The #ShieldGeeks Talk Vikings: The Reckoning (S4 E20)

 

VIKINGS banner

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

Heillir! The Shieldmaidens of History (Protecting the Innocent from Anachronisms) welcome you to our ongoing series on the History Channel show Vikings. 

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

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Lissa: Hard to believe it’s the season finale already. This has been an action-packed season, with some pretty significant plot developments, and we’ve said goodbye to some important characters.

Sandi: I have a list of dead people that I saw in this episode. Named characters, I mean. I’ll add it to the end of this post. This has been a great second half of a season. So many were unhappy at the end of the first half of Season Four, but this half has really been very true to form, even if we aren’t always thrilled with the directions Michael Hirst and History Channel have gone.

Lissa: This episode begins with a frail Ecbert rocking in his throne, obviously in great distress. I think the implication was that he somehow knew the battle was going poorly.  We cut to the battle between Aethelwulf’s forces and the Great Heathen Army, right where we left off. The Vikings have ambushed Aethelwulf’s troops and after the bowmen pick off a large number of them from their position high on the ridge, the rest of the Vikings run in for melee combat. The battle was a feast for geeky eyes: muddy, chaotic, and brutal. The History Channel excels in this regard, because I think it’s pretty similar to how battle would have been for warriors of that era. Filthy, exhausting, a confusing, frantic tumult with the clash of steel and the screams of the dying piercing the chilly air…

Sandi: Ecbert’s frailty has been more evident with every episode in this half of the season. It’s as if he’s aged years in the course of these months. I don’t know exactly how long it’s been, story-wise, but it hasn’t been as long as his face and beard make it out to have been.

And, yeah. I really like how History Channel hosts a war. Even the clumsy fighting in Kattegat last week is indicative of how they understand the choreography necessary to make it work and work well.

Lissa: It’s obvious the Vikings have the upper hand. Aethelwulf, lying in the mud, looks up wearily to see one of his soldiers cut down by a Viking shieldmaiden. Aethelwulf frantically shouts for a retreat.

Sandi: A retreat is not a bad thing for a battle commander to order, by the way. Some people think it’s an indicator of cowardice, but Aethelwulf has proven himself already and his men clearly trust him. If he says to scoot, they scoot, and no one thinks ill of him as a result. After all, he’s saving lives. Some, anyway.

Lissa: He reaches the palace and orders an evacuation, but Ecbert refuses to go. He says staying behind is God’s will, and his own.

Sandi: Part of me sees this as part of the penance that Ecbert is planning for himself. As if by one great act of expiation, he can atone for all that he has done in his life.

Lissa: Aethelwulf is aghast. He can’t leave Ecbert, the King of Wessex, behind to die. Ecbert calmly tells Aethelwulf he’s going to abdicate. They both kneel before an altar and a bishop performs a brief ceremony, asking if Ecbert [long string of titles] intends to surrender the crown. It’s the crown, @smidbeach reminded us, that Ecbert took from the tomb of the kings and queens of Mercia when Wigstan abdicated. The crown and scepter are passed to Aethelwulf.

Sandi: It’s not Aethelwulf’s fault the crown looks a lot like the one on the Burger King fellow in the commercials!

But seriously, here we see Ecbert doing this noble thing and giving his crown to his son. Still, would you expect Ecbert to ever do the right thing when he gained nothing from it? Right.

Lissa: That finished, Ecbert tells his son, “I know I have placed my kingdom in the safest hands. You go now, save yourself and your family.” The phrase your family” wasn’t lost on me. Judith and Alfred aren’t really Aethelwulf’s – they’ve been Ecbert’s, and Aethelwulf has always revolved on the periphery, like a distant planet that eventually gets downgraded as being just one of the objects in the Kuiper Belt. But Ecbert hasn’t just handed over his kingdom. He’s handed over Judith and Alfred, the two people he cherished more than his own son. He tells Aethelwulf to gather his strength and come back to reclaim what is his one day.

Sandi: Thing is, even though these are the Last Words from a father to his son, I still don’t see them as sincere. The most sincere things he says are what he says to Alfred—Athelstan’s son. Because it is with the young man that Ecbert’s hope truly lie. He wants his name and influence to live on and Aethelwulf is not the man in whom Ecbert sees that happening.

Lissa: The palace is evacuated and the royal family climbs into a carriage. Ecbert gives his son a kiss. He leans into the carriage and gives some hurried words of wisdom to Alfred about a Christian king’s greatest virtue being humility.

Sandi: His words were hurried, reminding me of Bilbo Baggins giving Frodo advice before he set out to destroy The One Ring. Or of Polonius in Hamlet, giving his son Laertes the benefit of his wisdom. (And though we mock Polonius’s manner on occasion, he’s been an oft-quoted character through the centuries.)

Lissa: Judith thanks Ecbert for loving her, which struck me as a bit odd – and I wasn’t the only one.

Sandi: It really began poorly, yeah. But Judith was not blameless, either, so I guess she kind of came to a sense of balance in herself.

Lissa: But I imagine over the ten-plus years of their affair, Judith came to see it as the best thing that ever happened to her in terms of personal freedom. Her husband has evolved from the prim, priggish fellow he was when they first married, but it’s true that Judith was able to do much more in her life as Ecbert’s mistress than she ever would have as Aethelwulf’s wife.

Sandi: Very true. She had stepped from the confines her world and that freed her, even if she wasn’t seen as “proper” any longer. This does not mean I advocate for adultery by any means, but it does show how some bravery and brass can help propel a person into different spheres of influence.

Lissa: After the family and troops leave, Ecbert embraces the bishop who remained at his side. The men retreat back to the throne room where they sit in silence and drink. All of us had the reaction that Ecbert was wishing it was Ragnar sitting there, sipping his wine.

Sandi: It was interesting that the scene was silent, essentially. There was nothing here that could be said. One presumes the bishop at Ecbert’s side knows all his flaws so there is no coy conversation, no exploration of thought. Just two men who are facing the end of their lives. A silent drink is appropriate.

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Lissa: The Vikings arrive at the city and are at first wary to find no one there to defend it. After they confirm it’s empty, they run inside to pillage, cheering. In the crowd. Helga is tugging her Shiny New Kid along behind her as she runs to keep up.

Sandi: And we were sitting there, wondering how on earth Helga and Tanaruz (aka Shiny New Kid) had managed to get there. And we were still wondering why. There is a desperation to both of their faces, and one can’t blame them.

Lissa: Floki – may God have mercy on his soul because I cannot – finds Ecbert’s treasured library that Athelstan was translating and copying, and he… I’m having trouble typing it… He torches the scrolls.

Sandi: This was a wanton act of destruction, made for spite, because Floki knew what the scrolls were. He knew and despised Athelstan, but he wasn’t ignorant of the man’s work or anything. Floki was just abolishing something he wanted obliterated, though it posed no threat. Neither would it bring profit. And since he burned it then, it wasn’t even going to be useful as a fire-starter in the future. Just . . . a waste, really.

Lissa: I hated this scene. Hated it because I knew it was true to history. So much knowledge and learning was lost down through the centuries when libraries were encountered by cultures who didn’t appreciate the scholarship of those they’d conquered.

Sandi: And, our readers can ascertain, this kind of thing is a big deal to Lissa and me. The rampant destruction of such work just gets to us. Alas, it happened and cannot be undone!

Lissa: Helga leads the New Kid down a hallway in the palace while the fires rage and the murderin’ is still going on. A flaming beam falls in their path and the girl screams. Helga kneels to assure her that she’s safe and loved. The girl grabs Helga’s knife. She stabs Helga before turning the blade on herself, driving it into her own heart. The kid dies instantly, but Helga is still clinging to life when Floki finds her. She tells him he’s special, unique, and the world isn’t large enough for him. He pleads with her, but she goes limp in his arms.

Sandi: This was an entirely unexpected death. All of us went into this finale with, I suspect, a private Death List we expected to check off. (One of those, I will say, I didn’t check off, which surprised me.) At no point was Helga on my private list. (Cannot say the same about Shiny New Kid Tanaruz, however.)

Lissa: This was a terrible moment. When Helga was first injured, I was wryly joking about Helga needing to fnd herself a new kid, thinking she wasn’t seriously hurt because of the lack of visible blood. But by the time Floki found her, I realized that this might be the end of Helga’s story. It made me sorrowful, not only because I liked her so much – both her character and the skillful Maude Hirst who portrayed her – but because I felt it was an unworthy way for Helga to go. Helga was essentially felled by her ovaries — her unhinged (and abruptly introduced) longing for a child led her to kidnap a deeply traumatized girl from her homeland, like a tourist scooping up an exotic animal they have no idea how to care for.

Sandi: It really was a terrible way for Helga to go. Her devotion to Floki, to all that he is and all that he’s done (save for the murder of Athelstan), has been a hallmark of her character. If she had died for him, it would have been fitting, in my opinion. Or even dying for Ragnar or Björn. A sacrifice of herself for someone she loved/honored. But murdered by a child whom she had kidnapped and held captive? I don’t know. It just . . . sits poorly with me.

Though I will say that Vikings did have captives and those captives certainly plotted to kill their “owners”, I’m sure. At least, mine did! So, is this death a tribute to all those captives the Northmen acquired, perhaps? I rather think not, but one can wonder.

Lissa: We had previously speculated that the Shiny New Kid might introduce Floki to the Islamic faith, about which he’d shown curiosity and given a measure of respect. They seemed to be on their way to building a small rapport in the last episode. But the storyline was not destined to be so complex. Tanaruz was just the means to Helga’s death.

Sandi: This makes me wonder if Floki’s fascination with the Islamic faith will appear again in this show or if that, too, is abandoned like the light in the man’s eyes?

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Lissa: Floki gives his beloved wife a lovely burial, laying her out on fine furs before surrounding her with beautiful grave goods. He lays a necklace on her chest and puts a stone in the hollow of her throat.

Sandi: This is a lovely example of the traditional burial. Such sites have been found in Great Britain, so it’s great that History Channel included one here.

Lissa: Later, Björn comes upon him and tells him he’s sorry about Helga’s death. He’d known her since he was a child. Floki says he’s dead, too. The first part of him died with Angrboða. The second part with Ragnar, and now Helga’s death has taken the last. He is an empty vessel that the gods may do with as they may. He will drift upon the current, rudderless, drawn by their winds. He tells Björn to take care of himself, rises to his feet and heads down the hallway. His silhouette fades away into the light, as Ragnar’s did when Ecbert said goodbye.

Sandi: I really want to hope that Floki will return to himself after a period of deep mourning.

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Lissa: As the fire nears the throne room, Ecbert decides he’s had enough. He leaves and heads out into the courtyard where Björn and the other Ragnarssons are watching the carnage. Björn recognizes Ecbert and stops anyone from harming him. The bishop doesn’t fare so well. He’s slain while he’s asking the Lord to forgive the Vikings because they know not what they do.

Sandi: Ecbert’s appearance must have surprised Björn a bit; he’s a far cry from the man he used to be. And he looks like he’s wearing a nightshirt or something. The bishop does not try to save himself, it seems. He and Ecbert had both accepted their fates and that was all he wrote.

Lissa: The brothers confer together while Ecbert hangs in a cage above. They’re not sure what to do with him. Ivar wants to give him the Aelle treatment. Björn says there are bigger political issues at play. Ubbe isn’t sure of the wisdom of killing Ecbert, either. He still wants to realize Ragnar’s dreams of a settlement, and Ecbert might be the key to that, though Hvitserk protests that Ragnar never ransomed a leader.

Sandi: The points of view expressed here are all valid, which is good. No one is completely off script; it’s just that making this a cohesive venture is looking less and less likely all the time. May I say, here, that having Ecbert in the dreadful cage is perfect, from my standpoint? I thought it apt for the circumstance and I believe Ecbert did himself.

Lissa: In his cage, Ecbert interjects and says he was able to understand most of their conversation, because he speaks a bit of their language.

Sandi: Awfully convenient, eh? No, I get it, because there’s no interpreter and I rather doubt any of Ragnar’s sons have taken the time to become fluent in Anglo-Saxon.

Lissa: He has an offer for them. He will give them legal title to lands they can settle. He leaves out the little fact that he’s no longer King of Wessex. In fact, he brags he is the “king of kings” and no one could question their title. They ask him what he wants in return, but Ecbert won’t tell them unless they agree. Once Björn decides to accept, Ecbert says he wants to choose the method of his death.

Sandi: And wow, didn’t our band of #ShieldGeeks go off on that! “Wait, wait! He’s not a king anymore!”

Lissa: Ecbert presents them with the document and pressed his seal to it.

Sandi: So, Ecbert the Crafty had one final trick up his sleeve. Historically, Ecbert was apparently obsessed with keeping the lands of the king in the hands of the king. He didn’t distribute his lands the way others in other places did. He kept it all together. It is entirely in keeping with that historical rendition that Ecbert first gives the kingship to Aethelwulf then pretends to give lands to the Northmen.

Lissa: I was hoping that the tale of the sheepskin (or ox hide, depending on the version of the tale) would be introduced, because it’s one of those charming little asides in the Sagas, but it seems that isn’t going to be introduced.

Sandi: That would have just taken more time that they could use to, you know, kill people, right? *sigh* Really, I have to hand it to History Channel for covering what they do in this show. Sometimes even to excess. [I’m just the girl who loves the really long A&E version of Pride and Prejudice because so much of the book is captured therein.]

Lissa: Ecbert is given his final wish. He goes into the hot spring baths with Björn who silently offers him a choice between two blades. Ecbert chooses the smaller of the two. Björn nods and leaves the room. Ecbert disrobes and climbs into the bath. Like Ragnar, he experiences echoes of the past. Ragnar, Lagertha, Judith… He then lowers his arm into the hot water and slices open his veins with the blade. And so passes another “father” of this series. Wily Ecbert who always had layers of intrigues and manipulations, possibly so many that he got lost in his own webs.

Sandi: Björn was so merciful, here. So many things that could have happened to Ecbert, but he goes out in a manner of his own choosing, without even an audience to make sure he’s actually dying. Trust? Foolishness? I don’t know. But it was nice for us to get to hear Ecbert’s Greatest Hits in his memories, even if we didn’t get to see them as we did Ragnar’s. A nice echo back to Ragnar as the episode and season was wrapping up.

Lissa: The Ragnarssons are outside in the burned-out courtyard, enjoying a feast. They’re celebrating the fact that they now have farmland and can bring new settlers. Björn announces that now Ragnar has been avenged, his destiny leads him elsewhere. He wants to go back to the Mediterranean.

