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.

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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.

vikings-floki-foster-dad

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!

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The #ShieldGeeks Talk VIKINGS: Revenge S4 E18

 

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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.

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[Ahem: Edited for corrections.]

Lissa: Here we are with a new episode! And I apologize in advance for my brevity, but I’ve been off a-viking in the wilds of Florida. I shot about a dozen manatees with my fearsome camera today, and looted many gift shops for t-shirts, and so I am exhausted. I hope our friends will understand.

Sandi: Enjoy Florida! I lived there for seven years and know that January is a great time to visit. My welcomes to all who have popped in from LissaBryan.com. 🙂

Lissa: We started off the episode with Lagertha talking to Joan Jett about the upcoming invasion. There was a gorgeous pan-shot over the roofs of Kattegat, and we saw how large the settlement has become. It’s a proper city now!

kattegat-aerial

Sandi: It really is. I looked up Kattegat last night and inadvertently tweeted a link to THE Kattegat, which is a strait. Oops? Sorry. According to the Vikings Wikia, Kattegat is located on the shores of a fjørd in Southern Norway. (My Vikings are from Balestrand, located on the coast of a fjørd in Western Norway.) The implications I am getting from the show, though, lead to the notion that Ragnar rules over what would have been Denmark (King Horik was King of the Danes), so that’s across what I believe is the Skaggerack Strait from a Norwegian Kattegat. Norway didn’t have a king, as I’ve said here before, until Harald Finehair.

Sorry for the digression. Kattegat is a thriving town in this show. It is well that Lagertha is setting the people to a proper job of fortifying the perimeter.

Lissa: Lagertha tells Joan that the upcoming war is the greatest their people have ever undertaken, and if it fails, the Northmen may never recover from the loss. She suggests to Joan that an appropriate sacrifice must be made. Joan asks what they should sacrifice, and Torvi tells her the proper question should be WHOM.

Sandi: Torvi is not a blind woman; she knows Björn’s been giving Joan Jett rather more attention than appropriate for a man to give his mother’s companion.

After this, Ivar and Ubbe are speaking and Ivar tells Ubbe–just between the two of them–what Ragnar said about Ivar needing to learn about the enemy. Ubbe, not being altogether foolish, doesn’t oppose Ivar at this moment. What I liked most about this scene, though, was how Alex Høgh (Ivar) managed to show Ragnar’s mannerisms as he spoke. Fidgeting, facial quirks, and so on. It was very well done to show how the time Ivar and Ragnar had spent together had “rubbed off” on the younger man. Nice work!

princessLissa: Harald Finehair is in the street with his brother when he sees a woman walking toward them. He tells Halfdan that she is the princess he wanted to marry, but she’d told him he wasn’t powerful enough to deserve her hand. It was for her that he desired to become king of all Norway so he would be worthy of taking her to wife. Halfan urges him to go talk to her. But when he meets her in the great hall, the princess tells him she is already married. She’s wed to an earl. Harald, trembling with repressed rage, says he was a king when she refused his suit, and he finds she has married a mere earl? The woman is clearly uncomfortable and it’s obvious she had tried to let him down easily when she refused his proposal. She is terrified when he draws a dagger.

Sandi: Harald clearly didn’t comprehend a “brush-off” when he got one, once upon a time. He was quite frightening in his confrontation. And can we take a moment and check out the princess’s hat? It was very pretty, but not what I can find in “Scandinavian women’s head coverings” for this time period. Most women, even well-born women, wore cloth head-covers at this time. Embroidery would make it elaborate. Perhaps even brooches, or gold chains to ornament the cloth. This type of hat doesn’t really come into play in Scandinavia. In winter.

Lissa: Halfdan later suggests Harald should have slain her for dishonoring him, but Harald says there are two people on earth that he loves: his brother and this princess.

Ubbe spots Hvitserk with Margrethe on the street. He kisses her. When he meets up with Ubbe, Ubbe asks what he was saying to Margrethe. Hvitserk is honest. He tells him that he had told Margrethe that he loved her, but he recognizes that Ubbe has the superior claim.

Sandi: Note: It’s snowing in the scene. Very lightly. It is wintery, which was not the usual time to hie off and invade, raid, or make war. I can only guess that the timing for this is due to the fact that it is warmer in Britain, and it will be more of a surprise to arrive at this point in the year.) Ubbe shares that Ivar thinks he should lead; Hvitserk thinks that’s not an option and the brothers agree to support Björn’s leadership in the coming war.

Lissa: Ubbe and Margrethe marry in an odd ceremony. Their wedding rings are handed to them in a palm filled with blood. After they finish with the vows, there’s a wedding race over an anachronistic obstacle course to see who has to host and serve the wedding feast.

While they’re eating – apparently just the brothers and the new bride, not the village – Ubbe says to Hvitserk that he knows how he and Margrethe feel about one another, and so he suggests they share Margrethe. Hvitserk is amenable to the idea but wants to know how Ubbe and his brother can share without jealousy. Ubbe laughs and tells her they’re Vikings. Which makes no sense, to be honest. Vikings were a bit more flexible than Christians when it came to sexuality, and couples could agree to add another party to their bed for a bit of fun, but it wasn’t a common practice for brothers to share a wife.

Sandi: This whole thing was just . . . weird, to be honest. I used that term a lot on twitter last night, I think. First, of course, is that Ubbe freed a slave to marry her. Which did happen, yes, but not for the son of a king. Marriages were not generally for love among the nobility of Scandinavia. Then, there’s the “sharing”. One major reason for marriage for men of rank was to produce heirs. Blood counts, etc. A man had to know/believe that the children his wife bore were his, for legal/social reasons. Sharing, with full consent even, did not do this. And another thing: Margrethe has been sullen, passively compliant overall, and not apparently pleased with her fate, even once she was freed. Yet suddenly she is smiling and coy and all that fun stuff. Does she have something up her sleeve? Is there a nefarious plot happening that will ignite and be resolved in the next two episodes? Or is it just a misplaced direction for the actors involved? I am uneasy. If it’s merely gratuitous polyamory, that cheapens the relationship. So I’m not sure what History Channel is doing with this.

Lissa: Ivar tells his brothers that he feels their father wanted him to lead the invasion. He says that Ragnar brought him along to England so he could see it first-hand and learn its defenses. Realistically, Ivar saw very little of the kingdom, but as Björn later tells his brothers, Ivar has never been battle-tested. He’s never had any victories… or losses, which teach a warrior even more.

Sandi: It is Björn’s manner, here, that feels out of character. His blow-up at home last week, his aggressive assertion of rights already pretty much yielded to him, his nearly dour presence at the wedding… He was disturbed by Ragnar’s death and I think his grief is playing out in these lapses.

ragnarssons-whos-in-charge

Ivar does not oppose Björn, even though Björn insults him. To his face. This is likely a credit to Ivar’s legendary wisdom; he has to acquire it somewhere, yeah? “I didn’t say anything,” he says when challenged. Thus, Ragnar’s sons remain united as they join to seek vengeance for their father.

