The fourth episode of Vikings’ season 3 brings the show back into full swing. This was a good episode, loaded with plenty of both funny and meaningful scenes that are sure to set up future plot lines. The episode begins with Floki continuing his smear campaign against Ragnar. It’s understandable, he’s still deeply hurt about Torstein’s death. And as much as I love Floki, he simply doesn’t have the vision or open-mindedness that Ragnar does, so of course he sees things very black and white… very us vs. them, without thinking much ahead.
Rollo, however, thinks differently. “This is the future”, he says when talking about the Viking settlement in Wessex. “We have to make alliances between ourselves just as the gods do”, he tries to explain to Floki, who doesn’t buy it. Rollo is a character that right now is striving to become wise, but is still very brutish and violent at times (remember that scene where he cut off a man’s leg when he was high because it was positioned at a funny angle?). Ragnar is irritated at Floki, but otherwise let’s him be. He tells Rollo that he doesn’t presume to know the will of the Gods, unlike Floki, and that he will do what is necessary for his people. Rollo is satisfied with this explanation and continued defending his brother to Floki whenever he can.
Ragnar’s and Princess Kwenthrith’s relationship starts to blossom in this episode. I think it’s cute how the Princess sometimes acts all shy and giggly around Ragnar, just like a little girl. Kudos on the peeing scene, it was funny and it seems for once Ragnar didn’t know what to do in a given situation.
Since they seem to be opening up to each other, Ragnar decides to give Princess Kwenthrith some advice. Maybe because he pities her, maybe because he likes her, maybe because he sees the strength inside her that others take for granted. So he tells her that her younger brother is weak, and that he will be her downfall. Princess Kwenthrith is pained when she hears this, but accepts it’s the truth. In turn, she tells Ragnar that King Ecbert wants dominion over Mercia, and that’s the only reason he supports her.
Back in Wessex, there is a feast honoring the Vikings’ and Princess Kwenthrith’s victory. As usual, Ragnar remains ever vigilant during the feast. He observes everyone and everything, and makes quick deductions about situations and people that are usually spot on. But perhaps the true evidence of his cunning is the conversation he had with King Ecbert.
Using the intel he gathered from Princess Kwenthrith, he bluntly tells Ecbert that all he wants is for Wessex to have dominion over Mercia. King Ecbert is surprised but doesn’t deny it. Ragnar then probes further… He asks King Ecbert if he thinks he’s a good man. Then he asks him if he’s corrupt, gathering info this time about King Ecbert’s character without revealing anything of his own. Remember that Ragnar knows power. He told Bjorn in season 1 that power belongs to those who stoop down to get it… and he’s testing out this theory on King Ecbert. So far, it seems it holds true with him as well.
Ragnar and Athelstan remain close. I really like how these two characters can express so much to each other in such few words. I think Ragnar appreciates this intelligence in Athelstan, and Athelstan in turn is very grateful for the freedom Ragnar bestows on him. Ragnar never commands Athelstan or tells him what to do. In fact, when King Ecbert tries to convince Athelstan to stay, Ragnar tells him that everybody is free to do whatever they want. Athelstan, however, sticks to his guts and remains loyal to the Viking King… which for now is probably a good idea, even if it does seem to disappoint King Ecbert very much.
i also like how Ragnar circles Lagertha every time they talk, as if he’s sizing her up. It’s clear he’s not 100% comfortable in her presence, even though Lagertha seems comfortable enough. Speaking of Lagertha, it looks like in her case, she can have her cake and eat it too. She and King Ecbert continued their love affair, and she gathered info about who he was as well, concluding, in her own words, that all king Ecbert cares about is himself. Ecbert likes Lagertha, but it seems to me like he doesn’t really know what type of Viking woman she really is.
There were several Ragnar one-liners that were especially funny in this episode:
Ragnar to King Ecbert: ‘Forgive me if I do not kiss your hand’.
Ragnar to Ecbert’s son: I don’t like you.
Ragnar to Lagertha: Fortunately I took some of Princess Kwenthrith’s medicine (referring to her peeing on his wound).
Back in Kattegat, things with the Wanderer come to a close. It’s obvious he was some type of magician. The scene with Aslaug and him was borderline rape, and it seems like the only reason Aslaug decided to go through with it was because she believed this man had powers of some sort and could help her in her problems. Aslaug actually seems a bit too consciously naive this season. I know they never do much with her character due to her lack of popularity, but it would be good if she were more defined, more understandable to audiences instead of just doing something freaky like allowing a stranger to have sex with her in hopes of a magical solution to her marital problems.
And now we come to the big shocker of this episode: Siggy’s death. It was entirely unexpected, seeing as during the episode we see Siggy internally struggling with a call to return to power. In the end, though, she went with her instinct. This is a character that has always relied on her instinct, and it didn’t fail her this time. She was brave enough to save Ragnar’s sons from certain death, and when she saw her daughter once more, I suppose she decided she was tired of being the consummate survivor, and decided to let go. The wandered wasn’t going to help her out of the water, and she was too tired to help herself. This time, the call to see her family was greater than her will to live.
It was a death that was done right. In earlier seasons, Siggy asked the seer once if he saw her coming back to power, and his answer was no. So this fits… she died a noble death, and the wanderer tells a justifiably suspicious Aslaug and Helga that she is in Valhalla, with her husband, daughter and sons. And after he tells them that, the Wanderer disappears, because he never stays in a place too long. Three full episodes with him seems about enough, actually. I liked the character, he was too enigmatic for comfort, but I can see how his antics could get really old, really fast.
I think that what’s happening between Porunn and Bjorn is a healthy dose of reality for them. Porunn was all cocky, saying that she wanted to fight even though she was pregnant, telling Bjorn that she is protected by the gods. And then this happens, and we are reminded as an audience that women going to war, or women being shield-maidens, isn’t always cool. They die too. Their faces get smashed in. That’s what happens in battle. And now Bjorn has to live with a scarred woman as wife. It’s sad, but it’s also like…hey, there are consequences, you know.
My favorite part of this episode was the ending. Princess Kwenthrith took Ragnar’s advice, twisted it, and did something crazy like poison all the wine and letting his brother drink from it. Both Ragnar and Ecbert are surprised. Ecbert is probably concerned that he’s dealing with a loose canon, and Ragnar seems amused at this turn of events. Kwenthrith might be somebody to reckon with, after all.
All in all a very satisfying episode. The pacing picked up quite a bit, and I’m excited to see what’s next. Stay tuned for the next review.