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Sandi: This is actually a great way to wrap up the season. We get a victory party, the sons declaring their future intentions (for when/if we have a time jump before Season Five), and a summation of their goals and aspirations . . . and loyalties.

Lissa: Halfdan surprises his brother by electing to join Björn. Ivar wants to continue their push through proto-England.  There’s no one who can stand up against them. They will do it for the glory of battle and Odin All-Father.

Sandi: This must have been a surprise to Harald Finehair. He’s got Norway in his sights and his brother has been his right arm for as long as we’ve known them. If Halfdan is wanting to split, what does that mean for his support of Harald’s kingship. Historically, Harald does become king, so . . . what is this going to do to the Die-Namic Duo? (Sorry. It was just there.)

Lissa: Sigurd wants to fight onward, too, but he doesn’t want to follow Ivar as their leader. He snaps Ivar is not even really a man, but a mama’s boy, a snake that crawls on the ground. Ivar retorts that he’s not even sure if Sigurd is Ragnar’s son, given his penchant for music, and (ahem) enjoyment of male company.

Sandi: Yeah, because the whole End-Of-Season Victory Party wouldn’t be complete without fraternal sniping. And hey, the Ragnarssons have given us that in abundance, so it’s almost fun to watch. Bring popcorn.

vikings-s4e20-axe-throwLissa: Sigurd bites back that Aslaug was the only one who ever loved Ivar. Despite Ubbe’s efforts at peacemaking, the quarrel heats up and Ivar grabs an ax, which he hurls at Sigurd’s chest. Sigurd pulls it out and staggers toward his brother, but he doesn’t make it far enough to deliver a return blow. He collapses at Ivar’s feet, apparently dead. I mean, we’ll have to wait until next season to be certain, but he looked pretty-darn-dead to me.

Sandi: I’m sure I wasn’t the only one watching to see if Sigurd blinked. I didn’t see a blink, though. I’m thinking he’s gone. Years ago, Ivar’s first kill was with a thrown axe, so it is not surprising that he does it again. I don’t have the sense that it was something Ivar planned to do—much as he didn’t like his brother, they were brothers and I don’t see fratricide as high on his To-Do List.

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Lissa: This is another departure from history, because Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye married one of Aelle’s daughters. His granddaughter married Halfdan the Black after he kidnapped her from her first kidnapper. (The fate of a blue-blooded woman in that era was never an easy one.) They were the parents of Harald Finehair.

Sandi: Well, of course, Harald Finehair is already with us, so it’s possible that Sigurd was seen as expendable in this particular bit of historical fiction.

And yeah, no. I wouldn’t have wanted to be a woman of noble birth in this era. They were chess pieces and that’s not a fate I’d want for myself.

vikings-s4-e20-jrm-sightingLissa: We next see a priest, conducting burial rites while Saxons look on and weep. It’s our first sighting of Jonathan Rhys Meyer, who has joined the cast.

Sandi: Okay, to be honest, I wasn’t thrilled with this conclusion of the season. A more natural end would have been the fight amongst the brothers and the death of Sigurd. Sad, but organic. Introducing Bishop Heahmund is sensible from an entertainment standpoint, yes (new big name actor! new character! intriguing possibilities!) but it ended the episode off-key, for me.

Lissa: The widow comes up to thank him. She’s wearing an intricate machine-woven black lace veil. Lace, of course, wasn’t invented until the fifteenth century or so, and even then, the English were stuck with needle lace for at least another cent— Ah, never mind. #BootSoleFile

Sandi: …yeah. Her veil reminded me a bit of a Spanish mantilla, without the height of the hair comb. Anyway…

Lissa: Anyway, she thanks the priest for the ceremony and says her husband is in a better place. The priest has his own idea of how to offer her comfort, and we next see the two of them together in bed. Beside the bed is a set of armor and a gleaming sword with something etched into the crossguard.

Sandi: You found it, too!

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ANANYZAPATA
Lissa: From what I found online, it was an early medieval inscription/spell that was supposed to prevent poisoning, an acronym of the words, Antidotum Nazareni Auferat Necem Intoxicationis Sanctificet Alimenta Pocula Trinitas Alma‘ (May the antidote of Jesus avert death by poisioning and the Holy Trinity sanctify my food and drink). It’s found on a 9th Century ring at the British Museum.

Sandi: This is an extremely cool detail from History Channel. Lissa loves finding the smallt truths often hidden, so I imagine, my friend, that you were very happy to find that.

Lissa: So, what’s next for our heathen horde? Will Ivar face any consequences killing his brother? Where is Floki bound, and how will he fare without his beloved Helga? Will Judith and Aethelwulf build a good life together while he seeks to reclaim his throne? Where’s Rollo and how’s he doing with I-Forgot-How-To-Princess? And how is Lagertha now that the Finehair twins are out of her own artistically-braided hair for a while? I guess we’ll have to wait until season 5 to find out!

Sandi: Indeed!

Lissa: Until then, ShieldGeeks, keep those axes sharp, and your hair braided for battle!

Sandi: And if you have any thoughts on this episode or predictions for next season, let us know!

And raise a horn of mead to honor the fallen in this episode:

Ecbert’s Bishop

Helga

Tanaruz

King Ecbert

Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye



Heill þú farir, heill þú aftr komir, heill þú á sinnum sér!

Hale go forth, hale return, hale on your ways! – Vafþrúðnismál 4


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The #ShieldGeeks Talk VIKINGS: On the Eve

 

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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.

Heillir! The Shieldmaidens of History (Protecting the Innocent from Anachronisms) welcome you to our ongoing series on the History Channel show Vikings. 

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

(¯`•ღ•´¯)


LissaHeillr! I’m still on my long raid through the South, currently invading Bourbon Street in New Orleans for jazz and beignets, so our recap will again be a little more brief than usual. We’ll be back to our Regularly Scheduled Programming next week.

Sandi: Which is actually quite timely of you. I’m glad you’ll be home in time for the Season Finale! And your pics of the beignets would have made any Viking raid The Big Easy.

Lissa: In Kattegat, Torvi sees a group of men coming into town and her suspicions are immediately raised. She asks one of the local merchants and learns that these “traders” haven’t shown interest in buying or selling any goods. As she’s watching them, they signal for an attack. The Kattegat warriors take them down quickly, but they realize it’s the precursor to a bigger attack on the city. This raid was just intended to test their defenses.

Sandi: First, the local merchant (in screen time) hadn’t had more than a minute or five to observe the “traders” so that struck me as weird. I get the paranoia, but you’d think someone would give a group of newcomers at least an hour or so (in however they determine such) before going all suspicious.

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Anyway . . . So it was a test of the defenses and we saw that the defenses were not foolproof. Okay. But what I want to know is if Lagertha had her people work on defending the fortifications or if they relied upon them to do the “heavy lifting”, as it were. The scene was chaotic and unprepared.

Lissa: The bishop who was with Aelle in the last episode is brought into Ecbert’s hall. He’s badly wounded, on the verge of death. Aethelwulf quickly tries to pump him for information. He asks if it was the sons of Ragnar, but doesn’t get an answer. He demands to know how many warriors there are in the Great Heathen Army (hereafter abbreviated as GHA). The bishop chokes out, “How many blades of grass are there in a field?” Aethelwulf tries to clarify. Does he mean hundreds? Thousands? But the bishop dies before he can say any more. “Damn you!” Aethelwulf shouts, then hastily corrects himself, realizing a man of God has just died in his presence. “May he rest in peace.”

Sandi: That got a chuckle from the viewers, to be sure. It shows, though, the growth of the character and I send kudos to Moe Dunford for how he’s portrayed Aethelwulf.

Lissa: Young Alfred tells Aethelwulf that he wants to go fight, and Aethelwulf says there’s no way he will risk him. As we discussed last night, a boy of Alfred’s age and status would already have years of martial training. Young men who weren’t athletic by nature (like Prince Arthur Tudor) would be encouraged in archery. Princes would be training with sword, riding, and military tactics. (Studying Caesar was always a favorite.)

Sandi: Aethelred, Aethelwulf’s son by Judith, was a bit older than Alfred and he had likely had less Caesar and more swordplay in his education. I concur with Aethelwulf’s decision not to allow them to fight, but one can see that both young men will be fighting against that a bit more in a few years, should the show continue.

Lissa: Ecbert talks with Judith and tells her she needs to resume her place as Aethelwulf’s wife. He needs her keen mind working alongside him. Judith asks how Ecbert would take it if she declined his suggestion, and he says he would reframe it as a command from her king.

Sandi: This was interesting. We’ve seen how Judith’s relationship with Ecbert has evolved over the years. She genuinely cares for him but she will also bow to his will as her king, where she wouldn’t bow to her parents’.

j-vikings-bedtimeLissa: She goes to see Aethelwulf and finds him tucking Alfred into bed. Aethelwulf tells him that he compares favorably with his father. Alfred says that Aethelwulf is his father, and Aethelwulf smiles. He says to the boy that he surely knows by now that he was fathered by a man named Athelstan, a holy, wonderful man. The scene is full of warmth – there is not a hint of resentment in Aethelwulf’s voice. He is obviously deeply fond of Alfred, and wants him to think highly of his real father. It’s a mark of Aethelwulf’s maturity and grace. His character has experienced real growth over the seasons as he’s gone from the petulant, priggish prince he was when we met him.

Sandi: I loved this scene so much. As you say, another indicator of Aethelwulf’s growth and determination to do right by Alfred. Judith sees it all and is moved as well. Does this contribute to her apparent capitulation to Ecbert’s wish for her to “return” to her husband?

Lissa: Judith has a fond goodbye with Aethelwulf as he departs the next day, stroking his cheek and telling him he must “live, live, LIVE.” Aethelwulf chuckles and says he’s going to try. When the Saxon troops see Athelwulf joining their ranks, they stand and cheer him.

Sandi: It might not have been the warmest of farewells, but it is clear she was sincerely trying and Aethelwulf seemed to take it as such, without scorn. His leavetaking from his father was unusual. Ecbert was all “it’s a time for hate!” and that visibly disturbed Aethelwulf. He didn’t seem to shake it off until he was mounted and riding away.

deer-head-bjornLissa: The Viking fleet advances up the river. Björn stands at the prowl with a “mad face” expression we all remarked on. The Saxon people flee and scream as they see the invaders. The Ragnarssons are a bit peeved by it. Ivar snarks that the people and their god flee before the power of the Vikings. But he can’t resist needling his brothers. He has suggestions, however, in between the jabs. Suggestions that make sense. He wants to use the terrain against the Saxons, to spread their lines out and attack from multiple fronts. Björn is a little testy to have his command challenged like this, but it turns out later that he took some of Ivar’s advice.

Sandi: The Viking longships were amazing in that they could successfully manage the open ocean as well as being shallow enough in draft to sail inland via the natural rivers of the many nations that they invaded. Such incursions surprised those whom they raided, at first. They’d thought fortifications were needed on the coast, but surely not inland! They learned quickly. The Vikings’ ability to make quick and accurate maps helped considerably as they raided and then settled all over Europe.

Regarding the battle advice: I maintain that everyone was right to doubt Ivar’s tactical sense. Dealing with a large army, a leader wouldn’t want to surprise them with a brand-new tactic from an untried warrior. And for all of Ivar’s apparently good instincts, he does not have Björn’s blood-won experience. The show is here invested in promoting Ivar as a conquering warrior, though, so things went as he said they would and he is shown to be brilliant in the field.

Lissa: Helga runs into the tent screaming, and Floki jumps up, knife held at the ready for battle. But that’s not why Helga is so upset – the Shiny New Kid has run away. At first, Floki gives a bit of a shrug. Perhaps it’s for the best. But Helga is so upset by the loss that he has to go looking for the girl. He finds her quite easily by the river when he sees her cloak floating in the current. She’s crouched behind a log. Floki sighs and crouches down to talk to her. The girl looks around for an escape but knows she’s caught. Floki says, “I know you hate us. I don’t know what to do about that.”

Sandi: I am thinking that Floki has come to see Tanaruz as a connection to the “new religion” he discovered while on the Spanish raid. This makes him, I think, more determined to see to her wellbeing rather than just pretend he didn’t see her. He could have. It is clear that Tanaruz made a deliberate effort to make it appear that she had drowned; she’s not stupid for all her silence. He handles her extremely well, here.

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Lissa: Something in his tone – or perhaps in the words she’s learned of their language – seems to get through to her, and the Shiny New Kid is led back to the camp by him. When Helga runs out of the tent weeping in joy that her “baby” has been returned, the girl cringes away from her effusive embrace.

Sandi: Oh, I hated to see her cringe. She looked more confident with Floki, safe, comfortable. Upon seeing Helga, she drew back and her glance over her shoulder at Floki seemed to ask for him to rescue her. Now, I am confident Helga is not intentionally doing anything wrong, but she is not being wise in her dealings with her captive daughter. Tanaruz’s purpose, though, might be coming more clear. Maybe.

Lissa: In Kattegat, Lagertha is musing over a model of the city’s fortifications when they hear a horn, warning them of attack. It’s obviously what Lagertha has been expecting, because she says something along the lines of “They’re here.” She and Joan Jett run outside to help with the defense of the city. The battle is brutal and bloody – and very entertaining to watch. We felt “cheated” of a battle scene last episode. Hirst paid us back in spades.

j-vikings-s4-e19-lag-and-blocksSandi: Watching Lagertha play with her blocks was kind of adorable. Did you see her face? She looked like she was about five. But adulthood returned with a vengeance when it was time to do battle. Still not convinced she had trained her people well in working with and around the fortifications, though.

Lissa: As you noted last night, Joan Jett showed some serious weaknesses as a warrior. Agile and quick she may be, but her shield game needs work. She left her body unprotected at several crucial points, and it was by sheer luck (or a thick coating plot armor) that she wasn’t stricken down.

 

Sandi: Much of what I saw in this battle was sloppy. I am thinking that this is due to the fact that Lagertha has her warriors and her tradesmen, and here, many of the latter were fighting in defense of their home. They just didn’t have the same practiced economy of movement we see in the more formal battles on this show.

Lissa: Lagertha directs the battle from atop a bridge, deflecting arrows with her shield. But she looks back over her shoulder and sees that another contingent of attackers, led by Egil the Bastard, has attacked the Great Hall. She shouts to Joan Jett to come with her, and tells Torvi to hold the wall.

