“We want to make peace with the king. So we don’t have to kill anymore of you.” ~ Ragnar Lodbrok
This week’s episode focuses on two main storylines – Ragnar continuing his raiding into Wessex, and Jarl Borg launching his own attack on Kattegat. While the audience is bound to cheer for Ragnar and his crew, the show is making a good effort to blur the lines between heroes and villains.
The events in Wessex begins with Ragnar and King Horik attacking the town of Winchester. After dispatching the meagre defences, the Vikings begin to plunder the church and houses, slaughtering those they come across. In a particularly gruesome scene, Floki and the others shoot arrows into an elderly priest for fun.
Even Athelstan, the former monk, comes off as despicable here – he provides invaluable assistance to Ragnar here, and even murders an unarmed young monk who surprises him. When the elderly priest realizes who Athelstan was, he justly admonishes him, and we can see that the former monk is still conflicted with who he has become and what he is doing.
While Ragnar still seems to have a small bit of compassion – at one point he hides a young Anglo-Saxon boy so he won’t be captured – the actions of his supporters are quite cruel, so when Jarl Borg does the same thing to Kattegat its hard for the viewer to be too sympathetic. Moreover the jarl is quite justified in his actions, noting that he was betrayed by Ragnar and Horik. Rollo puts up an admirable defence, but with no good warriors left in the town it is soon overrun.
While some viewers might want to see Ragnar, Rollo and the people of Kattegat as the ‘good guys’ their actions are not particularly heroic. The only reason we cheer on Ragnar is that he is clever and cool, but morally he is no better than Jarl Borg or King Eckbert.
This being Vikings, there are a few other story-lines that need to be mentioned, starting with Lagertha having issues with new husband named Sigvard. Bjorn too is unhappy with his stepfather, but again I don’t find this husband’s character to be too villainous. While he does strike Lagertha, and immediately regrets doing so, this kind of act would probably be considered quite acceptable in ninth-century Scandinavia. Furthermore, when Bjorn requests to go out and live in some cabin in the woods, his stepfather refusal seems justified – he promised Bjorn’s mother he would take care of him and his stepson’s demand seems reckless at best.
Finally, Princess Aslaug gives birth to a baby boy, named Sigurd, who will be aptly called Snake-in-the-Eye.