A Sashurai’s Review: Vikings – Season 4×03 (You either learn to draw, learn to speak, or learn to kill the bear)

Vikings 4x03

 

SUMMARY

After Kalf admits his love for Lagertha, Elendur convinces him to send a beserker to kill Bjorn. Rollo attempts to learn French but loses patience in it as Charles fears he’ll abandon them to another Viking invasion. Judith gives herself to Ecbert pressing to be seen as an equal. Both Ecbert and Ragnar dream of Athelstan with Ecbert realizing Athelstan is dead and Ragnar realizing he needs to free Flocki. Aethelwulf and Kwenthrith return to Wessex and are later drawn to each other in bed. Bjorn encounters a bear in the snow and successfully kills the larger beast in battle. Ragnar frees Flocki who had recently learned his daughter had died.

 

INITIAL THOUGHTS

Some of the best imagery comes from this show’s uncanny ability to weave in a surreal atmosphere amidst a historical background. Our ability to understand, sympathize, support, and trust these characters often comes from the subconscious manifested from dreams, hallucinations and sheer will of force. Tonight’s episode brought a myriad of heightened senses most notably from Ragnar, Ecbert, and Bjorn, who the latter draws closer to the legend he’ll one day become. The pace continues to draw out certain encounters, but now more than ever comes the motivation and drive that our three kingdoms are experiencing that will make this season all the more fragrant of lust and power.

 

THE GOOD

I’ve seen many movies where the human tries to battle the bear and more often than not, the bear wins. This is one of those situations where it was vital the bear not win. Given how difficult shooting a scene like this must take, it was fascinating watching the older son of Ragnar bravely face the bear while experiencing the harsh north winter. What’s epic in hindsight is that this is a victory only Bjorn can savor. True he can return to his father with the bear’s head hanging on his head, but I don’t think that’s the point here. He’s facing challenges that only he can witness and survive through. When all is said and done, he can move forward and prove through conscious acts that he’s ready to lead and not rely on proof of his vigilance. He’ll earn it through that sheer will now that he’s faced nature and won.

 

The Wessex subplot remains intact and in fashionable dramatic swing. Now that both Ecbert and his son are bedding each other’s wife, unbeknownst to the other, some questions surface on how this will affect their relationships should either find out. Ecbert is in more of a position to get what he wants in the long run because as king, he pretty much calls the shots. And there’s more betrayal from that perspective from his son stealing bed time with the queen than Ecbert being with Judith. Still, what I like most is how they’re layering these characters and giving them depth so that they can add more meaning to the show that is predominantly about Vikings and their conquest throughout history. Ecbert maintains nobility and some sensible natures while still succumbing to Judith’s unyielding charisma as she claims her place as an equal among him.

 

THE BAD

The least effective scenes in tonight’s episode revolved around Rollo, who unfortunately is no closer to settling in with his new people than when he first started. He is trying to fit in, learn their language and somewhat understand their culture, but one main problem is he isn’t the Rollo we know and engage with on a primal level. The art of learning civility is that there are rewards that should keep him moving forward and they are simply not there for him. Gisla continues to shun him and even declares publicly her desire for a divorce. Rollo reacts poorly to being taught their language and Odo is left to be the one to cater to Rollo’s demands or risk his departure from their kingdom. My issue here is he isn’t interacting with anyone that’s left from his homeland. He’s out of his element and isn’t swinging an axe at anything in a blood-fueled rage. Essentially his scenes are the least entertaining, but they weren’t awful by any means.

 

FAVORITE MOMENT

I’m glad they continue to utilize Athelstan in the show as he had an immense impact on Ragnar, Ecbern, and Judith. I wouldn’t expect them to over due his presence in this season, but this appearance was appropriate and welcome. I never thought I’d feel sorrow for Flocki after what he’d been through but seeing how Ragnar’s subconscious is dealing with his loneliness and unsure feelings, I do think it makes sense that he free Flocki and finds a way to forgive him for killing Athelstan. Great moments both for Ragnar and Ecbert who both miss their friend and ally.

 

CHARACTER MVP

I have to give it up for Bjorn who not only survived his encounter with the bear but is finding all the courage and independence he needs to become the warrior he intends to be. There was a moment where the shot of him laying on the ground and still having the advantage over the bear seemed silly and extremely unrealistic, but I have to shrug at it since shooting scenes with a bear can’t be all that simple even if it is trained for such stunts. Still, in character, I think Bjorn is truly learning exactly what he needs to. Now comes the next test. The berserker.

 

ENDING THOUGHTS

I can imagine there are “spies” around where Bjorn is currently living, but we really don’t have any context into how Erlendur knows where Bjorn is and are not told. Erlendur just knows. I also wasn’t expecting Kalf to commit to allowing Lagertha’s son to be killed after what he told her.

 

It’s too early to tell if Flocki will fall in line with Ragnar again, or if the two will have an extremely unsteady alliance until Flocki proves himself to Ragnar again. It’s also possible Flocki intends to betray Ragnar, an act I can imagine Aslaug nurturing if she decides to truly rule Kattegat for herself.

 

I liked the fact that Flocki was placed under a dripping point in the cave to prevent him from ever falling asleep. Helga’s act in using a bowl to block the water does in fact mirror Loki’s imprisonment as the lore describes. It’s the little things like this that really accentuates these segments. And bravo for Gustaf for looking the part of a weakened man who could barely handle the routine of it all.

 

I hope Ragnar decides to travel again soon. I imagine Bjorn will hopefully return by then to lead the charge. We need everyone to cross paths again or this season will be a very deflated one.

 

I always wonder if the beginning credits are in fact Ragnar’s final voyage before he succumbs to a violent death. The images change throughout the seasons, but the core of the grim and watery fate remains the same. It’s too epic not to duplicate in the series finale if they decided to try it out.

 

OVERALL SCORE

8 out of 10. Very effective piece of storytelling. Probably one of the least violent episodes in the entire saga but also a very poignant one. Bjorn roars toward a stronger path as his father realizes potentially what Flocki means to him. Ecbert and Athelwulf are following their passions while Rollo continues to hit walls with his place in life. Learning and patience are a big part of this episode’s theme along with personal conflict and what it means to long for others. In a lot of ways, Flocki is Ragnar’s only real friend left and maybe it’s time they saw the meaning of it. Well delivered story and though some moments with the bear weren’t shot very tactfully, I enjoyed this episode much more than others in the past. Thanks for reading.

 

 

No more words

 

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