Lissa: Helga talks to Floki and tells him she intends to bring her Shiny New Kid along with them to attack England. Floki tries to talk her out of it. The girl still isn’t speaking or eating, but Helga insist they’re a family and families do everything together.

helga and daughter final.jpgSandi: This makes absolutely no sense. One doesn’t take one’s children—especially one’s out-of-culture and vulnerable daughters—on a campaign. Even if it’s for revenge. I could see Ragnar’s own daughter (sigh, Gyda) warring, but Helga’s adoptive child? No. This makes no sense culturally, but then I think Helga’s slipped a gear as well. Floki actually makes sense to me, here, and it would have been nice if he’d managed to stick to his metaphorical guns and get her to stay home. A Viking woman had a lot of say for herself, but her sphere of strongest influence was in the home, regarding household manners such as finance, servants, children, etc. Wars and such were the man’s purview traditionally.

So what is Helga’s thing, now? I still have no idea and the girl is another head-scratcher regarding the choices History Channel is making for this season. 

egilLissa: Harald and Halfdan meet up with The Bastard. They ask him if he’s had time to study Kattegat’s defenses, and The Bastard replies that the people of the city are not as safe as they think they are. He gets on a ship and departs, presumably to gather more forces for an attack.

Sandi: Will he do so or is he planning on further betrayal?

Lissa: The sacrifice for good fortune during the great invasion is made, and it’s the young, handsome earl we met last episode. He’s ready to meet the gods and his brother tells him he’s envious that the young earl will be dining with Odin that evening.

Sandi: He doesn’t even appear to have been drugged into any kind of passivity. This is a fully intentional sacrifice, here. I wonder where the officiating priest (?) is when he’s not performing such a ritual, though. It’s like we never see him otherwise. Butcher? Baker? Candlestick maker? I have no idea.

Lissa: Lagertha enters with her owl perched on her shoulder. Her hair is a birds’ nest. Not meaning a mess – a literal birds’ nest has been woven in her locks. She pulls out a bizarre scimitar-like sword. As you noted last night, the Vikings weren’t known for their fancy ironwork.

Sandi: Wasting such a valuable commodity on unnecessary curves was just not done. Straight lines, hard edges. Swords were rare anyway, so this just . . . didn’t quite work for me here.

Lissa: There was also something in the sky I couldn’t make out. Something floating or hovering that made the assembled crowd gasp when they saw it. Something dark and shiny – a raven perhaps, marking Odin’s favor?

Sandi: That would make sense. I didn’t see anything myself but I trust your eyes.

Lissa: Lagertha impales the young man through the stomach with the blade and he grasps her shoulders to draw her closer and plunge the blade deeper. As this is happening, we cut to scenes of Björn making love to Joan Jett. The crude allusion to being “impaled” was underscored multiple times. Helga covers the eyes of her Shiny New Kid. One wonders how she’s going to manage to block all of the horrors of war from her eyes while they’re avenging Ragnar’s death.

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Sandi: The juxtaposition is an old one, tired with overuse. I am (again, still) wondering about Joan Jett’s purpose. As a bodyguard? She’s mediocre. There to stir up dissension between Lagertha and Björn? Hard to say. Lagertha has her eyes on a big, big picture right now.

Will Joan Jett be a catalyst in fulfilling the “death by one of Ragnar’s sons” prophecy given to Lagertha by the Seer? Maybe?

Lissa: Later that night, Lagertha is in bed with Joan and she rolls over, asking her if she enjoyed it, because there’s no point in doing it if it’s not enjoyable. It’s not totally clear what she’s referring to – her relationship with Joan, or a pointed remark about her affair with Björn.

Sandi: Joan Jett makes absolutely no response. Her expression remains impassive and she utters not one word. So . . . as a writer, I have to ask, “What plot or characterization purpose is this scene accomplishing?”

bye-momLissa: Björn goes to the hall to say goodbye to his mother. He hugs Lagertha and she tells him he’s in the gods’ hands. He gives Joan Jett an awkward hug and tells her to take care of Lagertha and that his mother needs her. Then he turns to Torvi, “the mother of my children.” They share a very cool and formal goodbye. She’s the only woman he didn’t hug out of the three present.

Sandi: Lagertha and Björn have a long, close relationship. I think that no matter what her son does, Lagertha will draw upon that relationship to remain close to him. Her farewell is formal-ish, but not stiff or wary. Björn’s relationship with Torvi, though, is clearly on the outs. “There are no ‘ifs’, Björn Ironside. We shall not see you again.” Either Torvi is having a prophetic moment or she’s telling him, right there in front of Lagertha and Joan Jett, that she is SO over him and she’s taking the children. Reliably informed by @DeeDonuts at @ProjectFandom that Torvi did not say she wouldn’t see Björn again (DeeDonuts has Closed Captioning!). But I still think, with my preoccupation for facial cues, that Torvi was kicking Björn to the curb, even if her words weren’t so conclusive.

It’s almost a proclamation of divorce, except that they were apparently never wed. Why was he not married off to someone in the years of the time-jump?

Lissa: The ships sail for England. Aelle is informed of their arrival while he’s at mass. He scolds the messenger for interrupting him right before he was to receive communion.

Sandi: I like the detail with all the extra folk and their traveling gear. We don’t have just the locals mingling in Kattegat; there are travelers with bedrolls, etc. Good job on the directors and all the assistants to set this up. Details for the win!

And with Aelle, viewers everywhere seemed to enjoy the interrupted mass he was participating in.

“Sacrilege! I was about to receive the body and blood of Christ, our Savior!”

“You’re also about to receive the Great Heathen Army,” he is told.

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But Aelle, for all he is not popular, is determined to follow the dictates of his faith and conscience and he finishes the mass before he prepares for war. His expression is one of calm as he does so, indicating a man who is, however strange it may seem, at peace with himself.

Lissa: In Wessex, Judith stands over Ecbert at the dinner table, cutting up his food for him. Aethelwulf tells him that the Great Heathen Army has arrived, and that Ecbert doesn’t seem like himself. He’s indecisive, weak, and distracted when he used to seem so confident and strong. Ecbert tells him he was full of doubts and that the strength was all an illusion. He says that he’s sent Aethelwulf to deal with the invasion, to be a strong leader. Aethelwulf wonders what kind of a father Ecbert has been. He’s made Athelwulf accept a bastard as his son, accept his wife as his father’s lover… He knows Ecbert loved Athelstan (didn’t we all?) and that he loved Ragnar, but he wonders if his father ever loved him, and the old crafty wheels turn in Ecbert’s head.

did-you-love-me-capSandi: It was a beautiful scene, really. Aethelwulf confronts his father, to his face. It’s as if, all at once, Aethelwulf decides to man up and tackle a multitude of issues. His father’s ambition. His wife’s infidelity. The father-son relationship. Et cetera. Yet even so, Aethelwulf wants his father’s love . . . and we can see Ecbert’s mind hare off as the conversation concludes. Will this season see the end of King Ecbert?

