The #ShieldGeeks Talk Vikings: The Great Army

 

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

“100% more evisceration talk than expected.” 
 

“These chicks are machines!” 

– Steve No Ship Network
(CHECK THEM OUT FOR THEIR PODCASTED RECAPS and interviews! And Yes, we did one, too!)
Heillir! The Shieldmaidens of History (Protecting the Innocent from Anachronisms) welcome you to our ongoing series on the History Channel show Vikings. 
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lissabryan-authpicLissa Bryan is a delightful historian as well as being a wonderful writer. Her latest book, Dominionis a dystopian romance taking place at a time in the not-too-far-distant future.




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sigurd-on-the-strings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

s4-e17-pic-eleven

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

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

Cuinbattle

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

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

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

ivar-chariot

Sandi: Why so grim, Brother Bear? Is he thinking of how dangerous Ivar might truly be once given this era’s equivalent of a new car? Perhaps. Perhaps in the future, he and his brother will come to blows over the death of Aslaug and this troubles Björn. Perhaps he is just thinking that no one else has such a cool chariot. I hope we find out next week.
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 Thanks for joining us! Tune in next ODINSday for another episode!
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Heill þú farir, heill þú aftr komir, heill þú á sinnum sér!
Hale go forth, hale return, hale on your ways! – Vafþrúðnismál 4


The #ShieldGeeks Talk Vikings: S4 E16 Crossings

 

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

“100% more evisceration talk than expected.” 
 

“These chicks are machines!” 

– Steve No Ship Network
(CHECK THEM OUT FOR THEIR PODCASTED RECAPS and interviews! And Yes, we did one, too!)
Heillir! The Shieldmaidens of History (Protecting the Innocent from Anachronisms) welcome you to our ongoing series on the History Channel show Vikings. 
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146a6-lissa-bryan

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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: All His Angels

 

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

“100% more evisceration talk than expected.” 
 

“These chicks are machines!” 

– Steve No Ship Network
(CHECK THEM OUT FOR THEIR PODCASTED RECAPS AND FEEDBACK ‘CASTS! And Yes, we did one, too!)
Heillir! The Shieldmaidens of History (Protecting the Innocent from Anachronisms) welcome you 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: This episode was the end of an era, and I’m still “all the feels” as I type this.

Sandi: It really is the end of an era, but you and I both knew it was coming. That “foreboding feeling” has been haunting us since probably the middle of Season Three.

Lissa: Ecbert is struggling with the idea of turning Ragnar over to Aelle for execution. He agrees to send Ivar home, and Ragnar says he needs to talk with him one last time.

Sandi: Though I was highly skeptical of this, I was glad to see this was said (and later carried out) in good faith. I was worried that Ivar’s safe departure would be used as a carrot (or its opposite as a bludgeon) for Ragnar regarding a level of performance or something.

Lissa: In the meantime, Ivar is making friends with young Alfred. I really like this character and the actor who portrays him. He has such a peaceful and gentle demeanor. He and Ivar are playing chess, and it looked like to me they were playing with a replica of the Lewis Chessmen, a famous 12 century Norwegian artifact.

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Sandi: This is, to me, quite intriguing. We know that Alfred takes a firm stand against the Northmen in the future, but I wonder if Hirst has plans for this quiet, gentle moment to play into future international relations.

Lissa: Ragnar and Ivar meet and Ragnar tells him that he’s going to be executed. Ivar insists at first he’s going to stay and die too, and says flippantly he wants to be burned alive. Ragnar tells him that he must survive.  “It is far more important that you stay alive. People think that you are not a threat, but I know differently.”

Sandi: You have to figure that Ragnar knows these are his Last Words. And words said before dying are important (as we will learn later in the episode), so Ivar will carry these closest to him, perhaps, as he goes on in the world.

Lissa: He predicts that one day, the world will fear the name of Ivar the Boneless.

Sandi: And though Ragnar has never claimed to be a Seer, he does remember what the Seer said, long years before.

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“The sons of Ragnar Lothbrok will be spoken of as long as men have tongues to speak.”

Lissa: He says that Ivar is the son he wanted to bring with him on this journey. Ivar confesses to his father that he wishes he didn’t feel angry all the time, and wishes he could be happy. Ragnar scoffs at the idea of happiness and tells Ivar that without that anger he is nothing. Ivar tries to retract it by saying he was joking and Ragnar gives him a slap. He tells Ivar to be ruthless.

Sandi: It seems odd, here, for Ivar to mention that he doesn’t like feeling the way he does all the time. We have here a conflicted young sociopath, as we’ve mentioned before. He isn’t truly “joking”, I don’t think, but I also think Ragnar is aware of this. There is quite a strong bond between them, here at the end of their relationship.

Lissa: Before they part, Ragnar takes off his torc and presses it into Ivar’s hand. It’s a significant moment, considering what the torc represented to a Viking man. (We never saw Ivar get one of his own.) Ragnar is passing on so much to his son, represented by this simple, twisted band of metal. Ivar – rightfully – hesitates before he puts it on. Ragnar leans in before he is drawn away and whispers in his ear that Ivar must take vengeance … against Ecbert.

