fishing boats as they pull up to the docks. Inside the city walls, a market is being held. At night.

Sandi: The Spanish coast—and rich Moorish resources—were not unknown to the Vikings as they raided and traded during this time. Slaves could be traded for rare spices, gold for fabrics and other items that would have been treasured in the northern climates. In addition, slaves could and were acquired in these stopovers. Sometimes, the Vikings had civil trading encounters, but not always.

Lissa: But anyway… In they go, slaying the unarmed men as they pass through. Helga pauses to sniff an orange. The Halfdan/Finehair duo do some fancy slaughterin’ and leave a young girl an orphan. But they don’t try to harm her. Helga spots the girl as she turns and runs off, and gives chase.

Sandi: That Harald and his brother do not violate the nubile women surprised me. Their prior behavior seems to indicate that such restraint is not their norm. I am thinking that Hirst is doing a nice job of characterization for the future King of Norway, here.

Lissa: Floki hears the call to prayer and he stops in his tracks, tilting his head as he drinks in the sound. He looks up and sees the roof of the mosque and heads toward it.

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Sandi: And here is where we see Floki’s perspective shift a bit more. He’s moving, physically and perhaps metaphorically, away from the beliefs he’s held closest since his youth.

Lissa: When he finds the door where the chant is coming from, he picks the lock and slips inside.

Sandi: When he and the younger Ragnar raided monasteries years before, there was none of this skulking about. Floki believed the right of conquest was his, under the eye of Odin the All Father. So seeing him acting in such a different way was surprising.

Lissa: The young girl is still fleeing from Helga. She pounds on the door of a building and they admit her, shutting it firmly behind her. Helga pounds on it, but they don’t open it for her. And there’s Helga without an ax or anything.

Sandi: One doesn’t customarily bring an axe to an adoption interview, Lissa… So, I’m guessing that the girl told those who brought her out of danger that she was being chased by a Northman and they didn’t let Helga in. I am not sure why Helga is suddenly fixated on adopting a girl utterly out of their culture, unless she’s kind of losing it somewhere. It happens.

Lissa: Floki enters the mosque and watches the worshippers. They don’t pause in their prayers as he wanders around the edges of the room. He reaches the front of it and looks around, trying to spot the god they’re worshiping. He touches the wall the praying men are facing as if it may give answers to this puzzling mystery. Halfdan and Finehair enter and ask him what he’s doing. What is this place? Floki tells them it’s a temple. One of the brothers says the noise of the prayers is annoying and decapitates the imam. Floki immediately stops him from slaying any more of the worshippers, “No more killing. Not in here, not in this place. I forbid it. If you want to kill these people, you have to kill me first.” The brothers exchange a look, but decide to leave.

Sandi: Was I the only one gaping at the screen when this happened? Again, we see the character shift in Floki. This is the same man that was all for using a priest for target practice, once upon a time. And now, he’s all “No Killing, I Mean It!” What’s more, Harald heeded him and directed his men to do so as well. So this is setting up an interesting dynamic that I wonder how Hirst will develop in the future.

Lissa: The Vikings catch up with Helga, lingering by the door as though she’s waiting to sell Girl Scout Cookies. They bash the door down and she runs inside, still hunting for the little girl. We see flashes of the child as she ducks behind pillars and furniture. Björn has a moment where he turns and is startled by his own reflection on a mirror-covered wall. As I said last night, the Moors had mirrors, but they were small and expensive in this era. No one was using them for wallpaper.

Sandi: The reception to Helga’s sudden, passionate daughter-hunt was mixed, online. Some felt sorry for her, others felt that this was a cheap excuse for drama—linking a female character’s motivations to her womb (or children or lack thereof).

And our #BootSoleFile got to add the tall mirrors. It is conjectured that glass mirrors weren’t made until the 12th or 13th Century. Though mirrors have been around for thousands of years, they were often created from highly polished ground stone, ceramic, and bronze or copper. Glass mirrors would have been largely made from volcanic glass, or obsidian. Certainly not conventional mirrors as we have in our times.

Lissa: The Vikings find the corpse of a man who killed himself, apparently by sticking a pin or a very thin dagger through his heart. Rollo searches him and finds a key.

Lissa: Inside of the locked room, the women of the house are hiding. Rollo looks at them, exchanges a look with Hvitserk, his brows arched and a small smile tugging his lips.

Sandi: That man! I don’t see Rollo promoting rapine, here, but I think he was exchanging a moment of appreciation with his nephew, nothing more.

vikings-s4-e16-pic-eightLissa: In Kattegat, Lagertha awakes to a sound. She calls out to ask who it is. Beside her, Joan Jett snoozes on. In a previous scene, she had vowed to Lagertha that she wold protect her from the Ragnarssons. So much for this perky little bodyguard. Sleeps like the dead, apparently. She doesn’t even wake as Lagertha gets out of the bed to go track down the source of the noise. It’s Ragnar’s ghost, lingering in the shadows. Tears roll down Lagertha’s cheeks as she tells him to enjoy Valhalla, because he has earned it, but begs him to haunt her, not to leave her. He fades away as she calls his name.

