On the latest Vikings episode, The Vision, we see that Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) has to suffer a lot of indignities that a warrior laid low by defeat must endure.
Spat upon, he resorts to bribery and bartering to win a motley crew of aged Viking sailors to wage a new war against King Ecbert (Linus Roache) in Wessex.
As this Vikings tale progresses, Ragnar’s ambitions to return to Wessex are fueled by ego-driven intentions and regret he cannot shake.
This act of borderline groveling to build an army to serve him embarrasses his sons from Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland) and sees Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig) try to make peace, with his father telling him his life is now his to write and experience.
In a sense, The Vision was a parting of Ivar (Alex Høgh Andersen) from his protective mother Aslaug, as Bjorn severed any possibility of reuniting in battle with his father Ragnar.
The personalities of the boys are drawn out more as Sigurd (David Lindström) and Ivar are squarely enemies, with what appears to be doomed slave girl Margrethe (Ida Marie Nielsen) in the center of an ongoing rivalry. There will be more to their contentious story, we are sure of it.
At the end of the episode, Aslaug indeed has a powerful dream, a vision of Ivar’s death at sea. Will this come to pass? The ending is unclear as to who survives but perhaps it serves as a test for Ragnar to see what his son Ivar is made of.
As for the women of Vikings, Lagertha has unfinished business still with Aslaug and they are dangerously circling each other in Kattegat, one Queen haughty and entitled and the other now an embittered and angry Earl.
There’s a melancholic air and poignancy to The Vision, with the episode full of farewells and separation, and a foreshadowing of bloody battles to come and a list of hurts that have not healed nor been forgiven.
Here TV critics Ernie Estrella and April Neale discuss the episode at length.
April Neale: Ernie, How great was this episode in all the potential future scenes to come? Lagertha versus Aslaug, Sigurd taunting Ivar and bringing up Harbard at an awkward family dinner, Bjorn trying to reestablish ties to Ragnar, and Floki reuniting with King Harald and his brother Halfdan…
Which face-offs and reunions did you enjoy the best?
Ernie Estrella: There were some really great scenes throughout this episode as we see Ragnar trying to see what to make of his time in Kattegat, since he’s been denied help from those he trusts and loves.
So I liked that he tried to help out Bjorn, even though he doesn’t offer to help him on his trip, he knows that they have two different destinies.
His body-language is telling a different story, though, as he’s showing Bjorn all of his obstacles to make sure he figures it all out for himself — but part of him is hoping that Bjorn sees how hard this trip is and instead helps his father out.
As he walks out that door, Bjorn asks how nice it would be to have Ragnar join him but our King says he really doesn’t want him as they want different things now.
He leads with “Your mistakes are your own…” which is super passive-aggressive because he adds: “And so are you successes.”
You want a touching moment between father and son but you’re just not going to get it as neat and tidy as you hope.
AN: It perfectly encapsulated how much regret Ragnar has for not being with his original family, his own battle losses, and his own failures and his natural desire for his son to have a notable legacy in Viking lore.
Equal parts of support and guilt, I suppose. Bjorn appears to really want his father to regain a sense of his once great former self again, I feel.
EE: I sensed that too. We want the core Lothbrok family to be so happy, but we just can’t get it, can we?
Another scene I wanted to talk about was Ragnar finally speaking with Aslaug, thanking her for never turning their sons against him, which is something she had in her right to do many times over but this is really an underrated move on her part.
I think their scene was just as moving as Ragnar and Lagertha’s but for different reasons. I think we needed to see this scene and not have it end in some death or further betrayal.
AN: That was an important scene, it showed that despite his enmity towards Aslaug, they have four sons. They had a life. He did the decent thing by her.
I think it was important to show this tender moment so we have some feeling for Aslaug and how time and abandonment has shaped her character in ways we may not like, but we can still empathize for her loss of a life partner and loneliness.
Aslaug is about legacy, she would never have badmouthed or ruined Ragnar’s standing in her sons’ eyes because that, in turn, would have lowered their own sense of self-worth and place in Kattegat society if they though their father was a lesser person.
My favorite scene dovetailing off that Aslaug moment, of course, was when Lagertha had her time to have a heart-to-heart with Aslaug.
The one-upmanship Aslaug pulled at the sacrifice ceremony as she tries to steal the spotlight from Lagertha didn’t work with our favorite shieldmaiden.
Aslaug didn’t say a word which makes me wonder if she will have someone do the dirty work and try and kill Lagertha.
What do you think will result from that full-frontal assault by our favorite shieldmaiden to the Queen?
EE: Yes, this was worth the admission alone. I know I’m in the minority here but I love Aslaug and Alyssa Sutherland’s commitment to a role that is unpopular with viewers.
I know she’s driven a wedge between the main love story of the series but we all know how Ragnar had many wives in real life so Michael Hirst is just being truthful there.
That said, Aslaug looked bad as all Valhalla, painted up and doing rituals. This is something they haven’t done enough of lately in my opinion.
