The #ShieldGeeks Talk s4, E12: The Vision

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This and all images from Vikings are the property of the History Channel. I use them only for illustrations regarding their show.

“100% more evisceration talk than expected.” 
 

“These chicks are machines!” 

– Steve No Ship Network
(CHECK THEM OUT FOR THEIR PODCASTED RECAPS AND FEEDBACK ‘CASTS! And Yes, we did one, too!)
Heillir! The Shieldmaidens of History (Protecting the Innocent from Anachronisms) welcome you back to our series on the History Channel show Vikings. 

We—Lissa Bryan and Sandi Layne—are two historical fiction authors with a serious thing for Vikings. And for VIKINGS, the amazing series that is going to begin its fourth (point five) season on HISTORY CHANNEL.

Follow us on Twitter, #ShieldGeeks where and Sandi and I will be live-tweeting during each episode, as has been our custom since Season One. We’ll follow up with a more detailed discussion on our websites the following day.

We are SO excited! So, Warriors and Shieldmaidens all, get your weapons and armor ready, because it’s going to be an amazing season!

(¯`•ღ•´¯)

Lissa Bryan is a delightful historian as well as being a wonderful writer. Her latest book, Dominion, is a dystopian romance taking place at a time in the not-too-far-distant future.

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Lissa: This episode wasn’t quite as strong as the one before it. It was sort of a “getting ready” episode, like packing for a vacation, turning off all the lights, getting the pets to the kennel… that sort of thing.

We begin with Ragnar in Kattegat, walking through the marketplace. The hustle and bustle reminds us what a busy place it is. One of the traders drives a cart through the streets. Its cargo is a live emu.

 

Sandi: Yes, you rather liked the emu! Really, it spoke well to the internationality of Kattegat, but then we’d also seen that before, with a host of culturally diverse people selling their wares in the market square.

Lissa: Ragnar stops to speak to a man he knows. He tells him he’s getting a crew together to go back to raid in England. The man draws back with a smile and says he’s a farmer. Just like his brother was, and his brother went to England to live in one of Ragnar’s settlements. He found out that his brother had been slaughtered years after it happened, but Ragnar had known all along, hadn’t he? He leans forward and spits in Ragnar’s face.

Ragnar stands there for a moment, and a small smile ghosts across his lips. He thanks the man for his time and walks away. At his back, the man shouts that no one loves Ragnar any longer, not even the gods.

Sandi: That was expected. We needed to see this kind of response. The interesting thing, to me, is that there weren’t more Kattegatians (I can’t call them villagers anymore, can I?) who were up in Ragnar’s face about the Wessex slaughter/failure/tragedy. But still, note that Ragnar can walk about in Kattegat without being on the defensive. He isn’t otherwise assaulted, and people make way for him. He is still Ragnar, and that name means something. Even his sons, who might not all appreciate him entirely, nor agree with him, bank on that name.

Lissa: Ragnar speaks with Björn about his plans. It’s a sad exchange, in a way, because Ragnar can see how the Seer’s prophecy is coming true before his eyes… Björn has a great destiny before him, and seems destined to go on to greater things than Ragnar ever achieved. Ragnar tells him he needs ships. Björn agrees to give him some of the fleet he’s assembled to go to the Mediterranean. It had to be very galling for Ragnar to have to go to his son – hat in hand, so to speak – and ask for ships that were built by the man who used to craft ships for Ragnar.

Björn mentions having to pass by Rollo’s lands, and says he intends to see how much of a Viking his uncle still is.

Sandi: Galling, yes, but I think too that Ragnar is proud. I mean, he raised Björn until Björn was granted his armband. He and Lagertha created a strong son who is now doing what men do: make their own way. And even if he does become bigger and better than his father, Björn is also carrying Ragnar’s name with him as he does so. It’s hard for the older generation, too, to make way for the younger, but it is the natural way of things and a Viking will bow to that. They’ll all meet in Valhalla and share stories one day, would be a way to acclimate himself to that.

Lissa:  At the midday meal, Aslaug tells Ivar she’s happy to see him with Margrethe. She tells all her boys they should be having children.

Sandi: Odd, but I don’t really see Aslaug as a grandmother. She might be!



Lissa: Ubbe blithely says he probably already has a few and the boys laugh. But Aslaug insists they should marry and father legitimate heirs. Sigurd asks his mother if she married Ragnar because she loved him.

Aslaug replies tartly that love has little to do with it, but when he presses, she snaps that she did love him.

Sandi: This is odd, in the cultural context. A marriage in this society would not be based upon love, as a rule. A marriage was most often an arrangement between families, for the better fortune of them all in terms of land, influence, wealth, or all of the above. Marrying for love would be a foreign notion. Why would her sons even inquire about it? I could just slide this into the Boot Sole File.

And Aslaug married Ragnar because she was bearing his child. I mean, it’s not a romantic story at that point, not really. Perhaps, though, Aslaug is trying to keep a legend alive with her sons. They are her closest companions at this juncture.

Lissa:  He then brings up the rumor that Aslaug bewitched Ragnar into marrying her.

Ivar starts to defend her, Sigurd wonders aloud if she loved anyone except for Harbard. Ivar says he knows Aslaug always loved him. Sigurd retorts that Aslaug felt pity for him – like the rest of them do, but sometimes they wish that she’d left Ivar to the wolves.

Sandi: Sigurd really takes the proverbial bull by the horns, here. Ivar is defensive of Aslaug—for good reason—and the sequence is indicative of the long-festering unease/antipathy that has developed between the two brothers over the years they’ve lived together.

Lissa: Ivar tries to attack him, but he has to drag himself along the furniture to reach him. He finally gets close, and Sigurd jerks away the chair he’s using for balance. Ivar falls to the floor as Sigurd walks away. He crawls after his brother crying out in rage as Aslaug tries to soothe him.

Sandi: Sigurd was not playing fair, but then I imagine he’s seen Ivar favored during his whole life. And Ivar really let his guard down, or was overwhelmed by his feelings, here. To show so much emotion, genuine emotion, makes him vulnerable.

Lissa: That evening, there’s a feast in the great hall.

Sandi: Gotta say I enjoyed seeing that. This is a different kind of feast than we’ve perhaps seen in a while. Good to see all the Northmen in their fantastic costumes (History Channel continues to impress in the wardrobe department) and to have a feel for the atmosphere of the Great Hall.

Lissa: Harald and his brother Halfdan are in attendance – they’re going on Björn’s journey.

Björn mentions Harald’s old ambition to become King of Norway, but Harald says he doesn’t think it’s possible to depose Ragnar. Which is a bit odd, since Ragnar is obviously reduced to begging his own child for the boats he needs for a small raid, but perhaps Harald was just being diplomatic, considering his current plans.

He mentions how tall the Ragnarssons are, and Ivar says he’s tall when he stands up. Harald is a bit – well a lot – patronizing when he says that he bets Ivar wishes he could go with them. Ivar tells him to go to hell.

Sandi: Ivar has to be seething, here. Regarding Harald, I think he might be a bit behind the times, perhaps, in terms of the current political climate. Unless he has spies?

Lissa: Lagertha enters with Joan Jett at her side.

Joan seems very popular amongst the people of Kattegat.

Sandi: This is a bit surprising. Lagertha resides in Hedeby, does she not? But Lagertha is a woman of substance, a jarl, and if Joan Jett is seen as her Current S.O., then it is likely that others court her for her favor. Even those who aren’t beholden to Hedeby in any way.

Lissa: Aslaug makes her way over and Lagertha tells her that since their sons are going on a journey together, they should both ask the gods for their blessing.

Aslaug says they should make a sacrifice. Jointly, Lagertha tells her. Aslaug reminds her that she is the queen of Kattegat. Lagertha replies she never forgets anything.

Sandi: Aren’t they so polite, here? slanted smile I like the edge that the actresses gave the scene. The time was short, but the animosity was well-played.

Lissa: After the feast, Margrethe runs outside and pleads with Sigurd for protection from Ivar. She tells him that Ivar tried to kill her, and she tells him Ivar’s terrible secret, that he cannot pleasure a woman. She begs Sigurd not to tell anyone. Suuure he won’t.

He tells his brothers immediately, of course.

Sandi: I was making all kinds of rude sounds during this sequence. What was she thinking? Here I thought Margrethe (Hey, I went to the IMDb page to make sure I spelled it properly!) had a sense of self-preservation. She had taken time to connect (cough!) with each of Aslaug’s sons. And she had used her wits to save her life when it seemed certain Ivar would kill her. So why on earth did she go to the one brother she knew had a serious hate-on for Ivar? She acknowledged that Ivar was crazy, we all know he’s murderous (has been since childhood), so why do this? I was flummoxed. It does, though, make for more drama.

Lissa: The sacrifice ceremony begins. As with the other Viking ceremonies we’ve seen, this one is beautifully – reverentially – cinematic. Aslaug’s face is painted red and black. She slices each of the animal sacrifices and drains their blood into a basin.

As Floki did long ago, Ivar approaches the basin and strokes the blood over his face.

Sandi: They really do give good ceremony on this show. This one is darker than previous sacrifices we’ve seen, merely in terms of the time of day and such. It makes everything smoky, more potently ominous.

Lissa: Aslaug appears to be as high as a kite, her eyes rolling back into her head and her lashes fluttering, but Lagertha leans down to whisper in her ear. “I want you to know that I can never forgive you for taking away my husband and my world. Look what you’ve done with it. You call yourself Queen, but you will never be Queen in Kattegat.” She flicks some of the blood in a dismissive manner in Aslaug’s face.

Sandi: I honestly thought Lagertha had sliced off a piece of Aslaug’s ear, there. It would have worked for me.
 
Lissa: Ivar follows his father out into the hills where Ragnar digs up his hoard of treasure from the earth, intending to use it as a way of buying himself men for the voyage since no one seems willing to volunteer.

Sandi: Ragnar teases his son in a not-too-kind manner, calling him his “crippled son” and so on, but Ivar seems to find this as a form of affection. And, to be honest, it likely is. Ragnar loves his children. It is one of the defining characteristics that continues to endear him to us even when he’s making us crazy.

Lissa: Ivar picks up a coin and turns it in his fingers. He points to the face on the front. “Who is this?” Ragnar tells him its King Ecbert, and Ivar asks if he can keep the coin. Ragnar closes Ivar’s fingers over it.

Sandi: And here we have more from the Wisdom of Ivar, for which he will become famous. Again, kudos to the History Channel for their attention to detail.

Lissa: Ivar warns him that buying men will only get him the dregs.

In town, Ragnar sits at a table, handing out his treasure to a long line of people who’ve come to take it.

Ubbe tries to stop him, says he’s embarrassing himself, but Ragnar flings it out into the crowd, saying he doesn’t care.

Sandi: A king is expected to share from his wealth, but it is tradition that the sharing is done amongst those who have shared in the work. All those on a raid, from the warriors to the navigators to the shipwrights, get gold. But here? These men haven’t worked with Ragnar. He hasn’t chosen them. It is a lowering thing for Ragnar to give his gold away. “Embarrassing” indeed.

Lissa: In preparation for the voyage, Ivar has iron crutches made. He’s able to “walk” with his arms alone, dragging his legs along.

Sandi: I discussed this with my spouse, as I thought iron was not perhaps the best choice for a seafarer. But Spousal Unit is a craftsman and he reminded me that the Vikings would have known that regular wooden crutches would be soaked repeatedly and swell and become unusable unless they were coated in pitch—at which point they would become flammable.

Lissa: The swelling of the wood is an excellent point. Iron really would be more durable and easier to maintain in sea-faring conditions. If he kept the metal well-greased and used a pumice stone to remove any rust that began to build, he could probably keep them in good condition for years.

Sandi: It pays to have to connections, for those iron crutches would have been costly.

Lissa: He trips and falls at one point, and his brothers start over to help him up. Aslaug – very correctly – stops them, and Ivar pulls his own way up.

Ragnar smacks him on the shoulder and tells him nonchalantly that they have a ship to board.

Sandi: I appreciate that Ragnar handled this so casually. It could have been a lot uglier.

Lissa: That night, Ivar creeps to Margrethe’s bed. She cries out in terror when he puts a hand over her mouth. He tells her he knows she told his brothers. She swears she didn’t and pleads for her life. Ivar tells her he believes her, and he just wants to lie next to her.

Sandi: Ha! I bet she didn’t get any sleep that night . . .

Ragnar comes to visit Aslaug as she’s removing her hairpins to go to bed. He gently caresses her neck as he speaks. “Love was not what brought us together. But you endured me. You suffered my words and my neglect. And you never turned our sons against me.” He’s grateful for that. Aslaug’s eyes fill with tears.

Sandi: Ivar asked when Ragnar was going to see Aslaug, and here he does. The “farewell” visit such as he made to the other people in his life.

Lissa: In her own bed, Aslaug has a vision of Ivar floating over the sea, and his limp form swept up by a tornado of water. She tries to run into the sea and save him.

In the morning, she warns him if he goes on this journey, he will drown.

He tells her he finally has a chance to prove himself to the gods, and that one day at his father’s side – as a true Viking man – is worth a lifetime of pity. She cannot tell him what to do. He’s going and doesn’t care if he dies. Aslaug kisses his head and tells him to go.

