Each season, in the breadth of rivers, seas, and oceans, the Vikings cruise and sail through to new lands, picking apart culture and land until the winter sends them back out again. Paris is their newest stop, and their ruler Charles is subtly coerced by his daughter into staying in the city and showing the people that their king will not abandon them during uncertain times. Bits of their drama make it to the screen, but it’s Ragnar and Flocki’s determination to impregnate the city that gives us the full scope of tonight’s episode, “Paris.”
At the start, the music was red hot, and the look on Ragnar’s face told the tale of savoring bloody victory with his people, yet the invasion of Paris was put aside for scenes of planning and building. Athelstan was no more than a passive mention as Ragnar speaks of missing his friend to Flocki, who secretly feels the gods will help make his towers to help invade Paris. In his exhaustive excitement, he confesses to Helga that he sacrificed Athelstan. It’s easy to believe that Ragnar understands what happened and who was responsible, but it may be more likely that Athelstan’s murder will be revealed in a manner that could have repercussions for Flocki if Ragnar finds out from Helga or the man himself. Still, Flocki keeps to his roots and embraces the opportunity to lead the raid against Paris.
In Wessex, Ecbern sends Aethelwulf to Mercia to convince Kwenthrith to rekindle and maintain their alliance while the king draws closer to Judith and her son, Alfred. We learn a little more about Aethelwulf and his masochistic tendencies with self-flagellation which plays a short beat when he confronts Kwenthrith in her chamber. Her demeanor suggests that her sexual escapades have increased over the season and reveals a son who she claims came from Ragnar himself. We’re left on the cusp of Kwenthrith’s decision to accept Aethelwulf’s terms or suffer invasion by Ecbert and Wessex. It was an interesting play at seduction, which visually almost succeeded. But now she’s forced to settle on Ecbert’s demands less she suffer his wrath. I’m convinced she’ll fold as Aethelwulf suspects, at least until she can get in contact with Ragnar and use the child to build an alliance. Is he in fact the son of Ragnar? No reason not to believe it. There were plenty of moments that lent to their joining when Ragnar was last in town. Although, the child’s hair could be an interesting clue either way
In a short scene back in Kattegat, Thoruun attempts to give her child to Aslaug, who carefully explains the fundamental aspect of caring for a baby and accepting both who she is and what she must do. Aslaug retains some of her credence with being a smart and caring queen capable of understanding those she rules. It’s a shame how much Thoruun doubts herself at this point, not only is she convinced she can’t please Bjorn, but now she believes she can’t be a good mother to her baby. I can’t help but feel she’s clinging to a warrior’s death inside her heart and will jump at the next chance she can like Torstein did earlier this season.
For the moment, Kalf’s alliance is holding steady, but that will be expected to change sometime after everyone returns home from the Paris takeover. Alas, there’s the assumption. A lot can happen in-between then and the next episode. With Paris a heavily fortified city, I’d be surprised if no notable characters were killed or maimed by its end. After all, the bear still has to be married there, and if its Bjorn, does that make Charles’s daughter the wife? There was a significant moment where Odo from Paris reasserted himself as a prospect for marriage to her only to be sidestepped with keeping to Paris’s safety first. It’s a hefty clue that she’ll play a major part in the coming episodes.
All the build up was used for tonight, allowing us just a sliver of Viking chants and declarations of invasion. They’re thirsty for blood and they have the fire and weapons to storm any castle in front of them. It was a pleasant site as they gazed on to the stronghold they intend to capture. I expect the entire episode to be on that very subject
The beginning and end were fine points of build up, both depicting the same general sense that the raid on Paris will be a serious undertaking. I enjoy those specific moments when the music riles up both the Viking crowd and the audience with promises of intense combat. Even though we must wait another, week, the performance and musical cues were a welcome sight and sound.
I’d like to give it to Flocki once more. He showed considerable delight while fashioning the towers knowing he was doing all his god’s work. He’s convinced he’s as loyal as they come and responds accordingly to the nature of how Vikings act and react. Whether he harbors real anger toward Ragnar for keeping Athelstan’s cross has yet to be deciphered. His experience attempting to play raid leader at the preparation meetings was also humorous enough to show he’s never afraid to showcase his has power, even if he doesn’t understand how to wield it. Lessons learned.
LONG TERM THOUGHTS
I’m predicting that Aethelwulf won’t be a character to make it past season 3. He shows incoherent struggles and finds it difficult to keep control of his vices and virtues. When he said that Ecbert would even sacrifice his son to ensure peace in the land, or to that degree, it seemed like a good assumption that it could be followed through with.
With the raid vastly approaching, it’s the perfect time for Lagertha to stage her comeback against Kalf. Similar moments have happened in the past and in the chaos, would anyone really blame Lagertha or even know it was her?
As loyal as Helga is to Flocki, I wonder if she’ll end up telling Ragnar or someone else, like Aslaug what happened to Athelstan. It’s possible with enough time passing by that this may become a non-issue, but that also depends with what happens at the end of the invasion and who survives.
I hope Ecbert’s fascination with the Romans pays off. Now that he’s brought Judith into his realm with it, it’s only solidified that his adoration for that culture could lead to some hasty decisions or to a new age at his rule.
When Rollo doesn’t get a lot of character screen time, expect his rampage to be plenty on the field of battle. What he lacks for in development, he’ll make up for in fighting spirit.
Though, the build up was intense, and Kwenthrith’s lively performance were among the best of the episode, I don’t feel this was as capitalized as it could have been. Sometimes the preparation for war or a raid leads to some monotonous moments that don’t really go anywhere. I get the Vikings are a random bunch that can be focused when need be, but it’s not as interesting to watch them sit around as it is to watch them live in the moment and be who they are. The new characters in Paris were mildly interesting at best. Charles’s daughter (I forget what they called her. Gisla?) was the only interesting one of the bunch and I expect she’ll play a grand role later on as practically has the king doing what she wants. Essentially I’m giving it a 6 out of 10. Good effort but the delivery is coming in the next episode and that sacrifices some of that score tonight. I expect some full-scale carnage next week will help turn this around. Until then.
No more words