Welcome to the wake of Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel). No one truly knows his fate apart from those in England, however the vikings all assume the worst has happened.
Ivar (Alex Høgh Anderson) knows because he was the last viking to talk to him, and he was given a game-plan of revenge, but he has only one act of retribution on his mind upon his return to Kattegat — and that’s to avenge his mother’s death.
Meanwhile on the open waters of the Mediterranean, King Harald Finehair (Peter Franzen) and his brother Halfdan (Jasper Pääkkönen) begin to conspire against Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig) as they wonder if they’re following another Lothbrok failing.
But all of that is pushed aside when they finally reach the shores of a port town settled by Muslims. By the end of the episode we see that Ragnar hasn’t left the stage yet, in a tribute to his final words as he swung high above his eventual resting place.
Here TV Critics April Neale and Ernie Estrella discuss the finer points of the latest Vikings episode, titled Crossings, and what impact this episode has on the direction and future of the show as it heads into full-blown ensemble mode.
Ernie Estrella: How much were you laughing at the opening in Wessex? I mean, King Ecbert (Linus Roache) isn’t even hiding his contempt for his son Aethelwulf (Moe Dunford) telling him to go on and worry about Ragnar’s sons since he thinks he’s safe.
Poor Judith (Jennie Jaques) has to mediate these conversations and try to keep both men in check. It’s just so damn odd that she goes to sleep with Ecbert and Aethelwulf is still coming to the dinner table, no?
April Neale: The look on Aethewulf’s face as he watches Judith defend Ecbert, and how doting his dad is for Alfred, is priceless! No wonder he is such a bitter pill.
But his instincts are right on, Ivar and all of them are vikings and vikings do not forget and live to avenge their losses.
Think about the mindset and stamina these guys had to live in such cold and head out to sea (a frigid sea at that) and the work ethic and the skills they had.
The English were busy rooting around in the mud and had little organization until later years when they became a world power, plus the divisions inside the English lands, plus Scotland and Ireland made their path to greatness a bit slower.
The vikings were overwhelming for their time. And Aethelwulf was a putz from the get-go and I always felt that Ecbert was a frustrated viking at heart.
EE: Allow me to be like an announcer and butt in and say, “Meanwhile, back in Kattegat…” we’ve got Ivar yelling at the top of the mountain, Ubbe and Sigurd on edge on golden pond, and Lagertha getting cozy in her old home.
All of that is squashed by that entrance by Ivar and the declaration that he will set out to murder Lagertha. Talk about your dramatic entrances, I think we’re in store for a whole lot of them here on out.
AN: That was a great scene and underscored Ragnar’s edict to Ivar: “People will underestimate you.” Lagertha of course does.
But she’s intuitive enough to feel his energy and intentions, and let’s face it, her Bjorn is far away. Despite all the well-trained loyal shieldmaidens, her men were not at her side, and not having that male energy directly invested in her (lover, wife, mother) or even a brother — as sexist as this sounds — weighed on her.
Ergo, her immediate and urgent counsel with the Seer. She knows Ivar is serious. Ubbe and to a lesser extent Sigurd have generalized grief and anger, but Ivar has laser focused intentions and a purpose in his life now. Big difference.
EE: Ultimately, though, I know we all root for Lagertha, but can you really blame him? As you said in previous chats, he loved his mother, his father and maybe his brothers. That was it.
I mean, he could have had Margrethe (Ida Nielsen) too, but she had to go all blabber mouth.
Seriously, though, Lagertha has painted herself into a corner but I think establishing herself as someone who only harbored ill will on Aslaug and not any of Ragnar’s sons was a good move, as was her attempt to unify the people to strengthen the city’s defense, but will it be enough to save her?
AN: I have nothing but sympathy for Ivar! He was dealt a horrid hand by the Gods for his gammy legs, and Lagertha killed his mother (who he knows kept him alive) in the back.
My feelings for Lagertha are now, you reap what you sow…she has some retribution coming. Lagertha is much more a politician than Ragnar ever was, and her survival instincts I feel will keep her around until Season 5.
But I feel for Ivar. I want him to get revenge. And that’s the brilliance of the writers taking a sympathetic fan favorite like Lagertha and twisting our emotions about her. As you did for Aslaug, I now love Ivar — despite his faults.
EE: It’s interesting that Halfdan and Harald considered Ragnar cursed, but this was a society that was all about what have you done lately, because if you didn’t succeed, it probably meant you were dead.