Sandi: This was a GREAT scene. The episode is titled “The Vision” but I think this moment is more indicative.

Lissa: At the docks, Lagertha has a tender goodbye with Björn.

 

Torvi tells Björn that he cannot come back without winning glory because what will she tell their children of him, the great Björn Ironsides? “Tell them I loved them,” Björn says.

Sandi: Torvi seems to really lay it out for him, here. I don’t know how much was spousal-teasing and how much was sincere “With your shield or on it!” Spartan-wife/mom thing, but she seemed quite determined.

Lissa: The small fleet sails, only a handful of boats with Ragnar, the rest with Björn.

Sandi: It really is a small fleet, as well. Not an impressive flotilla, but just a few ships. Well, that is what was requested, no?

Lissa: As they sail away, Ragnar notices Ivar clinging to the side of the ship. Ivar confesses that he’s terrified of water. Ragnar sits down beside him and tells him there’s worse ways to die than drowning. Ivar retches over the side, apparently seasick as well as afraid.

Sandi: Being terrified of the water makes sense for a man that would have to rely solely on his arms to keep himself safe in the ocean. Ivar is, though, determined to win his sea-legs and Ragnar lets him.

Lissa: Ragnar’s new men are obviously not sailors. Their oars only shallowly dip into the water as they head out to sea. It’s gonna be a long voyage, it seems!



Sandi: This was a great detail. As Ivar predicted, Ragnar got the dregs to crew his longships. Older men. Weaker. Perhaps even a bit lazy. Not determined warriors. Even in Season One, the older warriors had more to them than this bunch.

Lissa: They’re beset by a storm, as Aslaug predicted. The men are being thrown from the vessel by the massive waves. Ragnar grabs Ivar and tosses him over his shoulder as he struggles toward the mast. He lashes Ivar to the mast with rope, and as Ivar roars in fear, Ragnar puts his hand over his mouth. He meets Ivar’s eyes, and Ivar calms.

Sandi: Ragnar saves his son here, and it’s another good moment. Ivar will have learned much, I’m thinking, during this part of his life.

Lissa: While this is happening, Aslaug is rocking in her room, her face contorted in agony. Her lap is soaked with blood. We had a lot of discussion last night over what we were seeing. In the Sagas, aslaug has a vision of her sons dying and is so agonized that she weeps blood, but this appeared to be more along the lines of a miscarriage. But we haven’t seen Aslaug with a lover since the time jump, or any indications that she’s pregnant.

A massive wave overturns their ship. Ragnar struggles through the water to try to untie his son. The last scene we see is Ivar going limp.

Sandi: We know, though, that Ivar lives a long life, and is a warrior of renown. So one can only imagine here that Ragnar saves his son again and brings him to safety in some way. Unless a supernatural agent steps in, that is likely to be the case.



It is somehow fitting that here, Ragnar is saving the life that he was prepared to let end when the lad was an infant. And that the mighty king is struggling in a storm on the way back to a village that he’s known has been gone for a long time, with only a ragtag crew.



As you said, Lissa, a “preparing to go” episode. I am hoping the next one, “Two Journeys” according to IMDb, will have a landing in Wessex and a journey for Björn. 

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Thanks for joining us! Tune in next ODINSday for another episode!
If you’re looking for incisive comments, please check out ProjectFandom. @DeeDonuts on twitter is the chick in charge, there, and she always has sharp things to say!
 
Heill þú farir, heill þú aftr komir, heill þú á sinnum sér!
Hale go forth, hale return, hale on your ways! – Vafþrúðnismál 4


The #ShieldGeeks Talk Vikings: The Outsider

 

VIKINGS banner

This and all images from Vikings are the property of the History Channel. I use them only for illustrations regarding their show.

“100% more evisceration talk than expected.” 
 

“These chicks are machines!” 

– Steve No Ship Network
(CHECK THEM OUT FOR THEIR PODCASTED RECAPS AND FEEDBACK ‘CASTS! And Yes, we did one, too!)
Heillir! The Shieldmaidens of History (Protecting the Innocent from Anachronisms) welcome you back to our series on the History Channel show Vikings. 

We—Lissa Bryan and Sandi Layne—are two historical fiction authors with a serious thing for Vikings. And for VIKINGS, the amazing series that is going to begin its fourth (point five) season on HISTORY CHANNEL.

Follow us on twitter with the hashtag #ShieldGeeks where and Lissa and I will be live-tweeting during each episode, as has been our custom since Season One. We’ll follow up with a more detailed discussion on our websites the following day.

We are SO excited! So, Warriors and Shieldmaidens all, get your weapons and armor ready, because it’s going to be an amazing season!

(¯`•ღ•´¯)
146a6-lissa-bryanLissa Bryan is a delightful historian as well as being a wonderful writer. Her latest book, Dominion, is a dystopian romance taking place at a time in the not-too-far-distant future. 

Lissa: It seems like we’ve had such a long wait, but the show made it up to us with an episode that delivered a lot of emotion and promise for an exciting season.

Sandi: I really appreciated that this episode focused on the Kattegat Kontingent (Yes, I know I spelled that with a K. Alliteration, anyone?) As an audience, we need to get to know Vikings: The Next Generation and we got a good start on that. A solid beginning for what is to come!

Lissa: We began right where we left off with Ragnar thrusting his sword into the earth and shouting to his sons, “Who wants to be king?” He throws his arms wide, baring his chest for a blade, daring them to kill him and take the throne. After a long, tense moment, Ubbe strides forward, sword in hand, his head lowered… Ragnar challenge him, even strkes him, trying to goad him into attacking.

Sandi: Well, just before that part, you see this really quiet scene. Ragnar, alone, on the edge of the water. It’s obvious it’s out of sequence from the last scene of the prior episode and before the continuation of that scene that you just mentioned. Highly effective, a bit disconcerting, and a good place to take a breath before we were tossed in.

Lissa: We next see Ragnar standing alone at the edge of the bay, looking out over the water. Was it the same place he made his tender goodbyes to his daughter, Gyda? He stands there, silent, for a long moment.

Sandi: Ah, I hadn’t even thought of it as a Gyda-moment. Shame on me, as she’s a favorite of mine. But yeah, I can see that. Ragnar was a fond father, especially in his younger years. It isn’t as obvious when we return to the confrontation with his son’s in Kattegat’s market square.

Lissa: And then… They embrace. Björn asks his father, “Why have you returned?”

Sandi: I thought it was a great question. Regardless of the fact that the young men were just discussing it, it bears confrontation, here. Björn is getting his future in order, as we knew from the prior episode as well as his plans as they unfold in this one. The other lads are all sons of Aslaug and have their own dynamic. Why would their father return when he’d been (apparently) content to be gone so long?

Lissa: We see him with the quartet next, and he tells his sons the reason he’s returned is to see what has become of them. He wants to go back to England, but Björn tells him that he intends to explore the Mediterranean. Hvitserk is going with Björn. Sigurd and Ubbe say they will not leave their mother because their kingdom in Kattegat needs to be protected. Ragnar tells them they’re right to think of family. They walk away from their father, leaving him alone beneath a tree.

Sandi: This is their stance at the beginning of the episode. I have to wonder, as we see the tale spin out, how much of these answers were made strictly in a contrary reaction to their father’s reappearance?

Lissa: The boys discuss this over dinner as Aslaug watches. As they debate whether to join Björn’s or Ragnar’s voyage, Ivar sneers at Sigurd’s decision to stay in Kattegat and asks him if he’s worried about getting seasick. Sigurd retorts he’s afraid of nothing.

Sandi: The episode is called The Outsider and it seems that the reference is to Ivar, here. His inclusion into various aspects of his brothers’ lives is . . . unwontedly later than it might be. Additionally, Aslaug has always rather favored him, so this would contribute as much as his physical disability, I would think. That Ivar makes his presence felt by taunts and the force of his personality is not to be wondered at. What did we call him? A sociopath? A charming one?

Lissa: Ivar next creeps on the slave girl who fills their goblets, running his hand down over her hip. When Ubbe chides him that it’s wrong to treat her that way, Ivar shrugs and says she’s just a slave. Aslaug asks him to stop.

Sandi: Aslaug. I am not entirely sure what to make of her at this juncture, to be honest. But Ragnar’s first wife is easier for me to read.

Lissa: Lagertha doesn’t seem to have aged a day.

Sandi: No. Kidding. Especially compared to Ragnar. Thanks to genetics (and the wonderful people of the VIKINGS makeup teams, I’m certain!) Lagertha now appears almost in a different generation than the husband of her youth.

Lissa: She is sparring with a dark-haired girl with an elaborate neck tattoo, whose name is Astrid, but I have officially dubbed Joan Jett. I won’t be budged on this nickname. Enshrined, it is, in our conversations, thus and forevermore. Joan Jett is holding her own as they tussle, Lagertha initially getting the upper hand, then being toppled by the other woman. When they fall back to the grass beside one another Joan asks her whether Lagertha will tell her what they’re training for, but Lagertha says she’s not yet ready to say it.

Sandi: Which of course allows us to speculate. Lagertha is still, one presumes, the Earl Ingstad. Is she preparing for a conflict that will involve her demesne? I am inclined to think not, for if that were the case, she’d have warriors at her back. This is a one-on-one sparring session, so she is preparing for a one-on-one bout of hand-to-hand combat. Gee, I wonder whom she is planning on fighting?

Lissa: Björn visits the Seer, who tells him that his father’s return bodes despair and bloodshed.

Sandi: This is classified in the “Captain Obvious” file. Which is sad, really, when one reflects on where Ragnar started in the first season. He wanted adventure and renown. But these can indeed breed chaos and death, given the opportunity.

Lissa: Björn asks him if this means he will die, and the Seer won’t answer that. All he will do is make vague predictions of doom. For all their glories, the gods will be filled with despair, the Seer says mournfully. He says Björn will curse the day Ragnar returned.

Sandi: Evil writers! The Seer is a great fellow for feeding lines, isn’t he? The “curse the day” statement is dramatic but a bit more specific than the “despairing gods” prediction. We are left to wonder why Björn would curse that day? He’s irritated, perhaps, but Björn has plans already in motion that, frankly, had nothing to do with Ragnar and everything to do with Floki and that map Björn’s had for so long. How will Ragnar’s presence affect that? Well, perhaps this is one of the reasons we have the dynamic of the brothers being presented . . .

Lissa: Björn goes into his bedroom and we see Torvi there, nursing a bitty BjörnBaby. She asks him why he’s not going to England to avenge the colony, and Björn tells her that the days of Ragnar’s missions being their priority are over.

Sandi: It was good to see Torvi, even if for just a moment, as we had no sense of where she was when we left Kattegat at the end of the prior episode. That he is claiming his own adventures as priority speaks of Björn’s disillusionment as well as his independence. I think, not too long ago, he was much more supportive of his father. But his reappearance and apparent utter lack of concern/regret about having been gone so long without word, has squashed much of the former good opinion Björn may have held.

Lissa: Instead of visiting his [former] wife, Ragnar goes to see Floki. He sneaks up on Helga and when she startles he teases her that she looks like she’s seen a ghost.

Sandi: This is a sweet scene. There has always been an interesting dynamic between Ragnar, Floki, and Helga throughout the series. Here, as they’re all older and (hopefully) wiser, we get to see the maturity of years and the comfort of long acquaintance. Humor, pathos, familiarity.

Lissa: He checks out the beautiful new ship Floki has built, but it’s not for him, it’s for Björn. Floki says he’s refined the design, learning from past mistakes, and now he’s designed a ship that can take them to the Mediterranean. Ragnar is a little wistful as he says it’s fitting – albeit annoying – that Floki’s skills have now passed to Björn’s command. Ragnar says he has a feeling if Floki doesn’t come with him, it’s the last he’ll ever see of him. Floki tells him that no matter what happens, they’ll meet again in Valhalla, where they will drink, and fight, and revel in the presence of the friends they’ve lost. Ragnar tells him he’s lost his faith in that. When he leaves, he turns and tells Floki that he loves him. The expression in Floki’s eyes at that moment made tears well up in my own.

Sandi: That really was gorgeously done. We speculated on twitter that the Ragnar-Floki relationship is one of the enduring ones that VIKINGS has shown us. From their wild and crazy youth, through trials and outright opposition, to this quieter time in their later years, we’ve seen a wide spectrum of a Viking Bromance.

Lissa: They were the words he always wanted to hear.  A tiny bit of a giggle bursts from him, a flash of the old “tetched” Floki that so enthralled me from the first season. He shouts joyfully at Ragnar’s retreating back that he loves him too. He always has.

Sandi: But even as Ragnar walked on his solitary way, I was feeling a foreboding. Ragnar was saying farewell. Which is a heavy thing.

Lissa: The slave girl who was groped by Ivar is Margrethe, but she looks just like Danaerys, Mother of Dragons.

She strolls into the arms of each of Ragnar’s sons while Ivar watches, creeping from spot to spot to peer through boards and bushes voyeur-ing as she lies with each of them. I speculated initially that Ivar was resentful that she was freely giving his brothers what he had to compel.

