A Sashurai’s Review: Vikings – Season 3×10 (He’s what they consider “mostly dead”)

Vikings 10

There’s believing what you see, and then there’s knowing with your heart what is, and isn’t real. All one had to do was remember the look in Ragnar’s eyes when he swore he would take Paris, and like a servant of death, he concluded his raid by fooling everyone, including those closest to him that his dying wish was to die a Christian. Bjorn took his father’s sage advice and helped him carry out a scheme that even Floki couldn’t see coming. But how much was Ragnar truly pretending as he was dipped into the waters, being given a rebirth. And will his ending whisper to Floki begin a downward slope that may split the two forever?

Until the last twenty minutes or so, there wasn’t much that felt like this would be a grand standing finale that should have easily toppled over the last two. After all, how does one find a more epic frame than Ragnar sitting atop of Preikestolen? The answer is simple, you don’t. But what one can do is prove that not only is Ragnar still the king of his people, but that he most assuredly deserves to be. In that sentiment, the last portion of Vikings was very fascinating to watch, from Ragnar’s blood-soaked victory stare, to Rollo’s realization of the Seer’s maddening prophecy. Once more, the brothers are presumably on opposite sides, but in all fairness, that’s not remotely an issue at the moment.

After receiving the appointed gold from Paris, Ragnar convinces Bjorn to request that Paris giving him a Christian send off when he dies. Ragnar has Floki build him a boat-like coffin and when it is finished, Ragnar is placed inside with Bjorn telling everyone he’s gone. After Lagertha, Rollo, and Floki sill their earthly woes near Ragnar’s body, it is brought within the halls of Paris, but as the traditional words are spoken by their holy man, Ragnar emerges and steals the princess declaring that he had won. The Vikings gain entry and they carve out a piece of Paris to take back to their lands. Rollo and others stay behind to prepare for a spring raid as Ragnar and the rest return home. The king offers Rollo a duke title and riches along with marrying his daughter in exchange for his loyalty and promise to fend off Ragnar when spring arrives. Though the princess is reluctant to marry, Rollo presumably accepts this new title. And in a boat on its way back to Kattegat, Ragnar tells Floki and he knows Floki killed Athelstan. Floki stares with careful eyes.

Now we know that Ragnar will be the leader for at least another season, taking his people to victories while Rollo is once more put in opposition. Though, It would be more humorous to learn that Rollo could easily deceive the king and share the title only to betray him. It’s not a bad tactic, and I think he should go that route. Should he truly accept his new role and side with Paris, we may yet see a very critical moment between brothers.

Odo and Therese’s scene was also another indicator that the situation with Paris was far from over lending to Ragnar’s ultimate survival. A scene of that nature wouldn’t have belonged in a finale like this especially since Odo is hardly character deserving of that kind of attention unless it was long term. In a twisted and perverse sense of amusement and frustration, he whips Therese as a form of pain/pleasure while Therese endures for his affection. It’s not a very compelling piece of the plot, but I suppose diversity in characters will show further down the road how wicked people can get when they settle for what’s within reach versus what’s beyond.

The last shot was especially important as it spells a necessary collision between two favored characters. While I was fully expecting Ragnar to kill Floki on the spot, the subtle and passive approach was done just as nicely. This kind of development needs to simmer and be speculated until next season because Floki and Ragnar share such a deep rooted history that to simply cut either one off at the climax of this season is to rob us of an even finer battle the two will likely have next season. How will it end? Can’t wait to find out.

FAVORITE MOMENT

When Ragnar came out of his coffin, it was surreal and fun to watch. I realized I let myself believe he might be truly gone even though the evidence was there that this was planned. He executed with perfect precision and only took a chunk out of the city, knowing he’d be back for more. He’s not decimating Paris, but letting it stew and rebuild so that they may be conquered again. Ragnar had a plan and Athelstan helped even from beyond. Great moment and helped boost the overall feel of this otherwise bland finale.

