We’re three episodes in to the third season of HBO’s hit series, Vikings, and things are starting to take shape. After Torstein died and Porunn’s face got smashed in with an axe, we’re starting to see the consequences of the Vikings decision to fight for the throne of Mercia.
Floki is angry at Ragnar for having made the decision to fight for King Ecbert. As Ragnar said in episode 1, he decided to fight in order to prove his good faith to King Ecbert, even though that was not part of their original agreement. He also said he couldn’t speak for the others. Floki and the rest of the Vikings made their own decision to fight… molded as they are by their belief that a warrior who dies in battle goes to Valhalla, the Hall of the exalted warriors in the Kingdom of the Gods.
So Ragnar, torn up as he is about Torstein’s death, tells Floki that everyone makes their own decisions and to shut his face. Underlying this idea is perhaps Ragnar’s hope that the rest of his men had made a different decision back in episode 1 when they were asked to fight. Things could have been different if the rest of his crew hadn’t been so lustful to go raiding. Added to Ragnar’s growing stress and inner conflict is his son’s bad decision-making.
He is understandably furious at his son after learning that Porunn is pregnant and that Bjorn let her come raiding anyway. Bjorn blames himself, saying he wasn’t there to protect her in battle. But Ragnar says that that’s what her shield was for, blaming his son’s lack of maturity for Porunn’s–and his grandchild’s–fate, bringing his own manhood into question.
The more the Vikings fight, the further away they get from the dream of peaceful farming that Ragnar and Lagertha both have, and we can see this visibly taking a toll on our lead when he headbutts Burgred after he accosts him and begs him for forgivenes, later deadpanning, ‘I forgive you’.
The fact that King Ecbert is actually using Ragnar and his Vikings for his own end makes me especially wary of him. This is not a man to be underestimated. I do quite enjoy his storyline with Lagertha, however. The intensity of the pagan sacrifice to Freyr at the end of the episode brings this relationship into even more passionate territory (Ecbert was way into it), and it’s obvious Lagertha is now seducing Ecbert in her own Viking way, as Ecbert seduced her through his british gentlemanship.
Apart from this, however, it’s obvious King Ecbert is managing the Vikings the same way a chess player would. Ragnar needs to step up his game and find a way to convince his people to get their bloodlust under control if they are to handle their negotiations in a more intelligent way. But will he be able to do it? We know for a fact that Ragnar historically died in battle. Perhaps that is their fate, after all.
It’s also obvious that Ragnar pities Princess Kwenthrith. Hopefully it won’t take long before he realizes that she’s just a puppet to King Ecbert and that he’s being used.
Vikings remains an intelligent show, with most of the real conflict and meaning lying just below the surface of what we can at first superficially understand.
Stay tuned for the next review…