Sandi: It is clear that these two women are her right and left arms, respectively. She trusts them and likely spends a lot of time with them, discussing her plans and strategies, so that they don’t require detailed instructions at such a circumstance as an invasion.

Lissa: There was a really neat fire-trap effect. Lagertha had apparently laid down a flammable liquid on the path between two buildings prior to the attack. She lights it as the invaders charge toward the hall and the men are enveloped in flames, then easily picked off by arrows. The Bastard sees that his group has been defeated and seems to have a moment where he makes the decision to charge anyway, and perhaps go out in a blaze of glory and get his ticket to Valhalla. He gets a pike driven through his chest. He falls, wounded but not dead. Lagertha presses him down into the mud with her boot and orders he be kept alive.

Sandi: It was messy, but I understood it entirely. At this point, the battle is over and there is only the aftermath to see to, including the treatment of the dead and wounded, and the interrogation of the captive.

Lissa: We see at the end of the scene that Torvi has been wounded – severely. She was blinking when the scene ended, so she’s not dead, but it looked bad on the Björn homefront. What will happen to the Björnsons and Björndotters if she dies? (There was a collective rejoicing last night that Aslaug’s Daycare Center is permanently closed. *Pours a mead on the ground for poor little Siggy*)

Sandi: The “wounded in the shoulder/arm/side” thing is rather a recurring theme in many shows/movies that involve open warfare. It is serious, and death can happen, but such a wound is also survivable. I hope that Torvi does survive, and I’m sure the kids would also appreciate it!

I still haven’t forgiven the writers for abandoning Siglet.

Lissa: In Harald Finehair’s camp, he sits and talks with his brother. Their attack has failed, but Harald’s attention seems more focused on the Manic Pixie Dream Princess who turned him down and married a man who was his inferior in rank. The princess’s husband chats with her and her face is alight with love and happiness. Finehair grumbles that Halfdan was right – he shoulda killed her.

Sandi: There was a lot of talk about love and such and that made me roll my eyes. Again. I know I have a lot of issues with it, and this is television, but a king did not consider love in his marital relationship in this time. It would be seen as weak and the gods would not favor men who were led by their emotions over their good sense.

j-vikings-s4-e19-princess-and-hubsLissa: He goes over to talk to the princess and her husband. He says he’s “forgiven” her. The princess’s husband acts like the apology is actually a valid thing. “Oh gosh, we’re really glad you’ve ‘forgiven’ her for having agency over her own life and all.” But guess what? Finehair’s forgiveness doesn’t extend to the husband. He chops him in the forehead with an ax. As the princess screams over the body of her dead husband, Finehair murmurs an apology and walks away.

Sandi: Surprised? No. Not for a moment. Harald will one day be king of Norway, yes, but he allows his personal life to overtake him in really weird ways in this show. [Forgive me, everyone. If you’ve been reading us for a while, you know I have issues.] One can only hope he’ll get over it once all the, er, stimulations to his strange obsession have been handled. And they will be. Whew.

Lissa: The Ragnarssons are leading their troops down the road, all of them dressed to the nines. (Björn was at one point wearing a cape covered with fox pelts, their tails dangling down to drag in the mud.) You mentioned last night that you wanted to talk about the decorative braiding on the leather armor. The Vikings were just like us – they liked to have stylish and pretty things, but decorative battle armor probably wasn’t as much of a “thing” as this show makes it out to be. After all, the purpose of armor is to protect the body, and some of the decorative touches we’ve seen would actually be a bit detrimental to that purpose, as well as collecting mud/blood and all manner of grossness that doesn’t clean well out of braided leather.

Sandi: The thing is, leather is a special commodity, requiring the death of a lot of animals to get just right. Also, leather is easily corroded by salt water, so a sea-faring folk would not have relied upon it so much. The Northmen, the common sort who would make up the bulk of any fighting force, would have worn layers and layers of woven garments to protect themselves. In a later century, leather and chain mail were a bit more common than they would have been in the 9th Century, but not at this point in the Vikings’ collective history.

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All of it does make pretty pictures for the show, though.

Lissa: Riding in his chariot, Ivar tells Björn again about his ideas. He says his father wanted him to pay attention to the terrain for a reason. They can use it tactically.

Sandi: A good battle chief knows how to do this. It is all fine and well that Ivar is being framed in that role, here, for future reference. I still think that, realistically, such a frame is a presumption at this juncture.

Lissa: Manic Pixie Dream Princess goes to Finehair’s tent and says she wants to talk to him… in private. They go inside a building and she tells him she’s so sorry. She was led astray by the advice of others. She should have waited for him because he was the one she always wanted. They kiss passionately and fall into a bed together. Princess is on top. As things are progressing, she reaches behind her back and draws a knife. Just as she’s raising it, she’s sliced from behind by a blade – Halfdan is wielding it. He tells his brother that perhaps he knows women a bit better than Finehair did. Finehair curses as he sits up. Was he more upset about her drawing a knife on him, his brother killing her, or the fact that he didn’t get the thing he’s wanted for so many years?

Sandi: Oh yeah. We could see this coming, right? I personally think that Harald was most upset because his ideal was destroyed. His Dream Princess Barbie was conniving, and didn’t even have the wisdom to delay her revenge as a good Viking should, according to the proverbs that existed at that time. She didn’t love him. Was never going to love him. And he fell for her sudden sexual invitation with barely a thought. He felt foolish, I think, and that fueled anger as much as anything else did.

Lissa: In the Kattegat Great Hall, Lagertha is cooking Roasted Bastard. She has Egil bound to a spit, rotating over hot coals. He’s taking the torture with fortitude until Lagertha has his wife brought in. She’s a bit battered, but otherwise seems unharmed. Lagertha demands to know who paid for the ships and equipment to attack Kattegat. She says she will let The Bastard and his wife live if he tells her.  If not… She tortures him with a red-hot iron. He screams but keeps his secrets. His wife pleads with him, and he finally surrenders. He says he’s doing it only for her because he knows he’s going to die anyway. (He’s probably right. He looked like he was pretty … cooked.) He tells Lagertha that it was Harald Finehair and the assembled people in the hall gasp.

Sandi: For the viewers, of course, this is no revelation at all. But I can imagine how it must be for Lagertha & Co. Harald’s been around for years, shmoozing and making nice with the family. Being given hospitality. Lending his arm to a battle and his remarks to…well, anyone and everyone. That he had paid to have someone betray them and lead an army against Kattegat—and its leading family—was a huge blow. Lagertha took it well, though, and on her feet.

j-vikings-s4-e19-aethelwhatLissa: The Saxon troops meet on the battlefield and march toward the GHA. But as soon as they’re about to engage, the Vikings turn and walk away. They turn and there’s another group behind them. They start toward that battle, only to have those warriors retreat, as well.  As they try to follow, Björn’s group begins to fire on them from the trees, raining arrows down on the Saxon soldiers.

Sandi: The headgame is half the battle, sometimes. In this kind of warfare, it is personal. You can see the individuals across a field. You might be able to see faces. Colors of tunics. Types of weapons. The Saxons had to feel superior as they arrived to defend their land. They knew what to expect . . . didn’t they? Turns out, no. Which was highly disconcerting and that disconcertion served as Weapon Number One.

Lissa: Aethelwulf gets off his horse and strides toward the trees with his sword drawn, ready to attack, only to find the Vikings have vanished AGAIN. In frustration, he asks one of his men where the Viking ships are. They’re in the nearby town. Aethelwulf says they’ll go there and torch the ships.

Sandi: For us, in our 21st Century world with more than a millennium of history between us and the era we’re watching, this kind of warfare is familiar. We’ve seen its effectiveness all over the world, from the Picts of Scotland defending against the Romans to present-day battles. Guerrilla warfare is a known factor. An expected strategy. But here, not even. These men expected to fight on open terrain, where they could see and be seen, where their identities were clear and their fields of retreat available. So Aethelwulf’s men were feeling as if they would make a noted difference if they cut off the Vikings’ method of retreat. It had to work, didn’t it?

ivar-and-floki-gigglingLissa: Floki sees the Saxons heading down the road toward the town and says, “They’re going for the boats!” For a moment, it seems like he’s almost panicked, but then he reacts with glee, hugging Ivar and telling him he was right. He’s a mad genius! They both laugh as they watch the Saxons head toward the town, only to be hit from an ambush of archers on the ridge above the road.

Sandi: These two are just adorable. I’m not a huge fan of either character, but they are a force to be reckoned with.

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Lissa: It appears that Aethelwulf may have bitten off more than he expected! The Vikings aren’t behaving like an “army,” but instead a huge, sophisticated raiding party. It’s guerrilla warfare in proto-England, and Aethelwulf’s troops are not prepared for it.

It was a great episode in all. Amazing battle scenes, and the plot driven forward. If we were grading this, I would give it top numbers, because I enjoyed it immensely.

Sandi: So did I! All the stuff we tend to enjoy in our Vikings. Fierce warriors, plot, cool battle scenes, fraternal sniping, and Floki being a great foster father and mentor.

Next week, the finale! Will Ecbert survive? Will Aethelwulf? Will we find get our loose ends tied? I can’t wait to find out.


Heill þú farir, heill þú aftr komir, heill þú á sinnum sér!
Hale go forth, hale return, hale on your ways! – Vafþrúðnismál 4


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 Thanks for joining us! Tune in next ODINSday for the SEASON FINALE!

“100% more evisceration talk than expected.” 

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– Steve No Ship Network

(CHECK THEM OUT FOR THEIR PODCASTED RECAPS and interviews! And Yes, we did one, too!)

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The #ShieldGeeks Talk Vikings: The Great Army

 

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




Lissa: This episode had me excited. I couldn’t wait to see the Great Heathen Army, the scourge of the Anglo-Saxons. Though the actual size of the GHA is in dispute among scholars, it was undoubtedly the largest Viking force to attack the British aisles and it left a lasting mark on the history of the realm. Not only in regards to DNA, but the Danelaw… and Oh, I could go on! It was a formative time, to say the least.

Sandi: Now, now, it was likely King Aelle who said it was the Great Heathen Army. Floki would likely just say it was a Great Army. Aelle was biased, as we know. I am very eager to see this army on the move, no matter what we call it, however. This time, as you say, was formative and so much of what our society currently holds to be bedrock found its beginnings in this era.

Lissa: We started the episode in the Ragnarssons household. Ivar is doing what he does best, needling his kin. He gripes that Sigurd is using his knife. It belonged to his father, and he intends to use it to kill Lagertha. Ivar mocks him about it and the dispute ends in a scuffle, but Ubbe breaks it up with no harm done. The discussion turns to their more pressing concern: avenging Ragnar. While Aelle was primarily the instrument of Ragnar’s death, none can forget that it was Ecbert who betrayed him, and besides, Ecbert’s kingdom is far larger and richer than Aelle’s. They decide that it’s time to raise an army, the greatest army ever assembled. They’ll call in every favor, summon every ally they can to their side. “In the name of Ragnar Lothbrok, in the name of Odin, we declare war on the whole world,” Ivar declares. Little sociopath looks kinda cute when he’s genuinely smiling.

ragnarssonsSandi: History Channel has done a pretty good job at giving us a look at all the brothers here. Their familial dynamics are likely going to continue to be important. Ubbe is the Big Brother, who looks (I am sure intentionally) the most like their sire. We have established the hashtag #UbbesLunchNotes because we see him giving advice and soothing the waters. But though the boys squabble, they are basically united in their wish to avenge their father’s death and Ivar will make sure that both Aelle and Ecbert pay. It is interesting to note, here, that the young men seem to have no doubt that they will be able to gather a mighty force in their quest for vengeance. They have the supreme confidence of their breeding, I think, and that tells. I can’t see some random fisherman’s progeny having that kind of assurance. But then, Aslaug’s sons only know of being the sons of King Ragnar. They have no memory of his more humble beginnings, as Björn does.

Lissa: Their plan means someone needs to talk to Lagertha. The Queen of Kattegat is working alongside her people on the fortifications, covered in mud when Ubbe goes to speak with her. She’s reluctant to leave. Kattegat has become too prosperous to leave undefended. One of the people on Tumblr mentioned a good point: Lagertha implied that Aslaug sort of let things go to the dogs, but Aslaug had to be doing something right if Kattegat became the most important trading post in Norway. “[W]e’re supposed to believe Aslaug, the REASON Kattegat grew and became the major center of trade, was SUCH a [poor] ruler for not building a wall. … Did she tax the [heck] out of her people? Seize public land for private use? Be unnecessarily cruel to slaves or smallfolk? Elect a horse to the Senate??

Sandi: Lagertha is a good worker, and nothing is beneath her notice. She, too, remembers her humble beginnings. Later in history, it was said that the lady of a manor had to know how to do all the different chores on the estate, so that she could see that they were done properly. I see Lagertha as being like-minded. LadyAslaug on Tumblr implies, though, Lagertha doesn’t give her predecessor her due, nor her people. All that growth didn’t just come from the hands of one person.

s4-e17-pic-oneLissa: Lagertha tells Ubbe she remembers Kattegat when it was just a small cluster of houses. Ubbe smiles, and reminds her that he was born in Kattegat, so he knows how much it’s changed.

Sandi: There is an undercurrent of one-upmanship between Ubbe and Lagertha. Could the undercurrent be about more than Who Knows What? Is there some kind of odd chemistry? Only time will tell; neither of these two is at all attached to chastity as far as I can ascertain. Ubbe, though, cannot have Lagertha’s perspective and it is rather prideful of him to think he can. However, out of all of Aslaug’s sons, his memory will stretch back further, so he is the only one of them who can meet her even halfway on such a matter.

Lissa: Ubbe starts to tell her that Ragnar would have wanted them to avenge him, but Lagertha shakes that off. She, more than anyone, knows what Ragnar would have wanted. Ragnar wanted to build something that would last.

Sandi: Well, it’s true that Ragnar wanted to build something, but I think Lagertha is a bit behind the times as far as the Psychology of Ragnar Lo∂brok is concerned. Ragnar expected to have his sons join him with tales of great adventures. He expected Ivar to avenge his death. Ragnar wanted that, probably even more than he wanted to see greatness come to Kattegat.

freeing-the-slave-girlLissa: After their conversation ends, Ubbe talks with Margrethe. He tells her she is no longer a slave. She asks if he can do that, and he makes a bold statement about being able to do as he likes because he’s the son of Ragnar Lothbrook. He holds out a hand and Margrethe sticks her muddy palm into it. Off they go, a royal prince and a slave girl. It must run in their blood or something.