CHARACTER MVP

Ragnar played dead and did an excellent job selling it. It couldn’t have been easy breathing in a sealed wooden coffin like that, and even before he was resolute in both his wish to be in heaven with Athelstan and as the man who finally raided Paris. Luckily, the latter won out and he got his rewards by taking them. He gave Bjorn the kind of fatherly advice a king would give his son and very subtly informs Floki and he knows that Floki knows. Always impressive and guile as ever, Ragnar is the clutch performer in tonight’s finale.

LONG TERM THOUGHTS

From here on out, it’s all speculation and looking up historical moments to gauge what happens next. Rollo and Bjorn have a long road ahead, and it’ll be interesting to see how much more of a role Ragnar plays in each of their rises and prominent characters of their own.

With Ecbern and Athelwulf absent in the finale, I ponder what they will bring to season 4 and whether they’ll play a part in the protection, destruction, or viewing of Paris’s continued raids by the Vikings. Ecbern seems distracted enough, but there should be something to help include them in future storylines.

Lagertha may have to deal with Kalf early on in season 4 if we’re going to move past that little piece of the story. For now he’s accepted his fate that she’ll kill him, though I’d think he wouldn’t just bow down and let it be done without some plan of his own. Maybe I’m giving him too much credit.

Will there be any more wives to Ragnar next season or will Aslaug remain the only one? Kwenthrith still has a part to play in this and I doubt Ragnar will forget about her.

The seer will also still be around which means, more prophecies and strange imagery to be had. It appeared a few times that he might be close to the end of his days, but to my recollection, he’ll be there to give Ragnar more interesting news and double meanings for the future.

OVERALL SCORE

7 out of 10. It wasn’t a blood-soaked hellish finale, but it pulled through some great moments at the end. If Ragnar had indeed perished by the middle point of the episode, this review would have been quite different. A character like him will hopefully be awarded a much more epic finale that even the gods themselves will have to pay attention to. As for this episode and season in general, it contained some powerful moments and a few deaths that weren’t entirely expected. Next season, there will be more raids, and Ragnar to lead them. Whether his belief in heaven and the effect of being baptized will forever change him, who knows, but that’s what having layers is all about. There’s always more Ragnar to figure out and that what makes him a great principle character. Until next season.

No more words

A Sashurai’s Review: Vikings – Season 3×09 (That spiked wheel was utterly wicked!)

Vikings 09

The 11th hour has struck for Ragnar as his Vikings attempt once more to penetrate Paris and conquer its castle. The penultimate episode to the finale orchestrates one king’s passion for a spiritual release, and another king’s dangerous game against a suspicious son. Bizarre visuals and hallucinations play a distinct role in “Breaking Point” showing just how much Ragnar want to be reunited with his best friend. Perhaps his era of leading his people has come to a determined end. One thing is for certain, Floki and the others don’t like what they’ve seen at the tail end.

After the initial siege fails, Rollo, Lagertha and others attempt to gain entry at night, but Odo and his soldiers once more fend off the attack and take a pair hostage. One is executed while the other, claiming to be a wanderer and a speaker of French, is kept alive. Ragnar suffers greatly from his wound and hallucinates Athelstan. Meanwhile in Wessex, Ecbern seals his relationship with Judith and then Aethelwulf returns, skeptical of his father’s agenda with him. In Kattegat, Aslaug deals with a Christian who declares her gods as false compared to his own. He’s put to a test and fails and presumably put to death afterward. Paris civilians suffer from a mysterious illness leaving the king to try and negotiate a truce with Ragnar who meets with Odo on his own wanting to be baptized at the meeting. They agree but Floki, Lagertha, and others arrive as the deed takes place with uncertainty to Ragnar’s future hanging in the balance.

It’s interesting to view this episode as a swan song for Ragnar after everything he’s done to claim his throne and lead his people to new lands. Yet, even at the peak of his power, what he desires most is the presence of his best friend and the promise of conquest against a nation he’s told can’t be conquered. Now, at the height of his wounds, he’s ready to pass on but under the path of the Christian god, something his people likely won’t forgive him for. But is it enough to destroy the man after all he’s done, or will he simply succumb to his wounds as he suspects will be the case? Vikings has the opportunity to become an anthology series which has been talked about among it’s fan base in the past. Will that premise be fulfilled? I like the idea, because it can blow open the doors to many different Viking plots outside of the current generation. Maybe Rollo will finally get his chance to become the next breakout star.