Sandi: This really was creepy. I am thinking all the brothers had to know she was not “exclusive” to any of them, but I wonder if they knew Ivar was watching? Don’t you get a sense of your siblings after a life spent in close association? And if so, why did they do it? Back to The Outsider theme again. An interesting portrayal.

Lissa: We next see the brothers sparring in the woods, practicing swordplay and shooting their bows.

There was a delightful nod to the Sagas when Ivar skillfully put two arrows right through the eyes of a deer carcass they’re using as a target.

He also shoots an arrow between his brothers and drives it deep into a log behind them. We also see him throw an ax with incredible strength when Ubbe playfully knocks his mug of mead from his hand with his blade.

Sandi: This is more of the Brother Bonding thing amongst Aslaug’s sons that I really enjoyed in this episode. Ivar may be an outsider, but his brothers have sought to see to his complete training in combat or at least self-defense. I wouldn’t want to take Ivar on, to be sure. And, of course, being good brothers, Ubbe, Hvitserk, and Sigurd all seek to make sure their brother achieves all milestones of manhood.

Lissa: But the issue with Margrethe, as it turns out from a conversation he has with his brothers after they’re worn out and laying in a semi-circle on the earth, is more than simple jealousy that she freely chooses to be with them. Ivar has never lain with a woman. His brothers gamely offer to ask her if she’d mind giving him a tumble. They remind him that Margrethe is more than “just a slave.” She’s a person. Ivar is torn between resentment that they have to ask her to sleep with a “cripple” and longing for the experience.

Sandi: They’re doing their best, to be sure! But they can’t control everything, can they?

Lissa: A tumble is duly arranged and there’s some real awkwardness in the initial stages. Things seem to be going well when suddenly Ivar freezes and falls to the bedding in shame.

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Sandi: And, yeah. One of the historical suppositions regarding Ivar is that his nickname of “Boneless” has to do with his being impotent. There are no descendants of his body on record (and he has quite a reputation, so sons and/or daughters would have been noted) and no record of his having married. When his bones were recovered, a boar’s tusk was found in his pelvis, as if his men—who were devoted to him as a leader, for Ivar was apparently quite charismatic—wanted to make sure that there was no doubt whatsoever that Ivar was a Man Among Men.

Lissa: He flips Margrethe onto her belly and pulls her necklace tight around her throat. He says he has to kill her now to keep the secret that he’s impotent. (Jeeze, it’s the first time, Ivar. Give it another go before you declare it impossible! A little patience and gentleness, and perhaps a little blue pill…) He hisses that he likes killing as Margrethe pleads for her life. Margrethe is a quick-thinking girl. She tells him that she’ll keep his secret. Just because he can’t do this one thing doesn’t mean he’s not a man. Lots of men can have sex. Lots men can have children. Those things are easy. To be a son of Ragnar Lothbrok and to find greatness that is hard. I truly believe that.

Sandi: I was quite worried for Margarethe there, for a bit. Ivar does not, historically, have the most merciful reputation and he is likely carrying about a huge chip on his shoulder. She did incredibly well under pressure and I hope that her quick thinking continues to pay off. And I hope she keeps her mouth shut, too!

Lissa: Alex Høgh Andersen’s acting in this scene was absolutely superb. Ivar’s rage melts into doubt, grief, and shame. He begins to sob, and she lies down beside him quietly.

Sandi: The casting for this show is pretty much perfection. Alex has a hard role, but he’s making it work, compelling even the unsympathetic—namely me—to hop in his wagon. I couldn’t stand Ivar the Child, and I might not LIKE him as an adult, but I can’t fail to be impressed by him.

Lissa: Ragnar heads next to visit Lagertha. He meets with Joan Jett first who tells him that the woman who was her wet nurse told her tales of Ragnar Lothbrook, and she believes the woman was a bit in love with him. Ragnar teasingly asks how he can meet this woman.  He tells Joan he’s old enough to be her father, and he doesn’t remember her. Joan scoffs and Lagertha enters. Dressed in green, she has a tawny owl as a pet now.

Sandi: And here we see the huge differences that life has brought to my VIKINGS OTP. Ragnar looks ancient, in this scene. His eyes still twinkle, but dimly. His attire lacks . . . everything. He appears to be on a medieval mortification pilgrimage. And Lagertha looks like a manifestation of a classic goddess.

Lissa: She asks Ragnar why he’s come, why he left. Ragnar says he was simply uninterested in ruling any longer. Lagertha chides him that he had responsibilities. She asks why he never told her that the Wessex colony had been wiped out. Ragnar apologizes, quite humbly, I might add. He asks her about Joan Jett and what kind of relationship Lagertha has with her. Lagertha deflects that, and she also rejects his invitation to return to England on a new raid. Ragnar sighs as he sits back in his chair and tells her he made many mistakes, and has many regrets. One of his regrets is what happened between them.

Sandi: It was apology that was frightfully long in coming. With age comes wisdom but it can come too late for some of us. What if Ragnar had remained content as a farmer? What if he and Lagertha had been able to eventually have more children, quietly prosperous on their farm and with their fishing weirs? It is of course too late for speculation for Ragnar, but he can see that with great ambition comes great trouble and he’s been fully immersed in both.

Lissa: “No regrets… and every regret,” Lagertha says to him. They kiss… sweetly and tenderly. He walks away from her, and Lagertha’s face is filled with sorrow. We later see Lagertha and Joan in bed together. Joan says that Lagertha still loves Ragnar. Does she love Ragnar more than she loves Joan?

Sandi: Do we even have to ask? Ragnar is the love of Lagertha’s life, I think. Their relationship—another long one that VIKINGS has featured throughout—is a cornerstone for both of them.

Lissa: Lagertha says of course not, and they kiss.

Sandi: I have to wonder what larger purpose there is for Joan Jett, here. Will she have a plot-significant role or is she there to broaden Lagertha’s character?

Lissa: The sons meet one more time, and Ubbe, Hitsverk, and Sigurd all say they’re unwilling to go with Ragnar. Ivar spits that they are bastards, unworthy to be Ragnar’s sons.

Sandi: I am inclined to think that Ivar the Dramatic is overstating the case a bit. I think the other sons are merely abiding on principle: Dad Abandoned Us. We’re Not Supporting Dad.

lag-gifLissa: Lagertha watches as Ragnar rides off into the distance the following morning. Joan Jett asks her if she regrets she didn’t go with him. Lagertha says she was never really sure how she should feel about him, but then again, she wasn’t the only woman who felt that way. It’s a very poignant scene, and it made one of those watching with us wonder if it had a special significance.

Sandi: Will this be the last time she sees him? It is evident that Ragnar is, once again, saying farewell. His response to Lagertha’s kiss was probably far less that Lagertha herself was expecting; after all, she sent Joan Jett away. He is distancing himself from her. From everyone. Lagertha is not unaware of that.

Lissa: Ragnar rides off, alone. No one has agreed to come with him. He has no allies, no friends, no one to raid with him and avenge the settlement lost in Wessex.

He spots a tree, and eyes one of its limbs. He rides up below it and tosses a rope over the limb…

Sandi: It is at this point that I am reminded of Odin’s stint at the Hanged Man. Odin the All-Father, according to the tales, attained wisdom by hanging from Yggdrasil. It was a great sacrifice that he made and it is reflected in the standard Tarot card designs. I honestly saw Ragnar seeking to do likewise, here. At least at first. Until I saw how he did this.

Lissa: Then climbs his horse and digs his heels into its sides…

But as he hangs himself from the rope, a flock of ravens lights on the branch. One even perches on Ragnar’s shoulder and gives a peck at the knot slowly strangling him. They all take flight when the rope snaps and he falls to the earth. For a moment, he just sits there, coughing, and then he flops back, defeated, and the expression on his face is a little wry. The gods will not let him die. Not yet.

Sandi: Because I was. I was thinking that perhaps Odin’s presence—the Raven being a part of Ragnar’s spiritual life in Season One, to be sure—had intervened in this, his attempted suicide.

Lissa: Ragnar makes his way back to the great hall and sits down in his throne with a sigh. Ivar crawls along the floor and pulls himself up into the queen’s chair. He tells Ragnar that Aslaug would never let anyone sit in Ragnar’s throne, but at night, Ivar would creep to it and sit in it, brooding on how his father had abandoned him. Ivar asks why he hasn’t spoken to Aslaug, and why he abandoned them. Ragnar doesn’t look at him as he says that perhaps he’ll explain himself when they get to England. Ivar stares at him. England? Is Ragnar asking him to go? Just assuming he’ll come along? Fine, don’t come, Ragnar says. Ivar retorts that now he doesn’t want him to come? Fine, come, Ragnar says. Only if Ragnar asks him properly, like he asked his brothers, Ivar says.

Ragnar turns and begins to ask nicely, and Ivar interrupts him to say he’ll come. It’s a very cute scene, and it it seems like Ivar is going to grow on us, despite – or perhaps because of – his sociopath’s charm.

Sandi: And here, at the end of the episode, we can see that The Outsider might not refer solely to Ivar. It likely refers to Ragnar as well. Neither of them fit in with their people, precisely. Both of them want to be elsewhere.

 
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Thanks for joining us! Tune in next ODINSday for another episode!

If you’re looking for incisive comments, please check out ProjectFandom. @DeeDonuts on twitter is the chick in charge, there, and she always has sharp things to say!
 
Heill þú farir, heill þú aftr komir, heill þú á sinnum sér!
Hale go forth, hale return, hale on your ways! – Vafþrúðnismál 4


Less than a week away!

The countdown continues!

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This and all images from Vikings are the property of the History Channel. I use them only for illustrations regarding their show.

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I enjoy looking back on prior seasons as I get ready to raid for this second half of the fourth season. Today, I’m checking out Season Three and it’s hard to find my favorite episode as I look over the discussions Lissa Bryan and I had about that season.

Once again, I have to go with the Season Finale, I think, as a favorite episode. I can’t bring myself to choose the Death of Athelstan episode, though it was hugely impacting for me—so sad to see him go!—so I will go with the finale.

Lissa and I found it to be a roller coaster of an episode!  Had Ragnar truly become a Christian or not, was one debate during the episode. There was also the collusion with Björn as to how the end would play out (nicely done, History Channel!), and then there was  the (I hope you’ve seen the season already!) supposed death of Ragnar.

Brilliantly done!

So that’s my favorite for Season Three!

no-ship-logoIf you’re gearing up for the new season and are interested in hearing podcasts about the former ones, please check out No Ship Network on iTunes! The crew does a fantastic recap of each episode and it’s well worth your time.

Remember to look for Lissa and me on twitter at 9/8 this coming Wednesday!

 

I am thankful for . . . VIKINGS

Sorry for not being here yesterday. It was a day in which I typed nothing. All better now, though. 🙂

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All images from VIKINGS are the property of History Channel and are used solely for illustrative purposes.

I am continuing my Favorite Episodes of History Channel’s VIKINGS show leading up to the continuation of  Season Four, which begins next week! Lissa Bryan and I will be back on Twitter with our running commentary and I look forward to having many of YOU join us if you can!

Today is Thanksgiving here in the States, and we give thanks for many things. One thing I give thanks for, sincerely, is this show. Not only has it been an amazing adventure so far, but I have met people I wouldn’t have otherwise, and had the opportunity to learn many new things.

So today, if you’re in a thankful mood as well, check out Season Two’s Finale: The Lord’s Prayer. And if you’ve got the series on DVD, watch it again.

And if you’re looking for more Vikings, check out my Éire’s Viking Trilogy. 🙂 Taking place in the 9th Century, this story tells of Norse raiders who raided—and then settled in—Éire.

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One More Week ’til VIKINGS returns

Heillir, warriors and shieldmaidens, pilgrims and nobility. History Channel’s epic show, VIKINGS, returns next Wednesday at 9p. Eastern/8p. Central.

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Click here to go to the VIKINGS page at The History Channel.

As a warm up before we find ourselves in Kattegat, possibly embroiled in succession issues—or on a longship with Floki bound for the Mediterranean—I thought I’d share some of the commentary/discussion posts author Lissa Bryan and I have done over the years.

Yes, years! Imagine!

Lissa Bryan has a new novel out but she and I will be back to live-tweeting each episode of the season (as far as I know!) once it commences.


One of my favorite episodes from VIKINGS in its first season back in 2013 was Episode 2: Wrath of the Northmen.

146a6-lissa-bryanThe link to the discussion Lissa and I had on this episode is HERE. You might check it out, if only to find out what Lissa and I mean when we reference the Boot Sole File, as we do often over the years. 😉

If you have not found yourself immersed in all things VIKINGS, then please consider using this episode (or even the first one!) as a good starting place. I have, here on this website, all the commentary from each episode for all the seasons to date, as Lissa and I have been very diligent in our observations.

no-ship-logoI also encourage you to check out the preview podcast Lissa and I did with Em and Steve of the No Ship Network. We dove into history, writing, Vikings, and even George Washington.

I am so serious!

Questions? Comments? Speculations? Your favorite episode? Let me know!

Tomorrow: my favorite episode from Season Two!