Lissa: Aelle rides out to meet the Great Heathen Army. A bishop rides with him, quoting scripture about warriors as they ride. Aelle laughs at the first sight of the small group assembled of invaders on the opposite hill, but his laughter turns to terror as more and more Vikings appear to join them. “God help us,” the bishop whispers, and Aelle says he doesn’t think God can. With an excited roar, the Vikings charge.

Sandi: And there’s a huge number of warriors in the Great Army. They’ve likely sailed four to five days to get to Aelle in Northumbria. It’s cold, but there’s no snow in Britain at this juncture, just clear skies and the weather wouldn’t be daunting to the Northmen. They’re totally ready to fight.

ivar-and-chariot-capWhich is great. Except for us, the viewers. There is a lot of cinematic posturing. Weapons. Roaring. Dismayed Britons. Ivar and his chariot get a few seconds of screen time and then…

Lissa: Without any of the battle scenes we’d been waiting ALL EPISODE FOR (clears throat) we cut to the aftermath of what was apparently a huge Viking victory.

Sandi: And this is, odd as it may seem, where I realized that I didn’t know what the title for this episode was. It’s “Revenge”. Not “War”.  This is all about revenge, which is why the battle was not shown. (Though I will say that with all the build up to it? It did feel a bit odd to not see The Great [Heathen] Army actually clash with Aelle’s.)

Lissa: Aelle is being dragged down the road behind Ivar’s war chariot. Björn demands they be taken to where Ragnar was killed.  Here was a lovely historical touch as we heard Saxon English from the pleading Aelle, and Norse from the Vikings. Aelle shows them the snake pit, and they drag the doors back to peer into it, empty and cold in the rain. Floki bends down to speak to the terrified king. He says, “I’m told your god was a carpenter. So am I.”

Sandi: And here, we have “Revenge” as promised.

Lissa: We next see Floki nailing Aelle face-down to a log, driving spikes through the king’s wrists in a gross parody of the crucifixion. Björn walks up behind Aelle with a red-hot iron blade. We see him slice open Aelle’s back and hack at his ribs with an ax while Aelle screams in agony. As we feared, there was no artistry in this. No respect given or gained. It was brutal and ugly. Blood and gore spatter the faces of Ragnar’s sons. Ubbe smiles slightly and Ivar drags himself forward, his face slack with a sort of ecstatic trance. They hang Aelle from a tree, his skin and bones spread out like wings at his sides.

Sandi: It was just . . . awful. The treatment Jarl Borg received when Ragnar performed the blood eagle was miles above. There had been respect and honor shown on both sides. Here, there’s nothing. Dissimilar cultures. No regard for anything other than the exacting of as much pain as possible, here. The atmosphere is dark, thick, quiet. Heavy with pain and bloodlust, really. Aelle’s screams seem to echo to the other main characters not present: Lagertha and Ecbert both “hear” him—or the sounds of their own thoughts—as Aelle is killed. And as much as I can’t bear to watch torture, I have to give credit to the cinematographers again; this was done and well done for the purpose and atmosphere. Violent? Yes. But it was meant to be. The Vikings often had brutal practices.  Cathartic? I think it was. Björn’s blood-spattered face seemed to indicate it, anyway.

So what is next for Vikings? How will the season end within the next two episodes? Revenge has been handled, but what of the loose ends? Did Helga’s daughter, Tanaruz, see the blood eagle happen? What will be next for Lagertha? How will Harald Finehair make Norway his own? I think a lot happened this week that was gratuitous in one way or another and I hope that next week I’ll be proven wrong.

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 another episode!

“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!)

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!

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.

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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.

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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.

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sandi: Even the greatest navigators have their off days…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sandi: History Channel apparently says this is Odin.

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

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

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 Thanks for joining us! Tune in next ODINSday for another episode!
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: Uncertain Hour

 

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“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.

Follow us on twitter, #ShieldGeeks, where and Lissa and I live-tweet during each episode, as has been our custom since Season One.


146a6-lissa-bryanLissa 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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Sandi: For reasons that will become obvious, I am half-inclined to add “In vino, veritas” to this week’s episode.

Lissa: This episode had a lot of… strange moments for me.

Sandi: Oh, it really did. On some of them I concur, even. Some humor, some pathos, some awkwardness, and some boot soles. It was a strange night.

Lissa: Lagertha is cheered as she walks through Kattegat’s main street toward Aslaug. Aslaug, adorned in her queenly robes, is standing there with the Shiny Sword on her palms. Even the Seer has come out to watch. Aslaug starts out by playing the victim. “How strange, Lagertha, that you should play the usurper. One woman against another.”

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Sandi: Even from the initial words, it was plain that his was not the showdown that had been hinted at in previews. History Channel VIKINGS previews are, though, notoriously misleading. Seeing the Seer out of his ritual space was a surprise. He’s taller when he’s upright than one is accustomed to seeing.

pic-two-epi-14Lissa: Lagertha sheathes her sword. “I was never the usurper. Always the usurped.”

Sandi: Now, that’s a lie, really. Lagertha could be said to have usurped her own demesne of Hedeby, back in the day. She provoked her husband into hurting her badly enough in public that she was able to strike him down and usurp his power and authority. This would be well known by each and every one of her listeners, as well. I think that here, she is laying a case for her vengeance in Kattegat alone, by saying she’d been wronged. In public. Which would be the right thing to do in terms of the law.

Lissa: Lagertha says that Aslaug stole her husband, her home, and her happiness. Aslaug retorts that Ragnar wanted to be with her, and Lagertha accuses Aslaug of bewitching him. Aslaug says that women have power over men sometimes, but she didn’t use any magic on him. Aslaug tells Lagertha that Ragnar is dead. Lagertha doesn’t want to believe it. Aslaug tells her she saw it in a dream. Lagertha retorts that she doesn’t KNOW for sure he’s dead. Aslaug doesn’t try to defend her völva powers. She smiles and says that Lagertha may be right. It was only a dream. In any case, Lagertha can have her home back. She will not fight. She’s not her mother, or her father. “I have fulfilled my destiny. The gods foretold Ragnar would have many sons. I have given him those sons. I am as much a part of his saga, Lagertha, as you are.” She tosses the sword at Lagertha’s feet. All she asks is that Lagertha give her safe passage to go wherever she wishes. Her sons, she says, will be grateful to Lagertha for it.

Sandi: I see in their exchange the equivalent of a courtroom proceeding, ending with an abrupt acceptance of the verdict as Aslaug tosses the sword at Lagertha’s feet. And then, we were expecting, perhaps, a cheer or a farewell scenario or something.

Lissa: Lagertha agrees and Aslaug struts away, her lips curved in a triumphant smile.

Lissa: She pauses at the end of the street, and her smile freezes. She starts to tilt forward and we see an arrow protruding from between her shoulder blades. As she falls, we see Lagertha standing behind her with a bow in hand.

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Sandi: I confess I was startled that Lagertha had done this herself. When I saw the arrow, I assumed that Lagertha had set up someone on a rooftop as she had done in the battle prior, someone who was ready to handle things if the legal proceedings got ugly. But that’s clearly not how it went down.