Sandi: Now, when Big Brother Bear (Björn) wanted to make nice with Porunn, she seemed to be amenable to being with him. Margrethe, however, seems more confused and resigned than anything. I do not have happy feelings about these two. One, I can’t trust the girl, and neither can Ubbe, really. And he knows it. I feel that part of this is a one-upmanship thing, again, with Lagertha. “See? I can free the slave because my mum got her for our family. So, dibs!” Or something.

Lissa: Speaking of dudes who made the bad choice of marrying a slave girl, we next go to Björn’s fleet. They’re on their way back to Frankia. Rollo doesn’t look terribly stoked about the idea of going home. Helga has her Shiny New Kid perched beside her, but there’s something badly wrong with the girl. She stares blankly into space, despite Helga’s attempts at mothering.

Sandi: Rollo feels much more true to himself when he’s out a-viking, I daresay, and coming home to a wife who said, basically said, “We are SO over if you go out raiding with your boys” is not something he’s looking forward to. And Helga and her “adopted daughter”? I am still weirded out by this. The girl has likely withdrawn—a not-uncommon response for people who are abducted and separated from all they know. It’s like Helga doesn’t even care, which is not like the Helga we have come to know and love over the years. The Northmen did take slaves from other cultures, and they made it a practice to compel the slave to accept a new name, new clothes, etc. But one does not hear of the Northmen adopting people into their families. There’s a lot of obligation there, and I’m still baffled as to why Helga did it.

Lissa: Torvi and Joan Jett tell Lagertha that they don’t trust Ubbe. They urge Lagertha to increase her personal security. But the Seer’s prophecy that one of Ragnar’s sons would kill her seems to have freed Lagertha from her anxiety about it. She shrugs and says if the gods can’t protect her, who can?

Sandi: Lagertha seems to give herself over to her fate again and again. In terms of having more children, in terms of her eventual death. But it’s as if she has to keep checking. She has faith, but she doesn’t keep it as a firm floor. It’s more of a floating carpet she has to catch up and check out again and again.

Lissa: Ivar is in the blacksmith shop, sharpening weapons with his brothers. He says that Sigurd isn’t all that enthused about the plan to kill Lagertha, and Sigurd says it’s because he and Ivar had a much different relationship with their mother. She adored Ivar, but with Sigurd, she was cold and distant. Ivar mocks him again, saying Sigurd was a bad son, and Sigurd calls him a momma’s boy. Ivar slings an ax at Sigurd’s throat but another blacksmith blocks the blade before it can strike. The blacksmith says no one would guess that they were brothers from the way they act.

Sandi: Well . . . I’d have to disagree with the smith, though I honor that craft as a rule. I think brothers act like this a lot. Thing is, Sigurd was ignored by Aslaug compared to Ivar. And Ivar was a “momma’s boy”. And siblings have been known to throw dangerous weapons at one another. No, really. Happened in my family and we grew up very happy and well-adjusted.

judith-family-dinnerLissa: In Northumbria, Judith has come home for dinner. Neither of her parents are particularly welcoming. Judith tells them she’s come with a warning about the vengeance of Ragnar’s sons. Aelle is dismissive. He assures her that Northumbria is prepared for any invasion. Judith gives a humorless laugh and says she doesn’t think he realizes how big this incursion might be. Mrs. Aelle, a sad and dour woman, covered in a wimple (topped with a ubiquitous crown – in case we forgot, you know, that she’s a queen) says to her daughter that they pray every day that she turns away from her sinful affair with Ecbert and returns to her husband as a decent Christian wife. If she doesn’t, she’ll burn in hell. Judith chortles again and says, “As for you, Father, you may enjoy the erudities of heaven without my discomforting presence, and that of every other woman whose only crime was a desire to be free.” In any case, she has something she needs to tell them.

Sandi: Judith, I believe, is doing two things here. She’s actively trying to get her father, a powerful king, to see sense. And she’s reminding her family that she’s in a position to know what IS sense because of the family she’s married into and the man with whom she sleeps. She has no shame for her position as Princess Concubine; she is content with that part of her life, it would seem. As viewers, we tend to have no sympathy for King Aelle (he killed Ragnar!) and that relative apathy extends to Queen WimpleCrown. Her marriage to Aethelwulf would have originally been arranged for just such an exchange of needed political and military information, as well as having an ear in a neighboring court, but it seems that Judith has lost her value in that regard due to her personal choices. Which, honestly, doesn’t make a lot of practical sense.

s4-e17-pic-threeLissa: Duke-Viking Rollo  is on the ship with Björn’s crew. they tell him they can drop him off at home, or he can come back with them to Kattegat. Of course, he’ll be killed the second he steps off the ship in Kattegat, so… They head for the port of Frankia and there Rollo extends an offer to his fellow Vikings.

Sandi: See? He’d really rather NOT go back. But historically, of course, he does, so . . .

Lissa: Any of them who wish to settle in Frankia and farm its rich lands are welcome in his duchy. He tells them that he is now a part of Frankia, and Frankia is now a part of the Viking people. Floki scoffs and tells Rollo that he’s no longer one of them. Rollo replies that what they are is changing. Floki is the one who can’t accept that. Björn says that once a betrayer, always a betrayer. As Rollo gets off the ship, Floki spits and tells Björn that they should have killed Rollo. He he has a bad feeling that Rollo will achieve more fame than any of them. He’s right, to a certain extent. Duke Rollo is remembered as an inportant part of Normandy’s history, the founder of a dynasty.

Sandi: Indeed. Rollo was the first Duke of Normandy (b. c. 860, d. c.932) and gave his duchy over to his son William (who greets him in the Frankish harbor) in 927. Though Rollo was baptized as a Christian, he is said to have died a pagan. Though History Channel is not holding true to the historical timeline, they sure seem to have Rollo’s character down, yeah?

Lissa:Rollo strides into his hall and finds Gisla with the children. She praises God that he’s returned to them and kneels to kiss his hand. She dismisses everyone from the chamber.

Sandi: All sweetness and light she is in front of the family and any retainers… but then…

Lissa: Gisla whacks Rollo multiple times while cursing him a blue streak in French. Welcome home, honey! But, on the upside, it does appear she’s learned a small bit about princessing during his absence. She at least dismissed the witnesses before losing her royal wits.

Sandi: It was quite a horrid display, really. We know she was angry and she certainly has the courage of her convictions, but she really went far beyond the boundaries of her rank and breeding. I don’t think, Lissa, that she really ever did learn to princess.

Lissa: We shift to Wessex, where Ecbert is giving sweet Alfred lessons in… well, books, and drinking and philosophy, I suppose. He starts off by showing Alfred a book writen by Gregory the Great (540-604) a pope, saint, and educational philosopher.  He urges Alfred to drink more wine, which doesn’t sit well with the young man. Ecbert then chuckles and says it was a trick – he was drinking water while urging wine on Alfred.

Sandi: I didn’t trust Ecbert during that whole thing. He is corrupt. He will always be corrupt. And he teaches via not-entirely-beneficent means.

Lissa: It’s supposed to be a lesson about keeping one’s wits, but it comes off as a somewhat sad call-back to conversations that Ecbert once greatly enjoyed, but now can never have again.

Sandi: Well, yeah, but how much of that is by design, I wonder? Part of me thinks that Ecbert is in no way broken, but he wants folks to think he is diminished, you know?

Lissa: We’re back at Ragnar’s grave site. The pit is gaping just a bit at the top. Judith peers inside, and asks if this is where Ragnar met his end. Aelle says it is, and Judith declares a monument should be built here, scandalizing her family. Judith rises and warns them again about the danger coming. She turns to her sister and tells her if she cares about the welfare of her soul, she needs to learn to read. She departs, having probably not convinced anyone of anything.

Sandi: And that, what you said right there, is what has me wondering why she is in there. The crew at No Ship Network have also speculated on Judith’s role at this point in the story. Why is she here? What is her purpose?

s4-e17-pic-fourLissa: Back in Kattegat, Lagertha is holding court for all of the earls who have gathered with their forces to join the Great Army. She’s wearing that awful, awful high collar again. One of the earl’s ambassadors presents Lagertha with a sword. He tells her that there were many tiresome poems he’s heard detailing her exploits. She smiles and says she wishes she’d been more interesting, and he insists it was the fault of the poets, not her.

Sandi: We’re still griping about her collar. I grant you, the construction of such a collar was not beyond the capabilities of the people of this time and place, but that they would actually make something so intricate, with so much metal involved, that wasn’t explicitly battle armor is highly unlikely. Which makes me think that it is possible that Lagertha is indeed armored at all times.

Lissa: Across the room, Sigurd is regaling the hall with tunes.

sigurd-on-the-strings

Sandi: Had we seen him at all musically oriented before this time? I can’t recall.

s4-e17-pic-fiveLissa: Ubbe  strolls through the hall and greets one of the men. The guy doesn’t recognize him and asks his name, and as soon as he hears it, his demeanor completely changes. He compliments Ragnar’s legacy. Ivar crawls toward him and the men mock him. Ubbe says that’s his brother and they should stop laughing if they want to live. He gives Ivar a drink in full view of the hall and they tap cups. Next Ubbe chats with Margrethe. When Lagertha comes up behind him, he gives her a quick kiss. Lagertha tells Ubbe she is a little irked that Ubbe freed her slave without asking, but she doesn’t challenge the legitimacy of him doing so.

Sandi: That’s the competition between them, again. I wonder if Margrethe is part of that interpersonal friction or if Ubbe does have genuine feeling for the girl.

Lissa: Ubbe retorts that she had no right to kill his mother, and Lagertha replies that was different. Which kinda goes without saying. Murderin’ someone ≠ freeing someone else’s slave.

Sandi: Well, yeah. And the constant threat of “We ARE going to avenge our mother” is a repeated reminder of that. But really, Lagertha doesn’t have a lot else she can hold up on her end at this juncture. She’s on the throne, but the Ragnarssons don’t seem enamored of ruling anybody, at this point. All she has is this “You took MY person” thing that she can pretend to be all gracious about. I’m not sure where she’s focusing right now. She’s got a lot of plates to spin, I think.

s4-e17-pic-sixLissa: Halfdan and Finehair meet an interesting new fellow in Lagertha’s hall. Egil, the illegitimate son of an earl, sports a facial scar and is, as Halfdan describes him, “ambitious.” And we all know how much trouble ambitious bastards have caused throughout history.

Sandi: Oh, history is rife with them. William the Conqueror being one notable one that shows up sooner rather than later. William was previously known as William the Bastard and he was a direct descendent of our Duke Rollo, here.

LissaRachel Tsoumbakos speculated in her recap that this character may be based on Egill Skallagrimsson, who wrote Egil’s Saga. He seems to have suffered from Paget’s disease, given the description of his physical issues.

Sandi: I don’t know about Paget’s disease (not being medically educated) but if his appearance was due to an ailment as opposed to a battle wound, that would definitely affect his character, I think, due to the mores of the day.

Lissa: Finehair and Halfdan note that they have need of ambitious men if they’re to fulfil Finehair’s dream of being king of Norway.

Sandi: Harald is certainly dedicated to this and he’s playing the long game, here. Befriending those he’d likely oust given the opportunity, making allies amongst the influential, gathering spies and intelligence. A sound strategy that, it seems, will pay off eventually.

s4-e17-pic-sevenLissa: Ubbe and Ivar decide to move on Lagertha. At a signal, Lagertha’s shieldmaidens are all frozen in place with knives at their throats. Ivar makes his way down the hall, driving pikes into the floor to pull himself along toward his target. It’s a striking scene. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

Sandi: That really was highly effective. Twitter buzzed for a moment over that moment. Now, Ivar being developed as “wise” and canny in battle, I am thinking that he knew exactly how he’d sound, bringing himself forward as he did. It was very well done.

Lissa: Lagertha stares them down without an iota of fear, rising from her throne with lethal grace. She picks up the newly gifted sword to defend herself, but just as the action is about to go down, the door opens and Björn strides inside. He’s either gotten wind of the plot, or he’s taken appraisal of the situation quickly. He tells his brothers if they’re going to kill Lagertha, they’ll have to kill him, too.

s4-e17-pic-eight-as4-e17-pic-8b

Sandi: The timing, of course, is perfect. Drama, enter the John Wayne/Clint Eastwood character who will save his mother, etc.  Björn actually has an odd role in the family and he probably has to weigh all of his actions if he wants to be best understood and—of course—obeyed. He is a son of Ragnar with all that that entails. He is the son of Lagertha the Legendary and though she is capable, he IS her son and thus is bound to defend her. Yet his brothers have a righteous claim of their own against his mother that he can’t deny, exactly . . . still, he must defend her, stand beside her, for she is his mum. It can be complicated, being the firstborn.

Lissa: They seem amenable to that notion until Björn mentions they have an invasion looming. Ubbe backs down. Ivar slams his pike into the floor in frustration, but he leaves, too.

Sandi: Complicated. But Björn is not to be gainsaid, here. He’s 100% right, and no one can deny it. I imagine, though, that more than one person in the Great Hall was ready to lay odds on the outcome of Lagertha v. Lads.

Lissa: Soon afterward, we see Björn at the dinner table with Torvi. Torvi complains about something, and Björn loses his temper. He shouts at her that he didn’t come back here to be told what to do. He flings his plate off the table and their three children begin screaming hysterically.

Sandi: This is another one of those scenes that I don’t quite get. That Björn is having temper issues, maybe? That all is not sunshine and rainbows in La Casa de Oso? That even Viking kids freak out during a domestic squabble? No clue. With the season having only three more episodes to go, I’m wondering if this unrest portends a break-up of housekeeping, death, or some other tragedy to befall Björn.

s4-e17-pic-nineLissa: Ivar is out on the docks looking out at the gathering of ships in the bay. The Great Heathen Army is coming together. This scene, visually, wasn’t quite as striking as a quick scene we saw of Kattegat surrounded by tents and campfires, showing the huge number of warriors gathered. Ubbe ruffles his brother’s hair and they both look satisfied as they talk about the force they’re building.

Sandi: More of the Fraternal Dynamic thing happening here. We see how the men relate as equals. There is no “looking down” at Ivar, for all the difference in height. There is no sense of inadequacy or envy. Just brothers being brothers. There isn’t the resentment between these two that there is between Ivar and Sigurd. I wonder how big a role that will play in the future?