I really love when we see the sacrifices because it is really the only time that the color red is introduced to the visual palette of the show. I
think we’re going to see Lagertha push back, though. She’s a warrior through and through and I can’t imagine her retreating now. It’s time to get some popcorn!
AN: Brilliant observation regarding the palette of the show. This is where we say the cinematographer, production designers, wardrobe and those in charge of the look of each frame must take a huge bow.
Their work combined with the writing makes this a seamless perfect drama in my opinion.
The emotion of the color red is deep…it represents life, loss and warmth; it is lust and death and they use it to further this story.
Now, can we talk about that awkward dinner with Aslaug and Ivar, Margrethe, and when Sigurd makes him lose his mind?
And then he brings up Harbard which makes Aslaug squirm in her seat. That mullet-headed Viking sure knows how to push Aslaug and Ivar’s buttons.
Speaking of the slave-girl Margrethe, do we think she’s a goner now that Ivar knows she outed him to his brothers?
EE: That dinner sequence was intense, and I know when I was watching it all I could think of was, could you imagine sitting at this table with these five people for over a decade?
Could you imagine Aslaug having no one else but her kids as companions? No wonder she ran to the first wayfarer that came strolling into town.
We saw in the premiere, Sigurd the Snake Eye and Ivar have that sibling hatred. Remember when Sigurd was a baby how Aslaug beamed with pride because of his snake eye.
She felt he was destined for greatness, and instead, she devoted her life to pampering Ivar. Psychologically, that’s got to mess with the family chemistry.
No doubts there are resentments and angst built up and Sigurd’s cowardly act on Ivar, well, he was just keeping it real.
I loved how loving Ivar was to Margrethe, holding her hand, kissing it and when Aslaug tells the boys that they should look to marry, not necessarily someone they love, he just throws her hand down, like, “This is not bothering anyone.”
As for Margrethe, she was told to do one thing. ONE THING! Don’t tell the brothers about his well, “Boneless” problem, for the lack of a better word.
I actually felt like there was something there to trust her in some way, and that she was something of a confidant and ultimate catalyst for many things in Ivar. But we have to remember who has influenced Ivar and what has motivated him the most up to this point: being treated differently because he’s crippled, stories (good and bad) of his father, Aslaug, and his brothers.
These are the things that shaped him so without anyone to really challenge him morally, the result is a wild card.
Margrethe should be a goner by now, but I do hold out hope that maybe she plays another part down the road. Look at Torvi, for example.
AN: Margrethe never heard the expression “loose lips sink ships” which is actually a perfect Viking saying if you think about it.
I agree about Margrethe…next!
She could have been Machiavellian and stood right by Ivar’s side to elevate from slave to Queen…but no! Sigurd may have a snake eye, but that mullet of his has predetermined his destiny, in my opinion, #VikingJoeDirt.
EE: [Laughing] April, we could do a chat purely about the hair on this show.
I think the most important scenes though are Ivar and Ragnar spending time with each other, digging up riches meant for the gods and using them to bribe his countrymen to sail with him.
It’s resourceful, but is teaching Ivar what will drive people to do work for you.
It’s a false sense of loyalty, but seeing how people will do anything for money should not be lost on Ivar.
Ragnar surely isn’t motivated by it, so I wonder if Ivar catches on to that or sees that as Ragnar’s weakness. What do you think?
AN: Great point again. Ivar takes it all in, he is observant in ways the others are not, and his motivations and intentions are not the same as Ragnar’s.
Ragnar is not a materialist yet he plunders, but solely for the good of his people.
Ivar has a cruel streak born of a lifetime of being pitied and protected, and his anger over his physical state will drive him to a leadership role quite different than Ragnar.
History tells us Ivar was the most feared Viking — I suppose these differences will start to be revealed this season.
EE: The episode is entitled The Vision, which refers to Aslaug’s vision of bad things in store for Ragnar’s tiny brigade to England.
I find it really interesting when Aslaug gets these visions, it’s not like she’s a fortune-teller or is supernatural but there is something beyond explanation with her.
Now, as we are both parents, I’m sure we can agree that a lot of that is maternal stress explained as vision, because that’s all you do as a parent, play out the worst scenarios in your mind and try to move the chess pieces around your kids to protect them, if they’re not going to protect themselves.
What did you think of her vision and ultimately for this very small fleet headed out to England that has been dealt a big strike by the gods?
AN: Yes. Our children and their fates become our biggest fears — the unknown variables that we know as adults that, for no fault of their own, can befall them.
We feel these feelings the first time a kid takes the wheel of a car alone, and Aslaug’s cutting of the cord with Ivar is fraught with all of her worst fears displayed in her subconscious.
The Gods/mother nature are serving up a big test for Ivar right out of the gate.
His survival and how he comes through this initial challenge on board with Ragnar will further deepen his resolve to get on with standing on his two feet, metaphorically speaking, as he learns that every victory — in battle or against the Gods’ wrath in nature — will strengthen him to move forward.
EE: I agree 100 per cent. Next week’s episode is called Two Journeys, so it looks like we’re going to see what happens with Ragnar’s sunken ships and Bjorn’s trip to Paris. It should be a good one!