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Sandi: This really is another good moment. Having his king—his father, yes, but his king—give him a torc is huge. Ivar is a fine marksman, for all he cannot stand on his own, but he has perhaps not been officially recognized as attaining his manhood. Here, he is not only being given an heirloom, but also a mark of faith and honor. And then to be given what is, in effect, a secret mission? Wow. So, yes, get vengeance, Ragnar says. But also, avenge me against Ecbert, who cannot know I’m saying this or he might not let you go home.

Lissa: When Ivar boards the wagon to leave, Judith urges her son forward and Alfred goes over to offer one of the chessmen to Ivar. I mentioned on Twitter last night that Judith was being quite clever to encourage her son to build a bond of friendship – or at least cordial relations – with Ivar. Ivar looks down at the chessman in his hand for a moment and then closes his fingers around it.

Sandi: And though it has no real basis in anything, I was reminded of the interplay in the 2002 movie version of The Count of Monte Cristo, where the protagonist, Dantes (played by Jim Caviezel), and his antagonist, Mondego (played by Guy Pearce), exchange a chess piece back and forth during the movie as an indicator of which of them is enjoying the most favor. I know, it makes no sense, but I still thought of it. I guess I see it as a wish for future favor between the two men; though who knows how that will play out here.

Lissa: Judith is visited by Ecbert that night, and Ecbert says he feels like Pontius Pilate in handing Ragnar over to Aella. He feels like he’s sending a friend to his death. Judith says he has no choice and Ecbert scoffs at that. “Do I not?” he asks her repeatedly.

Sandi: I see this in direct contradiction to what is written in the Bible, when Pontius Pilate—whom Ecbert is equating himself to—is begged by his wife:

“Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” (Matthew 27:19 ESV)

So does Ecbert have a choice? Of course he does, as did Pilate himself. But still, he follows through with what he thinks he has to do.

Lissa: He visits Ragnar and tells him Aelle will make his death a huge spectacle. Ragnar is expecting it. He says he’ll make a profession of his faith in the gods. Ecbert retorts that Ragnar doesn’t really believe it any more, but Ragnar says his people do… His words are for them, in the end. Ragnar walks away, down a gauntlet of armed soldiers, the bright outdoors light shining around his dark, shuffling form. Walking towards the light.

Sandi: It is interesting, how he is set in what he’ll say at this juncture. We need to remember this conversation as he has a couple more on the way to King Aelle. He knows that his words will be remembered and he has every intention of claiming his place in Valhalla, for though he goes out as a captive, he is fighting for the future, I think.

Lissa: Ragnar is led out to a wagon with an iron cage in the back. The rain is pouring down, and the soldiers around him have their spears drawn as if Ragnar is in berserker mode.

Sandi: This is all theater. Every bit of it. From the moment Ragnar appeared at the village gates to the time of his death, he went forward with complete self-determination, knowing what would happen and welcoming it, really, for there is a purpose to him. Travis Fimmel always manages to make Ragnar look purposeful, here, even if it seems the man is in the control of others, he never is. Not really.

Lissa: Alfred and Ecbert watch as he climbs onto the wagon. Ecbert walks toward him, the train of his luxurious robe trailing in the thick mud. He motions Alfred over and Ragnar turns to the boy with a gift. It’s Athelstan’s cross. He tells Alfred it once belonged to his father, and as he’s climbing into the cage, he says if it brings him any comfort, Athelstan returned to the Christian God at the end of his life. Alfred tells Ragnar he’ll never forget him.

Sandi: I wonder if this is the last time we’ll see Young Alfred? Likely, but I feel a bit bad, you know, as I can’t remember if the lad had any lines of significance, for all that he will be a man of significance.

Lissa: The wagon rumbles down the road, and the driver starts chatting with Ragnar. I really liked the driver’s character. A charming, affable fellow.

Sandi: And Ragnar is apparently entirely at his ease. This is a man who is going on a path he himself has chosen. Again, I just adore how Fimmel has brought us Ragnar Lo∂brok.

pic-three-ragnar-daylightLissa: It soon becomes apparent that the coachman is blind. He says he’s heard of Ragnar – that he’s eight feet tall, has killed thousands, and eats children. Ragnar smiles and says that the last one isn’t true. The coachman isn’t sure if any of it is true, but he can smell the fear of the soldiers around him. He asks Ragnar how he intends to make his escape. Ragnar tells him he doesn’t intend to try.

Sandi: And during the show last night, we all reminded ourselves of the prophecy quoted to Ragnar:

 

“You will die on the day that the blind man sees you.” – The Seer, Season 4, Episode 6

Lissa: That night, the soldiers stand in a tight ring around the cage as Ragnar sleeps. They start daring one another to get close, and one soldier sticks out a trembling finger to touch him. Ragnar suddenly lunges toward him, grabs his arm, and gives him a pretend bite. The soldier staggers back, screaming, and Ragnar looks up toward the night sky.

Sandi: This was just so . . . third grade. “C’mon! Let’s poke the lion in his cage and see if he notices! Hey, I’m not scared. Are you scared? Well, go on, then!”

Just . . . stupid. Not for the episode, but just in terms of human behavior. And see, people still do this.

Lissa: Back in Wessex, Judith awakens as Ecbert comes into her room and gives her a tender kiss on the lips. Startled, she sits up and presses her fingers to her mouth. “Ecbert?” she calls, but he leaves the room. He goes into what looks like Athelstan’s old study and opens the lectern. From it, he draws a monk’s robe.