Lissa: Ivar goes to Helga and Floki’s house. Helga is trying to feed her Shiny New Kid, but the girl won’t open her mouth for the bite of stew Helga offers her.

Sandi: I have nothing, here. I still don’t see the rationale in this either for the writers or for the characters. Floki being an indulgent husband, okay. But he’s always loved Helga. Forever. So that’s not a big revelation. Plus, the girl is part of the religious system he seemed to find fascinating in the warmer south. Okay. But otherwise? I’m clueless.

Lissa: Ivar asks who she is and Helga introduces her. Ivar says, “nice new slave,” and Helga reacts vehemently. She is not a slave! They’re adopting her. “Yeah. Adopting her.” Floki says with a shrug and an air of tired resignation. Ivar sticks out his hand and the girl reacts in terror, shrinking back and screaming. Helga hurriedly leads her away.

Sandi: Can’t blame the girl one iota. Not even. That Ivar roused her from her withdrawal may be significant, though.

s4-e17-pic-tenLissa: Ivar tells Floki that he’s here for help with something that will allow him to fight. The two of them have great chemistry, giggling like the madmen they are, though Ivar always has that edge of menace.

Sandi: This was cute. Badmouthing each other with apparent derision only to break down into the giggles that Lissa says sound a bit “tetched”. Floki did spend a long time teaching Ivar in the younger man’s childhood. He was there when Ivar murdered his first innocent and all that. There’s a bond.

Lissa: Finehair and Halfdan meet on top of Lagertha’s new fortification. Egil the Bastard is with them. The brothers are a bit nervous about their plans for conquering Kattegat with the fortifications in place, but Egil says a clever leader can always get around walls and barriers. And yes, he is a clever man.

Sandi: This reinforces Harald’s goal of taking over Kattegat and, thus, Norway. It also lets us know that yes, we have a definite alliance happening, here.

Lissa: Björn heads inside the throne room to talk to his mom, but Lagertha is nowhere to be found. He asks Joan Jett, who is weaving, where Lagertha is, and Joan says Lagertha doesn’t tell her everything. As the episode closes, Björn and Joan kiss passionately.

Sandi: We get the lovely view of a drop-weight loom again. Yay, History Channel! But then, we are all . . . WHAT? Okay, so Joan Jett has seemed to have an unusual attitude with some of the men around Lagertha, but this? This seemed to be a kiss between people who’d definitely done that before. Together. And though Björn is bigger and all that, the scene was careful to demonstrate that Joan Jett took the final move to make the kiss actually happen. So, consent is assured. But how long has this been going on?

Lissa: First of all, Björn… Gross. I mean, like, really gross. That’s your momma’s girl, and she is going to be wicked chapped to have her girlfriend cheating on her with her own baby bear.

Sandi: But will she? Hard to say with Lagertha. She and Björn have a strong bond that is multilayered and flexible, I think. And Joan Jett hasn’t struck any of us as particularly necessary to Lagertha, has she? Great at hand-to-hand combat. Awesome sparring partner. Makes the Lady of Legend smile. But necessary? No.

Lissa: Floki carries Ivar out to the snowy forest to show him his newest creation.

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There stands a sleek war chariot. Sort of Romanesque in construction, not what I would expect from Floki’s design studio. There isn’t even a dragon’s head prow mounted on it. I tried to think of where Floki might have seen such a design… one of Athelstan’s manuscripts… But I got nuthin’.

Sandi: The war chariot was not unknown in this part of the world. In Ireland, indeed, the Irish hero, Cú Chulainn, rode a chariot into battle.

Cuinbattle

By Joseph Christian Leyendecker (1874 – 1951) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

When I saw the chariot in previews for this show, I thought immediately of the Irish legend, as I’d read it as a little girl and the image stayed with me.

Lissa: It’s been designed with his needs in mind, to hold Ivar upright. Ivar reacts with boyish glee, and after Floki hooks a horse to it, Ivar flies around the roads, cheering and shouting while Floki claps in delight. From behind a tree, Björn watches grimly.

ivar-chariot

Sandi: Why so grim, Brother Bear? Is he thinking of how dangerous Ivar might truly be once given this era’s equivalent of a new car? Perhaps. Perhaps in the future, he and his brother will come to blows over the death of Aslaug and this troubles Björn. Perhaps he is just thinking that no one else has such a cool chariot. I hope we find out next week.
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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: S4 E16 Crossings

 

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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 interviews! And Yes, we did one, too!)
Heillir! The Shieldmaidens of History (Protecting the Innocent from Anachronisms) welcome you to our ongoing series on the History Channel show Vikings. 
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146a6-lissa-bryan

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

dd-ecbert-tweet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sandi: Even the greatest navigators have their off days…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sandi: History Channel apparently says this is Odin.

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

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

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

 

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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 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!

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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.

impotence-tweet

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


The #ShieldGeeks Discuss VIKINGS: Mercy

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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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From realworldsurvivor.com

Lissa: We began the episode with Björn still on his vision quest. He’s setting a metal bear trap. A bit of an anachronism, here… The first mention of iron jaw traps like the one Björn used dates to about 1305 in the work of Crescentiis of Bologna. Björn’s trap probably would have been a torsion trap of wood and sinew. But we’ll add this to the “boot heel file” and move along, because it was a very interesting episode, and I’m sure our readers don’t really care much about the history of iron animal traps.

Sandi: For any newcomers, our “boot heel file” is where we tuck away anachronisms we find on the show. Such as modern soles on 9th Century footwear, punitive measures against unfaithful wives, and, er, advanced bear traps. Hard metals were difficult and expensive, in this time and place. Metallurgy included smelting and such, but the techniques were not well advanced until about the 15th Century. Björn must have had a lot of matériel under those furs he was wearing in the first episode, to be able to produce all that he has. Either that, or the hunting lodge was very well supplied.

helga as sigyn

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Lissa: In Kattegat, Floki is screaming in torment as the icy water drips on him in his prison cave. Helga – as Sigyn did for Loki – holds a bowl above his head to catch the water and ease his suffering. Her arms tremble from the effort, and when she goes to empty the bowl, she collapses in exhaustion, sleeping on the icy stone for just a few moments, until Floki’s cries of pain rouse her again. It’s a hellish punishment for the two of them. Maude Hirst’s acting was just remarkable in this episode, and the costuming/makeup departments did an extraordinary job, as well. She looked like a woman a hair’s-breadth away from utter breakdown.

Sandi: I saw and read commentary last week about Floki’s position here being almost Christ-like in appearance. I don’t think that was the intention, as the I’m sure that the writers were seeking to imitate the Loki/Sigyn story more than anything. But it was certainly ironic, intentional or otherwise. Many ancient societies used the stretched-torso method of torture, as it wore a person down in a surprisingly small amount of time. To add the water was just awful. Ragnar was certainly on target with his punishment here.

Lissa: In Hedeby, Lagertha is making love with Kalf. He rolls over afterward and tells her he loves her, and he always has. He thinks she’s still young enough to give him a child, and then his happiness will be complete. Lagertha doesn’t tell him of the Seer’s prophecy. She remains silent throughout it all. Kalf announces he needs to heed the call of nature, though not so poetically, and then heads outside.

sad lagertha s4e3 vikingshistorySandi: I am so not thrilled with the Kalfling. Wait, he’s getting older, too. Does that make him a bull instead of a calf? We know what bulls are full of, don’t we? I’ve so had it with this man, I have to say. He’s pretty, but I don’t trust him. Not a bit. He says one thing to Lagertha’s face and another to someone else. A politician? Certainly. Lagertha’s face fell when he mentioned having children by her. I imagine her pain at not being able to produce another son for Ragnar—a sad situation that began the dissolution of their wonderful marriage—is combined with the prophecy from the Seer for her, here.

Lissa: He is met by the Princeling, Erlendur, who tells him he’s heard that Björn is out on his own in a cabin – a perfect time to kill him. Kalf thinks that’s a fine idea. They decide to send a berserker to do the dastardly deed. He’s a very large, scarred man with a brutal-looking axe, who seems to communicate primarily with grunts and growls.

Sandi: This does a disservice to berserkers, in my opinion. Not the scars. They’d totally have them. But a berserker was a keen warrior who could be perfectly civilized when not in berserker mode (due to mushrooms or nakedness or whathaveyou). What I want to know is how long Lagertha would make Kalf’s demise last if she knew he was plotting to kill her only son? And if Kalf is not truly thus plotting, how long until the Princeling hamstrings him and feeds him to a bear?

Lissa: Meanwhile, Björn is tracking a bear – or rather, seeing signs of the bear here and there, and catching glimpses of it. He has some bear-murderin’ on his mind, there’s no doubt.

Sandi: Which is good, since he has the ultra-modern trap, no? I get that he is on his I’m a Man journey, but I can’t help but wonder if he’ll meet someone other than the scarred and growling hitman while he’s up in the Greater Whiter North.

Lissa: In Paris, “I Forgot How To Princess” Le Pew is causing embarrassing scenes again.

Sandi: This girl just doesn’t know how “to adult”, I think. Still wondering why she’s been written this way. (I know. I could go on for days on proper comportment of the medieval royal female… I’ll try to restrain myself.)

vikings_s4e3_disdainful GislaLissa: Her father brings in a relic of Saint Eulalia – it must be her feast day, December 10th. Chuck the Simple tells Gisla the story of the saint. It’s sort of an “As you know, Bob,” moment, because Gisla would probably be very aware of this saint. (The real Prudentius wrote about her, as an interesting tie-in.) Girls of that era particularly venerated virgin martyrs. In any case, Gisla remarks that her horrid husband is just like the pagans who slaughtered Eulalia, and he’d probably like to burn her alive, too.

Sandi: This type of thing is actually something one can see Eleanor of Aquitaine saying—but only at the height of her influence and power. Gisla has potential, but she’s unwise as yet.

Lissa: Rollo munches on some chicken, oblivious for the most part, to his wife’s sniping. When she stands up and dramatically demands a divorce, Rollo stands, too. He says, “My woman,” and takes her arm. Gisla shrieks she’ll never be his and throws a goblet of wine in his face before storming out.

wine in face s4e3

Sandi: Rollo has a hard job, here. He knows his wife has taken him in aversion. He doesn’t yet speak the language, he’s doing his level best to conform—knowing that it has cost him men from his own place and people, and knowing it will effectively cut him off from Ragnar forever—and he’s trying, here. Trying to read her cues if not her words. And he gets publicly humiliated. Again. Granted, he’s not Mr. Perfect, but he is trying.

gisla wants a divorceLissa: Her personal feelings for her husband aside, Gisla has to know how badly they need Rollo as an ally. We’ve mocked her for not behaving with the decorum of a princess of her age, but more important is her complete lack of regard as a politician. She wanted her father to respect her political mind, but she can’t seem to stop herself from going out of her way to publicly humiliate and insult a crucial ally. It’s my opinion the show would have served her character far better by showing her struggling to behave herself in public, and perhaps unleashing on him in their private quarters. I’d have respected her far more, in any case.

Sandi: I am so with you, here.

Lissa: Rollo drinks the rest of his own goblet, then drops it to the table. He then proceeds to walk over the table and start out of the room, but the looks the courtiers are giving him are too much for him to handle. He turns around and roars at a young girl and she screams in terror.

Sandi: . . . Yeah, well. Not perfect. He’s probably figured out some of Gisla’s more colorful and derisive vocabulary at this point. “If they’re going to call me a beast, I can act like one!”

Lissa: Chuck and Darth Odious are alarmed by this turn of events. If Rollo leaves, as he seems bent on doing, they’ll be defenseless when Ragnar returns. Chuck sends Odious to try to soothe Rollo. In his chamber, Rollo manages to use a combination of mime and pointing to books to show Odo that he wants to learn how to speak French. Odo promises to get him a tutor, relieved that Rollo will stay at least long enough for lessons.

Sandi: The quick conference that took place between Darth Odious and Rollo was really well done, in my opinion. No translation was given, as I mentioned last night.

no translation for rollo tweet

Sandi: That Odo was determined to get Rollo to agree to a joint action was absolutely obvious. That Rollo tried hard to make himself understood was equally certain. But as to how they actually communicated? That remains to be seen. How much was truly understood?

Lissa: Back in Kattegat, King Ragnar strides into Floki’s prison cave. He asks Helga if she’s told Floki yet… and of course Floki wants to know what he was talking about. Helga has to reluctantly inform Floki that Angrboda has died. Floki’s cries of agony increase.

Sandi: I feel as if Ragnar was wreaking as much vengeance/punishment as he could from this situation before he takes a final action concerning Floki. That Ragnar uses, in essence, the death of little Angrbo∂a to further inflict anguish upon Floki was cruel—especially as he used Helga to do so. (Which does make all kinds of proper sense, but it was also harsh.)

Lissa: In Mercia, Aethelwulf is transporting Queen Kwenthrith and her baby, Magnus. She begs him to stop and light a fire, because little Magnus is freezing. He gives her a chunk of raw meat. She says the boy can’t eat it, and he tells her that she must eat it and survive. Which is a very interesting development, since his father told him that Magnus was the one whose survival was important in this scenario. Choking back her disgust, Kwenthrith gnaws on the meat-cicle.

kwenthelwulf winterSandi: We see here a flare of of what Amy Bailey—the wonderful actress who plays Kwenthrith—said last week: Call them “Kwenthelwulf”. Magnus must survive, said Ecbert, but his son is developing a spine of his own. His relationship with Judith is strained at present (oh, how they’ve grown up and cynical, you know?) but he is seeking this for himself, not his father. And, too, it is very practical to encourage the adult to care for herself first. It goes against the grain, for a mother, but even on airplanes today you have the “take care of your own breathing mask first, then the child’s next to you” directive.

Lissa: Rollo has his first language lesson, and it doesn’t go all that well. He tries repeating the phrases the monk says to him, but the accent is difficult for him. He ends up grabbing the monk and hurling him across the room, flipping the table in his frustration.