Lissa: I was shocked by this. It honestly didn’t seem to be Lagertha’s “style” to give safe passage and then shoot an enemy in the back. Every revenge slaying she’s ever done has been face-to-face and she’s kept her word about it. I could see her killing Aslaug on the spot, or even hunting her down afterward and making her life a misery, but this just didn’t seem “Lagertha” to me.

Sandi: Though I was startled, I was not put off by Lagertha’s action, here. I don’t believe it was the wisest thing she could have done (LagerthAthena she isn’t, apparently, owl companion not withstanding), but I got it. She had waited. She had bided her time. She had arranged her people and provided an appropriate venue, and she took her revenge on the woman who had basically been the impetus for upending her entire life.

That Ragnar is the ultimate guilty party is a given, but Lagertha will always love that man so she took her vengeance on the other woman.

Lissa: Aslaug is given the cinematic version of a Viking funeral – the boats and flaming arrows thing. Here’s where I wish they would have inserted one of those little historical nods and had Aslaug’s interment be the Oseberg ship burial.  The chanting was beautiful, though, as the Viking ladies add jewelry and other items to her pyre boat.

Sandi: Notice the absolute lack of horror at Aslaug’s public murder. Notice the apparent acceptance of Lagertha’s actions. This is, as Hirst is showing again, the 9th Century and the world was a different place back then.

Lissa: It was sort of an anti-climactic end to the queen people loved to hate. As I’d mentioned in our podcast, I was hoping they would continue with the Sagas, and Aslaug leading an army to avenge Ragnar’s death (in the Sagas, her sons, but since they didn’t die and Ragnar seems destined to…) I was hoping Aslaug and Lagertha could come to a truce and work together to avenge the man they both loved. What a journey that could have been! But, alas, it shall have to be explored only in fanfic now…

Sandi: Anti-climactic indeed, and a bit disappointing for that. But as you say, there’s always fan fiction! If History Channel had chosen to follow the female lines, this could have been an epic tale, but it is evident that the future story will follow the males and the legends and histories told of them. It is best that the show focus more tightly; exploring everything can be confusing.

Lissa: Ragnar tells the soldiers at the city gates to take him to Ecbert, and they will be rewarded for treating one of his friends well. He is soundly thrashed while Ivar watches. We next see him in a small iron cage, suspended off the ground a few inches. I couldn’t figure out why they’d bother with suspending the cage such a small distance off the ground, and Sandi swooped in to offer the answer:

Sandi: The imprisonment is clearly a petty (and effective) treatment, here. Ragnar’s entire demeanor is quiescent. The beating he received was vastly overdone under the circumstances and the imprisonment unnecessary except as a means to humiliate and unman him.

Lissa: Aethelwulf questions Ragnar, demanding to know where the rest of his men are. Ragnar says he killed them. He asks Aethelwulf to be kind to Ivar and appeals to Aethelwulf as a father himself. Aethelwulf snaps that Ragnar is an animal who deserves to be in a cage.

Sandi: Aethelwulf is suffering from an inferiority complex, and I can’t really blame him. Even beaten, filthy, locked up, and at the mercy of his captors, Ragnar exudes serenity and confidence as to his position. Aethelwulf has never had that kind of personal strength; he’s been held back for too long in his life.

historys-vikings-season-4-part-2-episode-14-ragnar-lothbrok-in-a-cageLissa: Ecbert has Ragnar, and his cage, brought into his hall. He wants to chat. Ragnar pleads to see Ivar, because he doesn’t know if his son is alive or dead. Ecbert nods, and two soldiers carry Ivar in and deposit him in a chair. He’s well-dressed and clean, and has no visible wounds. Ragnar asks him how he is, and Ivar tells him he’s fine. Ecbert offers Ivar some food and says that Ivar is his guest. He orders the soldiers to have Ivar treated well. Ivar is taken from the room. He calls over his shoulder to his father as he is carried away, “Don’t [mess] with them.” (The Viking wording might have been a little rougher, but both of our blogs are PG.) Ecbert asks what Ivar said and Ragnar replies that Ivar said “Thank you.”

Sandi: This was a nice little scene that did a few things. One, it reinforced Ragnar’s purposeful projection of his son being weak and unable to handle himself, which Ragnar is keen on making the public perception as we the viewers are aware. Ivar plays along, but only on the surface, as his native tongue conveys his true feelings. In a non-PG manner. 😉 This father and son are contrasted definitively with Ecbert and Aethelwulf. Ragnar might be the dominant figure, but he respects his son and works with him.

Lissa: Ecbert tells Ragnar that he’s sorry the Wessex settlement was destroyed by Aethelwulf, but it was, of course, done on Ecbert’s orders. He regrets it now. “Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.” But it was part of a much larger, long-term strategy.

b-historys-vikings-season-4-part-2-episode-14-ragnar-lothbrok-and-king-ecbert-670x447Sandi: His sincerity is as ersatz as Splenda® in my coffee. Which is to say, not at all effective or believable in place of the genuine article. And Ecbert knows Ragnar will feel this way (with appropriate, 9th Century equivalents) but he says so regardless because he also knows that Ragnar is a self-confessed corrupt fellow. Just like Ecbert himself. They understand one another so the words can be said for form without belief and, somehow, this works for them as a means of communication.

Lissa: He has Magnus brought in to meet Ragnar. The boy’s eyes are full of wonderment. Magnus tells Ragnar that his mother told him stories of his amazing father, and he can see now that the stories are true. Ragnar tells Magnus that his birth was truly a miracle, since he never had sex with Kwenthrith. After the boy leaves, Ecbert says he always had his doubts about the boy’s paternity. He asks Ragnar why it took him so long to return, and why he’s here now. Ragnar replies with Ecbert’s own words from earlier: it’s part of a larger, long-term strategy. Ecbert cracks up.

Sandi: Well, Magnus certainly looked as if he could have been lo, another Ragnarsson, but no! I wonder if the wonderful Amy Bailey knew that Kwenthrith hadn’t had sex with Ragnar in that memorable, erm, healing scene? I felt dreadful for Magnus here, as he was confronted with a fat lie. Ecbert, unsurprisingly, appears to have not a care in the world for how his charge-to-date might be handling the abrupt disclosure.

pic-four-epi-fourteenLissa: In Hedeby, Margrethe opens the door to Ubbe and Sigurd’s prison. She tells the boys they need to get back to Kattegat. The boys ride there and find Lagertha sitting in the great hall. She is wearing a red dress with a high black collar that immediately went into our “Boot Sole File” of anachronistic costumes. History Channel… There is just no excuse, man. No excuse.

Sandi: Yeah . . . No. The official title for this episode is An Uncertain Hour Before Morning, and I really feel the “uncertain” refers, in large part, to Lagertha. Or at least our perception of her. I wonder where her character’s arc is heading?

Lissa: They demand to know where their mother is and Lagertha is simple and direct: “I killed her. She took Kattegat from me. I wanted it back.” The boys ask why she didn’t kill them too, and she tells them that it’s not their fault their mother bewitched their father. Ubbe says it was a mistake not killing them. The enraged boys start fighting their way through Lagertha’s guards.