The segment involving the Christian in Kattegat was an odd sequence to throw in. I wasn’t sure if this was meant to balance out Ragnar’s role as his strength in his gods wanes while Aslaug’s remains absolute, or whether it was just a moment to fill so we don’t forget that Kattegat’s people maintain their pride and beliefs. In any case, it felt very rushed and thrown in from my perspective. The man’s thoughts that his test would pass with flying colors was an interesting moment though easily shown as false as his hands truly melt at holding an iron rod.

As Paris became more of the focal point for the remainder of the season, Ecbern and his agenda in Wessex feels a bit soft on the story side of things. It’s almost as if the focus is making sure we don’t forget about Judith’s child, Alfred while the king makes her agree to his protective custody. Aethelwulf is straddling the fence on obeying his father and realizing a certain truth, that Ecbern can’t be completely trusted. If the situation is resolved in either of their death’s I wonder if Wessex will play any role in the next season. Ecbern has essentially become a likable character in my view and though he’s inherently sinister, he’s not outright evil. I could see him playing his role for another year.

FAVORITE MOMENT

That wheel put on a gross display of death and gore. It definitely made this episode more unique in that regard and felt like a great highlight for the night. Rollo worked his way around it even though the damage had been done. The ingenuity and execution of the device made me wonder why it wasn’t the first thing they used from the previous attempt to protect that long walkway. Still, it was freakishly stylistic and morbid in its own right.

CHARACTER MVP

I’m laughing, but the captured Earl who fooled the executioner by having his hair pulled was classic and worthy of praise. Not only did he show the expected defiance of his people, but he did so in a way that mocked the system in which he was to die through. He was still put to death after a fashion, but the manner made it more humorous to watch then the usual display of minor character deaths. Good job on that front.

LONG TERM THOUGHTS

Rollo was referred to as a crazy bear. High indicator that the Seer’s prophecy puts Rollo smack dab in the middle of it. Though it was spoken without Rollo in the room, so he doesn’t know he’s a crazy bear…yet.

Will Floki condemn Ragnar as he has done to others in the past? Even worse, will Bjorn and the others follow suit? The final trailer shows yet another attempt to take over Paris. One can only wonder if Ragnar is in on the assault.

The situation between Kwenthrith and Ecbern still feels pretty unresolved and the focus on Paris makes the plot in Wessex feel like it’s going to continue into next season. I like that Aethelwulf is still on the verge of either a great epiphany or a tragic curse considering he flat out told his father what dark scheme he might have hatched to put him out of the way. Hopefully there’s resolution next week.

OVERALL SCORE

8 out of 10. Solid performance all around. The wheel was a nice touch in artillery by the French and Ragnar’s ever-expanding beliefs have put him in a very awkward place with his people. Maybe it’s what he really wants or maybe he’s suffered in a way that has damaged his mental state beyond hope. If his people don’t believe he’s fighting for them and their gods, the finale could be his final episode. We’ll see how it plays out. I don’t imagine everyone making it out of the season 3 alive, and we’ve already lost a good amount of main-stayers from the show. Until next week. Keep up the good fight.

No more words

A Sashurai’s Review: Vikings – Season 3×08 (If at first you don’t succeed…)

Vikings 08

The tempting fragrance of a new city to conquer was enough to fuel the northmen, but the might and numbers simply weren’t enough to overtake Paris. Ragnar suffers potentially his worst defeat at the hands of Princess Gisla’s rally and the men who fought under her anointed banner.  Many were slain and wounded, but the bulk of our Viking cast remains intact for the next round. The siege isn’t over yet, and there are only two episodes left in this rambunctious and blood-thirsty season.

Entire episodes dealing primarily on sacking a city are not unheard of (I’m talking to you GOT season 2×09). They have a different pace and a non-stop fury of intense moments that spark the imagination and of course warrant deadly concern over any character’s survival. Here we get an unrelenting view of both sides trying to manage their duty and purpose which plays incredibly well for both parties. Gisla isn’t afraid and she not only pulled out the heart of her city, but she showed it to the soldiers who found new strength in defending their home. I give Gisla a lot of credit for standing her ground and witnessing the onslaught first hand.