Sandi: You and I discussed briefly last night that the French accent can be a challenge! And Rollo has a proper tutor, maybe, but the phrases aren’t the best. I think I’d start by having him learn war terms. “This is a boat. This is the Seine. Here is how we protect the city.” And so on.

language sarcastic tweet

Lissa: Björn’s vision quest turns into a one-man frat party. He opens a keg of mead and gets “tin-roof rusted,” as the saying goes, howling like a wolf at the Northern Lights. He passes out in the snow, never a good idea, but after he wakes (and pukes) Björn finally sees the bear face to face. it’s a huge, fierce creature, roaring at the sight of him. Björn lights into it with a knife, finally finishing the creature off with an axe, but not before he takes a claw swipe to the shoulder. He roars in victory, and it’s heard all the way back in Kattegat by Ragnar, who looks up at the sound. Later, we see him cauterize the wound, and he roars again, though the people of Kattegat don’t hear that one. (And you’d think they would.) During his last scene, we see Björn taking a dip in the lake through a hole in the ice.

bjorn gets drunk s4e3Sandi: As silly as this might have been, it was amusing. And also, I think, very real. A young man, who has lost so much and seen his own vulnerabilities in very physical ways, might indeed be out to prove himself as Björn is, here. And he’d act in ways that he wouldn’t do with the parents around. How many college freshman spend a lot of their first year way from home drunk or hung-over? And I loved the howling. Really, it was a much needed bit of levity in this episode.

Lissa: A bit later, Ragnar is cleaning fish while telling a story of Thor meeting with a strange ferryman. His sons are enthralled by the tale. The stranger turns out to be a man named Harbard. “Did you ever meet him?” Ubbe asks. No, Ragnar says, but perhaps Aslaug has. Aslaug glares at him. Her face is still bruised from Ragnar’s slaps in the last episode. She takes the boys inside for dinner.

Sandi: Ragnar can spin a fine yarn, to be sure. Here, he does so for double-purpose: instructing and entertaining his sons AND taking aim at his wife. That bruise out in the light of day was ugly. Another good move by the Vikings make-up team.

Lissa: Judith is continuing her painting lessons with Prudentius. He tells her the story of Ragnar’s invasion of Paris, but with a pious Christian twist. He says the Vikings were all stricken with disease because of their blasphemy. She asks if there was a monk named Athelstan among them. Prudentius says if there was, he hopes Athelstan would be crucified for it. Judith later relays the story to Ecbert, who is amused by it, though they both regret not getting any news of Athelstan. Judith appears in his room that night and says she’ll be his mistress again, but he has to swear to respect her and treat her as an equal. Ecbert swears it, on the life of Athelstan.

Sandi: May I say here that I am hoping that the plot will soon settle down to two or three places rather than all that are now in use? Kattegat, Mercia, Wessex, Hedeby, Paris, Hunting Lodge in Bear Country… We spend, sometimes, very little time in each locale and it’s distracting. Okay. Anyway. I had to say that.

judith and father sommelier

Back to Judith and her men. Judith seems, by her facial expressions, her invasion into Father Sommelier Prudentius’s personal space, and her careful movements near him, to be planning a seduction. Consciously or subconsciously. I can’t help but think that this is, of course, due to the good father’s resemblance to the lamented Athelstan. Then, she goes on to try to negotiate an “equal” adulterous relationship with King Ecbert, who pretends not to hold it in any hugely important regard. I wonder what Judith is planning—for surely she cannot be naïve enough to think that he’s taking her entirely seriously with her talk of freedom and equality. There are always strings with Ecbert. Always.

Lissa: That night, he wakes, startled out of sleep by some unknown force. He goes into the library. In Kattegat, Ragnar wakes too, and walks out into his silent hall with a torch, looking around for whatever it was that roused him.

Sandi: I still want to know. I mean, we saw how it played out, but this sequence might be showing that somehow, these men are still connected. Through their mutual regard for Athelstan? It was a powerful sequence of scenes, I think.

athelstan s4e3 to ragnarLissa: Ragnar sits down on his throne and someone enters, carrying a bowl of warm water. The stranger pulls back his cowl, and it’s our Athelstan. He tenderly washes Ragnar’s feet. At the same moment, Ecbert feels a gust of wind which scatters the pages of the documents Judith was illuminating. Athelstan enters, but he does not approach Ecbert. He glides by as Ecbert calls for him to come back. Ragnar is enraptured by the sight of his beloved friend. “Mercy,” Athelstan implores. “Mercy.”

Sandi: I was so pleased to see Athelstan. We’ve missed George Blagden on Vikings and, even if it’s a visionary experience, I was happy that he was there. In these paired experiences, it was interesting to me to see how the different visitations were treated. Athelstan washed the “pagan’s feet” yet he scattered the “Christian’s manuscript” with his presence. The former is tender and caring, the latter disruptive. And he speaks to Ragnar but doesn’t approach Ecbert. This is, I’m sure, meant to be a wordless commentary on their behaviors since his death. The plea for Mercy, I cannot help but think was heeded. At least to a degree.

mercy s4e3 athelstan to ragnar

Lissa: As Ragnar reaches out to him, Athelstan vanishes, just as Ecbert’s apparition vanishes.

Sandi: It was very well done of the writers. 

Lissa: In the morning, Ragnar goes to Floki’s cave. He tells Helga she has suffered enough, and cuts Floki’s bonds, tossing the hatchet aside as he walks out of the cave.

Sandi: And the plea for mercy is heard. He tosses the hatchet but, as was asked on twitter last night: Did he bury it? Did he, then, leave all thoughts of future retribution behind him in the cave when he left it?

Lissa: Ecbert goes to find Judith. He tells her of his vision and says he’s convinced Athelstan is dead. Judith bursts into tears and says she loved him.

Sandi: Is it odd to anyone else that she accepts this immediately? Utterly? She loved him; I believe this. But she never even questioned Ecbert’s declaration here. No moment of, “No! It can’t be! How can you be sure?” None of that.

ecbert dead athelstanLissa: Ecbert says he loved Athelstan, too, and embraces her as she sobs. They’re soon called outside.  Aethelwulf has returned with Queen Kwenthrith and her son. Ecbert tells her she’s safe now and takes her inside for food and a bath. Aethulwulf asks Judith why she’s crying. She says it’s because she’s happy her husband has returned home safe. Aethelwulf, the poor fool, seems to be touched by that.

Sandi: I think it’s because he knows he’s got Kwenthrith on the brain and he is not innocent of adulterous thoughts, even if he had yet to go to Kwenthrith’s bed, he was thinking about it at this moment. So he doesn’t have the high road, anymore, and perhaps he has a bit of fellow-feeling for his wife. Mercy, eh?

Lissa: That night, Kwenthrith lies sleepless. Her face says she doesn’t really trust Ecbert’s assurances of safety. Her chamber door opens and Aethelwulf comes inside. Kwenthrith pulls back the covers and invites him into her bed.

Sandi: And . . . Kwenthelwulf is full on happening. Yep. I wonder when—or if?—this will be discovered and what the responses from involved and affected parties will be?

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

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


 

If you’re looking for a wider divergence of opinions on Vikings, may I recommend Project Fandom and the No Ship Network? The first is a blog and the second a podcast that does recaps of each episode and then does the Althing podcast, which is all about the feedback.

The #ShieldGeeks Discuss VIKINGS: S4 E2

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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-bryanLissa 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.


 

Heillir!

Sandi: Before we even get started today, I have to say that I think that this episode was really packed. We’re reaching a point that I can imagine History Channel and the show’s writers will demonstrate that they’ve made some choices on prioritizing characters in terms of how they take the future episodes. We didn’t even see Lagertha last night!

Lissa: We started off this episode with Björn on his vision quest, struggling through the snow, having forgotten to pack his snowshoes. He arrives at his destination: a charming  log cabin vacation rental in the Smoky Mountains. All joking aside, as you and I discussed last night, the Northmen did use wood and logs in their house construction, but they were generally a bit different than the suspiciously-modern style “hunting lodge” Bjorn is going to be using for his winter digs.

bjorn vision quest s4e2

Sandi: Quite. Even a hunting house would have been constructed along traditional lines. At this time, the Northmen used planks or logs inserted vertically into the earth and bound with ropes to keep them tight together. For a lodging of this sort, it might also have been a steep A-frame, designed to keep the snow from settling and collapsing the roof. Some lodges might have had the logs stacked horizontally, but that wasn’t the tradition during this era and they didn’t have the notched joints that held the wood together, not in the 9th Century anyway.

Floki has escaped quote picLissa: In Kattegat, Ragnar is informed that Floki has escaped. He accepts this calmly, casually, as it he had fully expected it to happen sooner or later. He sends his young sons along on the hunt for him. When we see Floki on the run, he’s dressed warmly in a fur cape, so someone must have assisted him.

Sandi: Ubbe led the hunt, and I enjoyed seeing Ragnar’s second son taking a leadership role. I am thinking that he is being groomed for future responsibility, for his own benefit as well as that of the men he might one day lead. Floki does indeed seem to have been provisioned for his escape, and one can imagine those boots were oiled to keep out the freezing water he was traveling through. This is a relief, for during his captivity, he had been sadly under-dressed for the weather. Exposure had to have depleted his resources.

Lissa: It’s not long before we find out who it was. Ragnar goes to visit Helga. He asks her if she released her husband, and Helga doesn’t lie to him. “I might have done.”

Sandi: I really appreciated Ragnar’s obvious compassion for Helga. I mean, he didn’t bring her back to his warm hall or anything, but the look in his eyes said he understood and, for Helga, that was enough.

helga angrb and ragnarLissa: Ragnar merely smiles and tells her he understands it. Floki is her husband, after all, and Helga loves him. Helga replies that Floki loves her too, but on that point Ragnar disagrees. He says that Floki only loves himself, and Helga should know it better than anyone. He pulls a heavy sack from beside him over to Helga and tells her that winter is coming, and she’ll need provisions. As Helga thanks him, little Angrbo∂a coughs.

Sandi: There is no condemnation to be seen with either of them here, which speaks of great mutual respect, I believe. They understand one another. It’s a warm moment in a very painful time. 

Lissa: We turn next to Wessex, where our favorite wily king is lamenting the trouble he’s continuing to have with Kwenthrith. She’s been captured by opposing forces in Mercia and imprisoned in a tower with her child, Ragnar’s son Magnus. (At least, she claims he’s Ragnar’s son. There has been no paternity test, to my knowledge.)

Judith and Ecbert new tensionSandi: Oh, Ecbert. Yeah. So, I was noticing some details about their space, during that initial “talking to” scene. First, the obvious assumption of superiority with the elevated royalty. That’s normal, but Prince Aethelwulf is really working it, here. Not something he’s done before. Also, Prince Wulf is wearing his court finery. Not the usual boiled and studded leather, but rich fabrics. And his hair is a bit grown out. This speaks of not being on a battle footing, though that changes shortly. He’s harder, in this season. Less emotional toward his wife (“Now that I can trust you again….” said without an ounce of sincerity. Does Prince Wulf know of the “arrangement” between his wife and his father? Are they now married on parchment only? Perhaps?

Lissa: Ecbert sends off Aethelwulf to deal with the situation. Once he leaves, Ecbert has a conversation with Judith. She tells him not to assume she’s going to hop back into his bed now that Aethelwulf is on a business trip, and Ecbert can’t force her. Ecbert says he’d never dream of doing that. My goodness! Perish the thought. That’s for enemies, and she’s not his enemy. He wants to see her flourish and be free. He says he imagines she never had much freedom as a princess. Very few choices at all, in fact. What would she do, he asks, if she were free to choose to do whatever she wanted? As always, Ecbert is an expert at finding what tempts each person the most and dangling it right before their eyes. Judith says she’d like to learn to paint. She remembers seeing Athelstan illuminating manuscripts and would like to learn the art. Ecbert says he’ll get her a tutor.

sandi religious art tweet

Sandi: I was really struck, here, by the change in Judith’s demeanor. The actress has done a wonderful job of portraying the layer of cynicism that has grown on the princess since last we saw her. Our Gal Judith isn’t quite as reliant upon her father-in-law as she was heretofore. Her position is likely more secure, her husband resigned to the status quo maybe. So Ecbert has to bind her to him in another way and he goes for the “freedom” concept. In return, she rubs his nose in Athelstan’s memory. (Do they know Athelstan’s been killed? I didn’t get a sense of this one way or another.) I wonder if this relationship will become more thorny over time as they continue to dig at one another.

Rollo and his model shipsLissa: In Paris, Rollo is trying to get past the mutual language barrier by using a carved table map of the Seine to demonstrate how to save Paris from another Viking invasion. His idea is to build forts on either side of the river with a chain between them that can be drawn across, blocking any ships from passing through. Count Odo loves the idea and orders the forts to be constructed. He chats it over with his lover, Therese. He says he imagines Gisla will have her marriage to Rollo annulled for non-consummation soon. Therese browses through his collection of floggers and crops hanging from the bed frame while she says that he was always blinded by his desire for Gisla, but Odo deserves a consort with more strength in her. Presumably someone who could mesh with Odo’s “unconventional tastes.” She selects a brutal-looking crop for him to use on her.

Sandi: Rollo’s version of the military sandtable is really elaborate. Fortresses, chains, a fleet of ships, the whole deal. Nicely done! I am hopeful that Rollo will soon gain some command over the Frankish tongue; it might make things easier with his wife. 

And Odo! Oh, my. So. Odo is plotting and his apparent paramour is working to get herself even further into his good graces. The look in Therese’s eyes is direct and I could sense she was being purposeful in her disparagement of the Emperor and Gisla. 

Rollo's new lookLissa: In his room, Rollo is getting his hair cut, and is dressed as a Frankish nobleman. When Gisla comes into the room, Rollo stands and proudly bows to her. At this sight, Gisla bursts out in hysterical laughter. Poor Rollo can’t win with this woman.

unappreciative gisla laughsSandi: I thought Rollo looked quite as dashing as he could in the new gear and with the new hair. I mean, it’s not the man-bun or anything, but he looks very contemporary to the age. Awkward, but kind of adorable in his way. I was really annoyed with Gisla when the girl just laughed mockingly at him. And of course, so did her attendants (maids are like that, no?) so that didn’t help. However, for a power-play, it’s effective so I think Gisla might be over her whiny phase.

Lissa: Back in Kattegat, Ragnar’s sons are successful in tracking Floki down. They drag him from the river and return him to town in triumph, trussed like a turkey.

Sandi: A turkey would have been cleaner… But then, a turkey would have been better fed, as well. Floki had a rough time of it while he was held captive in the village square. Ubbe, the son who was leading the hunt, got good experience in responsibility and didn’t it just show while he was sitting on Ragnar’s chair arm? I thought that bit was very well done. Grooming sons to their future roles was part of the job of a good father, if the lad wasn’t fostered out, so this was a proper moment, I think.

And…embarrassing for Floki. I do give the man credit for standing firm on his prior words and not needing to try to use more to get his freedom.