Sandi: So, Ecbert—sometimes called Cream of Wheat on the No Ship Network, and sometimes Creep of Wheat, depending upon what’s going on—has kept a souvenir from his dear friend, Athelstan. Monk’s robes. Likely from that time when Athelstan first joined him in Wessex, before he was gifted with nicer raiment. Ecbert’s kept the robes for years, apparently. I am thinking maybe he had some kind of moth-repellent in the wraps. It was common, then, to use wormwood as a deterrent, or bay leaves, or resin from a cypress tree. So, he’s kept the old clothes for some unknown reason and now he brings them out.

Lissa: The next day, the wagon continues its journey. Ragnar realizes the driver is blind. But the driver says not to worry – the horses know where they’re going, and though he’s blind,  he can see Ragnar. Ragnar has a vision of the Seer in his place, and Ragnar recalls the Seer telling him he would die on the day the blind man saw him. He tells the Seer that it will be at least another day before he dies, so the Seer was wrong in his prophecy, and that he, Ragnar, directed his fate, not the gods, in whom he no longer believes.  The Seer tells him he has walked among the dead, and has struggled with the meaning of what he sees. Perhaps he was wrong. Ragnar urgently asks him what he saw, and reality reasserts itself. The blind driver tells him he didn’t see anything at all.

Sandi: The prophecy in question was shown in the first half of this season, in episode six, for those who are looking for it. So, as much as Ragnar would like to believe he has escaped the gods and their machinations, it seems clear that they still have a hand on his life. The blind driver, after all, is still there and Ragnar knows he’s going to his death.

Lissa: Ecbert is walking along the road, dressed in a monk’s robe, his feet bare. He looks … rough. I mean, like seriously rough. His feet are bleeding, his face is filthy, and his hair is stringy. It’s only been like eight hours, and dude looks like he’s on the back end of a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Sandi: He really does. This speaks, undoubtedly, to his intense mental turmoil. Intense as it is, though, he does nothing to stop the upcoming events from unfolding. Also, I think that he looks worse here than he does later in the day.

Lissa: The prison wagon is greeted by Aelle and his men.

Sandi: And . . . we have more posturing, more theater, more of “Watch me, a great and mighty king, subdue the terror of the seas, Ragnar Lo∂brok.”

pic-four-ragnar-boundLissa: Pushed to his knees in front of Aelle, he has to listen to another round of exhortations by King Aelle about paying for his sins against Christians, and that the souls of those Ragnar killed will be released from Purgatory this day, with a Hallelujah on their lips. God chose Aella as the instrument of his justice and he’s about God’s work and blah blah blah I dunno I think I fell asleep for a minute there. He’s laying it on thick.

Sandi: Oh gads, it was so very, very tiresome. You have to know that Aelle has likely been ranting on this very topic for a full decade at the very least. Everyone in his kingdom knows how he feels. And they’re likely as tired of it as we are. But then, we are led, in this show, to see King Aelle as a man without finesse. Class. He is uncouth, for all the wealth he may have and the power he may flaunt. He is still just a man. A frightened man who has to strut like a peacock to make a point.

Lissa: He demands Ragnar plead for absolution and punches him when Ragnar refuses. He repeats the demand and Ragnar stays silent again despite another punch.

Sandi: I have a really hard time watching this kind of thing. The Blood Eagle was artistic, of course, and masterfully filmed. This, though, is just dirty. And gross. But it shows Ragnar as a true Viking, ready for Valhalla, as he takes the scorn of his enemy without a sound.

Lissa: Aelle then draws out a red-hot poker and presses it to Ragnar’s stomach. Ragnar gives a small grunt, but otherwise remains silent while Aelle repeats his demand. Aella looks genuinely frightened when he takes the poker away.

Lissa: I speculated that the show may be saying that this is where the legend of Ragnar’s “enchanted shirt” came from. In the Sagas, the shirt was given to Ragnar by Aslaug when he ignored her prophecies he’d come to doom. The shirt protected him from harm (the snakes) until it was removed. They may be implying that the legend came from Ragnar’s seemingly supernatural “protection” from the agony.

Sandi: I tend to see it as Ragnar’s fully human wish to maintain control over himself no matter what provocation there is to do otherwise. He will meet his wyrd with strength and not falter. What I also found interesting was that Ragnar’s baldness works for him in a significant manner: Aelle cannot grab his hair to compel any kind of physical obedience. He just can’t. Ragnar has even more self-control as demonstrated here.

Lissa: Aelle then produces a knife and carves a cross on Ragnar’s face, blinding him in one eye. Ragnar barely makes a sound. When Aelle has finished, Ragnar indicates he wants to speak and the ropes are loosened. His line is a slightly modified version of what he’s reported to have said in the Sagas as he was dying, “How the young pigs would squeal if they knew what the old boar suffers!

Sandi: He is basically informing his captors that his sons will have something to say about this. They might not be there at the moment, but they will come to know that Ragnar died at Aelle’s hands. And Ecbert’s. Even if they do not find out how he suffered, precisely.

Lissa: Aelle steps back and his soldiers beat Ragnar before they shove him back in his cage. But that night, they don’t harass him any further. I got the feeling they were in awe, or slightly frightened of this man with his preternatural tolerance for pain. Or perhaps torture loses its fun if the subject reacts like they’re impervious to it.