On the opposing end, Ragnar, Floki, Bjorn, Rollo, and Lagertha stage their double-sided attack and perform at their more cunning capacity, which for a short time had the perception of being in their favor. Men and women climbed Floki’s towers and screamed their war cries of victory, only to be shot down or burned alive for the effort. Lagertha fairs no better at the front gate where long spikes and arrows greet the group after they spent an enormous amount of time just getting through the front door. Bjorn suffers near fatal injuries as he, Rollo and Ragnar storm the castle walls and take on the entire squad stationed there themselves. It was a moment to take in because main characters get to have moments to shine where normal reality would dictate they’d likely be killed if they were the only three battling so many. But they each fell in their own way and retreated as they had no choice.

Floki experienced an almost ethereal awakening while surrounded by fire from under one of his towers. He questioned the gods and blamed Athelstan for his failure, even going so far as to cut his own throat to avoid either shame or worse. Yet, he expels the thought and survives like the rest not knowing how his Viking brethren will react knowing the plan was consciously his under the guise of Ragnar’s choice to let Floki manage the siege. Floki’s performance and confusion was masterfully played even if I never believed for a second that he would die in this episode.

Rollo shined as the brute who would cut down his own men for the cowardice they showed by refusing to climb the towers in front of them. Shirtless and bearded, he charged ready to battle all of Paris himself. His warrior spirit won’t die that easily and it should be noted that when he fell into the river, there was a moment of kinship between that scene and how Siggy succumbed to her fate. Yet Rollo will do no such thing, and that’s a good thing.

After Paris celebrates their victory, the wounded Vikings tend to their own, restoring Bjorn and dealing with their massive setback. Kalf warms up to Lagertha who gives in to his advances under the condition that sometime in the future she’ll kill him for taking over her land. He seals the contract with a kiss and all I could think about is this is what it must be like if humans acted like spiders or praying mantis’s. If the male goes into the deal knowing he won’t come out of it alive, he must think it’s worth losing his life over. And I don’t doubt Lagertha will uphold her end of the bargain regardless of Kalf’s future scheming.

The episode ends with Ragnar finding a quiet place to speak to Athelstan once more, declaring through his wounds that one way or another, he’ll take over Paris. He stares off in his beguiling gaze as we prepare for one more charge into Paris next week.

FAVORITE MOMENT

Many rampant and stylized moments consumed the screen, but my top scene goes to the trio (Rollo, Ragnar, Bjorn) fighting their way to the top and ultimately suffering defeat as each are expelled from the wall in different gut-wrenching capacities. By this point in the attack it was clear the three of them wouldn’t make much of a difference but the surreal rage and violence of it all lent to a classic moment that really defines the Viking culture of that period and those who showcased it. They wouldn’t quit. Even at sure defeat, Ragnar joined his on and brother and did what he set out to do, even if it killed him. For the moment, they’ve been denied their glorious deaths.

CHARACTER MVP

Floki once again takes the trophy for his maniacal behavior and cathartic awakening to the carnage blazing around him. He showed absolutely zero doubt that his towers would be the key to victory. When the damage and death became too great, he retreated under a tower and proceeded to argue with himself the gods over why such a defeat came to be. In a way he’s an antonym to the  brutal nature of the Viking era, with his high-pitched laughter and shameless dancing, yet he captures the essence of their beliefs every time he’s on screen. It can’t be easy playing such a layered character, but Floki is an ever complicated man who just wants to be rewarded for his faith.

LONG TERM THOUGHTS

Porunn is seen briefly traveling away from Kattegat, alone. Without any more evidence to support her sullen attitude as of late, she leaves her home without her child toward who knows where. I’m hoping we haven’t seen the last of her. Kattegat seems to have some tragic effects on our supporting characters as of late.

While it appears obvious that Ragnar allowed Floki to plan the attack so not to suffer the blame of defeat, I wonder if he had a different plan of his own from the get go. He knows he doesn’t have the manpower to fail again, which of course suggests a more stealthy approach (Having peeked at next week’s promo). I also think they should have just tried to raid at night.