Lissa: In Wessex, Judith enters the library and sees a monk standng at the desk. Her eyes widen, because from the back, he looks just like Athelstan. But when he turns, we see it’s not. He introduces himself to her. His name is Prudentius. He collects geodes, apparently. When Judith tells him that she’s the one he’s been brought to teach the art of illuminating manuscripts, he’s horrified. Women don’t do that. She tosses her head and says to ask the king about that.

Sandi: Casting for Prudentius was brilliant. Just brilliant. It is easy to see how Judith could be so immediately drawn to the man. And she is. One hopes she has a care, there! 

Judith saying FreeLissa: We see Ecbert deal with the situation quickly. Prudentius goes into the barn where the bishop is tasting this year’s wine production. He appears to take wine seriously, rolling the sample on his tongue, inhaling over the sip in his mouth, and then spitting it back onto the floor. The bishop is a little shocked, but quickly accepts the priest’s explanation about Frankians tasting so many wines they would quickly be drunk if they swallowed them all. Ecbert tackles the subject at hand. He asks the bishop if Judith’s desire to learn illumination is acceptable, giving him a hard, steady look as he does so. The bishop is no fool. He says that if Mary Magdalene wiping the feet of Jesus was acceptable, then surely it is acceptable for such a pious woman to work on the words of the Lord. When Judith sees them emerging from the barn and learns her request as been granted, she breathes the word, “Free.”

Sandi: Father “Sommelier” Prudentius (Did the writers choose a 5th C. Roman Christian poet’s name on purpose or were they shooting for the symbolic prudent meaning for this character?) certainly seemed to see which way the wind blew, here, so one gives him marks for expediency and intelligence. I do wonder how this will shake down, however. And I also wonder if Judith truly thinks her freedom will be “free” for her.

Lissa: Back in Kattegat, Ragnar comes into his house, furious, and kicks a stool. Aslaug saunters over and asks him why he’s still so upset. Floki did nothing wrong in killing a Christian. I think the fandom all over the world gasped at the same moment when Ragnar struck her across the face, twice, knocking her to the ground. Aslaug had prodded Ragnar in the wound he still carries in his heart, but it was wrong of him … so wrong…  to to strike his wife like that. Their relationship has deteriorated to the point where I’m not sure there’s any hope of recovery.

Aslaug before slapSandi: This was quite a scene. I think it served a couple of purposes, shocking as it was to see Ragnar lash out in violence against his wife. Ragnar’s issue with trust and loyalty is core, here. Upon reflection, I think that his anger with Aslaug is not the adulterous sex thing—he isn’t innocent of that himself, and though hypocritical behavior is not beyond him, certainly, I don’t see that as his gripe. His issue with Aslaug on the loyalty front had to do with his children. When he found she had left them to another’s care last season, he was incensed. Has that been festering all along? Maybe. And Floki did kill a Christian, but Aslaug is being purposefully antagonistic as she mentions it the way she does. All of Kattegat—and, indeed, Wessex!—knew that Athelstan wasn’t just Ragnar’s “pet priest”. He was his friend. His amchara, one could even say. A friend of his soul, as they say in Gaeilge. Aslaug knew this, and her question disparaged Athelstan to Ragnar’s face. 

He never was very good at hiding his feelings, there.

The writers may have included this scene to deepen the schism between Ragnar and Aslaug for future plot purposes. It also served to further highlight that Ragnar is not always a reliable fellow. Just in case we needed a reminder.

Lissa: We return to Mercia where Aethelwulf is attacking the castle where Kwenthrith is being held. He does very well as a field commander and makes it to the doors of the building itself. One of the Mercians gives the order, “Kill the queen and her child!” They don’t want her falling into Ecbert’s hands. In her room, Kwenthrith fights like a tiger to protect little Magnus, lying on the bed. The child is oddly silent as his mother covers him over, and when he pulls the blanket away to see her covered in blood, fighting for her very life. She manages to bludgeon one of her guards, but the other has her in a stranglehold when Aethelwulf bursts in to save her by running the guard through with a sword.

what kept you?

Sandi: Aethelwulf is certainly tenacious! The grappling hand-to-hand combat was brutal, as was Queen Kwenthrith’s fight above. Magnus seemed very peaceful and wise, too, in terms of keeping out of the way and not antagonizing anyone during the fight his mum was having. Cute kid, too. Will Aethelwulf’s rescue of Kwenthrith mark a new relationship dynamic? She tried and failed to seduce him before, after all. . . Then, too, Amy Bailey (who plays Kwenthrith) tweeted this last night:

Kwenthelwulf tweet

Lissa: Back in Paris, Therese is having the wounds that Odo left on her back tended by a handsome Frankish lord, Roland. She tells him everying that Odo said to her, including all of his disparaging remarks about Emperor Chuck. Roland tells her that as soon as the time is right, they’ll reveal to Charles the duplicity of Count Odo. He appreciates the valuable information she brings him, but it wounds him that she’s been so injured in acquiring it. 

Aftercare spy debriefSandi: Our guess last night was that Roland was the “drunken husband” referenced when Therese first went to Odo last season. I’m still on board with this. If he’s not, then he’s her handler, as they say in intelligence operations. So. Therese is the PseudoSub Spy Chick. This makes her pretty darn awesome and my perceptions of her have spun. Nice work there, History Channel!

Lissa: In Kattegat, Helga is chopping at the soil with a shovel when Ragnar comes walking up. He asks her what she’s doing. It’s the middle of winter, after all. She says she’s digging a grave – what does it look like? Little Angrbo∂a has died. I’m so sorry to see her go. She was such a charming character and made a big impression even after appearing in only one other episode. Ragnar takes the shovel and helps her to finish.

Sandi: This was heartrending. Little Angrbo∂a was with us for such a short time. Her illness—”Does it matter?” Helga asks Ragnar—was unknown but likely caused at least in part by deprivation. Floki was the man of the house and while Helga was sure to be skilled at woodcrafts and so on, there wasn’t a lot left in Kattegat that winter. And they were living more or less as outcasts without a lot of resources. In other circumstances, they might have taken shelter with Ragnar in the Hall, but not when Floki had done what he had. Helga didn’t even feel she could ask for help. And their poor daughter paid for that I fear.

Lissa: We see Floki’s punishment, something Ragnar says he came up with especially for him. It echoes Loki’s punishment in the Eddic poems. Loki was bound, using the entrails of his son, and a huge serpent was mounted above his head. Venom drips down from the snake’s fangs onto his forehead, causing him great torment. His wife, Sigyn, holds a bowl above his head to catch the poison, but she has to occasionally walk away to empty it. While she does, the venom causes Loki such agony that he shakes the earth itself with his roars of pain – which is where earthquakes come from.

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timeslipblog.wordpress.com

Floki’s punishment is to be bound inside a cave where the icy water drips down on him constantly. As Ragnar says to him, there is no honor or valor in his suffering, just the endless misery of cold…

Sandi: He was screaming as the episode ended. Chained, unable to relax, and tormented by drips of water in the freezing cave. But. May I take a moment to say that Gustaf Skarsgård looked pretty fit, even in the adverse circumstances? My kudos to the actor, who has never failed to bring his A-Game to Floki’s characterization.

Really, this is a stellar cast all the way around. I cannot wait until next week to see what will happen! Thank you for joining us.

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


 

If you’re looking for a wider divergence of opinions on Vikings, may I recommend Project Fandom and the No Ship Network? The first is a blog and the second a podcast that does recaps of each episode and then does the Althing podcast, which is all about the feedback.

VIKINGS w/ Historical Fiction Authors: A Good Treason

VIKINGS banner

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

The Shieldmaidens of History (Protecting the Innocent from Anachronisms) welcome you back to our review series on the History Channel show Vikings.

UTRS3 lissa bookLissa Bryan, author of the Tudor-era love story, Under These Restless Skies, and I are once again live-tweeting during each episode of this show and discussing it—at some length, as you can see—afterward.

Lissa: The show did not disappoint with its season opener, that’s for sure. We saw Ragnar riding in a valley below the mountains, and I got excited. Ragnar has recovered!

Sandi: I got excited, too! I was thinking, “Wow! This must mean Ragnar’s back on track. Dying? Who says?” But alas…!

vikingsinuppsala gifLissa: Tricksy Hobbitses, these show producers! We soon discovered it was a dream, and Ragnar was approaching the door to Valhalla.
 
And it was beautiful. A glowing hall of the fathers.
Valhalla image tweet
Lissa: But it slowly begins to close. Ragnar runs as fast as he can, but the doors shut before he can reach it. He falls on his knees and roars in despair.

Sandi: It was a good dream, for us as well as for Ragnar, though we would have been saddened to see him enter Valhalla in the first minutes of the new season.

Lissa: Interspersed with Ragnar’s dream, we saw Aslaug approach the Seer in the forest where he was picking… something from the soil. Lissa thought it was worms, but I thought mushrooms. Aslaug asked him if a woman would rule Kattegat after the death of Ragnar, and the Seer confirmed it was something he had seen in his visions, but he refused to answer her question as to whether that woman would be her.

Sandi: During this whole exchange —alternating, remember, with Ragnar’s supposed dying thing—I was struck by the hardness Aslaug displayed. I know she’s spent a very long time as a disappointed woman, but really, she’s a queen (and she’s done a great job at that in recent times) and her position would traditionally have been dictated by her spouse. That her concern is now Kattegat is a lessening of her sphere. But she is deeming it of great import. And why did she seek the Seer outside of his domain?

Lissa: We saw Ragnar’s children greet Björn, including little Ivar the Boneless, from his chair.

Sandi: Wasn’t it a wagon? It looked like an early rendition of a Radio Flyer. Wheels keep him mobile!

Lissa: Despite the apparent weakness in his legs, Ivar is a fierce little fellow. It appears several years have passed during the Paris raids, because the children are about four years older.

Sandi: I’m still trying to figure out what year this is on the show. If I remember correctly, the first episode of the first season began in AD 792. Björn was fourteen at that time, and now he’s a daddy with a girl who looks to be maybe two or three years of age.

Lissa: Björn is affectionate with his little brothers, but doesn’t spend time with his daughter, Siggy. 

Sandi: This was so sad, to me. Remember when Siggy was born? He was in awe of his little girl. Now he seems to be blaming her for Þorunn’s disappearance.

Lissa: Floki goes into Ragnar’s room and lays some bones with runes carved on them beside the unconcious king. He says he hopes the runes will heal him. It’s the Viking version of a “Get Well Soon!” card. Floki cares enough to send the very best.

Sandi: Are these the runes that he lamented having carved, later in his conversation with Helga? I think they might be.

Lissa: Aslaug, cool as a cucumber in her role as queen, fills Björn in on Þorunn’s departure. She is at Björn’s side as he stands on the rocks above Kattegat as Björn gives a Ragnar pep rally. After he has the crowd shouting his father’s name, he then says that it was Ragnar’s friend, Athelstan, who led them to the great wealth they acquired in Paris. The crowd doesn’t cheer for Athelstan – it’s more of a somewhat disgruntled murmur.

Sandi: This isn’t surprising, really. The last time Athelstan had an “appearance” with the general public of Kattegat, he was harassed and called out for having discarded his manhood arm ring. Still, it was good of Björn to remember him (for it does seem as if years have passed since, due to the ages of the kids) positively in a public manner.
nothing can stop us historyvikings
Lissa: But then Björn orders the arrest of Floki for Athelstan’s murder, and the crowd does his bidding, surrounding Floki with drawn blades. Floki fends them off for a moment and says he was justified in what he did, and then surrenders.

Sandi: This is very interesting, to me. Floki was known to have been a friend of Ragnar, known to be a talented shipbuilder and he had been instrumental in the Paris raid. He had standing in the community. That Björn’s words could turn the people against him speaks well of Björn’s persuasive ability but perhaps not so well of the fickleness of the populace.

yidu in snow

from vikinks on tumblr

Lissa: Aslaug is looking over the loot from the Paris raid, which also includes a cargo of female slaves. She walks down the line of shivering, weeping women and finds a lovely girl of Asian heritage. She grasps the girl’s face in her hands and looks her over with a thoughtful expression.


Sandi: Slavery was a common trade for the Northmen, to be sure. Traditionally, the Northmen would change the slave’s name “to something proper” (for the Norse/Swedish/Danish culture) and to distance them from their former lives. Since the Vikings page at History Channel lists the girl’s name as Yidu, I’m thinking that doesn’t happen, here, as Yidu is traditionally a Chinese name. The China of this time period was quite socially advanced, I believe, and I wonder how this might play in the show.

Lissa: We next see Floki in the center of town, being pelted with rocks by taunting children. Helga desperately tries to chase them off, darting after them one by one, but they are fleet of foot, spinning around her to thow their stones. It was a scene that stuck with me long after the show was over. The anguished desperation of Helga as she fought to defend this man who had been so harsh in sending her away in the past, rejecting her love and the opportunity to raise his own child. When last we saw them in the previous season, Helga had finally walked away from him because Floki had done something she could not forgive. But yet now, she fought a futile battle to save him.

Sandi: It’s a battle that has cost her, though. Helga—who was much more lighthearted in earlier seasons—has learned hard lessons about her husband. Her face is showing the strain in the (directed) deterioration of her eye makeup as well as the clear lines of suffering on her face and the dishevelment of her hair and clothes. These are visual cues as to her state of mind, and they tell a powerful story.

Lissa: In Hedeby, Kalf announces to the celebrating Vikings that Lagertha saved his life, and he saved hers during the Paris raid. Thus, they will rule jointly. Lagertha takes his hand in agreement. Half of her earldom back without effort!

lagertha promises to killSandi: I didn’t see it like that, I guess. I was all irked. He usurped her dominion and then offers her half back? Half? Because they’re sleeping together now? (Until, as Lagertha informed him last season, she decides to kill him…)

Lissa: Ragnar wakes from his illness and is himself enough to tease his son.
ragnar sarcasm wake up tweet
Lissa: The boy runs off to tell Aslaug, but she’s busy overseeing the bath of her new slave and only gives a cursory reply. Her son is offended that she doesn’t seem happier to know Ragnar is recovering.