Sandi: Oh, it really does. An impassive victim loses his flavor for the average soldier. But I also believe, as you said, that the men might indeed be more frightened of him than they were before. Even if he was likely very hungry, hadn’t been given food or drink in more than a day, and they knew that he would then be weak. He is still seen as stronger than they are, which is why they keep him caged.

Lissa: As Ragnar dozes in his cage, he flashes back over his life. Kissing his young wife, Lagertha … meeting Athelstan … teaching the young Björn swordplay … Lagertha divorcing him … Floki giggling and then tied to the pole in the center of Kattegat … Rollo calling him “brother” before their final battle on the river … and Athelstan teaching him the Lord’s Prayer in front of the waterfall.

Sandi: “I saw my life flash before my eyes…” Ragnar, I feel, welcomes these flashes. They remind him of the most significant times of his life and are what he will take with him, nearest to his heart, to keep him strong in the coming final trial. 

Lissa: He snaps awake hearing the crowd reciting the same prayer and spots Ecbert weaving his way through the crowd, still disguised in his monk’s robe. Ecbert looks considerably better. Got a good night’s sleep at a Holiday Inn, perhaps.

pic-five-monkbertSandi: Or something! Perhaps his inner torment is over, now that he’s here and it’s happening and there really isn’t any struggle for him. The slaying of Ragnar is in the hands of another and Ecbert, the pragmatist that he always will be, lets it go and just . . . watches.

Lissa: The men pull ropes and drag apart a pair of doors on the ground beneath Ragnar’s cage. A square pit is revealed, lined with logs. Does Aelle keep one of these on standby, or did he have time to build it in the 24 hours since Ragnar left Wessex?

Sandi: “Many hands make light work?” Or it could be that Aelle has had a pit in place forEVer. A multipurpose destination for those whom he wished to end. Torture? Captivity? Basic humiliation? Here, it will be a site of death.

Lissa: Men stand by, holding snakes aloft, which they toss into the pit. I noted last night that handsome portion of those snakes were of the nonvenomous type.

Lissa: But, as Sandi said, St. Patrick did a number on the amount of venomous serpents in the British isles, so one does what one must, even if that means padding the amount of snakes with the likes of the boa constrictor, which is only found in the Americas, which technically hadn’t been discovered yet and… I’m digressing, aren’t I?

#BootSoleFile

Sandi: Always a good place for the random extraneous boa constrictor.

ragnar-death-speechLissa: Anyway, it suddenly seems very cold. You can see the breath of the people as they speak. When the prayer is finished, Ragnar stands, and after exchanging a smile with Ecbert, he suddenly has back his energy and defiance. He shouts out his final words. “It gladdens me to know that Odin prepares for a feast! Soon I shall be drinking ale from curved horns. This hero that comes into Valhalla does not lament his death. I shall not enter Odin’s hall with fear. There, I shall wait for my sons to join me. And when they do, I will bask in their tales of triumph. The Aesir will welcome me. My death comes without apology. And I welcome the Valkyries to summon me home!”

Sandi: This is the moment he’s been preparing for. This is the Viking King. The explorer. The adventurer. The mighty warrior. This is Ragnar Lo∂brok and he is making sure that no one would leave that place without knowing exactly what he stands for. He wants his words to be remembered, to fly back to Kattegat where his sons are, to call them to action. It’s a strong speech, for all its made from a cage, and he makes it without hesitation on any front, despite all the sufferings and deprivations he’s recently experienced.

Was I the only one that was applauding as I watched? I mean, Ragnar is unconquerable.

Lissa: Aelle shouts, “Lord, deliver me from mine enemies!” The soldiers pull the ropes attached to Ragnar’s cage, and the bottom drops out. He plunges into the pit.

Sandi: As a closing line, King Aelle’s lacks all that Ragnar’s delivered. Oh yes, your enemy, great king. Beaten up, bloodied, caged, hanging over a pit of snakes. So very, very terrifying.

Lissa: Ecbert shuffles forward with the rest of the audience, peering down into the pit. Ragnar is covered in snakes.

pic-six-ragnar-snakes

Sandi: And still, Ragnar says nothing. He doesn’t cry out, though we see him grimace and jerk with the different bites he is receiving. He meets his fate with his eyes as open as they can be until he can do so no longer.

Lissa: He looks up at Ecbert and their eyes meet. Ecbert gives him a genuine smile, and Ragnar closes his eyes. He is gone, and an era has ended. But he never once screamed or begged. Like Jarl Borg and the Blood Eagle, Ragnar endured his torture silently, and thus earned a place in Valhalla.

Sandi: And because it has to be said again, many kudos to Travis Fimmel. The man deserves all the awards for his portrayal of a legend. I didn’t know who he was when the show started, but now? I’ll watch him in just about anything. Maybe it’s the eyes?

Lissa: The pit is covered over again. It becomes the tomb of Ragnar Loðbrók and the hundreds of non-native, innocent snakes.

Sandi: Well, if he is so careless with his snakes, it is no wonder that Aelle has to use nonvenomous ones for his executions. Terrible treatment of the reptiles.

Lissa: Ecbert remains after everyone is gone. The empty cage remains above, swaying in the cold wind. He pauses for another long moment, and then drifts away.