OVERALL SCORE

8 out of 10. This is what we wanted to see last week, a no-holds-barred action packed wallop. Though the end result wasn’t what Ragnar wanted the extreme effort was fuel for our entertainment. The sweeping shots showed us great scale though I wasn’t as impressed with the CGI as I was with the backdrop of Paris which was much better rendered and detailed. The intensity was there with each player screaming and riling for their chance to maim and kill and the end showed promise of things to come. Ragnar may have to deal with another loss in the future, but for now he’s dead set on keeping his goal intact. Until next week.

No more words

A Sashurai’s Review: Vikings – Season 3×07 (The tease before the storm. Axe time, sword time, call to form)

Vikings 07

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

FAVORITE MOMENT

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.

CHARACTER MVP

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.

OVERALL SCORE

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

A Sashurai’s Review: Vikings – Season 3×06 (Humanity are the pawns in a war between the gods)

Vikings 06

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?

FAVORITE MOMENT

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?

CHARACTER MVP

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.

OVERALL SCORE

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

A Sashurai’s Review: Vikings – Season 3×05 (Nobody ever suspects the kind and gentle king)

Vikings 05

If a king is too nice and lenient, surely he must be a scheming tyrant. Ecbert reveals his true agenda as his son Aethelwulf carries out a plan to massacre the northmen who stayed behind to grow crops in Wessex. With it’s conclusion, Ecbert determines which nobles were planning the attack against his elusive wishes and likely will be disposing of them. In Kattegat, Flocki discovers the strange truth between Harbard and Aslaug relationship that puts Ragnar on a path straight for Paris.

With the season half done, Vikings rallies the cry of a siege larger than any they’ve undertaken before. If such a raid is to succeed, Ragnar will need everyone on his side and already he’s lost Lagertha due to Kalf assuming rule over her land. And news of Siggy’s death puts Rollo further into a pit of anger and despair over his place in life. All this and an eerie telling by the Seer that the bear will marry the princess which won’t spell good fortune for Ragnar and his people.

As the homecoming drums signal the return of Ragnar back home, All isn’t well with the northern folk. Porunn is distant and sullen putting Bjorn in a state of uncertainty over their union. At the same time Rollo is heckled by other warriors over Siggy’s death prompting Bjorn to stop Rollo from fighting and getting himself killed. It’s easy to say Rollo is quickly becoming the most conflicted character on the show. He’s lasted as long as Ragnar and lost everything he’d hope to gain. His kinship with Ragnar could be next if he’s truly snapped.

Ragnar encourages Kalf to join his raid of Paris even though it may be a lost cause. He isn’t winning the support of Lagertha in doing so and now he has to deal with Flocki’s belief that the man who slept with Aslaug was Odin in disguise. The look in his eyes suggests he finds Flocki’s conclusion trite at best. How does one confront the possibility that a king’s wife was seduced by the father of all their gods? In a way, one could view this scenario as a test set up by Flocki. Out of all the Vikings who worship the gods of old, Flocki is the only one that determines the real identity of Harbard. His greatest fear as of late is that the Christian faith will do away with the gods and he ridicules anyone who associates with the Christian god including Rollo and Aethelstan. His fear that Odin came to Kattegat to seduce Aslaug could mean many things, but more so than most, Flocki thinks his own faith is being tested. Will he use that for or against Ragnar?

To what end will Ecbert’s plan take him? If earning his trust with Ragnar is no longer the issue, then the only conclusion is he intends to destroy the Vikings completely when they return to Wessex. This could mean an alliance with Paris that will result in Ragnar’s worst defeat in history. To ignore a laughing seer’s prophecy could spell disaster for everyone in Kattegat, yet it’s clear some union will take place between a bear and a princess we don’t know the identities of yet.

Kalf’s profile led to the possibility that he was planning something quite more violent in nature when Lagertha returned home. Yet, all he did was summarize his rightful place as ruler and even mildly offered Lagertha and he join. If he’s playing at a longer game, it could mean he doesn’t intend to stop at just ruling at his current stead. Now that he knows Ragnar’s plan to raid Paris, he could easily use that time to conduct his own raid of Kattegat, something that’s been done at least once.

