In the midst of the snowy ice and ghostly fog, the wanderer comes and goes leaving those in Kattegat wondering of the man who entered their lives and left all the same. Was he a seer onto himself, or in fact a god hidden in the guise of dramatic storyteller? One result is known and that’s the grim fate of Siggy, wife of Haraldson. As for those in Wessex, Ragnar and his Vikings return to Ecbert where Kwenthrith declares herself the sole ruler of Mercia by way of poisoning her brother, Burgred.
Sometimes murder is a very passive device and can happen in the blink of an eye. This episode came to be one of the most introverted and complex forms of stories in all three seasons. You believe what you will with your own eyes, but logical courses dictates that those who see beyond the normal are irrevocably cursed in one form or another. Those left behind have to choose one way or another what will engrave their lives with truth and fate.
Most of the linear plot deals with Ragnar and crew returning to Mercia. Bjorn cares for a severally wounded Porunn (Thorunn), Flocki continues to mock Rollo and the fear of everyone losing their beliefs to the western god, and Kwenthrith almost assures Burgred that they will joint rule Mercia. At another junction in his life, Ragnar continues flirting with Kwenthrith while dealing with his ongoing choice to support Ecbert to gain land, crops, and a healthy alliance. Much of this pace flows decently, but nothing too overtly new. One can argue that Flocki could snap at any moment. But his delirium is much more subtle and passive while he questions his brothers in arms. One of these days I expect Rollo to lash out just to prove a point.
Over in Wessex, Judith and Athelstan seal their love in bed which complicates matters when she wants him to remain instead of returning home with Ragnar. Though their loving embrace is spotted which could prove to be problematic sooner rather than later. The crux of the episode on this side of land deals in Kwenthrith’s rather bold maneuver in killing her brother in front of everyone by way of poison drink. After he falls, everyone accepts her new role, something Ragnar identifies as a name only. He knows Ecbert will always be the true ruler. I can only imagine what kind of thoughts that pile up in the head of the king of the northmen.
And lastly, in Kattegat, Aslaug gives in to Harbard’s convincing advances while Siggy grows weary of the wanderer’s intentions. After a surreal moment of realization, she searches for Ragnar’s sons who venture out onto a frozen lake. They fall in and she dives in to rescue them. When one child is saved, she rises to see a woman greeting her. After the second child is saved the figure is then revealed to be Harbard. Siggy, in a moment of clarity, or possibly unquenchable fear, succumbs to her fate and drowns in the frozen lake. In one aspect, Siggy saw a goddess, someone necessary for her to let go or perhaps even cling to a hope that her future is still bright. Yet, with the appearance of Harbard the true character saving the children, everything changes and she just lets go. In a way it’s beyond surreal how she acted. In the words of the seer, maybe there was nothing for her to do but to relinquish her trust in the gods and be at peace with the fact she couldn’t rise or reclaim what she lost when her husband died.
I’m stricken with a sense of coldness over her departure. While she latched on to any thread that would return her to the graces of rule, she also had her moments of creative goodness that put her in a better light than some other characters. The truth is she was a very inconsistent character, but almost endearing. I’m torn on feeling whether this death was necessary or not, and I’d be amazed if this turned out to be a false portent and somewhere in the snow shores, she’s still alive. In any case, it was a very cold and hypogogic segment that I would expect from a show like this.
Siggy’s final scene is still a mind screw. Part hallucination, part god-like element all filtering the life and times of surviving in the deep cold and the long term of effects of loneliness and heartache. When it finally gives way and the frozen lake cracks, what else can one do but fall in and be dragged to the depths? Could it be said that Harbard murdered her? Not a lot of evidence there, but that’s what makes the scene so poignant. We not given the true identity of the woman in white, meaning she could be Freya, a mother, or anyone who she needed to see, until the time came to see who it really was.
I think Kwenthrith edges out the top spot tonight. Her nature is more and more sadistic than I initially thought. What passed as sisterly love, turned out to be a sour deception, one she may have orchestrated on the spot, or since the beginning. Knowing what she went through in her younger life, such an act shouldn’t have been surprising, but that’s the complexity of her character is not knowing what she’ll say or do and that’s one key aspect to making interesting characters work.
LONG TERM THOUGHTS
Kalf has now allied with Horik’s son and Borg’s wife which means there will be some form of revolt against Lagertha when she returns home. I’m still not convinced this gathering of opposition will pose any true threat. It seems more of a plot to fashion Lagertha back in Kattegat.
It’s only a matter of time now before Athelstan and Aethelwulf clash over the love of Judith. Is there a lasting love between her and Athelstan and is it enough to keep him in Wessex and away from Ragnar and his people? I’m not seeing it quite yet, but at the same time, his longing pulls him in so many directions his choice will always keep him centered on Ragnar unless he convinces her to leave with him.
I’ll admit, I’m actually beginning to like Ecbert a little more as time goes on. He’s the one king who almost understands Ragnar and the way of ruling and keeping alliances that matter. Will it last forever? No, of course not. Everyone Ragnar trusts he eventually has to kill. Still, he’s a likeable villain, more so than people like Kalf or whomever they choose to throw at Ragnar this season.
Helga saw what seemed like Harbard disappear into the snowy backdrop of Kattegat. The mystique is certainly remaining that he was a force of the gods rather than a subtle and crazed wanderer who happen to know the age-old method to stop babies from crying. Will he return in future episodes and will Aslaug be with child before Ragnar comes home?
Were Aethelwulf’s intentions real when he tried to play at Rollo and Flocki with their own words of friendship the need to be allies and win? Seems like a dull move to throw if he wasn’t serious and judging by his actions during the premiere, he had no intention of staying allies with the Vikings. With Judith’s affair on the cusp of being brought to the open, will that be a driving force for him to seal his judgment?
8 out of 10. Vikings maintains its core consistency with enriched storytelling and hyper-complex characters that continue to dazzle us with intrigue and risky choices. Episode after episode, they take away familiar characters that seemed to have a foot-hold on the show, and tonight, fair Siggy was on that list. Will there be a defining moment of proof or will she simply fade into the cold darkness never found by a soul? That’s the majesty of a show like Vikings, anyone can fall into obscurity, yet it is Ragnar who endures for his people, because he has to.
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