Sandi: It is an odd image to have, of the last place where Ragnar drew breath. But it is also a reminder of mortality that even the Seer might appreciate. Our lives are short and sharp, ending in violence (if one is a splendid Viking), or otherwise, and we leave the world. It is only our reputation that will live on afterward. Our words. And Ragnar’s words will travel far.

pic-seven-lagerthaLissa: Ivar lands in Kattegat and is carried off the ship. Lagertha exchanges a look with Joan Jett. Lagertha has to see the significance in the fact that Ragnar isn’t there.

Sandi: But still, she’s troubled.

And I’d like to take a moment to appreciate this episode. Until this point, this episode has kept its focus tight on Ragnar and his end. No cut-aways to Kattegat or even Frankia. Just Ragnar. If we have to say goodbye to the man, we got to do it with respect and consideration. Thank you, History Channel.

Lissa: Ivar’s taken to his brothers’ house, and they ask him where Ragnar is. He tells them that Ragnar is likely dead now, and that King Ecbert turned him over to King Aelle. They must get their revenge. Sigurd tells Ivar that Aslaug is also dead, killed by Lagertha. The last thing we see is Ivar squeezing the chess piece that Alfred gave him so tightly that his hand bleeds. His eyes are glowing blue again.

Sandi: So, the Ragnarssons are orphaned in a very big world, with many expectations set before them. We have been guided, as an audience, to heed the future of Ivar over his brothers, and I am eager to see where this will take us.

The Vikings were around a long time, historically. The Viking Age is generally seen to be from the late 8th Century all the way into the 11th Century, before they ceased to raid as their primary objective and instead settled down all over Europe.

Next week, I imagine we’ll take steps on this new road. Perhaps more than one road. Should be interesting!

.¸¸•.¸¸.•´¯`• (¯`•ღ•´¯)•´¯`•.¸¸.•.¸¸.
 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


I am thankful for . . . VIKINGS

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

vikings_episode5_stern lagertha

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

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

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

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

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

Eires Viking books P header.png

 

One More Week ’til VIKINGS returns

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

FACEBOOK vikings

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

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

Yes, years! Imagine!

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


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

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

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

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

I am so serious!

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

Tomorrow: my favorite episode from Season Two!

 

 

Cover Reveal – LISSA BRYAN

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

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


ebook-cover

Release Date: December 3rd 2016

Published by: The Writers Coffee Shop

Genre: Fiction, Dystopian

Available from:

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

~~GIVEAWAY~~

Click HERE for your chance to win!

~~EXCERPT~~

She woke to the sound of screams and gunfire.

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

Oh shit, oh shit.

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

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

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

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

promo-graphic

~~SUMMARY~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

GoodreadsAdd to Want To Read List

~~ABOUT THE AUTHOR~~

lbryan

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

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

 ~~CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR~~

Facebook * Website * Twitter

Praise for 

The End of All Things Series

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

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

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The #ShieldGeeks Talk VIKINGS: The Last Ship

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

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

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

146a6-lissa-bryanHeillir!

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

146a6-lissa-bryanHeillir!

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

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

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


Lissa: This episode, I think was aptly named!

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

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

vikings s4 e9 heave ho

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ecbert with the new crown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

erlandur revenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

The #ShieldGeeks Talk VIKINGS: Portage

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

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

146a6-lissa-bryanHeillir!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

vikings_s4e8 longship pull

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

whorebard loves all

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

drowning Yidu poster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

what judith became

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

The #ShieldGeeks talk VIKINGS: Profit & Loss

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

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

146a6-lissa-bryanHeillir!

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

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

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Lissa: We opened with Ragnar seemingly back in his element, strategizing with the other Viking leaders about the new attack on Paris. Ragnar plans to sail down the river between the two forts that are perched on the banks while Lagertha leads a team over land to attack one of the forts. His speech is a little choppy, as though he struggles for breath. Ragnar’s lips are noticeably red as he talks, though no one mentions it.

Sandi: Opinion is divided about the reasons for these symptoms. Whether it’s the “medicine” that Yidu has him dependent upon or his injuries or a combination thereof, he is clearly not a well man.

Lissa: As Björn leaves the tent, he trots to catch up with Erlendur. He pulls the ring he took from the berserker assassin from his pocket and offers it to Erlendur, saying he believes it’s his. Erlendur pretends he’s never seen it before.

Sandi: Because of course Erlandur will look all happy and say, “Wow, thanks, Björn! I wondered where that went!” What did Björn expect to gain by confronting him, I wonder?

Lissa: Ragnar approaches Lagertha and says he wishes she wouldn’t fight. Sandi was right in her speculation last week that Lagertha believes what the Seer told her: she would never bear another child, and so it doesn’t matter. She tells Ragnar as much, her voice tinged with bitterness. Ragnar retorts that she seems to be doing everything she can to ensure the prophecy comes true as he walks away.

Sandi: He places great store in children, even if they’re not his. And I think part of him longs to see Lagertha pregnant. Maybe to vindicate his choice to keep Aslaug?

Lissa: Ubbe and Hvitserk approach Ragnar, their bows in hand. They ask Ragnar if they can go with him to attack Paris. Ragnar tells them they’re not strong enough yet before moving on to a more diplomatic tactic. He says he needs them to stay behind and guard the camp and its stores. The boys agree, obviously feeling that they’ve been tasked with something important.

