“One must always think the worst, Ragnar, even of your own kin. That way you avoid too much disappointment in life.” — Floki to Ragnar Lothbrok
The season premiere of Vikings starts off as it should – with a big battle scene! Ragnar Lothbrok and Rollo have joined opposing sides in the conflict between King Horik and Jarl Borg. After a few minutes of wondering if Rollo will actually fight against his brother, the two forces meet in battle.
This large fight scene shows how Vikings is a bit different from the typical Hollywood portrayal of medieval warfare – here both sides fight in shield walls, and instead of seeing everyone break off into one-on-one combats, they seem to be fighting together. We see that if one opponent breaks away from the group, three or four men from the other side attack him. Another interesting aspect occurs when Floki goes after Rollo and Jarl Borg – the two men quickly overmatch Floki and strike him numerous time, which leaves him badly injured but not killed. As I watched the scene I fully expected him to die, and was nicely surprised to see he had survived (if just barely).
The battle ends when Ragnar confronts Rollo, and after a tense moment, the latter decides he cannot fight his brother. This leads to a truce in the battle, allowing the king and the jarl to once again to try to make peace. Ragnar again is instrumental here, giving a speech where he talks about how they should not be killing each other but instead prepare to go together to the west and claim the riches of the wider world.
While the first part of this episode shows that Ragnar is a leader of men, the second half reveals how terrible he is with women! On his return to Kattegat he finds that Lagertha is very upset about his affair with the Princess Aslaug – Ragnar manages to assuage for her for a short time, but then Aslaug arrives at the town with her group of followers and looking very pregnant.
With the two women around him, Ragnar is at a loss for what to do – at one point he even looks like he wants to hide. The Viking leader wants to keep his wife, but at the same time does not want to turn Aslaug and the unborn child (which he believes is his) away. He even meekly suggests to Lagertha that it would be ok for him to have two wives, to which Aslaug readily agrees. This infuriates Lagertha so much that she packs up and leaves, and their son Bjorn eventually goes with her to. One might think that Ragnar could have handled the situation better!
The episode has its share of interesting moments. The scene where Ragnar gives Bjorn advice on happiness – “I know it is hard for you to accept, but unhappiness is more common than happiness. Who told you you should be happy? You have come to an age where you must grow up and be responsible about such things. When I was your age, I had many friends. All are dead.” – struck me as both quite funny and poignant for the medieval world.
The fate of Rollo gets decided by a new character – the Lawgiver – which makes me wonder where was he in the first season? After noting that Rollo betrayed his brother and their group by joining Jarl Borg, the Lawgiver gives a flimsy excuse about the gods sparring Rollo so so should we. At the end its revealed that Ragnar has bribed the Lawgiver into giving a ruling to release his brother – a nice touch!
The first episode of the second season does a good job of tying up the story-lines from the previous season, and helps set up some new stories – one suspects the love-triangle between Ragnar, Lagertha and Aslaug still has a few more plot-twists to it. It will be a pleasing episode for most fans of Vikings – it gives you a good battle scene and some medieval drama. ~ PK
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