Time’s ticking for these two, though. This is a saga about Ragnar and his sons, not the Brothers Grimm.
AN: Pragmatism, ego, and power…Harald wants that adulation and control of their people. The mortal sin for him is coveting a role he cannot possibly fill — and his brother Halfdan is a halfwit.
Their intentions aren’t from a place of wonderment, curiosity or making their home secure, it’s a vainglorious exercise in ego and that is why they will not unseat the Lothbroks, easily anyway.
EE: One of the more challenging things to watch was the raid on the Musselmen or, as we know them today, Muslims.
Raids are never easy to watch but as Michael Hirst told me, for all that there is to love about this fascination, there are the raids and the slavery that he had to reconcile with as a part of their society.
AN: I love the raid scenes. In the end, all tribes of people either advance and prosper by force, intelligence and collaboration via well placed marriages or die by isolation or inability to grow and defend themselves.
I judge societies and cultures by how they treat their women. The vikings were egalitarian and expected women to be equals, which made them twice as strong and all the more successful.
One of the biggest turnoffs for orthodox religions and certain cultures — all of them, including Islam — is when you imprison, infantilize and restrict women. In my view, your culture or group becomes a lesser and inferior thing.
They had it coming being so unprepared and being a coastal enclave in those perilous times. The vikings were in their right to plunder and move on.
Now are murder and raiding a nice thing? No. But it is how early empires, countries, and societies are established and built…and maintained.
EE: Floki at the mosque was an interesting scene, though. It was intense watching him scan the room and tiptoeing his way to the front.
It got even more unsettling once the Brothers Grimm entered the room. He’s come a long way from when he was in on Ragnar’s raids to Northumbria and needing a healthy raid in his diet, to respecting peaceful strangers and their beliefs.
Do you think he walked out of that whole scene getting that fulfilment he needed to steer him back?
AN: Floki is an ethereal and spiritual warrior, creative and sensitive to energies around him. Halfdan and Harald are not as cognitively gifted.
My takeaway from that scene was Floki is in tune with nature and people’s beliefs, and the gods, wherever you find them and by whatever name you call them.
He respects piety and the formal trappings of God worship. Age has reinforced these traits, I believe.
EE: I think the most interesting part of the raid though is Helga because I always wondered about her joining the raids.
Most women of her stature stayed behind but since there were no children she has followed Floki on two raids now, as she nearly died in Paris.
She was never going to be a shieldmaiden but her argument with Floki about wanting more children and his defiance certainly led to her bringing back a Muslim orphan to take care of.
It certainly humanized the raid more, but it’s interesting that everyone came out of that raid with something different.
Rollo got the satisfaction of being on a raid and being a Viking, Floki found something to fill his soul even if briefly, Bjorn got confirmation that he is on the right path, and Helga gets a new mouth to feed.
AN: Yes and those imprisoned Muslim women now get to be Viking slaves or brides! Man, these were tough times for us girls.
Helga is desperate for this child, to care for someone who needs her. Floki loves her but he does not need her, at least that is the impression I get from their relationship.
She gets him, and he loves her on his terms, and they live side by side content in separate lives. I know some marriages like this.
Can you imagine how terrifying those days of raids and enslavement were for people?
EE: “Meanwhile in Kattegat….” The Seer gives a new prophecy to Lagertha, one that maybe she fears or welcomes it.
Lagertha had to have known that Aslaug’s sons would never look past her personal grudge, especially since she killed her after giving her safe passage.
AN: Funny! The Seer is always being interrupted when he’s getting his tasty herring snack on.
He was annoyed with Lagertha to an extent as he tried to eat, she pressed him hard and he pretty much told her what we all know: A son of Ragnar is going to do her in. But who?
The Seer is one of my favorite characters for his subtle “gives-no-f***s” delivery and deep meaning behind everything he does, says and observes. Well done, John Kavanagh!
EE: As Lagertha requested Ragnar’s spirit to haunt her, that one-eyed “messenger” made his way to spread the word.
I wondered how there would be a confirmation of Ragnar’s death, especially out to Bjorn. I thought that was really a beautiful way of communicating it.
AN: Who is that one-eyed messenger!? It’s killing me, who is he and how does this Harbard-like human apparition appear everywhere?
That scene with the black birds and the boy’s realization their father was indeed dead…chilling.
Just hearing Ragnar’s last words to King Aelle and his men again made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
Who is this one-eyed man? Is it really the great Odin?
Vikings airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on History. The next episode is titled The Great Army. Stay vigilant Lagertha!