Sandi: I did a bit of research regarding the Vikings and ghosts. There are a few different varieties, from the aptrganger—the “walker again”—who had a more physical aspect to it, to the Einherjar, who were considered the noble dead and were gathered by Odin or the Valkyries for future heavenly battles. I think that Ragnar would be seen as one of the Einherjar, here, if he manifested at all outside of Lagertha’s sleeping desire for him.

Lissa: She goes to see the Seer the next day. He tells her that he saw Ragnar on his way to Valhalla, and Ragnar was happy. Lagertha gets right to the point. She asks if she will be killed by a son of Ragnar, and the Seer says, “Yes.”

Sandi: Lagertha is awfully pushy on this topic; we know she’s asked the Seer about her death before. I was intrigued to hear that the Seer said he saw Ragnar on his way to Valhalla. Whether he is saying so to comfort the reigning queen of Kattegat or because it was truth, I couldn’t tell you.

Lissa: The Vikings are singing as they lead away a line of captives and carry off their loot. Helga finally spots the little girl and pulls her out of the group, into her arms. She tells the crying, struggling child that she’s safe now, words the little girl doesn’t understand. Floki asks her what she’s doing and Helga says she wants to keep the girl. She is around the same age as their Angrboða would be. Floki argues with her, telling her the girl has to stay here, but Helga insists she’s keeping her.

Sandi: This was . . . a mess, in my opinion. Now, if they’ve got a purpose for this fish-out-of-water-addition in terms of the story? Fine. But if she’s there just to give a focus to Helga’s yearning for motherhood? I’m not on board.

Lissa: I wasn’t the only one who didn’t like this scene. I was all for Helga and Floki having another baby together, but this just seems … unhinged. “Let’s have another baby! Or, I’ll just grab the next one I see. No diff.”And Helga has always been the sane one in their relationship. She has gone through terrible grief and suffering, but she doesn’t seem the type to decide that a “replacement Angrboða” will do. The Vikings commonly took slaves, and yes, in the 9th century, adoption was also common, but the way it’s presented is as though Helga is so mad for a baby she’ll stuff this struggling, terrified child into her household whether the girl likes it or not.

vikings-s4-e16-pic-nineLissa: The next day, the Ragnarssons, Halfdan, Finehair, and  Rollo stand on a cliff overlooking the sea.  Mind you, this is the southern coast of Spain, and they’re all dressed in long, furred cloaks. (This week, the weather in Algeciras will be in the 60s, and it’s January.) SMH.

Sandi: Hey, they all looked awesome! 🙂 It was interesting to see the line-up, here. You’ve got Ragnar’s brother, Ragnar’s son by Lagertha, another son of Ragnar by Aslaug, and the man who would take over Ragnar’s kingdom. All lined up and grinning at the Med. It’s a nice picture. With or without fur.

Lissa: Anyway, Björn says to his brother that they’ve now traveled further than their father ever imagined. Harald says it’s beautiful. Björn and Hvitserk see a large flock of ravens, and hear their father’s words about how the young pigs would squeal if they knew how the old boar suffered. Björn asks his brother if he heard it, and Hvitserk replies that he did.

Sandi: Yep, Ragnar’s words have traveled far indeed. It’s interesting how the supernatural comes into subtle and not-so-subtle play at this point in the episode.

Lissa: Ivar is still working at the forge. The Odin-man appears and tells Ivar that his father was killed by serpents and now lies in the cold ground.

Sandi: History Channel apparently says this is Odin.

Lissa: Ubbe sees him next. When he goes to see Sigurd, he can tell by the look on his face that Sigurd already knows. There is a last image of rolling storm clouds as we hear Ragnar’s final words about going to Valhalla.

Sandi: As the first post-Ragnar episode, I think this was a good one. We get to see his sons moving on in their various places, we see a new throne design, continuing alliances, a new body of water, and so on. It was a time of Crossings, as the episode title indicates. I look forward to next week.

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 Thanks for joining us! Tune in next ODINSday for another episode!
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Heill þú farir, heill þú aftr komir, heill þú á sinnum sér!
Hale go forth, hale return, hale on your ways! – Vafþrúðnismál 4


4 replies »

    • Yeah! I was surprised by that one myself. It was a blatant insertion of the supernatural which isn’t common in this show. But if History Channel claimed it, I’m going to believe them.

  1. I am trying to catch up on the series and love your posts. (This should be posted on your last episode regarding Ragnar’s death.) I was thinking and comparing the death of Ragnar in the 1958 Vikings movie with this series. In the 1958 movie, Ragnar is the bad guy. Ragnar asks to be allowed to die like a Viking. He is handed a sword and jumps into the pit of snakes yelling “Odin”. With that movie in my memory, I think Fimmel did an amazing job with the Ragnar character. He will be missed!

    • Hello, Joy Smid!

      Thank you so much for reading. I haven’t seen the 1958 movie with Ragnar dying with a sword in his hand. i feel like that would have worked better for me, as well. lol

      And yeah, Travis Fimmel was just excellent as Ragnar. I was very impressed with him and he will indeed be missed.