Sandi: One has to believe that Lagertha had known this confrontation was inevitable, hence her utterly calm demeanor as it went on. She had her defenses in place, as it were, from the implacable gaze to the bodyguard. Ubbe taking the lead in the attack, going so far as to shove his younger brother aside, did surprise me. Why not take the extra pair of arms? I think perhaps that Ubbe was just furious and he wanted to be uninhibited, not thinking about the defense of anyone else as he went on the attack.

Lissa: But they’re eventually taken down, and dragged out of the hall, unharmed except for some bruises. They lick their wounds with some mead by the fire. Ubbe wants to attack Lagertha. Go into the hall and finish her off. Sigurd scoffs. Aslaug wouldn’t have done the same for them. Her favorite was Ivar. And Harbard. He reminisces – or rather bitterly recollects – what a fool she made of herself over Harbard. Ubbe says that Lagertha should be made to pay for killing their mother, and Sigurd says Ivar will do it… If he’s still alive. They both heard what Aslaug said about the ship sinking and Ragnar and Ivar being killed. Sigurd laughs at that.

Sandi: This is part of the “in vino, veritas” theme that I found in this episode. Okay, so they’re drinking mead (have I mentioned before that it’s a favorite of mine?), but still. The young men are coming down off the adrenal rush of combat, imbibing alcohol, and they’ve a common enemy. Of course they’re talking rather more freely than usual and of course past experiences color everything. Sigurd carries a grudge against Ivar and his mother, having lived with the inequality of the various mother-son relationships in a more intense way than Ubbe did. He saw what Harbard did to Kattegat as a whole and in his own house in particular. Resentment will linger always, I think, though he knows that Ivar would be better at making anyone pay for wrongs against the family. Ivar has, after all, killed before. But he doesn’t believe his legendary father would die. And he likely believes that if Ragnar lives, so does Ivar.

Lissa: Back in Wessex, Ecbert is justifying himself. He says he’s united all of the small warring kingdoms in England. Which… he didn’t. And using “England” itself is kind of an anachronism, but we’ll just roll with it, because it’s that kind of episode. He tells Ragnar that he’s considered by the people to be the most dangerous man in the world. . He shares some food with the ravenous Ragnar, and some wine, and then unlocks the cage. Ragnar collapses to the floor when he tries to straighten up after several days in such cramped accommodations. It’s a reminder that they’re both older men, beset by bodily infirmity. Ecbert says he has to decide what to do with him. From his position on the floor, Ragnar says that the Seer prophesied he would die on the day that the blind man could see him. That means Ecbert must kill him.

Sandi: More of Ersatz Ecbert, here. Met by Realistic Ragnar. They are older, though, so there’s no invitation to bathe in the communal Roman pool. (Though I really wish Ragnar could get cleaned up a bit!) There’s merely the testing of weapons, verbal only, on the familiar foe.

Lissa: Aethelwulf escorts young Magnus out the gate of the city and hands him a small leather satchel. He tells Magnus it’s time for him to go off and learn to be a man.

Sandi: This scene, to me, is the most heartbreaking and troubling of the whole episode. The young man—boy, really—had been raised by a king, told he was the son of a legendary king, and he was innocent of harsh realities. Soft in feature and manner, his aspect also spoke of elegance of condition. He was a pampered scion. Until he wasn’t. And then he ws kicked out on his own without warning or any preparation whatsoever. This was deplorable, in my view, as the lad had done nothing wrong.

Lissa: Magnus is understandably bewildered. He asks where he’s supposed to go. Athelwulf essentially tells him that’s his job to figure out, and if anyone troubles him, to tell them that he’s Magnus, son of Ragnar Lothbrook, and everything will be fine.

Sandi: Really, I was speechless. My whole mind, as the mother of sons, was occupied with all the many ways in which Magnus could be hurt out there in the 9th Century.

Lissa: Magnus is like a dog dumped beside the road, with the owner blithely saying it will be fine, hunting rabbits and such, and driving away. He stands there sobbing in the rain, clutching his only earthly possessions, wearing clothes on his back worth more than the average highwayman will see in a lifetime.

Kid is frickin’ doomed.

Lissa: Aside from the cruelty of the situation, it doesn’t make much sense. He may not be the son of Ragnar, but he’s the son of Princess Kwenthrith of Mercia, and no one aside from Ecbert knows Ragnar disavowed his parentage. They can say whatever they like. And if they want the kid dead, why not kill him right there? After all, he could later return with an army at his back and press for his birthright from his mother’s line. Stranger things have happened throughout history. (Perkin Warbeck, anyone?)

Sandi: As you say, this makes no sense plot-wise (after all, Magnus was basically a non-entity before, so forgetting about him again in the show would work) or character development-wise unless it’s to show how heartless King Ecbert is. But we already knew that, right?

Lissa: Ragnar and Ecbert are drunk and having an existential debate about religious faith and our purpose here on earth. Ragnar says, in essence, that he’s come to Wessex to die. Ecbert throws up his hands. “You Vikings are incorrigible. You emerge from the womb with only one thing on your mind: How to die!”

Sandi: And here we have the beginning of another “in vino” scene!

Lissa: As we discussed last night, preparing for death was an important aspect of life in both cultures, especially in an era in which death was omnipresent, and could strike for seemingly no reason at all.

Sandi: Basically, it’s true. Ragnar made the point about the Christians being obsessed with death and the afterlife in this time as well, so the men are, once again, on par. Which they knew in advance of this part of the discussion. Their verbal fencing seems endless.

Lissa: The conversation turns to Athelstan, whom both of them loved. Ragnar says that Floki killed him for jealousy’s sake – because Ragnar loved Athelstan more. Ecbert says he, too, felt jealous, when Athelstan chose to leave with Ragnar instead of stay with Ecbert.

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Lissa: Ecbert brings in someone special, and he doesn’t need to identify him, because Ragnar instantly recognizes Alfred. The scene is incredibly tender, a moment of genuine emotion so rarely found in movies and television. Ragnar embraces the boy. It was a wholly unexpected kindness that Ecbert would share Alfred with Ragnar, giving him a living glimpse of the man they both loved and lost.

Sandi: I loved this scene. I had real tears and everything. Casting for Alfred was well done; the lad could indeed have sprung from Athelstan and Judith. We don’t know what the future Great King might have thought, for this moment was—unlike Magnus’s—not for his benefit. It was all for Ragnar.

Lissa: That night, Ragnar sits at the foot of his bed sleepless and we see visions of the sunlight sparkling on waves. Ecbert, too, is sleepless, kneeling before an altar and quoting Ecclesiastes. The King James Version, I might add. History Channel… We need to talk.

