“Who are these barbarians…these savages?! Why are they here to torment us?!”
This week on the Vikings, we go back and forth between England and Scandinavia as Ragnar prepares to raid in Northumbria again and Lagertha rules the village in his absence.
King Aelle’s brother visits and bring him tidings about the Vikings arrival. Meanwhile, Ragnar and his band make it ashore and start preparing a battle camp. Ragnar attacks the English camp at night and capture the King’s brother but is confused as to why the King’s brother was sent to fight his battle for him. To the Vikings, this is a sign of weakness – a man who does not fight his own battles isn’t really a man. Ragnar chides him and asks if he invites his brother into his bed to do his duties as well. Throughout the show, we get snippets of the culture clash between the English and Vikings, and they’re all rather humorous. The episode has a lot of fighting in it so these small moments of mirth ease the darker side of the story.
King Aelle holds a council meeting and initially wants to attack Ragnar’s camp but one of his men suggests an alternative: Pay the Vikings to “go away”. Some of Aelle’s men are scandalized at the suggestion but some see the wisdom avoiding more bloodshed. The Vikings are finally taken to the King who finds their manners severely lacking. The look of disgust registering on the faces of the English as the Vikings eat is priceless. The Monks sing and the Vikings slurp, chew and laugh through the somber pre meal prayer.
During the feast, Ragnar negotiates his “go away” price with King Aelle: £2,000. In exchange for this, Ragnar promises to return Aelle’s brother, to partake in no further violence against the English, and for one of his men to accept baptism. The Vikings laugh uproariously until Rollo volunteers to be baptized. The Baptism scene was hysterical! This was, hands down, my favourite moment in the show. The reaction on a very confused Rollo when the priest reaches over to bless him and hug him was so funny! Rollo looked absolutely ticked when he was pushed under water too. He comes up sputtering while Ragnar and his kinsmen howl with laughter. It was a great moment. However, that ribaldry is overshadowed later when Floki upbraids Rollo for converting. Rollo thinks it was all a joke to appease King Aelle but Floki doesn’t think what Rollo did was funny at all – he believes he has angered Odin and all the Gods. This dire warning appears to come true when in the next instance they are tricked by the English and ambushed. The caskets of treasure are empty and Englishmen pour out of the woods. Ragnar’s men fight back and slaughter them but take losses. It wasn’t a good move by Aelle, because Ragnar’s done talking. Aelle’s brother tries to convince Ragnar to spare him, because he’s leverage but Ragnar no longer cares. Aelle’s brother is returned, dead and disgracefully dragged behind a horse into the castle walls.
Lagertha holds down the fort while Ragnar is away. She appears to be a fair and just ruler when we see her rule in favour of a woman who is accused of adultery. She sees the child as a gift from the Gods and threatens the husband if he harms his wife. She seems to be good hearted and willing to give people the benefit of the doubt. Siggy, now alone since Haraldson’s death comes to Lagertha and asks to put into her service for her daughter to be under their protection. Lagertha pities Siggy because, as she points out to Bjorn, it could have been her standing in Siggy’s shoes if the tide of battle hadn’t favoured Ragnar. We see that time away from Ragnar is stressful and difficult. Lagertha is helped by Siggy when she miscarries the baby and she conforts her children until Ragnar’s return. I wish there had been a bit more time spent here with Lagertha and what she was going through while Ragnar was raiding in England. That was my only real complaint in this episode, otherwise, it was exciting, humorous and interesting to watch.
Peter’s Take: There was a lot for me to like in this episode: I enjoyed how King Aelle and his men discuss who these Northmen are and what should be done with them. Some suggest that they are sent by the devil and must be fought, while others believe that they are mere robbers who can be bought off.
After capturing Aelle’s brother, Ragnar and his men come to the king’s villa and we get to see more of the differences between the pagan Vikings and the Christian Northumbrians. Once the terms are agreed, we get to see Rollo being baptized. These scenes were well done and give the audience a good flavour of how the Viking-interactions with Anglo-Saxon England may have gone. Rollo sees his baptism as something of a joke, but Floki is angry with him for displeasing the gods.
The final scenes are a little too predictable – King Aelle decides to betray his promise and attack Ragnar, but the battle quickly ends with another Viking victory. The show so far treats the Vikings as almost unbeatable warriors, and their victories come across as too easy. Ragnar has this aura of being far smarter than everyone else, and as someone who could do no wrong. That might not be a bad thing in the first few episodes of the show, but I think it would be a good time having to start to deal with adversity, and give the viewer a sense that he can be defeated by the Anglo-Saxons.
Most of the scenes back in Scandinavia seemed very secondary to me, put in to give Lagertha and Siggy something to do. Lagertha suffering a miscarriage at the end of the episode comes across as a surprise and sad event, and one wonders what this might mean for her relationship with her Ragnar.
Tune in with us next week for more exciting, leather clad, axe wielding fun on The Vikings!