Sandi: It can’t be denied that Ragnar wants his sons to be safe. He is all for giving them advancing responsibilities, though, as we’ve seen this season. Just responsibilities that will entail little risk. He truly thinks that “guarding the supplies” is a good thing for them. It does provide responsibility and the expectation of safety away from the battle. Additionally, there are a lot of adult women about, so Ragnar knew his sons would have eyes on them. He is, by and large, a good father to his young sons.

Lissa: Rollo and Gisla are atop one of the towers in the morning. Both of them look flat-out beautiful. Rollo has long, curled hair, and his molded leather armor is studded with gold.

Sandi: I gotta say, Rollo wears the look better than Darth Odious.

Sandi: On the longship. Björn says, “I hate my uncle. I want to kill him.” Ragnar stands beside him and says, “Good.” Because this indicates that Björn sees his error in leaving Rollo behind, I think, as well as affirming that Björn will not hesitate if the opportunity arises.

Lissa: Gisla has a breastplate of her own, and it’s molded to every curve as though it’s made from Spandex. Beneath it, she wears a pair of leggings and a split skirt. Her war outfit is somewhat of a departure for our prim Princess Le Pew.

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Rollo asks Gisla if she is afraid. Gisla replies she wouldn’t be up there beside him if she was afraid. They watch Ragnar’s ships approach.

Sandi: Gisla must have half of Frankia making her outfits. Employment guarantor! Guarantess? Her signature smug expression has re-emerged. I was surprised when Rollo asked about her being afraid. Has he forgotten where he first saw her? Standing on a parapet, staring him down?

Lissa: From land, Lagertha approaches, but she looks down in alarm as her boots sink into the mud.

Lissa: I mean, come on… Lagertha is a seasoned warrior. She’s encountered mud before and knows how to handle it, or to go around, or to do anything but stand there and churn her feet like she’s never seen a mixture of earth and water before. She and Rollo exchange a look at one point, and it’s one of those looks which epitomize the saying of if looks could kill. Rollo hears her voice, giving her warriors commands as he orders the men atop the walls to fire the crossbows.

Sandi: Rollo had been paying a great deal of attention to the fleet of longships, that he hadn’t thought of the land behind his fortifications. He seemed a bit taken aback to see Lagertha & Co. on their way through the marshy land. I think the confusion she and her warriors experienced is due to the fact that they hadn’t encountered the marshland last time they visited. This could be due to weather or to the building of the towers; a large enough project to affect the groundwater in the vicinity.

Lissa: The battle comes to a head quickly, and it’s an out-and-out slaughter. Once the chain goes up, Ragnar’s boats are stopped dead in the water. Trebuchets throw Greek firepots and the crossbows rain death from above. Ships are tangled in the chain and overturn, hurling the occupants into the water.  As Rollo watches from above, he murmurs a haunting poem.

Sandi: The tension before the chains go up is palpable. You can see both Rollo and Odo fidgeting and giving everything a last look. Due to the shallow draft of the longships, they are not broken by the chains, but they are capsized. This is dangerous of course, but it doesn’t mean a loss of their transportation, which could have been the case if their ships had been differently made.

Lissa: Floki struggles in the water and sinks below its surface. A hand grabs him and hauls him back. It’s Ragnar. He has dived into the water to haul his friend back to safety. As he lays Floki down on the bottom of the ship. Floki looks up at him with something like wonderment in his features. He seems to have honestly believed Ragnar wouldn’t risk his life to save him… Not now. Not after everything that’s happened. Ragnar looks out over the carnage of wrecked ships, burning… floating bodies in the water and abject horror washes over his features.

Sandi: The Franks launched Greek Fire, or some form of naptha, here, in packages that look like Chinese dumplings. This was followed by fired arrows and caused even more chaos. But Ragnar didn’t let that distract him from Floki’s distressing predicament. It was right that the king see to his shipbuilder’s safety. I think Floki’s surprise speaks to their estrangement rather than a secret understanding.

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Lissa: On land, Lagertha’s forces are decimated as they head toward the tower.  Driven back, they have to retreat. As the ships prepare to sail back, Ragnar shouts to his brother. He says he always defended him, even when others said he deserved death. And this… this is how Rollo repays his love. Rollo doesn’t reply and Ragnar sinks down to lay against the prow of his ship as they limp back to their encampment.

Sandi: It is the final end, I think, of the brotherhood, here.

Lissa: But there will be no rest there…. In the meantime, we see that the Franks have also attacked the Viking camp.

Sandi: It’s a slaughter, alternated with views of the retreat of Lagertha’s forces as well as Ragnar’s men in the water, slogging their way out of danger. An altogether depressing sequence. Excellent cinematography as the camera swings from Lagertha’s people in the swamps to the ships on fire in the river. And here, we do see the damage done to the Viking fleet.

Lissa: Rollo and Gisla come down from the fort and view the bodies lined up along the shore. Gisla is surprised there are so many women among them. Rollo tells her the Viking women warriors are just as fierce as the men – sometimes more. He tells her about Lagertha, and Gisla doesn’t seem to notice his tone.

Sandi: “The most fierce – her name is Lagertha.” “You know her?” “Yeah, I slept with her. Might have fathered her son. At least, that’s the rumor…” – Vikings American Apocrypha

Really, though, the scene is a brutal view of war. A great victory is proclaimed in the midst of the dead and dying. Rollo and Princess Le Pew step around corpses to have their civilized little discussion about the fierce females of the North.