Sandi: I am wondering if the intent was not to have him quoting the KJV but a Latin translation from the Greek—which would have come from the Hebrew, in all likelihood. It would have been far less of a History Channel faux pas if they had had Ecbert at least begin quoting in Latin, transitioning to English for those of us who watch VIKINGS in that language.

joan-jett-epi-14Lissa: Ubbe and Sigurd wake up, probably with severe hangovers, and see Joan Jett perched on the edge of the bed they didn’t sleep in. She’s perky and resplendent in a gorgeously woven tunic. She tells them if they harm a hair on Lagertha’s head, they’re dead men. Ubbe replies that if they don’t fear Lagertha, why would they fear her? Joan Jett smiles slightly and flounces out.

Sandi: I’m still trying to get a handle on Joan Jett, here. Lagertha certainly hasn’t demonstrated a need for a bodyguard, but it seems Joan Jett is thus appointed. Her woven garment was indeed intricate and well made, but I took exception to the extraneous fabric on her left arm. It served no purpose other than for show, unless Joan Jett was trying to make an impression on Ubbe and Sigurd beyond the threat of violence.

Lissa: Ecbert tells Ragnar that he can’t kill him. He can’t let him live, but he can’t kill him, either. He just can’t. Ragnar suggests that Ecbert hand him over to Aella, and “wash his hands” of Ragnar’s death. More Christian anachronisms in my Vikings. Ragnar tells Ecbert to send Ivar home with a message for Ragnar’s other sons: that Ecbert did everything he could to stop Aella from harming Ragnar. Then the boys will focus their vengeance on Aella. You can see the wheels turning in Ecbert’s brain. What a lovely, convenient way to destroy Aella, and get rid of Ragnar, too.

no-ship-logoSandi: There is also a reference to lung ripping, and I am reminded that in legend, Ivar performs a blood eagle on Aelle. We discussed it a bit on the podcast we did with the awesome folks at No Ship Network. And Ragnar did use what we see as a Christian reference but the washing of the hands would have been a Jewish phrase in its initial use and, it is possible that Athelstan had used the phrase in the time that Ragnar had known him, so I’m leaning toward Ragnar’s using the phrase on purpose. Part of a larger, long-term strategy.

Lissa: He leans forward and says to Ecbert, “Do not be afraid.”

Sandi: And if we’re thinking of Christian phrases used out of place, this might be another one. Almost whenever an angel appears to people in the Bible, the angel says, “Do not be afraid.” This is often a harbinger for news from on high, but here . . .why does Ragnar say this? His aspect as seen below is hardly angelic.

 Season’s Greetings to all!


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: Two Journeys

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“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 to our series on the History Channel show Vikings. 
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146a6-lissa-bryanLissa 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: This episode was entiled “Two Voyages” but it really was about three: Ragnar’s expedition to England, Björn’s voyage to Rome, and Lagertha’s journey to get Kattegat back from Aslaug.

Sandi: Ah, clever you! Yes. That last really was a journey as well, physically and psychologically. (I had a lot of “psychological moments” with this episode. Bear with me.)

Lissa: Ivar wakes on the beach with his father sprawled beside him. Wearily, Ragnar rises and scans the sea. He announces he doesn’t see his ships. Which makes sense, what with the sinking and all.

Sandi: It is rather barren there as we join Our Heroes on the beach. Still, one has to hand it to Ragnar; he got them across the sea. Barely, but there.

Lissa: Ivar tries to get to his feet with the aid of his braces and crutches. Impatiently, Ragnar knocks him down, straddles him, and rips the braces from his son’s legs. He tells Ivar to stop trying to pretend to be normal, because he’s not, and once he realizes that is when greatness will happen.

Sandi: This is, coming from the mom of a special needs son, a bit harsh. But then, the Viking world is not my warm and comfortable 21st Century world, and the truths that guide the lives of the Northmen are a harsher set.

Lissa: He flings the braces away and orders Ivar to crawl.

They meet up with a far-reduced crew, staggering down the beach. The men demand to know that they’re going to do now. Good question. They’re understandably upset, and they blame Ragnar for this misfortune.

Sandi: This is not a crew Ragnar would have chosen ten or twenty years ago. These are, if you recall, “the dregs” of the Kattegat adventurers. So, they didn’t get their longships to shore, it appears, and they are whining about their circumstances. These are not men of iron, but men of sand.

Lissa: Björn’s fleet approaches a harbor and Rollo peers out the window and sees the Viking sails. He’s wearing a luxurious, floor-length robe and his hair is just awesome.

As he watches, a genuinely happy smile crosses his face.

Sandi: Another of those “psychological moments” for me. Here is where a man who has lived a prosperous life realizes he’s displaced, to a degree. He’s pleased to see the signs of home.

Lissa: The English discover the washed-up remains of the shipwreck. Aethelwulf picks up a piece of tattered cloth and sees Ragnar’s raven insignia. He immediately identifies it and orders his men to find Ragnar Lothbrook.

Sandi: Like many, though, when I saw Aethelwulf I immediately wondered where Alfred was. Still, it was good to see Aethelwulf and I wonder what role he’ll play in this half of the season. I wonder what the man’s been doing, to have such an instant identification of Ragnar from a piece of tattered cloth, though. That speaks a bit of obsession, you know?

Lissa: Ragnar and his ragtag crew are staggering through the woods. Ragnar first tries dragging Ivar on a sledge. Ivar mocks him for having to tend to a cripple.

Sandi: The interactions between these two men during this episode is quite the study. A man whose son knows he tried to abandon him. A son who has to constantly poke at his father, with affection, to make sure he’s not being ignored or overlooked again.

Lissa: Rollo has Björn and his men brought in, surrounded by soldiers. Whenever Björn tries to approach, spears clash together in front of him to block his path. It’s not a warm family reunion, by any means. Rollo greets Björn in Frankish – pointedly emphasizing his change in national allegiance. He introduces Gisla and the three young children standing around her throne. William, Marcellus, and Celsa.

Sandi: The spear thing is very dramatic, as is the language. Rollo is still Rollo. Bigger than life and all about owning a room. The children are nondescript—at first—and even Gisla seems to have none of her usual spark as she sits on her throne. All the while, I am wondering when her father died. Or has he? If he was Charlemagne’s grandson (as he stated often when onscreen), that would make him Charles the Bald—but the man had a head of hair, so that’s likely out. It is more likely that the Charles in this show is Charles the Simple, who was a great-great-grandson of Charlemagne. But that would put him, historically, way out of our timeline. However! We’ll go with what we have. Or perhaps had. For we still haven’t seen the man.

Lissa: We’ve discussed before that Rollo never had children with Gisla – if she really existed, that is – and his descendants were from his wife Poppa/Popa. I’d speculated in our podcast [when we were interviewed by the No Ship Network – sl] that Poppa might be a plotline, as in maybe Gisla wasn’t able to have children, like Lagertha, and Rollo’s attention would turn to a woman who could give him heirs. But it seems they decided to make Gisla the mother of Duke Rollo’s progeny. William Longsword, Count of Rouen, was actually an adult when Rollo became a Christian and was baptized alongside him, but ended up being excommunicated later for attacking some holdings of another noble. He has a beautiful tomb in the cathedral in Rouen.

Sandi: Indeed, I do fear that Poppa is not happening in VIKINGS. At least, not in the current rendering of the duke’s family tree. Though, it is possible that the writers might bring in another woman for Rollo at some future point. One never knows!