 

 

Cover Reveal – LISSA BRYAN

She’s my partner in (VIKINGS) mayhem, and I’m so excited to be able to share the cover of her upcoming novel!

I read the initial trilogy of her series and you can find my review for the last one in The End of all Things trilogy here. This is Next Generation and it looks amazing.


ebook-cover

Release Date: December 3rd 2016

Published by: The Writers Coffee Shop

Genre: Fiction, Dystopian

Available from:

Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Powells, AbeBooks and TWCS PH

~~GIVEAWAY~~

Click HERE for your chance to win!

~~EXCERPT~~

She woke to the sound of screams and gunfire.

Taylor sat up, looking around her darkened room, holding her breath as she listened. For a moment, all she heard was the pounding of her own heart, and then there was another shriek, this one not far away. Taylor rolled out of her bed and crouched low, heading for the window. She used the side of her fist to rub away some of the grime that coated the glass on the inside, though the outside was still clouded so all she could see was an ominous orange glow and wavering shadows.

Oh shit, oh shit.

Feet pounded down the sidewalk in front of her room, and the shadowy outline of human forms darted past her windows. Someone was crying, horrible sharp sobs.

Taylor crept to the other side of the window where a hole had been broken out of one of the panes. She slowly pulled out the rag stuffed in the gap and peered through. A body lay in the parking lot outside her window, and she smothered a gasp by pressing a hand to her mouth. The bloodied head was turned away from her, but she recognized the tangle of blond curls and the green sweatpants the body wore. It was Grace, and she was dead.

Tears burned in Taylor’s eyes, but she forced them down, swallowing hard. A loud bang drew her gaze, and she saw a man with a rifle kick in the door of a room on the opposite side of the parking lot. He charged in and emerged seconds later, dragging a kicking and screaming woman by her hair.

Time to go. Taylor didn’t know what was going on, but she could figure that out later.

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~~SUMMARY~~

A generation has passed since the pandemic known only as the Infection ended the world as we know it. In a little town in the Appalachian Mountains, Taylor has known only a harsh and brutal struggle for survival in a land littered with the rusted-out remnants of a lost world. By day, she labors in a coal mine. In the evenings, she tends a secret collection of beehives, and uses the honey to pay for lessons in survival skills, such as hunting, fishing and collecting herbs. Her home is a single room in a crumbling old motel, and her only companion is a pet box tortoise named Go she’s had since she was a child.

When her town is destroyed by a vicious gang of raiders known as the Nine, Taylor escapes with Dylan, the son of the mayor. Their only plan is to head south and escape the Nine’s vast territory, avoiding areas contaminated by meltdowns and industrial pollution where mysterious illnesses plague the residents.

Dylan has never known hunger or hardship and struggles to learn survival skills. He’s never known a woman like Taylor either. He tries to pay her back by teaching her to read and telling her the stories passed down from the world of Before.

They certainly didn’t plan on falling in love. Taylor fights it every step of the way, because in her world, any emotional attachment is dangerous. She’s been taught since childhood that love slows you down, makes you weak. But the feelings growing between them cannot be denied.

Taylor finds herself slowly breaking every one of her hard-learned rules of survival. She discovers that perhaps some of those things she’s always fought to avoid are the very things that make life worth living.

. . . And death shall have no dominion . . .”

GoodreadsAdd to Want To Read List

~~ABOUT THE AUTHOR~~

lbryan

Lissa Bryan is an astronaut, renowned Kabuki actress, Olympic pole vault gold medalist, Iron Chef champion, and scientist who recently discovered the cure for athlete’s foot . . . though only in her head. Real life isn’t so interesting, which is why she spends most of her time writing.

She is the author of five other novels, Ghostwriter, The End of All Things, its sequels, The Land of the Shadows and Shadows Have Gone, and Under These Restless Skies.

 ~~CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR~~

Facebook * Website * Twitter

Praise for 

The End of All Things Series

Hope, love, and the strength of the human spirit are the backbone of this surprisingly uplifting offering from Lissa Bryan. ~ CBL Book Reviews

The End of All Things is more about hope and second chances, and I very much enjoyed the tale …. highly recommended for all fans of apocalyptic fiction. It’s a well-written book with excellent pace, plot, and best, it has real soul. ~ Jade Kerrion, Goodreads

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Novella on the way!

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I’ve got a new story coming out soon. 🙂

As you can imagine from the image above, it takes place during World War II, framed by more contemporary references for my main character, Rosemarie.

This is kind of a special story to me, as it is inspired by the personal memoirs of my Great Aunt, Rose Mary Pritchard, who was indeed one of many “Rosies” who were riveters during World War II. Riveting Rosie is not her story, but Great Aunt Rose Mary will definitely recognize Rosemarie. 😉

More details as I have a firm date of availability!

The #ShieldGeeks Talk VIKINGS: The Last Ship

“These chicks are machines!” – The No Ship Network

(check them out for their podcasted recaps and feedback ‘casts!)
VIKINGS banner

This and all images from Vikings are the property of the History Channel. I use them only for illustrations regarding their show.

146a6-lissa-bryanHeillir!

Lissa Bryan and I like to call ourselves the Shieldmaidens of History: Protecting the Innocent from Anachronisms. We’re excited to bring you our recap and discussion of each episode of History Channel’s series VIKINGS.

Lissa Bryan is an awesome historian as well as a writer of historical and End of the World as We Know It romantic fiction. Check out the review I wrote for her book, The End of All Things here.


Lissa: I hate to start this review off with a concluding statement, but I’ve got to get this off my chest: for me, this is the lowest-rated Vikings episode in … well… ever, I think. I was left deeply dissatisfied, confused, and irritated, not feelings I want to associate with a favorite show.

Sandi: Believe me when I say, “I hear you!” I think there will be considerable backlash from this episode. But. I am going to try to keep faith, grateful that the second half of the season will be happening in 2016, not 2017.

Lissa: The episode started right where we left off, with Floki’s ingenious floating platforms heading up river. Rollo, as we see, is on a ship of his own, floating down to meet his brother. Floki shouts to Rollo: “Rollo! Betrayer of the gods and of all the sacred things in Midgard! Come here you snake—come my way and let my axe slake its thirst on your blood. Come to Floki.”

Sandi: It was one of those wonderful shots this show does so well. The wide expanse of the fleets with more personal views of individuals. Rollo invokes the name of God, here, and I was surprised by that. Though he had technically “converted” to Christianity, one doesn’t see him sounding like a Christian before this episode. He is paying lip-service, here, if nothing else. But that’s more than he’s done before, unbidden. This could be seen as an indirect response to Floki’s challenge, actually.

Lissa: In the streets of Paris, we see a priest walking through the crowds, giving them blessings and absolution before the battle. Gisla is in church, praying before a statue of the Virgin Mary, begging her to save her husband and the city. As she weeps, the statue of the Virgin appears to weep as well. Gisla later offers Rollo’s torc, placing it on the Virgin’s feet.

Sandi: This is a nice continuation from last episode, in which we discussed the exploitation of relics, real or invented, in this era. Did the statue of the Virgin Mary really cry? History shows that there are examples where statues were made to show tears to garner awe—and monetary gifts—from the faithful. I believe Gisla’s prayers to be sincere, here, as definite affection has developed between her and Rollo. It might be considered odd, though, that Gisla is making an offering that she herself might see as “pagan” in origin.

Lissa: Ragnar pops the last of his “Chinese medicine,” and drops Yidu’s empty pouch at his feet. Rollo gives his own men a stirring speech to inspire them to victory.

“All of my life. And all of your lives have come to this point. There is nowhere else to be but here. Nowhere else to live or die but here. To be here now is the only thing that matters. So gather yourselves, gather all of your strength, and all of your sweetness into an iron ball, for we will attack again and again until we reach and overcome their king or we die in the attempt.” 

Sandi: It’s a great speech. Very much along the lines of what Henry V said in the eponymous play. Interesting, though, that Ragnar’s use of the last of the Yidu-brand, there, was also considered inspiring. At least to his son Björn. And Lagertha was waiting to  hear if Ragnar thought the gods were with them. So, even speech-less, as it were, Ragnar was a source of inspiration to those who knew him best, even if not to Rollo’s wider audience.

Lissa: The ships collide in the water, and the battle ensues. It’s wonderfully shot, as most Vikings battle scenes are, but most of the action is confined to the main platform where Lagertha, Ragnar, and Floki are.

Sandi: This is calculated for effect, I’m sure. The focus gives a more obvious purpose as to the benefit of the battle platforms, as well as letting the viewers focus on those who have become most important to many of us. You can see, though, the clear advantages to having the stable platforms amidst a naval fleet. It’s not an aircraft carrier of modern times, but the room to launch arrows rather than airplanes is invaluable.

Lissa: In the midst of the carnage, we see Simple Chuck with Roland and Therese at the dining table. He says that even as they speak, Count Rollo is fighting to save Paris. Roland tells him that He’s made alternative plans for the defense of the city if Rollo happens to fail. Roland doesn’t think Chuck should put all of his faith into a pagan. Chuck says that Rollo has not only his faith but his heart. Therese gives a small laugh and tells him that’s stupid.

Sandi: This was rather baffling. Clearly, the Bobbsy Twins have seriously underestimated their ruler or overestimated their importance to him. Or both.

Lissa: Chuck orders dessert, which turns out to be Roland and Therese being garroted by the guards. Chuck nibbles on a bit of chicken and smiles as he watches them die.

Sandi: Ew. But. What stands out to me is the new aspect to the Emperor Chuck’s demeanor seen in the last couple of episodes. He’s more defined, now. Stronger. Seeming more aware of power nuances than he had demonstrated before. Kudos to Lothaire Bluteau, who plays Charles in the show.

Lissa: We see Halfdan take an arrow, and Floki is stabbed in the side. as the Seer in Kattegat lets out a roar of agony. We see Lagertha battling, using her shield as a shieldmaiden would have, using it as an edged weapon and as a block. It was a delightful little historical touch in an episode that – frankly – didn’t have many.

Sandi: Those that enjoy battle scenes would have enjoyed this one. A lot of hand to hand. Plenty of arrows. There are men overboard, and no one is a clear victor as the donnybrook—or should we say mêlée—continues.

Lissa: Rollo and Ragnar finally meet in battle. Ragnar taunts him, telling Rollo that he looks like a bitch. Considering that many scholars think the English word “bitch” comes from the old Norse bikkjuna, meaning female dog, it might be a period-accurate insult.

Sandi: I think that’s a fair assessment. And many kudos to you, ma’am, for going all Norse!

Lissa: “One of us will die today,” Ragnar promises him. The two brothers fight, and it’s a harsh and brutal struggle that doesn’t have a clear winner. Lagertha sees Rollo pin Ragnar against the side of the ship and hammer his face with his bare fists. (Interesting that neither brother pulled a secondary weapon, isn’t it?) She fights her way toward them, but falls when she’s stabbed through the shoulder.

Sandi: The fight between the brothers really did surprise me. As you said, no secondary weapons were used. But then, this was a personal struggle more than a martial one, in my estimation. Their whole lives, they’ve struggled with one another. Alongside or in opposition, Ragnar and Rollo have not had an easy time of it. That two mighty warriors,  both of whom are more than proficient with axe and sword, find it needful to slug it out in a brawl involving fists and elbows, is quite eloquent on its own. No flashy statements. It’s about proving themselves on a visceral level.

Lissa: This [Lagertha’s involvement] breaks up the fight between Ragnar and Rollo. Ragnar orders his men to get her into the boat and shove off. He tries to charge Rollo again, but his men grab him and throw him into the ship with the wounded. They row away, the battle lost. Both men look horribly depressed in the aftermath.

Sandi: So, no death for Rollo that day. No resolution to a long and troubled relationship. I have to believe, though, that neither of them truly desired death to come to their brother. A beating, yes. Humiliation? Certainly. But death? Not so much, or either of them could have made it happen.

Lissa: Rollo returns to Paris and he’s cheered as soon as he stumbles off of his horse to stagger down the street. The people clap and scream his name, and some rather insensitive types slap the injured man on the back.

Sandi: Yeah. Not quite a ticker tape parade, is it? But this is a culture of personal contact, whether that be meeting with a king, fighting face to face, or welcoming home a battle-chief.

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Lissa: Gisla runs down to greet him, kissing his bloodied mouth passionately. Simple Chuck kisses him too, on both cheeks. Rollo calls out “God bless Paris!” Either his faith really has changed, or he’s being very clever in pretending it has to appease his new people. Chuck crowns him with a golden laurel and proclaims him Caesar.

Sandi: I am thinking that, for the present, Rollo’s place in the Frankish pantheon is holding steady. No garroting wire in sight.

Lissa: I saw an interesting comment on Tumblr this morning… That it would have been interesting to have Gisla place the golden laurel on Rollo’s head, fulfilling the prophecy that a princess will crown the bear. Is the fact Hirst chose not to do it evidence that Rollo isn’t the “bear” that was prophesied to receive the crown?

We see one last scene of the battered and depressed Ragnar in the ship. His eyes are swollen shut.

