For every new arrival joining the cause of Ragnar’s raids, there’s another who fatefully departs into worlds beyond. The second half of season 3 begins by building more walls around Ragnar who must now journey to Paris without the aid of his most trusted ally.
The passage of time is sometimes a little staggering to get used to, but 9 months have presumably past with the birth of two children. Siggy, a daughter born to Bjorn and Thorunn, and Alfred, named by King Ecbert son of Athelstan and Judith. For her transgressions, Judith is punished until she reveals Athelstan’s name as the father. Ecbert uses this as a sign and tells Aethelwulf that the child was meant to be and Judith is spared from anymore pain. It’s a disturbingly quick segment that places Judith in a screaming frenzy, unable to cope with the pain she was forced to endure. Realizing how the episode ends only makes her suffering that much more potent and unyielding for she’ll never see Athelstan and his smile ever again.
In Kattegat, Kalf and his allies arrive to aid and prepare the raid in Paris. Athelstan shows Ragnar how impossible it will be to penetrate the island and Flocki grows ever more agitated at Athelstan’s presence. In a serene moment of solitude, Athelstan feels the presence of his god and undergoes an effect of being blinded before he realizes the sign he received. After disposing Ragnar’s wrist band, Flocki recovers it and has Bjorn inform the populace of Athelstan’s soft betrayal. Ragnar pays no mind of it and reveals help in an ally that knows how to breach Paris. Afterward, Flocki receives a sign himself in the form of a bleeding carving and returns to Kattegat to murder Athelstan. And murder he did as Athelstan looked on in a praying position ready to be sent to his god. By the end, Ragnar buries Athelstan far from home and with new determination, dawns the Christian cross around his neck.
Back in season 1, I had a lot of reservation when it came to pass that Athelstan might be sacrificed and taken out of the series that quick. He seemed to have a bigger role to play and it turned out he did. Though that role has now come to an end. Even though Flocki is at times a closer nemesis than Ragnar will ever see, his killing blow to Athelstan wasn’t painted in such devastation. In fact, Athelstan was prepared for whatever awaited him. It was a peaceful departure, one that he was comfortable knowing he still served his true god. If anything, Flocki will be left with more anguish because his surface level dementia will not be so easily satiated no matter what he does for his gods of the north. Flocki is always and forever conflicted about the path of others and the uncertainty of his own. Whether his sign was genuine or not, to him, it was the excuse he needed to vanquish those from his land that weren’t really born of it.
Does Flocki in fact disappear, far from Ragnar’s wrath? Will Athelstan’s murder be so easily discerned that Flocki won’t have a place with the Vikings anymore? And even if he doesn’t leave, how will he treat Ragnar who may be wearing the cross wherever he treads. It’s a golden bullseye and many of the Kattegat won’t understand the meaning behind it, but Flocki will, and he certainly won’t like it one bit.
There’s a smaller piece of subplot pertaining to Thorunn convincing Bjorn to partake in bedding Torvi, who easily gives in. It’s an interesting sentiment given a man like Bjorn wouldn’t normally partake in such acts, yet Thorunn’s permission absolves any guilt in the matter. Like Ragnar, this could have stunning repercussions with a pregnant Torvi coming into play while the raid in Paris commences. Though, it’s good to see Thorunn is still able to manage without suffering any extreme depression from her looks. That could easily be her deception but we won’t know until she plays her next hand.
The dynamic of the episode shows a few paired events, namely the birth of two children and two signs from opposite gods. There’s a mirror of violence in that Judith’s birth results in her disfigurement, much like Thorunn’s prior to her birth. After Athelstan’s sign, he discards the wrist band, and in Flocki’s vision, he sees blood which generally signifies the need to spill it. In both acts, they fall victim to what they must do to bring them closer to their faith even if one of them has to die. A certain die has now been cast, but will revenge be taken, or will things simply move on to bigger issues namely, the sacking of Paris?
The final scene with Ragnar was highly reflective and very well thought out. There’s a simplicity built in Ragnar that gives him a lot of freedom to be expressive even if his mannerisms and tone seems to suggest otherwise. Alone, he can vent and be truthful about what stirs within him and what he feels he must do for the good of his people and essentially himself. He let go of Athelstan, a character he had grown to love as he freely admitted. Now Ragnar wears Athelstan’s cross much as Athelstan had worn Ragnar’s wrist band. The sentiment will be shared alone, but how far will he go to prove his friendship to Athelstan was true?
Ragnar dips ahead with his solemn dialogue and his pension for generally stealing the spotlight when the time calls. Flocki was close this time around, but he ultimately gave in to a desire he already had been building up. It’s less development and more self-destructive since his nature is to defy change while Ragnar is more open to absorbing it.
LONG TERM THOUGHTS
I almost didn’t recognize Kalf. Hair has a way of growing fast in a years worth of time. Soon Ragnar’s other kids will be as big as Bjorn, or even bigger and then their story will have to be told.
At last appearance, Lagertha left Kattegat as if she were on a new quest to reclaim her land and title. Now she’s back and little to nothing has changed except the conversation with Bjorn about the need to get back land and title. I felt something was missing here or maybe she rode off with little more than the time needed to figure out her next move against Kalf, which we’re still not sure yet.
With Ecbert embracing the baby Alfred as a sign from god, how will he use this to his advantage and is it more toward manipulating Aethelwulf, or the people of Wessex? He always has something brewing, but Aethelwulf was in on it the last time. What’s changed now?
Ragnar murdered the old man who told him that the Viking farmers had been slain. It’s obvious he doesn’t want this information to go public which could be as simple reasoning as Ragnar doesn’t want revenge to distract his people while they prepare to raid Paris. There could be deeper reasons involved, but I’m fine with the simplicity of it.
Now that Kalf has joined the raid, will he see it through, or find a golden moment to strike against Ragnar when he least suspects it? This show is all about betrayals and cheap alliances, making Kalf no easier to trust than the last several who once allied with the king of Kattegat. I expect the alliance to hold until the bombshell in Paris drops, and it’s bound to be crazy for certain.
Strong 8 out of 10. I wasn’t expecting Athelstan to depart so soon given his importance and relevant screen time on the show. Vikings is keeping a morbid pace with slaying it’s prime cast every few episodes and doesn’t appear to be slowing down. If Rollo ever get’s taken out, that’s where I may draw the line, but knowing him he’ll find a way to survive or at the least die with his brother in glorious battle. The epic undertaking of Paris is soon to be unveiled, and hopefully there won’t be any more prominent sacrifices before then.
No more words