Lissa: In any case, Floki is stunned to see Rollo’s family, but his shock turns to amusing acceptance when young William sticks his tongue out at him. He gives a little shrug, like “Okay, I can accept that.”

Sandi: I wonder if a younger Floki would have reciprocated? And I also wonder how William, there, is being trained/raised if he does this in the presence of possibly hostile foreigners in the Frankish court. Is no one teaching him how to Royal?

Lissa: Gisla “forgetting how to princess” again.You’re absolutely right – as cute as that scene is, Gisla’s children should be much better-behaved by this age.

Björn asks for safe passage through Rollo’s lands so he can continue his voyage to Rome. He shows Rollo the map, which Rollo takes from him. He sends Björn and his men off to the dungeon.

Björn shouts back at him that there are sixty Viking skips in the harbor and the men on them might get a bit testy if they don’t hear back from Björn soon, but Rollo ignores that. Floki shouts at Björn not to do anything stupid, and Björn retorts that he’s never in his life done anything stupid. To which I reply:

not-even-vikings

Sandi: This is clearly a lesson Björn needs to learn: Never relinquish a treasure to a head of state. He didn’t intend to give it over, of course, but he took his hands off of it, trusting Rollo to keep his hands off of it as well. Björn’s threats mean little as Rollo feels that he knows his own countrymen; even if he doesn’t, anymore.

Lissa: In the woods, Ragnar and his men pause when they hear a female voice singing. They quickly hide themselves behind the trees. A lovely young girl is picking mushrooms and singing a haunting song as she harvests, unaware of the danger only inches away. Ragnar and his men remain very still and silent, and escape her notice. And again, the ghost of Gyda pained my heart as I thought of Ragnar’s traditional gentleness with young women – Yidu notwithstanding.

Sandi: I wondered as to the plot-purpose of this scene. Was it there for character development to show Ragnar’s continued care for the innocent? Was it to show how the men obeyed him even if they weren’t happy with him, thus demonstrating Ragnar’s lasting legacy? Or was it to show the sense of ease of the locals as they allowed a young girl to go off by herself in the forest? We likely will never know.

And Yidu . . . Don’t get me started.

Lissa: When they see a contingent of soldiers on horseback, Ragnar decides it’s time for Ivar and himself to go their separate way. “We can no longer travel with our friends. It can only be you and me.” That night, they slink through the darkness, and slay the other warriors. Ivar kills two himself. One quick-thinking woman tries to offer Ivar her body, but he stabs her.

Sandi: Well, here’s yet another “moment” for me. Killing someone in the heat of battle is one thing, as any warrior will tell you. But the slaughter of the sleeping is a totally different experience. Ivar is still a young man, for all his charming sociopathy, and he’s not (to date, I don’t think?) had a lot of experience with wholesale murder. I wonder if the night will linger in his psyche or if he’ll just move past it.

Lissa: Ragnar and his son bicker good-naturedly as Ragnar hauls Ivar first in a fireman’s carry, then in a piggyback – at one point Ragnar making donkey noises to make Ivar laugh – but he says something very important. “I didn’t come here to go back.” And as we know from the Sagas and the foreshadowing, it’s not his fate to return to Kattegat.

Sandi: It’s easy to miss Ragnar’s stated intent in this scene. It’s delivered as just a part of a conversation. There are smiles and laughter and jokes. Ragnar has, though, spent two episodes saying farewell, so that he says it here as well is not surprising.

Lissa: Speaking of Kattegat, Lagertha is preparing to take it back. We see her walking through a contingent of training warriors on the way to her hall.

Sandi: Yes, the third “journey” in train here, as you mentioned at the outset. Where Ragnar had to bribe people to sail with him, Lagertha has a warband ready for combat. They’re young, enthusiastic, and tough.

Lissa: Much was said on Twitter about her ageless beauty in comparison to the somewhat more battered and grayed Ragnar.

Sandi: Of course, we give all due credit to the beautiful Katheryn Winnick, who is certifiably amazing in real life. Her fictional character’s gene pool is just as awesome, apparently.

lagerthathenaLissa: In the hall, Lagertha is doing her Athena thing again with the owl. She says that only two of Ragnar’s sons are left in Kattegat. Joan Jett asks if she’ll kill them and Lagertha doesn’t answer. Margrethe has arrived with Torvi. Joan Jett learns that Margrethe was “being used” by Ragnar’s sons. Joan Jett asks Margrethe if she hated them. Margrethe says she was afraid that Ivar would kill her. Lagertha says that’s enough questions – she needs to talk to Torvi. She asks Torvi how her son Guthram is. Lagertha, of course, cared for the boy when Torvi’s piece-of-work husband separated them. Torvi says he’s doing great. There was much speculation in our Twitter convo about why Lagertha hadn’t asked about her own grandchildren.

But that’s just a guess. We don’t see them, or any mention of Tovi’s kids with Björn.

Sandi: As soon as we heard Lagertha mention Ragnar’s sons, there was speculation as to what she planned to do with them, as she’s seeking to lead in Kattegat—or at least depose Aslaug. Since they are Ragnar’s sons, I speculated that she wouldn’t kill them; she loves Ragnar, even yet. My guess was she’d use sex on them in some way. Because, well, it clearly is a vulnerability for them, as Margrethe could witness.

Lissa: Burger King Ecbert appears, and he’s seated at a table, listening to Aethelwulf tell him that Ragnar has returned. All they’ve found of him, aside from the floaters on the beach, is a contingent of warriors, slaughtered in the woods for some unknown reason. Aethelwulf refers to Ragnar as a fearsome eternal wolf, sent to ravage the humble lambs of Christendom, but Ecbert is more realistic. He says that he knows Ragnar is just a man. Ecbert isn’t unduly alarmed by Ragnar’s return. He’s got a council meeting on his mind.

Sandi: Ah, Ecbert. Good to see you, too. I wonder if he’s been waiting with that tenterhook feeling for Ragnar to return, since the obliteration of the Wessex settlement. (I am also apparently wondering a lot this episode…)

Lissa: In the woods, Ragnar and his son are having a bit of a lighthearted bicker as they rest.

Sandi: This is very bittersweet, to me. It’s almost as if Ragnar is trying so hard to get all the Good Dad moments in here, at what he has determined will be the last leg of his life’s journey.

Lissa: But Ragnar turns serious after a moment. “I thought your legs were a weakness, and you wouldn’t survive. I was wrong. Your legs have given you a strength, a strength that even your brothers don’t have. You’re like a deaf man whose eyesight is sharper than anyone else’s. You are special, not in spite of your legs, but because of them.” The expressions that crossed Ivar’s face while Ragnar spoke were exquisite, and the camera lingered on him as a gamut of feelings flickered through his eyes. They were the words Ivar had wanted to hear his entire life.

He recovered after a moment, enough to tease his father that it’s the first time he’s ever heard Ragnar admit he was wrong. Ragnar tells him not to get used to it.