Lissa: Gisla expresses interest in meeting Lagertha. Yeah. That would go well.

Sandi: Meeting the leaders of the opposing army was not unheard of, after a war was fought. Terms had to be discussed and such.

Lissa: In Wessex, Ecbert is meeting with the mysterious “W” who has taken Queen Kwenthrith’s kingdom from her.  He sees off a priest on his journey and draws his sword to kneel for the prelate’s blessing. What was entertaining was that the priest seemed to flinch a bit when Ecbert drew that blade, as though he wasn’t entirely certain what the king was going to do with it.

Sandi: The prelate has to remember that Ecbert is not the most reliable of men. His alliances are temporary. He lies and plunges in a knife. He is carrying on with his own daughter-in-law and is apparently sanctioning a relationship between his son and Queen Kwenthrith. The prelate is undoubtedly aware of these things; he’s not blind and no one’s hiding anything very well.

Lissa: The Vikings return to their camp to find carnage. Tents are burning and bodies lay everywhere. Ragnar first finds Helga among the wounded and shouts for Floki. Floki runs to her side and shakes her limp form. Helga is horribly burned. She doesn’t stir, but she seems to be breathing. The collective fandom sent up a shriek of despair when we saw her.

Sandi: Why didn’t Halfdan go closer to her when he saw her? To see if she was alive?

Lissa: Ragnar finds his boys unharmed. They hug their father as he stares around at the carnage.

Sandi: He eyed Yidu, who had run to greet him too, presumably, but he gives her no special looks or anything. His concern is all for his sons, for the moment. Though, of course, that will change.

Lissa: Back in Kattegat, Aslaug strolls with Harbard. She asks him where he’s been and he’s very vague about where his travels have taken him. He says he’s journeyed to the place between life and death. He heard about Ragnar’s sickness and wasn’t sure if he would survive.

Sandi: Thing is, there are eyes everywhere. And that Aslaug and Harbard kiss in public will not go unforgotten.

Lissa: We see him meeting with the village women under Aslaug’s smiling and approving gaze. He speaks to one who says she has no children. He teases her and asks her if she knows how to get them. He tells her she’ll have three children and then kisses her passionately. He “counsels” the other waiting women in the same way, kissing each one in turn. From the porch with his mother, Sigurd watches all of this. A while later, he follows Rasputin – I mean Harbard – as he goes into a house and makes love to the woman inside.

Sandi: The women are in awe of him. Enthralled. They see him as holy and close to the gods and are willing to have him avail himself of them. And the men that are crowded about him don’t seem in any way concerned about this behavior.

Lissa: Back in Paris, Ragnar is still dealing with the horrors of the battle and the attacked camp. The funeral pyres burn in a somber scene. Lagertha tenderly covers the face of one of her shieldmaidens before lighting her pyre and stepping back. Björn is angry. He says this is Ragnar’s fault.

Sandi: There are a lot of bodies being burnt, as one can see. The Northmen have taken a bad blow that day, both in battle and back in camp. Ragnar did not expect that, I’m sure.

Lissa: Ragnar strides through the camp and shouts for Yidu. She comes to the opening of her tent, and he demands the medicine. He says it’s been a terrible day and he needs it. She lies and says there isn’t any more and he proceeds to wreck the interior looking for her stash. It’s an absolutely horrible scene because it shows the raw and ugly desperation of an addict. Yidu finally pulls some from her bag, and he kisses her in gratitude. Yidu jerks away in fear. Ragnar gobbles the medicine down, then goes outside to sit in the rain to wait for it to take effect.

Sandi: This was so disappointing for me. I wanted him to be seeking the medication for Helga, I guess, and to find out it was because Ragnar was clamoring for it was disheartening. I hate to see him in the thrall of an addiction.

Lissa: We debated some last night over whether the relationship between Ragnar and Yidu has become sexual or not. I said I didn’t believe so, based on the way she cringed back after he kissed her. She doesn’t seem to accept his touch the way one would expect from a mistress or a thrall.

Sandi: She needs to remember that his loyalty to her is now bounded (I think) by her ability to get him what he craves. If she can’t, he might forget any other thing he had found pleasing about her.

Lissa: Floki visits the injured Helga and gives her some of his carved runestones to aid her in healing. Heart-struck, he slowly staggers his way out of the camp into a grassy meadow.

Lissa: He sinks down onto the grass, and that’s when we see Aslaug approach him. She kneels down beside him and gives him a tender smile before kissing him. The kiss turns into passion and she climbs atop him. Floki’s eyes are wide with shock, but he goes with it, and they make love under the sky. This scene cuts back and forth to where Aslaug is in Kattegat, making love with Harbard in the same fashion.

Sandi: Did you hear the church bells in the background? I noticed it on my second watching of this episode this morning. What is the significance of this, I wonder, for two such as they, who are violently anti-Christian?

Lissa: Floki isn’t sure what’s going on, but he’s enthusiastic about it. She says Harbard’s name after Floki falls back to the ground, replete. We weren’t sure last night who was directing this vision. Was it Harbard, sending Floki some kind of message, or joining minds with him in some way? (Remember Floki thought Harbard might be an incarnation of Odin.) Was it Floki himself, who seems to have been tapped as a Seer? Or was it Aslaug, with her völva powers?

