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Vikings – Review of Episode 4: Trial

“They were not Franks then?…wherever they come from, they are not welcome in my Kingdom.” ~ King Ælla of Northumbria

This week, our leather clad band come across a town to sack. Ragnar asks his men to wait to attack – much to their consternation. It seems Ragnar paid attention to Athelstan’s talks and waits for Sunday to strike because everyone is in church and homes are unguarded. There is a lot less bloodshed here because Ragnar persuades the priest to tell the townspeople that they will be spared if they don’t resist.

In the midst of the raid, bad guy spy Cnut tries to rape a Saxon woman and Lagertha steps in to stop him. He doesn’t take kindly to her interference, they duke it out and let’s just say Cnut isn’t the winner. I didn’t really know what to make of this. I’m torn between seeing Lagertha be a badass and the complete lack of realism in her scenes.

After their little Viking “shopping” trip in the sleepy Anglo-Saxon town, they return to find the English have surrounded their ship. Another beach showdown occurs and the Vikings manage to take out a rather well armed, large group of English soldiers.

Meanwhile, back at the Viking ranch, Athelstan isn’t meshing to well with the kids and believes God has abandoned him. There isn’t much from Athelstan in the episode which is a shame because I really like his character and would like to see more than a snippet between him and Ragnar. They have some of the best conversations on the show.

“Would he have achieved what he achieved if it wasn’t for you? What would you say, Rollo?”
“Of course not, it would have been impossible” ~Rollo

Some of the best moments in this week’s episode are due to the trouble Cnut’s death caused. Ragnar takes the blame for Cnut’s death to protect Lagertha and he is arrested. Ragnar’s brother, Rollo and Earl Haraldson have a clandestine meeting where Haraldson tries to cause strife between the brothers by playing on Rollo’s ego and his feeling of living in his brother’s shadow. He makes a secret offer to Rollo, which includes plunder and his daughter’s hand in marriage.

At Ragnar’s trial, Haraldson tries to paint Cnut’s murder as wilful and Ragnar tries to claim it as self defence for Lagertha’s honour. Rollo, in a moment where he could have betrayed his brother, comes to his aide by backing Ragnar’s version of events. Haraldson doesn’t take this slight well and sets upon Ragnar and his men celebrating. A few of Ragnar’s household are killed and it appears a storm is brewing between the two sides.

“There is a quarrel, there will be violence, bones and skulls broken…I see that…” ~Seer

Rollo is still pining for Lagertha, so we know that eventually, this will come to a head and I think if the offer had been Lagertha, and not Haraldson’s daughter, Rollo might have made a different choice.

The war has begun. Aethelstan is right – Ragnar is preparing for the worst and Rollo’s refusal to hand his brother over is going to cost them dearly. Eventually, Haraldson will figure out what buying Rollo off really costs and he might be able to sway him to switch sides.

Lastly, anyone else notice the “appreciative” look Siggy gave Rollo? Could be more trouble on the horizon there. We’ll see if anything develops but right now Haraldson’s wife is little more than decoration on the show. It’d be nice to see something more from her.

This episode was good and meant to set the stage for further Viking intrigue and the war that will rage between Haraldson and Ragnar. Next week looks like more action is in store for us as both men go head to head in an attempt to avenge their honour and salvage their pride.

Peter’s Take: Quite a lot happens on this week’s episode: the raid on the town in Northumbria; Lagertha kills Cnut; we meet the Anglo-Saxon King Aelle; the Vikings defeat the Northumbrians in battle again; Ragnar is arrested by Earl Haraldson; the Earl tries to sway Rollo to his side; Ragnar is acquitted, the Earls men ambush Ragnar, and Ragnar prepares himself to confront the Earl – these are just the main points!

Its hard to believe that all this happened in a single-hour of the show, and it would probably have been better served if the events were stretched over a couple of episodes. The pace of this show was too quick – too much is focused on getting the plot to move from battle scene to battle scene, to detriment of building their characters.

For example, Lagertha is nearly raped and has to kill Cnut, then her husband decides to take the blame for it. We get very little about her thoughts on any of this, or why she even cared that one of her comrades was raping instead of just pillaging. Nor do we get any good explanation for why Ragnar admits to killing Cnut – does he just think that no one will believe that a woman would have killed a man, or is he just protecting his wife?

We do get a few good scenes of character development, such as Athelstan voicing his doubts and despair to God, and Earl Haraldson trying to find answers with the help of a seer. I also enjoyed the scene of Floki desecrating the altar in the church – a nice comic moment.

However, it seems that the show is heading too quickly towards a battle between Ragnar and the Earl. This would be something that could happen at the season finale rather than five shows in, but there still might be some twists and turns in the plot.

On a more positive note, we get to see Rollo getting more screen time, and he gets to do something instead of just grumble about his brother’s decisions. I was somewhat surprised that he decided to back his brother against the Earl, which one hopes will show that he has some redeeming qualities to his character.

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