Sandi: This is in comparison to Aslaug’s farewell to him, I think. She has always wanted to protect him, shield him. Ragnar wants his son to be strong and has given him—just in his words and deeds over a shortish amount of time—the strength he will need for the rest of his life.

Lissa: In their jail cell, Halfdan and the other Vikings are chewing Björn out for getting them into this mess. They seem mostly bored and frustrated by the situation – you know, being imprisoned by a guy who’d slaughtered their kind and might be intending to do the same to them.

Sandi: I really do think that the quality of the raiding parties has gone down since the “old days”. 

Lissa: And it’s all Björn’s fault.

Sandi: I got nothing, here. @smidbeach said it all.

arab-ringLissa: Two guards come and collect Björn and strike off his irons. Halfdan yells after him, “You’d better not let us down, Ironsides!” Björn is taken to meet with Rollo in his hall, where a huge map has been spread over the table. He translates as a scholar explains the significance. The map Björn had was just a scrap of a much larger one which showed the entire Roman empire with its network of roads. To get to Rome, they’ll have to pass by Saracen Spain, currently Muslim territory. We speculated last night that the show might possibly incorporate the Allah ring found in the grave of a Viking woman.

 

over-the-mapSandi: Björn had to be a bit overwhelmed by the sheer scope of the world he was shown with the enlarged map, but his poker-face was in full view and he seemed to take it all in stride. You can imagine, though, that his ambitions likely shifted a bit within a heartbeat or two.

Lissa: Rollo and Gisla have a terrible fight about it. Gisla shouts that Rollo is no longer a Viking. He’s a Christian. Gisla says their children are not Vikings. They’re Christian. If she thought they were Vikings, she declares, she would kill them before she killed herself. Which made me want to remind her that’s sort of what happened with Sigurd and Brunhilde. Her daughter ended up stuffed in a harp. Do you want your kid in a harp, Gisla? ‘Cause that’s how your kid ends up stuffed in a harp.

Rollo charges forward and grabs her by the throat. There’s a bit of an Alice Kramden feel to this scene, because Gisla doesn’t even flinch or break eye contact when Rollo does his Viking version of “Wham, boom, straight to the moon!

go-for

Rollo tells her he is a Christian, but when he hears thunder, he still hears the beating of Thor’s hammer.

Gisla says, “Have you … you know … you tried not being a Viking?”

She says that if he goes – whether he lives or dies – it’s the end of their relationship.

Sandi: Gisla has apparently never learned how to Wife or Queen or even Mom. I get that she has standards, but a woman in her position has to watch what she says, for her words have power. They just don’t have enough power to keep Rollo home . . .

Lissa: But go he does. We next see him on the deck of a ship, being tied up by the rest of the crew. He’s taking it with considerable aplomb, I must say.

Sandi: The subtle moments between Björn and Floki got me all tense. What would they do to Christian Uncle Rollo? Well, they pulled a classic. 

Lissa: They tie him, hands and feet, and throw him into the water, but what’s a little keelhauling between friends? They don’t haul him up until he’s almost dead.

Sandi: A punishment/discipline/vengeance that is as old as sailing itself, what we call keelhauling has the advantage of being fairly easy to accomplish, doesn’t require extra equipment, can be done with few accomplices, and—unlike straight-out execution—can be nonfatal. I imagine Rollo learned a lot about his nephew without a word being said. Foremost being: Don’t Touch My Map.

Lissa: Lagertha is giving a dinner for Ubbe and Sigurd. Margrethe is there. Lagertha and Joan Jett tell the boys that Margrethe is in love with both of them and they’re all going to have to work it out amongst themselves who gets to be with her. Or… they could, you know, share.

Sandi: Sex. Yeah. And the young men, being who they are, walk right into the trap she laid for them.

Lissa: We’re next seein’ some lovin’ in the bedchamber, but surprise! It’s all a trick to get them caught with their pants down… literally. The boys are imprisoned safely while Lagertha leads her warriors toward Kattegat. Soldiers march and ships sail – all in her colors.

Lissa: When a woman sees them, she screams and flees into the town. The warriors attack, slaughtering those who fight back.

Sandi: Hey, if Lagertha was going for impact, she won before she ever sent her people in to fight. Psychological warfare in a most effective way. Her warriors are in their prime, by and large, and all of Kattegat’s best are off a-viking.

Lissa: The fighting is intense, especially in close quarters – two shield walls bashing against one another. At Lagertha’s signal, a horn blows and archers appear from their hiding places on the roofs and fire arrows down into the opposing side. After a few minutes of raining death from the skies, Lagertha shouts “Enough!”

Sandi: The question was raised on twitter as to how Lagertha would handle this attack on what had been (and still was in many ways) her own home. More psychological moments for Vikings! As she says here, “These are my people.” It was a harsh time and she had to make a point. A harsh one. But she didn’t wipe out everyone; just enough to get the job done. 

Lissa: In the great hall, Aslaug is preparing. She dons a luxurious furred robe and a pendant headdress, and her eyeliner is on fleek. She unveils a brilliant sword from its wrappings. Some online speculated that the sword was Gram, the one gifted to Aslaug’s gradfather Sigmund by Odin himself, “all decked with gold and gleaming bright.”

But it may simply be King Horik’s sword.

Whatever it is, it seems to be based on the Ulfberht sword. She marches outside to meet Lagertha, sword balanced her palms.An offering, not a threat.

sword-offer

Sandi: The sword of legend, indeed. I think, even if it isn’t an Ulfberht sword, it is certainly purposefully designed to make those who know of it to think of it. An allusion is a powerful communication tool.

Lissa: Ragnar pleads with Ivar to play up his disability as they approach a town. He’s recognized as they get closer to the gates, and archers come to line the wall. Ragnar slowly raises his hands.

Sandi: And we are gifted with lo, another cliffhanger! So we have Ragnar & Son, basically alone in the land they were supposedly going to raid for retribution or reward, approaching an armed town. Grandpa in a trenchcoat, his son dragging himself by his arms. Scary enough to warrant a complement of archers? 

Apparently! Looking 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

 

VIKINGS banner

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

“100% more evisceration talk than expected.” 
 

“These chicks are machines!” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Talk VIKINGS: The Last Ship

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

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

146a6-lissa-bryanHeillir!

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

rollo tickertape

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

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

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

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

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

Lissa: … And then…

Sandi: . . . Yeah . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lissa: And that’s where it ends.

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

rollo ragnar aerial fight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ragnarssons band cover


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

The #ShieldGeeks Talk Vikings: Death All ‘Round

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

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

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

146a6-lissa-bryanHeillir!

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

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

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


Lissa: This episode, I think was aptly named!

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

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

vikings s4 e9 heave ho

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ecbert with the new crown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

no sex vikings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

erlandur revenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

The #ShieldGeeks Talk VIKINGS: Portage

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

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

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

146a6-lissa-bryanHeillir!

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

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

celtic-cross-clip-art-280x168

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

vikings_s4e8 longship pull

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

whorebard loves all

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

drowning Yidu poster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

what judith became

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

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

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


 

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

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