Sandi: It is such an odd scene. I confess I was thinking how it was filmed. I mean, they had to go through the sequence with both men separately and then cut it. My kudos to the editors for the care that was taken in the exchanges. But what was the significance of this sequence, I wonder? For Floki’s spiritual awareness that all the kids that might be born in Kattegat are Harbard/Odin’s? A portend of a future with Aslaug?

Lissa: Ecbert rides to a crypt with a cross atop it. I thought it was a little chapel at first, but Ecbert walks down the stone steps to find burials inside. And the mysterious “W” lurking in the shadows. He steps forward and reveals himself as Prince Wigstan of Mercia. Wigstan details the brutal deaths his relatives buried here have suffered in the endless fighting around the throne. He wants peace to come back. He wants Mercia to be a golden kingdom as it once was, long ago, strong and powerful and secure. And to do that, he’s willing to combine his army with Ecbert’s in order to fight against the ruling council of nobles, whom he doesn’t describe in the most flattering of terms.

Sandi: Wigstan says, “If you think Kwenthrith is a calming influence? You’re insane.” (Sandi paraphrase.) This in response to Ecbert’s quick, “Hey I’m only backing her to keep things peaceful next door. I don’t like her, or anything!” Ecbert: Making up lies since before sunrise. Or something.

Lissa: Wigstan doesn’t want to see Kwenthrith on the throne because she’s unstable, both in her rule and in her judgment. Wigstan will fight and claim the throne for himself, with Ecbert’s help, but as soon as it’s achieved, he wants to renounce the throne and travel to Rome as a pilgrim. He will hand Mercia over to Ecbert to combine with Wessex into one vast kingdom.

Sandi: The interesting thing is that while Wigstan says he’s lost his faith in God, Ecbert never has, not really. Ecbert still believes heartily in God, but his view of the Almighty is not in line with, er, traditional teachings. Wigstan would not be surprised, I’m guessing.

Lissa: To prove his sincerity, he has his guard pull his mother’s coffin from the niche on the wall. He opens the casket and reaches down among the bones.

Lissa: He pulls out a dusty crown and holds it out to Ecbert. He says it’s the ancient crown of Mercia. And it’s his. Just like that, Ecbert is seemingly handed everything he’s wanted.  All he has to do now is reach out and grasp the opportunity he’s been given… and betray Kwenthrith.

Sandi: Wigstan says this, and is relinquishing the kingdom, apparently, but still refers to Mercia as his. “Both our countries forward,” he says. He will always identify with Mercia, and will likely – even from Rome – keep an eye on dealings there. I wonder how close this story in this show will run to the historical events?

Lissa: Wigstan is based on a real king by that name. He also preferred the religious life to ruling. History records that Wigstan asked his mother to serve as regent so he could go do his monastic thing. His mom attracted a suitor, but Wigstan refused the match because of consanguinity. The suitor was a mite bit miffed by this and went to have a talk with Wigstan, a chat which ended with the suitor bashing Wigstan over the head and stabbing him with his sword. Like a number of pious nobles of the era, Wigstan then became a saint. Supposedly, a great column of light shot up from the spot he was slain and stayed there for a month. Saint Arclight’s remains were moved a bit later to a monastery in Evesham, but that was destroyed by Henry VIII during the Dissolution. (This is why we can’t have nice things, Henry!)

Sandi: Ecbert, as a self-identified corrupt and ambitious man with dreams of having it all, is undoubtedly doing an inner Snoopy Dance here, but he contains himself admirably. He is, as always the definition of “urbane” – even before that was a word.

Lissa: Back at Ragnar’s camp, Björn goes to his father to ask what they’re going to do next. It’s been three days. What is the plan? His father is in bad shape. Ragnar is tense and sweating, rocking as he speaks in a tight, clipped tone. He tells his son they’ll depart on the morrow and head down the river. Yidu has either cut off his supply of drugs, or Ragnar has decided to kick the habit himself, cold turkey. Either way, he’s suffering badly from withdrawal. Every word seems like a painful effort as he spits it out. After Björn departs, Ragnar speaks, seemingly to himself, but he’s actually addressing a severed head that lies on the floor. I couldn’t make out who it was he was talking to.

Sandi: If Yidu has truly run out (which would be extremely foolish of her, as she got Ragnar to take her with him so she could be his supplier) then I am concerned for them both. If he’s decided to try to live without them, I applaud that. There is no twelve-step program here. No rehab clinic. No substitute pharmaceutical program. It will be ugly.

Regarding the retreat, this has to be upsetting to Björn. To have sat for three days, waiting, and then be told they’re to retreat? I imagine this will anger those who are hoping for more of the treasure they acquired last time they were there. Regarding the nameless head  on the floor, I haven’t any idea whom that is, either.

Lissa: So much is up in the air! Will Finehair see this as an opportunity to capitalize on Ragnar’s weakness as a leader? Will Harbard father a passel of children to greet the Viking warriors who return? And – most important to me – will our beloved Helga recover?

Sandi: Overall, this was a week of ups and downs. Great battle scenes – if you’re Frankish. Interesting developments in characters. But I’m still left with questions! I wonder how many will be answered by the end of the first half of this extended season?


 

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

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!

Congratulations to History Channel, as VIKINGS has been optioned for a fifth season!

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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