The episode ends with Ecbert playing at his charade that he didn’t approve of the northmen’s massacre in Wessex. He did so to discover his enemies and his son played the role to Ecbert’s satisfaction. Does this mean he’ll continue to play at ignorance when Ragnar returns or is that long past and now the only thing left is war? It will be a time before they meet again and meet they shall.

 

FAVORITE MOMENT

There were a few to choose from, but my favorite scene was when Bjorn and Rollo fought in the rain. There’s something about the end of a man’s rope that he begins questioning his own way of life and the inevitable fate that will be declared on him. He wanted a fight, though more so he wanted to be beaten, to feel something other than the loss of Siggy. Until now he had her support no matter where he stood, but it’s gone now, swallowed by the cold ice and water of the lake. Rollo is on the verge of becoming a broken man again, and he’s at his best when he doesn’t know what to do. Conflicted natures go a long way to discovering what one must do to survive.

 

CHARACTER MVP

I want to give this one to Rollo even though he hasn’t been displayed as much. In the last few episodes, he was simply there to fill in a moment here or a segment there, never really adding to the plot but just to be one of the many Vikings doing what they do. Now he’s back to sharing a pain that we’ve recognized since day one. He’s lost a lot and it’s time to understand where his future lies. He knows he’ll attend some joining, but the seer won’t translate beyond that. His answers will have to come from elsewhere.

 

LONG TERM THOUGHTS

The seer’s prophecy is always dancing between the literal and the metaphor. Obviously he isn’t referring to a real bear, maybe. Perhaps there’s a man in Paris that dawns the symbol of one or perhaps it could refer to someone even closer to Kattegat. My first thought was Aethelwulf and Kwenthrith would be married, but that doesn’t really fit considering Judith’s situation and whatnot. There’s a lot of theories to pass around on the subject, but one thing we know, the seer is never wrong.

I think Bjorn will support Thorunn long enough to help her return to the way she was. Her injuries are permanent and the scars will be forever linked to reality that maybe she wasn’t as prepare as she thought. Still, I have positive thoughts that the two will eventually be fine.

Ragnar has the most peculiar reactions that always make me think he’s never taking any situation seriously. Flocki’s tale of Odin, his attitude toward Kalf, and even his reaction when his son cried after he picked him up. He’s always so preoccupied with the chance at raiding that everything else just has to fall in place or he won’t deal with it the way he’s supposed to as a king and father. Aslaug thinks Ragnar was sleeping with a number of women in Wessex which wasn’t true, yet Ragnar doesn’t dignify the accusation with a response because he wants to be back at what he does best, raiding.

It appears as Lagertha is heading out on her own, but to what end? Will she take Kalf up on his offer or plan an attack that may not see the side of victory? It doesn’t seem likely that she’ll be joining Ragnar on that path to Paris although it seems prevalent that she confront Ecbert when his betrayal is revealed.

This episode also dealt with both sides of unfaithfulness and how it’s viewed. Aethelwulf was raging in anger only to be quelled by the massacre of the country northmen. On the other side, Ragnar dealt with his news of his wife with silence and a look of passive annoyance even when he ignored Aslaug’s accusation. As different as cultures can be, there’s still the threat of miscommunication and a reluctance to deal with issues at heart. Looking for others to embrace when problems need to be sorted out is the culmination of any couple’s life struggles regardless of country or worship.

 

OVERALL SCORE

7 out of 10. “The Usurper” dealt with the aftermath of Harbard’s time in Kattegat and Ecbert’s true motives were known in cunning fashion. Some characters were given more opportunity to explore their anguish and for once, nobody notable died. As always with Vikings, alliances are formed and shattered in the blink of an eye making friends into enemies in as easy as a breath or a trip to and from home. I don’t expect Ecbert to maintain a relationship with Ragnar for long and expect a huge problem when they set their sails toward Paris. Ragnar will do what he has to, for his family and his people.

 

 

No more words

A Sashurai’s Review: Vikings – Season 3×04 (Well that’s one way to handle a flesh wound)

Vikings 04

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.

 

FAVORITE MOMENT

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.

 

CHARACTER MVP

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?

 

OVERALL SCORE

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.

 

 

No more words