Sandi: It’s a sad scene, really. I wonder what’s going through Ragnar’s head, here? He only stopped his fight with Rollo, it seemed, because Lagertha was grievously wounded. “Get her on the boat!” he shouted. And then, he directs them to get the boat she’s on away. “Get her out of here” before turning—with a weapon—to confront Rollo once again. And his men pushed him into one as well, as he needed the respite from his slugfest with Rollo. I do believe this happens against his express wishes.

Lissa: … And then…

Sandi: . . . Yeah . . .

Lissa: Björn is standing in the water in Kattegat, fishing. Everyone immediately started Tweeting, saying, “What? Huh? What did I miss?” It was a moment of collective bewilderment.

Sandi: It was weird. And not in the Norse “wyrd” sense. We were all displaced. Seeing Björn in Kattegat was one thing. I had hoped to get resolution about his daughter (Siglet!) and so on, but times had clearly changed. The village is clearly more populous than it was last time we saw it. Prosperity is sure, based upon the clothing we can see and the barrels on the dock.

prosperous kattegat aslaugLissa: Aslaug comes out of the hall and calls to him to say he needs to see something.

Sandi:  And this is where this viewer, anyway, was studying her and then studying the environment, to see the changes that would give us clues as to how long a gap we’ve had since we saw battle-sore Ragnar. And boy, were we surprised!

Lissa: A messenger is standing in the hall. He tells Björn that he’s come to see Ragnar. Aslaug says that no one has seen Ragnar for years, not since his defeat in Paris. “How could such a man disappear?” the messenger asks. The messenger says he has word that Ragnar has a son by Queen Kwenthrith in Wessex, and the boy is about twelve now. (Which means we’ve skipped ahead in time about five or six years by my reckoning.) Aslaug gulps wine throughout the chat. Moreover, the messenger has found out that the settlement in Wessex has been destroyed, and that Ragnar knew about it soon after it happened. Aslaug smirks as she tells the messenger she’s glad he came.

Sandi: Story-wise, this gives all of us who are puzzled by the circumstances a solid reason as to why so much seems to be missing from this section of the story. Much of what we expected to see has already (hopefully) happened, years past. Did Hirst do this to get us to the next level in this story or because he felt there were too many threads to tie off to fit into that final twenty minutes (for American audiences)? On the positive side, the way that facial expressions communicated Björn’s dominance in the scene between himself and messenger was very well done. The messenger thinks to make a joke about something Björn takes quite seriously, and in next to no time, Björn’s demeanor has the messenger nonverbally backing down.

Lissa: Björn says he needs to tell his brothers about this. Aslaug tells him they’re at a hunting cabin. It’s not the “cabin in the Smoky Mountains” that Björn used. This is a more traditional sod-house with a slanted roof. Ragnar’s grown sons are lounging around outside. Ivar has some very strange eyes. The whites are blue-toned.

ivar blue eyesSandi: His eyes reminded me a bit of the novel Dune by Frank Herbert. Was Ivar eating some spice? No, I’m fairly certain this is meant to remind us he’s been touched by Harbard, whom some might say is an incarnation of Odin himself. That was a bit weird in a scene that was otherwise well structured in terms of historical niceties.

Lissa: The boys are furious when Björn tells them that Ragnar lied to the people of Kattegat. All of the boys feel abandoned by him, except for Ivar.  Ivar scoffs and says it would have been a waste of time to tell the people of Kattegat, who would get all fired up and want revenge. That,” says Ivar, “is why he didn’t tell them. They were dead. Ragnar wanted to sail to Paris. He wanted to be famous. Isn’t that more important?” Ivar says he feels Ragnar did nothing wrong. He spits out scornfully that Hvitserk, Ubbe and Sigurd sound like a bunch of Christians.

Sandi: Sigurd, sorry, reminded me of Erlandur. Now, I’m prepared to like Sigurd, but the physical resemblance was a bit unnerving. Ivar’s position is clear, here. He’s very Old School. Having been—one presumes—continually tutored by Floki during his younger years, this is not surprising.

Lissa: Björn says he doesn’t think Ragnar is coming back. He thinks the loss in Paris finally broke him. He is just a man, after all, not a god. A deeply flawed man. But despite everything, Ragnar is still his father, and he loves him.

Lissa: But the boys’ conversation is enlightening in one respect.

Lissa: We find that Ubbe is the more thoughtful one among them. He says Ragnar’s power isn’t what interests him, it’s what he does with that power. Ivar has the blunt, pragmatic (and somewhat sociopathic) train of thought that Ragnar acted as a true Viking in what he did. Hvitserk and Sigurd say they’ll kill him themselves when they see him. Ubbe speaks of fatherly love.

Sandi: It’s interesting. The younger men haven’t had the time with Ragnar that their eldest brother has, so their impressions of Ragnar are largely academic, I think. They discuss Ragnar as if he’s more of an idea than a person. A point to be pondered rather than their father.

floki little boatsLissa: Björn goes to talk to Floki. He and Helga are at the water’s edge, sailing model ships. Helga tells Björn that his ships are almost ready and soon he’ll be able to sail to the Mediterranean. Floki is still skeptical that it actually exists. He says the map could be fictional, drawn by a child, for all Björn knows. Björn asks Floki if he’ll go, and Floki chuckles. A journey to a mythical land that may not exist? Sure, Floki is down for that.

Sandi: Björn’s actions in this segment strike me as much more regal than otherwise. He’s keeping tabs on his fellow “princes”—such as they might be—as well as with Floki, to see how future naval preparations are going. But we don’t sense a wartime effort, here. Kattegat is a peaceful and prosperous place, and what Björn wants to do is explore. Björn isn’t king, per se, but he is likely considered the highest ranking man in the kingdom.

Lissa: Helga smiles and says that if Floki is made enough to go, she will as well. Their skepticism that the Mediterranean Sea is really there strikes me as odd, especially in light of the next scene which shows people from many far-off lands have joined Kattegat, including what appear to be Arab traders that presumably sailed it personally in their voyage to the land of the Norse.

older flokiSandi: Maybe the term “Mediterranean Sea” is a nebulous term, here. A far off place that holds dreams and ideals, but without any real idea as to what it is. I enjoyed the body language between Floki and Björn. An initial hesitation, as if they are deciding how to approach a topic one knows, one suspects, might be hard. But then, they are in accord and it’s arms about shoulders and we’ve-been-friends-forever. With Floki as the older man, now, rather than the young genius.

Lissa: We next see Ragnar sitting at the edge of a large and prosperous village. He rises and walks down the street, people stop to turn and stare at him. Some follow him as he walks. We also see people from many different nationalities trading in the market. When he reaches the center of town, we see that it’s Kattegat. Ragnar’s sons come out to the edge of the group surrounding him. Oddly, Ivar crawls on the ground on his stomach, pulling himself by his elbows.  Did he outgrow the cart and they simply never made him another?

Sandi: The size of the place shocked me, once I understood where we were. Gone is the simple fishing and farming village from Season One. This is a major trading center, as much of a city as one might expect to find in this time and place. Not everyone who followed Ragnar to the center of town would have known him by sight; so many would be following only due to the whispers that were passed along as he made his way to his sons.

Lissa: They’re glaring at Ragnar. Ragnar says he understands their anger. What kind of a king abandons his people? What kind of father abandons his sons? He shouts at the boys to kill him. The only way for someone else to become king is to kill him. He offers his sword to all of the people standing around the edge of the circle. No one will take it. Ragnar drives his sword into the earth and shouts at them all, demanding to know who would be king.

Sandi: Ivar, from his position low to the ground, lifts his chin as if in answer, but then he has to duck his head a bit; he knows he couldn’t challenge Ragnar on his own. And really, would he want to?  Hvitserk, when confronted face to face, refuses to kill Ragnar, though he had said he would, were his father to return. Ubbe is watching, studying, but not preparing a response. I think that Sigurd looks most betrayed. Like, “I waited for you. I watched for you. And you never came to hear what I had to tell you.” But no matter what their facial expressions communicate, their lack of acceptance of Ragnar’s challenge appears unified. No one. No one wants to try to claim the kingship. Not one of them.

Lissa: And that’s where it ends.

Sandi: It was something I would expect to see in a young adult trilogy, perhaps. The end of book two before book three. Unsatisfying. Unresolved.

rollo ragnar aerial fight

Lissa: I was flummoxed. I was irritated. I was disappointed. I felt like I was expecting to see the Battle of Waterloo, and instead ended up watching a short man beat a mall security guard with a Nerf bat.

Sandi: The transition was, in my view, too abrupt. I felt that the ending was supposed to provide suspense and excitement, but instead, it left so many unanswered issues as to be disappointing.

Lissa: There were some glaring questions left unanswered. Who, in Ragnar’s absence, ruled Kattegat? It seems to be Aslaug, because she takes a seat on the chair in the king’s hall. Presumably, she’s been kept as regent by the claim of Björn or that of her own sons. But that makes little sense, given how Harald Finehair was angling for the throne – it was the only reason he went on the Paris raid, after all. Did he just say, “My brother has been killed. I think I’ll give up on this monarchy bid.”

bjorn eyeing aslaug.gifSandi: On twitter, @US_TV_Addict suggested that perhaps flashbacks might be utilized when the season recommences. This would be undeniably helpful in determining how things got to where they are, but will they resolve our abandonment issues? Maybe? Aslaug was ruling in Kattegat, as perhaps per the Seer’s words some time before. I sense that Björn hasn’t supplanted her because he wants to keep an eye on her. He is the one whom many likely look to. Notice that he was not grouped with the other sons to meet Ragnar. Björn has his own place and no one challenges it. Not even Aslaug.

But the reason for abandoning Paris escapes me. Historically, Björn is made famous for his trip to the Mediterranean, so it is possible that Paris will be sidelined in the future. But what of Rollo and his transition to being the Duke of Normandy (Northman’s Land)? Will we see this?

Lissa: Why didn’t Ragnar regroup for another attack? It seemed, from what I saw, that while the initial losses were heavy, there were still some ships that hadn’t even engaged yet when Ragnar rowed away. He said his whole purpose in going back to Paris was to kill Rollo. Mission most assuredly not accomplished.

Sandi: Most assuredly. I maintain that the reason for Ragnar’s abandonment of the Paris operation is due to his relationship with Rollo. Yes, he came to kill him, but he couldn’t do it. This had to strike at his heart, there at the end. Also, he changed his course of action when Lagertha was wounded. This was significant for him as well, even if we don’t see her there at the end with the boys.

lagertha looking over shoulderLissa: Lagertha’s fate isn’t addressed, though she was shown for a moment in the teaser for the “sneak peek” of next season. I think it’s safe to assume she’s still with us, and that she’s gone home to rule Hedeby.

Sandi: But without that peek, her fate would be unknown. Another major character left in limbo. Most disquieting.

Lissa: I feel like this episode suffered badly in the editing room. Moreover, it probably would have been better if they’d just ended the season with the last one, which would have provided a better “cliffhanger” than this confusing jumble. Perhaps, if it hadn’t been crammed into a season ending, the time jump could have been handled better.

Sandi: I’m just not sure if they understood the big, gaping confusion we would feel, being transported from post-boxing-scene, battle-weary Ragnar to peacefully fishing Björn. If the episode had ended with the weary Ragnar, we would have felt irked, perhaps, because no one’s “fate was sealed” as was mentioned in the blurb under the episode on the show’s website. But it would have settled in more easily than the abrupt time jump. Perhaps, as I let this sink in, I’ll feel more comfortable with the uncertainty, and less irked at the questions I felt should have been answered.

Whether I do or not, though, I will certainly be waiting for the second part of this season, later this year. I might even have my next Viking book ready by then. 😉

ragnarssons band cover


Heill þú farir, heill þú aftr komir, heill þú á sinnum sér!
Hale go forth, hale return, hale on your ways!  – Vafþrúðnismál

The #ShieldGeeks Talk Vikings: Death All ‘Round

“These chicks are machines!” – The No Ship Network

(check them out for their podcasted recaps and feedback ‘casts!)
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This and all images from Vikings are the property of the History Channel. I use them only for illustrations regarding their show.

146a6-lissa-bryanHeillir!

(Sidenote to the NoShippers: Yes, you pronounced it correctly. Well done!)

Lissa Bryan and I like to call ourselves the Shieldmaidens of History: Protecting the Innocent from Anachronisms. We’re excited to bring you our recap and discussion of each episode of History Channel’s series VIKINGS.

Lissa Bryan is an awesome historian as well as a writer of historical and End of the World as We Know It romantic fiction. Check out the review I wrote for her book, The End of All Things here.


Lissa: This episode, I think was aptly named!

Sandi: I do appreciate the care they take to title them. I know I have a hard time with titles. The History Channel does a great job. Even if the titles refer to some horrible and sad things.

Lissa: We began with wonderful scenes of the Vikings porting the boats overland, rolling the ships over lubricated logs. It gave a great sense of how much effort and labor had to go into tasks like these, the engineering and forethought. Lagertha is helping haul on the ropes to pull the ships over the log rollers. She winces and grasps her belly at one point, but goes right back to pulling.

vikings s4 e9 heave ho

Sandi: They had a bit of a distance to go, here, but it was encouraging to show that they just did it. Marshaling local resources and getting down to business. Lagertha—yeah. The psychology of her behavior here is interesting. The Seer said she’d have no more children, yet she’s pregnant. It is possible that she’s decided to trust in Serendipity and do exactly as she would were she not pregnant, hoping that the chance of Fate would smile upon her. Or she’s subconsciously believing the Seer and his prophecy and determines to act in such a way that will not protect her unborn child to make it come true. I don’t believe she consciously is seeking to harm herself in any way. She’s just going to do what she feels she must.