Sandi: Ragnar has always been a fond father, even doting. His sons—sons he has been grateful to have and whom he loves, even if he doesn’t love their mother—are important to him and the boys surely know that. When he came home from battle, sorely wounded, I’m sure it was quite distressing to his kids. That he’s been apparently out of it since, feverish and unresponsive, perhaps, would have been cause of insecurity. It is no wonder, then, that the boy is irritated with Mum for not being more responsive.
floki and fam

from wildfloki on tumblr

Lissa: Helga brings Angrbo∂a to see her father. This had to be such a frightening and confusing experience for the little girl, who likely had no memories whatsoever of her father. And now she’s seeing him filthy and bruised, chained to a stake in the center of town. But she helps to feed her father. Later, Floki asks Helga to help him escape, and she jerks away from him. It seems that while Helga still loves Floki and wants to protect him from torture, she believes in justice.


Sandi: I concur. A painful scene for all of them, really. But I want justice, too, so I don’t feel too bad for Floki. I do, though, feel dreadful for Helga and Angrbo∂a.

Lissa: Kalf is told by his nobles – including the smarmy gent who once propositioned Lagertha in her bathtub – that they will not accept her as co-ruler. They supported Kalf in the expectation he would end the Lo∂brok rule over these lands.

Sandi: Einar is a problem, for sure. He always has been. And he proves this to be true in this season as well.

Lissa: Back in Kattegat, Ragnar is greeted by his cheering hall at dinner.

aging ragnarSandi: He’s aging, is King Ragnar, and his people seemed to give all heed to his son, yet still they are happy to see him and eager to welcome him home. The unrest that would result at his demise is likely not wished for by anyone.

aslaug saga tales

from jorindelle on tumblr

Lissa: Aslaug is telling the children tales of her father, whose deeds are immortalized in the Sagas. (Which hadn’t been written yet, as I pointed out on twitter, but perhaps the oral tales were circulating already.) Ragnar asks Björn about Floki’s arrest. The king is not best pleased by it and says Björn has forced his hand. Now he must get his vengence publicly.


Sandi: We’re not sure what Ragnar would have done at this point, if left entirely to his own devices. He said in a monologue last season that Floki should “beware of the fury of a patient man.” Now, sure, these are Dryden’s words but they apply very much in this case. Ragnar loved Athelstan and he had to be planning vengeance for his death. 

Lissa: Ragnar notices Aslaug’s Spiffy New Slave Girl.

Sandi: I believe mead made its introduction into our twit-versation at that time. 
ragnar mead tweet

Sent from @HistoryVikings, who have extremely awesome graphics gurus.

Lissa: It’s Rollo’s wedding day! He enters the cathedral and examines the priest’s cross until his interpreter nudges him over to kneel at the altar. Gisla enters, crying, and approaches the altar, still crying. She stops in front of it and just stands there until the priest tells her she has to kneel for the ceremony to continue.
princess in church tweet lissa
crying gislaSandi: Really, her histrionics are ridiculous. She’s had her time to protest in private. She made time to protest in public (bad form, Princess, bad form!) but by the wedding, she’s acting like a girl in leading strings, not the young woman who kept Paris fighting against the odds. This strikes me, honestly, as not cool on the part of the writers. Good soap opera, but not something I think one would see in real life.

Lissa: Gisla drops down onto the kneeler with less-than-regal-grace. Chuck the Simple (aka Emperor Charles, Papa of the Bride) steps forward and pushes her head down into a bow, telling the priest he may begin the ceremony. Gisla’s sobs have become full-out wails at this point.

Sandi: No comment. Really.

Lissa: She’s screaming and kicking her feet as she’s carried into the bridal chamber. The servants begin the bedding ceremony and start stripping the couple, but Rollo orders them to leave the chamber.

wedding night rollo historyvikingsSandi: As you pointed out last night, this normally would have been the “bedding ceremony” that was common for royalty. However, Rollo wasn’t bred as a royal and he’s just thinking of his wife. And yes, may we have more shirtless Rollo moments, or was this our last one?

Lissa: He kicks off his boots and approaches his bride, but she pulls a knife on him. Rollo laughs and takes it away from her and tells her to go to sleep. He’s so un-threatened by her blade that he doesn’t bother to open his eyes after she draws it down his skin while he’s trying to get comfortable. Not quite the wedding night Gisla expected with her “beast” of a new husband.

Sandi: I am thinking that, protest though she might, she is still expecting this “beastly” fellow to want to consummate their marriage. That he apparently doesn’t see this as a necessity at this juncture had to be insulting. “What? You don’t want to have sex with me? Princess Gisla? How dare you!” Or something to that effect. 

Lissa: In Hedeby, Kalf announces to his assembled people that his decision to give Lagertha co-rulership has been questioned. He gestures to a post in the center of the clearing and tells people to make a mark on it if they wish him to banish her from Hedeby.

Sandi: This was a nice/mean set-up by the writers, here. I was all ready to protest loudly and had all manner of things to say on the tip of my tongue.

Lissa: Lagertha stares at him in apparent shock as the men go up and slash at the post. As soon as everyone has made their mark, Kalf says it’s settled. He calls for his archers and they mow down the men who have demanded that Lagertha leave.

Sandi: What he had done, there, was create a killing field. He arranged a fenced-in space for the “enemy” to face his superior (because the “enemy” were largely unarmed at that moment) weaponry/firepower. This made it easy to kill them off. Messy and loud, too. I am not sure that this was the best way to handle the situation, but I don’t think Jarl Kalf plays a good game of chess. . .

kalf smirks

from laugertha on tumblr

Lissa: Lagertha gives Kalf a little smile and he returns it with a nod of his head. Lagertha approaches Einar, who is present, and who was the slimy gent who leered at her in the tub ages past. He’d been pinned like a butterfly to a post by an arrow through his throat. Lagertha says she should have done this a long time ago. By “this” she means geld him. Her face is sprayed with his blood.


Sandi: This was a surprising moment for me. I really had thought/hoped that the person who was going to be on the tip of her knife was Kalf. 

Lissa: The new Duke of Normandy—the Northman formerly known as Rollo—is bored. He’s throwing coins into a gold bowl. Clank. Clank. Clank. Rollo’s translator stands up and abruptly says he’s leaving. He’s not meant for life in Paris. He tells Rollo if he wants him to stay, he’ll have to cut off his feet. #ChallengeAccepted

Sandi: This was interesting, too. The translator, Sinric, is a wanderer, sure. His status otherwise is uncertain. He seems to be a free man, but he is “held hostage” to some degree at least once in the course of this entire series. Is he dependent or independent? How much freedom is he granted wherever he wanders. I’d like to know more about him.

Lissa: But no, Rollo doesn’t pull out an axe. He watches him go. A Frank comes in and says something to him, to which Rollo can only spread his hands, as if to say, “What?”
 
The Frank brings in one of Rollo’s men from the camp outside Paris. It seems they’re restless. Half want to leave.

Sandi: This is almost like a vote of no-confidence as far as Rollo’s leadership is concerned. His men signed on as King Ragnar’s men, in service to Rollo to maintain a presence on foreign soil. And here, they’ve been a victim to something akin to a bait-and-switch, as Rollo has apparently changed sides. And not to another Northern lord, either, but to The Enemy.
slave poultry tweet tweet lissa
Lissa: Back in Kattegat, Ragnar watches Shiny New Slave girl (Yidu) as she struggles to take hold of a chicken. The chicken seems to be winning this particular battle. Björn comes over and tells him he’s going off on a Vision Quest.

ragnar advises bjornSandi: Okay, not exactly. He says he’s going off to find Þorunn, his wife. At least, that’s what he says first, but really?

Lissa: Why? Because Ragnar doesn’t think he can survive on his own, and Björn wants to prove himself. Ragnar gives him a bit of advice and sends him on his way.
bjorn vision quest tweet lissa
Lissa: After Björn leaves, Ragnar goes over to Floki, still bound to the post, and slowly draws a circle in the sand with his staff as he speaks. He says Floki betrayed his love for him. Floki says he was trying to save Ragnar from a false god.

Sandi: Floki is entirely sincere, here, and not trying to wheedle his way out of punishment, even though he’d wanted to escape. Floki sees Ragnar’s affiliations significant to their very way of life and Floki likes things how they were, he wants the traditions to be maintained and for Ragnar to be in good standing with the gods.

aslaug son commentaryLissa: As Ragnar walks away, Aslaug has to stop him. She asks him about Björn’s leaving and says it may be the last time Ragnar ever sees his son. Ragnar reacts with horror and demands to know if Aslaug has Seen anything. He was casually dismissive of his wife’s völva powers in the past, but now it seems he believes her. She says she hasn’t and he snaps, “Why would you say something like that?” as he stomps away. All is not well between Mr. and Mrs. King!

Sandi: It certainly isn’t. And Aslaug doesn’t even mention having spoken to the Seer at this point. Her concerns were largely selfish in that regard. Her whole demeanor seems to have been, this episode, more self-oriented. So I wonder at her concern for Björn and/or Ragnar’s relationship with this eldest son. She has sons of her own and traditionally, a queen fought for the prerogatives for their own progeny.

Lissa: We return to Paris, to the Viking camp, which is situated in enfilade position in the bottom of a small creek area, for some reason.

:  gunfire directed from a flanking position along the length of an enemy battle line – “Enfilade.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2016.

Lissa: It makes it easy for them to be decimated by Frankish archers, firing down into the small area, slaughtering the men, women, and children indiscriminately. Rollo rides in as the last of them fall, and is warned by a dying man that Ragnar will avenge them.

Sandi: We were quite in shock on twitter as we witnessed this. Rollo’s own men from Kattegat and the environs are no longer “his” men. They are seen now as the enemy and Rollo is a Frank. The difference in body armor and grooming between the Franks and the Northmen is broadly drawn in this scene, making it more effective for all it was unspoken. A brutal ending and a brutal but intriguing beginning for Season Four.

I cannot wait to see what the History Channel has for us next week! Join us on twitter during the episode and see what tweets we DON’T post (oh my!) here @LissaBryan and @sandyquill!
LATE ADDITION: Check out the recap on No Ship Network. It’s really thought-provoking.

We’re Talking Vikings: HELGA

History Vikings shield maiden graphic

A gift from the graphic gurus in 2015. Thanks, History Channel!

The Shieldmaidens of History (Protecting the Innocent from Anachronisms) welcome you back to our series on the History Channel show Vikings. 


146a6-lissa-bryanHistorical fiction author Lissa Bryan is with me again to discuss the historical aspects of the show. Lissa has written a fantastic historical fiction story of her own, and she is an amazing historian and storyteller. (You can read my review of her Tudor love story, Under These Restless Skies here on my site.)

 

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Heillir! 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 season on HISTORY CHANNEL.

Follow us on twitter, #ShieldGeeks, at 8pm Eastern for the next ten days as we talk about the main characters of the show, including special features for Thorsdays, er, Thursdays, as well as We Ship It day on the 14th and even a Favorite Dead Character feature.

Then, on February 18th, VIKINGS, Season Four will begin 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.

HELGA

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Played by the beautiful Maude Hirst, Helga is  a woman with a possible prophetic bent as well as a deep connection to the old traditions of her people.

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When we met her in the first season, she seemed to be nine parts flower child, one part seer.

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Her devotion to Floki was absolute; her trust total.

Courtesy of violaobanion on Tumblr

They lived out of the village proper, up in a mountain hideaway, it seemed, and Helga made it beautiful.

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Future seasons showed her growing more involved with the villagers and even Princess Aslaug. Eventually, Helga and Floki had a charming wedding made notable by the profusion of flower garlands and the absence of Ragnar.

Courtesy of violaobanion on Tumblr

Now a wife and mother, Helga has had to confront the fact that her beloved Floki has gone too far when he killed Athelstan.

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As last season ended, it seemed that Helga and Floki were not simpatico. Indeed, she’d walked away from him more than once as he tried in vain to justify his actions.

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Where will Season Four take Helga? Though seeming fragile initially, she is quite strong and capable of standing on her own. Will she have to?

Courtesy of dracomartell on Tumblr

 

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What are your thoughts? Join Lissa Bryan and me, Sandi, tonight as we chat at 8PM EST on Twitter about Helga and what the series might have in store for her. Use the hashtag #ShieldGeeks to join in the fun!


We’re Talking Vikings: FLOKI

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The Shieldmaidens of History (Protecting the Innocent from Anachronisms) welcome you back to our series on the History Channel show Vikings. 


146a6-lissa-bryanHistorical fiction author Lissa Bryan is with me again to discuss the historical aspects of the show. Lissa has written a fantastic historical fiction story of her own, and she is an amazing historian and storyteller. (You can read my review of her Tudor love story, Under These Restless Skies here on my site.)

 

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Heillir! 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 season on HISTORY CHANNEL.

Follow us on twitter, #ShieldGeeks, at 8pm Eastern for the next several days as we talk about the main characters of the show, including special features for Thorsdays, er, Thursdays, as well as We Ship It day on the 14th and even a Favorite Dead Character feature.
FLOKI

Floki, played brilliantly by Gustaf Skarsgård is one of the most compelling characters on VIKINGS.

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Gustaf himself is a great guy, willing to talk to fans and ham it up for the camera between takes.

His real voice is surprisingly much deeper than Floki’s, so that’s always interesting too.

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A genius shipbuilder, Floki has been Ragnar’s trusted friend for a long time.

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And his eyeliner game is ON FLEEK.
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Floki might come across as unbalanced, but he has a definite sense of his place in the world and his relationship to the gods.

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His forever love is Helga, whom he will eventually marry and have a daughter with as the series progresses.

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As we enter Season Four, Floki has unraveled. His quirky eccentricity has edged over into all-out madness, and it remains to be seen if he can pull himself back together.

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As the season progressed, he felt more and more betrayed by Ragnar’s seeming impiety toward the gods, and his forays into Christianity.

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Floki became more and more unhinged, focusing his resentment on Athelstan.

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It led to him killing Athelstan in cold blood, though Athelstan welcomed death with a sweet smile.

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During the siege of Paris, Floki had a breakdown as all of his plans burnt to ashes around him.

He felt the gods had betrayed him after his years of faith and sacrifice.

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Helga, his patient and faithful wife, seems to have given up on him, as well.

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How will Floki deal with the upcoming changes as the vista of Ragnar’s influence broadens? Will he find an anchor in his wife and daughter and rediscover his passion for the ships and oceans? Or will he dissolve into the shifting sands under his feet?

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What are your thoughts? Join Lissa Bryan and me, Sandi, tonight as we chat at 8PM EST on Twitter about Floki and what the series might have in store for him. Use the hashtag #ShieldGeeks to join in the fun!


(All images from VIKINGS are the property of the History Channel. I use them only for illustrations regarding their show.)