Lissa: Two locals peek through the trees. They hope the Vikings will pass them by. It’s all any family could do at the time.

Sandi: The average local “peasant” or “villein” had no recourse when armed men moved through their territories. They were used like canon fodder, their lands were harvested bare and ruined, and their lives were considered as nothing to noblemen waging war.

Lissa: Finehair and his brother Halfdan take a breakfast break to go raiding a farm. The brothers are cheerful and playful as they loot. Halfdan lobs an egg at Harald and they share a laugh as it spatters the front of his armor. The residents are obviously hiding. Halfdan lifts a pillow and finds a jewelry below. He informs his brother there are women here, and they search the barn. A hard shove on the boards of the hayloft above sends the girls crashing down. They’re young – around Gyda’s age. The rest of the family pleads in French and Spanish – at least I think that’s what I heard. But both being Romance languages, I imagine Old French has some similarities.

Sandi: It really struck me how lighthearted Harald and Halfdan are, here. Like the village was created just for their amusement and plundering. I heard Spanish, too. The lines between people were more fluid in those days and the languages were still in development. Indeed they still are.

Lissa: We all cringed at the thought of what was going to happen to those girls, and mercifully, the scene cut away.  As they pack up to leave, we see more of that cheerful demeanor. Halfdan sings a Norse song and Harald joins in as they ride away. But we see the carnage as they’re leaving. The family has been slaughtered brutally, hacked to pieces.

Sandi: That’s actually a poem from the Irish. The Northmen were seen as an unstoppable force to the man in the village. They came in with their axes and shields, their belief that death in battle was a good thing, their unassailable confidence that raiding was their right, to bring treasure and slaves back home, where they were needed. A run-of-the-mill farmer (or miller!) couldn’t stand up to that. All they could do was pray, hope, and hide.

Lissa: Finehair later justifies it to Björn by saying the family would have told the Franks of the Vikings’ plans. He says Björn would have done the same, and Björn replies, “I’m not blaming you.” As Julie summed it up last night on Twitter:

Sandi: I think Hirst has been careful to show this, in his writing of this show. People are . . . people. With strengths and failings as a community as well as in individuals.

Lissa: The scene cuts to little Alfred on the road approaching the city of Rome with Aethelwulf and Prudentius walking behind him. Beggars line the pilgrims’ path, some more insistent than others. Aethelwulf functions as the bodyguard. Alfred meets Pope Leo X. An interesting aside – Do you realize the same actor playing the pope also plays the Seer?

aethelwulf proud papaSandi: Alfred, at this point, has walked over 1,000 miles. Okay, perhaps he’s been able to ride a pony for some of that, but still. A long, long walk. It’s taken months, even if they didn’t go souvenir shopping along the way. Still, the little guy is plucky, striding along with his wet hair in his face, ignoring the importuning people along the road. Aethelwulf does a great job and we noted last night that he’s been a good father to the lad, despite the more-than-awkward beginnings of that relationship. And I knew the pope looked familiar…(Yes, I hang out on IMDb and the Vikings Wikia on occasion!)

Lissa: The pope tells Alfred that he has an important destiny in defending Christendom from the pagan invaders.  The pope warns him, “If Christian people do not do penance, a great and rushing disaster will swiftly come upon you.” It’s a reminder that the Vikings were thought of by Christians as a scourge of God, a punishment for their sins. The pope shows little Alfred a sacred relic, one of the thorns from the crown cruelly thrust on the head of Jesus when he was being crucified by the Romans. Alfred kisses it in reverence.

Sandi: Alfred has been well-indoctrinated— I mean, taught!—of the tenets of the faith. At this time, that was handled by memorization, so one can imagine that the lad has a grand memory and is dedicated to learning. As indeed, King Alfred will prove in the fullness of time. I like that the show gives foreshadowing of Alfred’s lifelong commitment to faith and learning even at this stage, even including the trip to Rome Alfred did indeed make the pilgrimage. 

Lissa: The show already highlighted the early church’s reverence for relics. Remember Gisla and the oriflamme? I mentioned last night that there was also a terrible market for forgeries arising at this time, and a great many people got taken in by scammers who took advantage of their faith and trust that a fellow Christian would not lie about something so sacred.

Sandi: Even Chaucer had something to say about relics, having his Pardoner character in The Canterbury Tales, discuss how he (the Pardoner) cons people in the Pardoner’s Prologue. Not saying that the Holy Father was using the thorn of Christ’s crown of thorns as a moneymaking prop in this episode! Just a commentary that this practice did go on for centuries.

alfred and consul swordLissa: There was a wonderful scene of little Alfred being crowned as a Consul of Rome while Ecbert is being crowned as the joint king of Mercia and Wessex. The bishop anoints Ecbert’s head with oil and proclaims the kingdoms are forever and indissolvably joined, and Little Alfred is gifted a beautiful sword and a golden crown of laurel leaves. It would have been a moment that left a powerful impression on a young boy.

Sandi: Really nice display here by the History Channel. I enjoyed how these scenes were combined with some Gregorian Chant as background music. (Not sure if it was, technically, Gregorian, but you know what I mean.) Ecbert gets to wear the Where the Wild Things Are crown so I imagine we can let the Wild Rumpus start! 

Ecbert with the new crown

Lissa: Judith is, of course, all smiles, but Aella is displeased by Ecbert’s coronation and reminds him afterward that he and Ecbert were supposed to split Mercia equally. Ecbert betrayed him. And Aella mentions that Ecbert’s new domain borders his own. Ecbert essentially tells him to learn to live with it, because that’s how it is.

Sandi: Yeah.  ^^ That. (As an aside, @DeeDonuts always gives good GIF.) King Aelle is disgruntled and likely even angered by King Ecbert’s obvious duplicity. But he is in Ecbert’s court, surrounded by Ecbert’s men, and can do nothing. That has to stick in his craw in a bad, bad way.

ragnar and lagertha post miscarriageLissa: We return to Paris, where Björn and his father are hastily summoned. It’s Lagertha. When they arrive, they find her lying in her tent, her dress pulled up to her thighs and soaked with blood. She tells them she lost her child. She’d hoped the Seer might be wrong. She begins to sob and Ragnar pulls her into his arms to comfort her. He looks equally agonized as he holds his ex-wife and murmurs to her. But very quickly Lagertha sits up and tells him to go. “Just go away. Leave me alone.” Ragnar releases her, but he doesn’t leave. He retreats just a few feet behind her and sits down, and Björn sits down on her other side. In one of those gorgeous touches of cinematography conveying emotion, their body movements are in sync as Lagertha struggles to control her grief.

Sandi: That was heartbreaking for Lagertha, even though she knew it could happen. I really appreciated seeing how Ragnar supported her, and his own grief there even though the child was not his. As we said last night, these two are the great big One True Pairing for many VIKINGS fans and their chemistry is undeniable. And props to Björn, too. This is not a typical place for a son to be supportive, but he did very well. Sometimes, it’s right to ignore his mother’s wishes and do the right thing.

Lissa: Outside, Floki’s eyes roll back in his head and he has a vision of Aslaug wandering around in the rain, screaming Harbard’s name and falling to the earth in tears when she cannot find him.

Floki the SeerSandi: So now we see Floki as Seer, really. He’s not seeing the future, not here and not in the earlier episode when he seemed thrust into the sexual encounter between Harbard and Queen Aslaug. Instead, Floki Sees what is happening at the moment. I wonder how this will play out in the future of the show. I wonder if Kattegat’s Seer really has gone on, and that’s why the actor is now the pope?

Lissa: Simple Chuck is seated on the throne when Gisla and Rollo stride in. Since her marriage was consummated, Gisla’s style has changed to sleek and simple – and frankly, rather modern-looking. Beside her, Rollo is stylin’ in a shiny, shiny doublet. Simple Chuck announces Gisla’s pregnancy, and then has another announcement… He’s making Roland a count for his services to Frankia. Gisla doesn’t look very pleased by the announcement. The king dismisses everyone but asks Roland to linger for a moment. He has an important question to ask him. After everyone is gone, Chuck lays it out in the bluntest terms possible. Chuck wants Therese as his mistress and he wants to know if Roland would be upset about it.

Lissa: Not at all, Roland says with aplomb. In fact, she’d be the happiest woman in Frankia, he’s sure. He turns to go and Chuck tells him there’s just one more thing he’d like to ask about.

Sandi: I think the thing with Gisla’s wardrobe is that she isn’t having to prove anything any longer. Not to her father, not to the court. She’s married to a man she (finally) respects (though she finds it necessary to lecture him about How to be Frankish quite often) and she no longer has to build her reputation in her wardrobe. She is who she is, and that’s enough. I do concur, though, that her wardrobe does seem almost modern in its lines. (I am reminded of the wonderful series Robin Hood from the BBC, where the characters dressed in such a way as to call forth modern stylings using traditional means.) I will say though that I am getting rather tired of her pedantic manner. Still, there’s a lesson to be learned here: We often tend to think our own culture is the superior one. We should guard against this when dealing with others.

Lissa: We cut to Rollo and Gisla’s bedroom as they’re retiring. Gisla undresses behind a screen as she gives Rollo a lecture/lesson on… something. Sorry, it sort of just went in one ear and out the other. I did catch, though, that she’s unhappy about her father honoring “those people.” She puts on a white cottony-looking nightgown, complete with little satin bows and climbs into the very 18th century-looking bed with its scalloped headboard and pulled-back curtains. Rollo is also wearing a nightgown, and it has a shiny placard breast.

Sandi: Yeah. The use of nightwear was extremely rare, back then. A bridal couple on their wedding night might have something to wear, if they were noble, because there was an audience to their bedding ceremonies. But even then, it was rare to use valuable resources on a garment one wore only to sleep in. There are accounts of even kings holding court in their beds, naked under their bedding but for a cap on their heads. This was also rare, but it happened.

Lissa: The #BootSoleFile is swelling a bit, eh? And they were doing so well with the portage and such! Alas!

Sandi: It is! But, I remind myself that this is historical fiction, after all. 😉

Lissa: In any case, Rollo starts to get frisky, and Gisla rebuffs him. She’s pregnant, she reminds him. Yeah, he says, and he’s real happy about that. She tells him he cannot have carnal relations with her while she’s in this sacred state.

Lissa: I predicted this will not end well, and let me repeat that now: this will not end well. Rollo and Gisla had a good thing going here for a while, but it’s probably about to be seriously challenged because Rollo is not going to take to almost a year’s worth of abstinence well. How soon before his eye begins to roam? And how will Pepe le Princess take that? Considering her other views on marriage, I imagine she won’t accept it with a simple, “Well, that’s noblemen for you!

no sex vikings

Sandi: This will be interesting. Ah, the Royal Soap Opera! It was not uncommon, of course, for well-born men to take mistresses while their wives kept their sacred, baby-making selves away from them. Wives were often guided to look the other way when that happened, resting in the knowledge that they were providing an heir/ess and their position was secure even if their “husband had no self-control”. (Royal hmph! here.)

Lissa: At dawn, Simple Chuck rolls out of bed, dressed in his own nightgown, this one of a vibrant blue. 

Sandi: Another note on their clothing: Blue is a notoriously difficult color to make permanent in a fabric dye. It’s one reason why purple was considered a royal color. So using it for nightwear, again, is unreasonable. Sorry. I just had to get that out. 

Lissa: He strolls to the window, leaving a sleeping partner in the bed. It’s not until he glances back that we see who it is… Roland.

Sandi: That shocked me. A lot. I did a quick check and the Emperor Charles was not known to be a homosexual, even to history. However, he was noted to have a marked preference for a certain friend of his, giving him many favors and honors. So. That is a possibility as to where this came from, here in the show. I wonder if Roland considered this possibility when he told the emperor that he was ready to sacrifice all for him?

Lissa: At the Viking encampment, Torvi and Björn make love while Erlendur watches. When they’ve finished, Björn asks Torvi why she came with him when he asked. What does she want from this? Torvi says with a bit of amusement that it took him long enough to ask.

Sandi: I don’t equate Torvi with Salome, understand, it was just something I heard in my head at that point in the story. 

Lissa: She sees Erlendur aiming a crossbow at Björn, so she climbs back atop him and slides to his side, blocking Erlendur’s shot.

Sandi: Nice move! She is all about protecting Björn at this point, which was reassuring. The buzz in the VIKINGS fandom has included thoughts on whether or not Torvi is a spy for Erlandur—albeit under duress. It seems here that she is not willing for harm to come to Björn, which is a relief. (I mean, if they killed off Queen Kwenthrith, is anyone safe?)

Lissa: In Kattegat, Sigurd is floating a little boat down the creek when he comes upon a body laying on the bank. It’s little Siggy, and she’s dead, drowned like the woman she’s named after. Sigurd goes into the house. Ivar is playing a game with his mother. She’s drinking heavily. She’s gone full Circe Lannister in this episode, I swear. She makes a bad move on the game board and Ivar announces it was stupid. He’s won now. Aslaug retorts that he shouldn’t call her stupid. After all, if it wasn’t for her, he wouldn’t even be alive.

Sandi: SIGLET!  I mourn for the poor little girl who had nobody to truly care about her. 

And let’s take a moment to check out Ivar, shall we? He is the same boy who screamed in fear when he killed the other child with an axe. Blood all over his face, the boy was a mess until his mama told him it wasn’t his fault. Everything was going to be fine. Have a biscuit. And now, he’s going full-on psychopath here in this scene.

Lissa: Sigurd comes forward and announces he found Siggy’s body. Aslaug first says “Who?” before it clicks into place. Aslaug isn’t the slightest bit troubled by this news. She asks if someone was taking care of the child, and Sigurd says apparently not.

Sandi: Sigurd is the only one who seems to have known the little girl existed, at this point, and even he didn’t value her highly at all. One can only think that Harbard used this little girl as his sacrifice (of whatever nature) much in the way he took Siggy’s life before. I will miss Siglet.

Lissa: Ivar interjects. “Who cares?” Sigurd turns and stomps out as Aslaug gives a chilling smile. The happiest smile we’ve seen from her in a long while.

aslaug evil smileHere’s what throws me about this… Siggy was Ragnar’s granddaughter, daughter of his eldest son. Even if Aslaug was indifferent to her, you’d think the child would have some value in the community. Everyone knows how much Ragnar adores the children in his family. Ragmar is going to be very upset when he returns and finds out his first grandchild died of what is essentially neglect. Björn, too. The girl may not have “value” to Aslaug, but she will be a princess one day and her hand has value in marriage negotiations.

Sandi: These two have gone from sad figures to bad guys. They were to be pitied at one point, I feel. Aslaug as a neglected wife, for she did all that was asked of her and Ivar who was born with a deformity (in the show) and has to be tended as an invalid for a time. Now, she’s caught up in her Harbard-addiction and getting drunk in the presence of her children and he’s telling his mother she’s stupid and he doesn’t even care when a girl raised in his household is found abandoned and dead.

Lissa: The Vikings have reached the opposite side of the river. They all gather to cheer the sight of Paris in the distance.

Sandi: You have to feel for them, here. Though they are a seafaring folk, this might have been the longest distance any of them have had to transport their ships. What if Ragnar didn’t have it right? What if they climbed that last rise and found…more land? This was a vindication of sorts for Ragnar, but he doesn’t seem remotely aware of it. He’s in a bad, bad way, thanks to Yidu’s “medicine”.

Lissa: In his tent, Erlendur is sacrificing a rabbit, gathering its blood in a cup. Torvi crouches down beside him. She asks if she returns to him as his wife, if he will abandon his plan to kill Björn. Erlendur says he never will. He is a Viking; they don’t give up on vengeance. Ragnar killed his father. He must have his revenge. Something in the sacrifice makes him say that the gods have determined it must be Torvi who slays Björn. She tries to protest, but Erlendur threatens her son again. He presses his crossbow into her hands and forces her to drink the blood from the cup.

erlandur revenge

Sandi: I don’t believe that the gods said anything of the sort. I am sure that Erlandur chose this method as a punishment for Torvi, who had protected Björn before. Making her drink the blood makes this a religious communion, of sorts, as when all shared the blood of the cow in ritual before. 

Lissa: Torvi strides outside and sees Björn standing in the center of the camp. She has a dribble of blood running down the corner of her mouth. She tells him that she has to kill him to avenge Erlendur’s father. Björn gives a small sigh and asks her what she’s waiting for. Torvi lifts the crossbow, spins, and puts a bolt through Erlendur’s chest. Way to go, Torvi! As she told Björn many episodes ago, she is a Viking, too. Björn goes over to Erlendur’s gasping body and drops Erlendur’s ring onto the shaft of the crossbow bolt.

Sandi: I thought it interesting, here, that after all of Björn’s brooding on the matter, he is not the agency by which the Erlandur matter is ended. Instead, it is Torvi who has the opportunity and strength of purpose to end it. Forever, one hopes. 

Lissa: Ragnar is very ill and hallucinating. He thinks he’s vomiting up spiders.

Sandi: This is a bad, bad thing. When a king is seeing things, how reliable can he be? No one knows exactly what he’s seeing, which is something, but it is worrisome.

Lissa: Björn goes into his father’s tent and finds him smashing imaginary spiders on its floor, pausing now and then to vomit helplessly. Ragnar looks awful. Ragnar finally tells Björn the trouble: Yidu gave him something she called medicine, but now without it, Ragnar feels poisoned. It should be noted here that this is the only mention of Yidu in the episode, and Björn doesn’t follow it up by asking whatever happened to that girl, anyway? Though Yidu was “just a slave,” it seems odd that Björn wouldn’t at least mention her absence. After all, Yidu speaks French, and could reveal their plans if she’d run off.

Sandi: For all that Björn is growing into himself and learning leadership skills, he is not entirely savvy yet. It did seem strange that Yidu’s absence from Ragnar’s side is not more widely noted. So many did not care for her that one would think there’d be some kind of response to her absence. If only smiles and crossed glances.

Lissa: Björn is focused instead on his father’s illness. He asks, rather naïvely, why Ragnar doesn’t just take more of the drug if being without it makes him so ill. Ragnar says he has to save the little that’s left for the fight with Rollo. Paris doesn’t matter, he tells Björn. Only his fight with Rollo.

Lissa: Ragnar stands and starts to tug on his leather armor, but you can see it’s exhausting him. With tender hands, Björn helps him dress.

Sandi: This was a great moment, though not surrounded in pomp and noise. One is reminded that parents care for children and then, one day, children care for their parents. It’s a bond. It’s good to see Björn acting thus, here. But still, his neglected daughter is dead far in the north and he doesn’t even know it. That’s painful. 

Lissa: We see the ships on the water in the last scene. They were transporting the battle platforms between the longships, something I’d never seen before, but it was ingenious. Floki’s work, no doubt!

Sandi: The man is a genius in such matters, for all that I’m not a fan of his character. Fully maneuverable floating platforms were used by other Vikings as well as other cultures to facilitate fighting on the water while using advantages available on land, such as room to maneuver. The battle platform was indeed ingenious. For the Vikings in particular, these platforms were of great use when fighting in fjørds and lakes and rivers.

Lissa: On the prow, Ragnar mutters about Rollo. “I must kill youI have to kill you. I will kill you.”

Sandi: And next week, this confrontation might very well happen. 


So much to wait for next week! I hope you’ll join us @LissaBryan and @sandyquill on twitter!

If you’re looking for incisive comments, please check out ProjectFandom. @DeeDonuts on twitter is the chick in charge, there, and she always has sharp things to say!

Heill þú farir, heill þú aftr komir, heill þú á sinnum sér!
Hale go forth, hale return, hale on your ways!  – Vafþrúðnismál

The #ShieldGeeks Talk VIKINGS: Portage

“These chicks are machines!” – The No Ship Network

(check them out for their podcasted recaps and feedback ‘casts!)
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This and all images from Vikings are the property of the History Channel. I use them only for illustrations regarding their show.

146a6-lissa-bryanHeillir!

Lissa Bryan and I like to call ourselves the Shieldmaidens of History: Protecting the Innocent from Anachronisms. We’re excited to bring you our recap and discussion of each episode of History Channel’s series VIKINGS.

Lissa Bryan is an awesome historian as well as a writer of historical and End of the World as We Know It romantic fiction. Check out the review I wrote for her book, The End of All Things here.

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Lissa: Well, this episode was full of surprises! I’m still a little dazed.

Sandi: I still have hopes that one or two things will turn out differently next week. However, this was the eighth of ten weeks for this half of the season, so excitement and surprises were to be expected, I guess!

Lissa: We started off with Lagertha in the longboat with Finehair and his brother. Finehair is complaining about the retreat and is scornful. “We bought into the magic of Ragnar Lo∂brok,” Harald says. “In our world we cannot accept compromise. We cannot accept failure. Someone is always responsible for failure.” Lagertha glares him down as she retorts, “If I were you, I wouldn’t talk like that about Ragnar Lo∂brok to my face.” But when she turns away, she looks as dejected as we’ve ever seen her.

vikings_s4e8 lagertha disappointedSandi: First, kudos on getting the quotes so accurately. You rock, Lissa. Yes, Lagertha might not be Ragnar’s queen, but she is the mother of his firstborn and his loyal ally. Even when he has not always been so loyal to her. She’s just . . . an amazing woman. Not perfect, but amazing.

Lissa: In the other boat, Björn murmurs to his father that the retreat has “weakened you in every way.” Ragnar glances up at the cliffs they’re sailing past and calls a halt. He says they’ll camp there. No one has any idea why he’d want to do such a thing. Ragnar says thy ought to try listening instead of talking so much. He has an idea.

Sandi: This part was a really cool turning point for me personally. The previous episode had a decline for Ragnar, from his first weird unicorn-strategy meeting to the “talk to the head” moment at the end. (We call it the #PoorYorickMoment.) And to have Björn, his own son, publicly (because on a longship, nothing is private) decry his leadership skills must have been painful and humiliating, yet Ragnar couldn’t deny the justice of the remarks. Then, we see Old Ragnar surface. Brilliant. Innovative. The man who could sail into the unknown. That man showed up again with a great idea for how to take Paris.

Lissa: In Paris, Simple Chuck is congratulating himself over the win against Ragnar. Darth Odious warns him that “There is nothing else in the mind of the pagan Rollo but the destruction of Paris and its Emperor.” He only fought against Ragnar because they had a personal squabble. Arrest him and dispose of him, and give Gisla a husband worthy of her. Simple Chuck says he will consider it.

Sandi: Here, you’ve got the classic “Make nice with the Powerful Warrior then betray him when he wins” move. Odo did his best to work with Rollo when Rollo could benefit Paris—and, by extension, Odo himself—until Rollo’s perceived purpose was fulfilled. Then, time to get rid of the man. I think Odo did this for two reasons: 1) To regain his role as premier military advisor and 2) To try for access to Gisla once more. Charming fellow. Ugh.

Lissa: Ragnar reveals his idea to the Vikings. He wants to lift the boats up the cliffs and carry them overland, past Rollo’s forts, and slip them into the river on the other side. He asks Floki if it can be done. Floki tells him he can do it… for Ragnar. He tells him that everything he does is for Ragnar.

Sandi: We had such a fangirl moment over this, Lissa and I. Longships—skipniu, as they were called in Old Norse—were designed to be portable. The Northmen sailed them down rivers and, when the water was too shallow even for the ships, the men could pick up their craft and carry them. It wasn’t a light burden, but it was possible with enough arms. Watching Ragnar put this plan into action made me very happy.

vikings_s4e8 longship pull

Lissa: In Kattegat, Sigurd is sitting in the hall, uncomfortable with his mother’s behavior around Harbard. He says he wishes his father was here and leaves the table without eating. Harbard starts to follow him, but Aslaug tells him not to. Harbard says he wanted to tell the boy that he loved him. He loves everyone.

whorebard loves all

Sandi: I don’t even blame Sigurd for his feelings of discomfort. It wasn’t that sex between parents was unknown to most children in this time. Without private bedrooms, most of domestic life was there on display for the entire household to see. But Sigurd is well aware of who his father is and he’s old enough to have a sense of what is due to Ragnar.

Lissa: Indeed, he does. Sigurd leads his mother to a cottage later and shows her Harbard making love to another girl.

Lissa: A furious, screaming Aslaug goes on a rampage, smashing furniture in her chamber in a rage.

Sandi: Very soap-opera, here. I wonder if it’s hormonal? If Harbard has succeeded in getting Aslaug pregnant, along with half the village?

Lissa: Her actions here are a little strange, to be honest. Last week, she smiled approvingly as Harbard kissed woman after woman in the village square. And now she has become insanely jealous of the man she’s having an adulterous affair with. Rasputin-Harbard tries to soothe her, telling her he only makes love to those women because they need him to take away their pain the way he took Ivar’s pain away. He loves Aslaug, but she cannot possess him. Possession is not love. Neither is monogamy, apparently.

Sandi: It does seem an abrupt turn-about for her. Whether this is due to an increase in her attachment to him or to her feeling of what is due her—she can be jealous of her prerogatives just as much as she can her heart—she has certainly taken a sharp left in her reactions.

 

Lissa: Ecbert arrives back in Wessex after having apparently battled off-camera with the council forces and beaten them squarely. He’s greeted by a delighted Kwenthrith who says she’s now the unchallenged Queen of Mercia. Ecbert doesn’t address that particular point. That evening, Kwenthrith goes to meet with him in his office. Ecbert quickly rolls up a map of Mercia and wipes the drool from his chin. Kwenthrith informs him that she’s pregnant. Ecbert congratulates her and asks the identity of the father. Kwenthrith is probably a bit insulted, as one can imagine, but she tells him that it’s his son, Aethelwulf, and that they had a meaningful relationship. Of which Ecbert is fully aware, but that’s not at issue.

Sandi: Ecbert’s ability to present any face he wishes is growing legendary. He can sup with someone and plunge a knife coolly in their back that same evening.

Lissa: Kwenthrith starts to address some of the issues in her kingdom and Ecbert cuts her off. It’s not her kingdom any longer. He has his assistant lay out the paperwork. Before their untimely demises, the council all signed documents for the abdication of Queen Kwenthrith and ceding the throne to Wigstan, who in turn handed it over to Ecbert. He is now king of Mercia.

Lissa: Kwenthith screams at him that he’s a monster, and Ecbert is rather untroubled by this. Because he is, and he knows it. She asks him how he can sleep at night, and Ecbert doesn’t say, “On a pile of stolen crowns, my dear,” but you know he’s thinking it. She’s dragged away by guards.

Sandi: At this point, we were thinking that this was the point when Kwenthrith would find herself consigned to a nunnery to have her baby. She is told that she’ll be under house arrest, after a fashion. Ecbert is invested in keeping her unborn child safe, too, as that child is his grandson. Something Kwenthrith seems to have overlooked; a powerful king will not be dictated to.

Lissa: Gisla and Odo are having dinner with Simple Chuck.  He’s eating with a serving fork, for some reason. I teased a bit about it during the episode, but didn’t really want to get into all the history at the moment.

Sandi: That is a frustrating part of live-tweeting! There’s stuff in the mind that we don’t have time to explore because there’s a story being told before our eyes. A fascinating story.

Lissa: In any case, forks had been sort of introduced at the French court during this time, but they weren’t commonly used, not for eating, anyway. They were sort of a novelty item. Not unknown, but not common by any means – sort of like chopsticks in an average American home. Your eating utensil was your spoon or your knife. Forks didn’t come into common usage in France until Catherine d’Medici’s time.

Sandi: So, though it was possible for the Emperor would have used a fork for his personal food consumption, it was highly unlikely at this time. Good manners would have dictated he use his knife for spearing his meat or veggies and carrying them to his mouth.

Lissa: But I digress. Gisla announces she is pregnant.  A baby Viking is on his or her way! Pepe Le Bébé?

Lissa: Simple Chuck praises Rollo the defeat of his brother but Rollo reminds him it’s not really a defeat.

Sandi: Part of what the Franks need, though they don’t acknowledge it as such at this juncture, is the knowledge of how the Northman thinks. It’s a mindset different from that of the Franks’ own. The Northman doesn’t necessarily need to live past the battle; the warriors are content to die and go on to Valhalla. So conquering is a goal, but not the only goal. Valhalla is a noble one. 

Lissa: Therese meets with Darth Odious, and says he hasn’t visited her in a long while.

Sandi: As he reminds her, he was fighting (and winning!) important battles and so on. “Quit yer whining, girlie. I was busy doing man-stuff.”

Lissa: She asks him if he’d like to try a little something different. How would he like to be tied up and whipped for a change? Odious is excited by the idea, and manacles himself. Therese tries a couple of strikes and he scoffs at them as being too soft. He cries out in real pain when a long cat o’ nine tails strikes his back. It’s being wielded by Roland, who gives Therese a kiss in front of Odious. He lays into Odious with vigor while Therese watches. Blood spatters her face and she seems to get quite… excited by the sight.

Sandi: No safewords were used in that session, I daresay. I actually felt a bit bad for Darth Odious. He trusted Therese, and then found himself completely at their mercy. And . . . they weren’t merciful. Not at all.

Lissa: Kwenthrith approaches Judith and tells her she needs to confess. She’s pregnant by Judith’s husband, Aethelwulf. Judith says she knows, and she forgives Kwenthrith. Kwenthrith asks for her help in escaping.

Sandi: One would think that Kwenthrith would know better than to trust anyone who has appeared to prosper in Ecbert’s court. Cunning and double-dealing is a way of life, there, and Kwenthrith is no stranger to these herself. Sadly, she may have thought she was smarter than anyone she encountered, there.

Lissa: That evening, Judith goes to Ecbert’s chamber. He’s gazing out at the moon. He says he wants to ask her forgiveness. He’s already beyond God’s forgiveness, but perhaps he can get forgiveness from her. He feels he didn’t have a choice but to take Kwenthrith’s throne. She was unstable. “You may treat this statement as compromised, disingenuous, perhaps even as a lie. And why shouldn’t you. But the funny thing is, it’s true. I have lied about many, many things, both to others and to myself, but I find, to my surprise, that I cannot lie to you, nor escape your judgment. Please, Judith. Don’t forsake me.”

Sandi: I have to think/hope that Judith has learned enough of her father-in-law by this time not to be completely drawn in by Ecbert’s words. His track record for reliability is so not good. Unless it’s for his own self-interest. He might treat Judith well, for the time and place, but can she trust him to see to her welfare for her own sake? I doubt it. Highly.

Lissa: We cut to a scenes of the Vikings still moving the boats.

Lissa: It’s beautifully period-accurate. Lifting the boats up from the docks, they’re loaded on to sledges and rolled over logs along the ground. It’s one of those delightful historical touches that makes my geeky little heart so happy. Even Finehair seems happy. He admits he was wrong to doubt Ragnar.  “You’re insane! But this is beautiful. After everything we heard and thought, we feel stupid.

Sandi: Me being me (read: suspicious) I tend to take Harald’s claim of feeling stupid with a whole block of salt. He has said this to placate a man he now perceives to be more powerful than he might have done not too long ago. Now, Ragnar is a king in his element, not a defeated warrior who’d had a faulty plan. Now, Ragnar has a chance of winning and leading the way to treasure and renown. Now, Harald Finehair will pay him lip service.

Lissa: Torvi is watching from the dock as Björn rides one of the boats up. She has a vision of Erlendur shooting him with a crossbow and Björn falling to the water below. But Erlendur hasn’t moved. He’s just watching Björn with grim eyes.

Sandi: Yep, we were psyched out to see Björn shot through the throat. But no! History Channel was messing with us. But did this mean that Torvi is an incipient Seer herself or was it just a momentary fear? 

Lissa: Back in Paris, Darth Odious’s bloody, dripping corpse still hangs from the chains, whipped to death.

Lissa: Simple Chuck announces from his throne that Odious was executed for his disloyalty. Rollo is granted the metal hand that Darth Odious always wore. Which is gross and a-historical. At least I’ve never heard of it. “He rules his realm with an iron hand,” doesn’t have an actual historical basis in a physical object, as far as I know. After they leave, Simple Chuck has a moment with Therese. He says he feels she carries a terrible burden, and she carries it alone.

Sandi: Nice of Charles to put an official face on the revenge-murder of his former favorite. I can’t find a reference to an actual “iron hand” either, at first scan, but it does make a nice (if macabre) symbol, here. I wonder if a warning is also attached thereto? Or maybe not, as Duke Rollo has officially gifted his wife with a baby?

kwenthrith can't hideLissa: Kwenthrith tries her escape, hiding her face and that of Magnus under large cloaks. She doesn’t even make it as far as the gates before she’s captured and brought back inside the villa. She’s told by Ecbert that he wants to have Ragnar’s son, safe and sound in his hands when Ragnar returns. She will not be allowed to leave. Guards will keep her inside the villa.

Sandi: Ecbert takes it as his right—I won’t say “divine right” as he seems to have abdicated that option—to maneuver and manipulate all in his purview. It’s as if Kwenthrith couldn’t possibly think otherwise. His sense of entitlement here is overwhelming.

Lissa: Back at the Viking camp, Floki talks to Helga, who seems to be on the mend, which made me happy. She wasn’t burned, thankfully. It must have simply been mud covering her when we saw her last. He asks her to remain at the camp, where she’ll be safe, while he goes onward with the boats toward Paris. He’s tender and concerned with her, and even better than that he seems more stable than he’s been in a long time. “Don’t die, Floki,” she says to him, with a haunting sadness.

Lissa: Down at the beach, Ragnar tells Yidu to remain behind. He only brought her along for the medicine she had. She tells him there isn’t any left, and so Ragnar says he doesn’t need her any more. Yidu says she came along because she was a free woman. Ragnar scoffs and told her he never said she was free, only that she could come and go as she pleased.

Sandi: I see this as a parallel to Ecbert’s keeping Kwenthrith (and Judith and anyone else) tied to him. A captive, willing or not.

Lissa: “You’re a liar,” Yidu hisses to him. “You’ve lied to me, and you’ve lied to your people. But you made the mistake of telling me the secret of the slaughter of the families in Wessex.” She starts to march off, but Ragnar seizes her, dragging her into the water. He holds her beneath the surface. Yidu’s arms wave frantically as she fights for her life and then they slowly fall back, limp and lifeless. Her body bobs in the water. Ragnar searches her bag and grabs her drug stash before he sloshes out of the water.

drowning Yidu poster

Sandi: So . . . she had a drug stash. So she lied to him, too. For the record and all. The drug was her hold over him and it would have been singularly foolish of her to let this hold disappear at this juncture.

Lissa: I was stunned. I couldn’t believe it. Ragnar has never been brutal with women, even slave women. His cold-blooded murder of Yidu is bizarrely out of character for him, and now that he’s past his drug withdrawals, there isn’t even that excuse. I didn’t understand this scene at all. Ragnar goes Tony Soprano, and it’s devastating.

Sandi: This will sound horrid, perhaps, but I was not even remotely put off by this action. I saw this killing as expected and even a bit rational from a certain point of view. Yidu represented a threat and he handled it. She was also taunting him and doubting him and maybe even making him doubt himself – intolerable – so killing her was an expedient option. I don’t agree with it, mind, but I guess I wasn’t as flabbergasted as many.

Lissa: Ubbe and Hvistserk have seen it from the beach and are staring at their father as he sloshes up out of the river, leaving Yidu’s corpse floating behind him. “It’s all right. It’s all right.” He tries to reassure the boys, but he’s obviously jittery. He shoos the boys away and goes back to give Yidu’s body a shove out into the current.

Sandi: Now, here, I had to cringe. Ragnar has by and large done his best to be a good father on campaign, but here? He loses that. His need for the drug, and to see to the secret of Wessex, overpowered his need to be a good father and role model for his sons. I kept hoping that Yidu would sneak off, out of breath but alive, while Ubbe watched the water carefully beyond his father’s shoulder. But. No. 

Lissa: It’s late at night in Wessex and Kwenthrith hurries through the hallway toward Ecbert’s room. She’s stopped by a guard who tells her she’s been banned from his chamber. A desperate Kwenthrith pulls out a knife and stabs him in the neck. King Ecbert wakes to find her dagger at his throat.

Sandi: This is where Kwenthrith’s imbalance is most tragic. She seems to think she can pull one over on a man who has demonstrated himself to be her superior in terms of military might, strategy, and manipulation. That she thinks she can actually pose a threat to him is ludicrous. Tragically ludicrous. 

Lissa: She tells him it didn’t have to be this way. She asks him what it’s like to be at the threshold of death. “Do you know what would have been better for me?” she asks. “Can you even imagine? To have been born a man.” She’s half-crying-half-laughing as she says this, and she’s about to drive the dagger through his neck when suddenly, she’s hit by a knife from behind. Judith has stabbed her. Kwenthrith falls over, and murmurs. “Poor Judith, you have killed twice over,” referring to her unborn child. With a gurgle, Queen Kwenthrith of Mercia is no more.

Sandi: I was stunned to see that Judith had killed Kwenthrith. That was the murder that had me blinking in this episode. But, Judith was doing a few things with this. One, she was protecting her Sugar Daddy/liege lord/father-in-law. This was her duty. The corpse at the door to Ecbert’s chamber likely clued her in as to the need for her knife. Two, she was preserving the roles of her sons in Ecbert’s realm and influence. This was a princess’s duty in a royal court. Three, she was perhaps enacting her vengeance on the woman who had slept and been impregnated by her husband. “I forgive you,” she said. But Judith is a student in Ecbert’s school; words can be said without being binding. (As an aside, there’s an interview with Amy Bailey (Queen Kwenthrith) on Entertainment Weekly that makes good reading.)

Lissa: Judith looks down at Kwenthrith’s corpse and says to Ecbert, “Look what you have made me become.”

what judith became

Sandi: This is Judith refusing responsibility for her own actions. For each step she has taken to get to where she is. A far cry from the girl she may have been when even looking at Athelstan made her blush. 

Lissa: What an episode! We lost Yidu, Kwenthrith, and Darth Odious (though he won’t be missed.) We never got an answer to the question of #YorickTheMysteryHead, but so much was going on, I don’t think any of us noticed at the time.

Sandi: I certainly didn’t notice the last, no. I was too happy to see Ragnar take on a new challenge to invade Paris. Again. Two more weeks to go in this first half of this season. I can’t wait to see what they hold!


 

So much to wait for next week! I hope you’ll join us @LissaBryan and @sandyquill on twitter!

If you’re looking for incisive comments, please check out ProjectFandom. @DeeDonuts on twitter is the chick in charge, there, and she always has sharp things to say!

Heill þú farir, heill þú aftr komir, heill þú á sinnum sér!
Hale go forth, hale return, hale on your ways!  – Vafþrúðnismál