We are winding down this season of Vikings with the interplay of the raiding sons of Ragnar, and Lagertha’s constant tests in Kattegat.
Season 4, Episode 19, titled On the Eve, was a bloody (almost) coup in Kattegat that saw the shieldmaidens triumph over King Harald’s stragglers and the plant, Egil the Bastard, the minion of King Harald who cooked up this scheme before Harald and Halfdan boogied off with the great army.
This was not our favorite episode but we did appreciate seeing the brothers finally rowing in one direction. However, given Ivar’s nature, how long will he play nice with Bjorn?
Also foreshadowed again is his complete distaste and disrespect for mullet-haired Sigurd. Ubbe is like Switzerland and Hvitserk appears to be the most pragmatic of them all.
Of note, we see a side of Aethelwulf who tenderly says goodbye to his sons and talks to Alfred openly about his real father, making an eavesdropping Judith feel really guilty for being his dad’s concubine all these years.
Now Ecbert commands her to return to Aethelwulf but it’s way too late in the game and likely never to be, as the episode ends with Aethelwulf surrounded with Vikings ready to do him in.
This penultimate episode boasted several action-packed scenes for those who felt gypped by last week’s Mercia massacre and the torture and killing of King Aelle.
Both Kattegat and areas around Wessex displayed the training, abilities, and out-of-the-box thinking the Vikings employed in their strategies, and how women were an essential part of why their societies were so much more advanced in their approach to warfare.
In a scene after the Kattegat skirmish, Torvi is shown to be felled by an arrow, but is it a life-threatening injury? We must wait to find out.
Not to put a newsworthy fine point on this, but Lagertha roasting Egil over an open flame like a side of beef was quite something. This act of torture worked, as we see Lagertha get the truth out of Egil.
Creator Michael Hirst did an excellent job of instilling and manipulating our feelings for Aethelwulf in a positive note which made watching him get outwitted and bested a tough one to endure.
Now we will see the Vikings warriors and Floki realize that Ivar is indeed their leader, and Bjorn’s leadership role is now in jeopardy. What remains to be seen is how he will adjust to this seismic shift in power and if he will support Ivar or peel off and head to Sweden or Denmark.
With Ragnar gone, and the future uncertain for King Ecbert, this story is now a thick stew of all sorts of uncertainty and exciting “what ifs” to come.
TV Critics April Neale and Ernie Estrella break down the penultimate episode of Season 4, discuss some of the more crucial talking points of the episode and talk about where we’re heading towards in this season’s finale.
April Neale: Ernie! This entire episode was thoroughly enjoyed. A lot of the action was expected as I did not think Halfdan, King Harald and their Kattegat supplicant Egil would best Lagertha.
But we are unsure if Torvi survives. This layer cake of hand-to-hand battle scenes was intriguing, visceral and served a nice bit of revenge served very hot (Egil).
What was your take on Torvi’s “women’s intuition”, and how that breaching of Kattegat went down?
Ernie Estrella: One thing I was surprised of was how many men King Harald had left over to stage an attack on Kattegat. I mean if you look at The Great Army, it was all hands on deck, so that was quite shocking.
But being around Bjorn and Lagertha has taught Torvi well. She’s come a long way from just traveling on raids to help build and settle camps, as many women did back then, to being in the trenches.
I’m saddened to think she was Lagertha’s sacrificial lamb though as that was a hefty attack to withhold. She moved though she did not look good last we saw her.
I agree though, last week’s episode was on cruise control until the last seven minutes or so. This one had so much warfare but it was layered in a way that it wasn’t just Saxons and Vikings dying on the battlefield.
AN: What do you think Lagertha is likely to do ahead of the Great Army returning? I think she will alert Bjorn ahead of their return to Harald’s treachery. What say you?
EE: Harald Finehair has to be getting his turn at some point. He’s made too many threats and offered little to trust, unless you were an old flame of his. Harald is out for one thing.
With the Saxons, once you were in royalty, you were in the haves and glad not to be in the have-nots.
In Viking culture, it had to be unnerving to hold earldom or the throne because you needed to look over your shoulder and Michael Hirst has illustrated that time and time again for Lagertha, Bjorn, and of course, Ragnar.
You’re thinking ahead though, like Lagertha, and a messenger would be the best way to do it.
AN: Great point. Royalty was earned and kept by vigilance, not just birthright with the Vikings.
Okay, so the brothers ,or “piggies grunting” as Floki aptly described, saw Bjorn get past his animus with Ivar to listen for once, and Ivar was heard.
It was an audacious plan. It appears that it worked although Hirst cut this episode right when Moe Dunford’s Aethelwulf was ready to charge. Just when he was becoming such a likable character!
Can you talk about the scene with his sons, including Alfred as Judith listened? Do you think she was deserving of any of his affection? Personally I think it was too little too late. Especially now.
EE: I agree tremendously. Aethelwulf has been growing into redeeming character this season, so long as you weren’t entranced in Linus Roache’s King Ecbert, as we often find ourselves.
The look he gives to both his father and Judith as he’s riding off into battle, like “the two of you can eff off with your fake love”!
He’s been sent off to die and he’s got no support. I was really touched by Aethelwulf’s pep talk to his sons, especially Alfred.
It takes a lot for him to give so much credit and legacy towards the late Athelstan. He’s a buffoon but probably didn’t deserve to be picked over by his daddy or Judith to that degree.
AN: The way that Ivar and Bjorn arranged the battle plan. Brilliant. What was your favorite move they did?
EE: All the running back and forth. They were conditioned to do it with all that gear. They weeded out the Saxon forces and made them fight uphill and, I mean, to see Floki gasping for air before sounding the horn was priceless.
They had the numbers on their side so they could have just clashed straight on, but this battle distinguishes itself from others in the past.
AN: Short burst interval training, apparently it works! Okay, Harald and Halfdan. Harald really is a doorknob when it comes to reading people.
How did you process that whole husband killing then Danish princess revenge play scene?
I thought that was quite predictable and just reinforces these two as being on the wrong side, a day late and a dollar short on everything. How long do we think they will be in this show?
EE: It made them (Ellisif and Vik) look very naive I thought because the Brothers Grimm — as you know I fondly call Harald and Halfdan — are what you see is what you get kind of dudes.
They will cut you if you look at them weird so they were novices in dealing with Harald and yeah, you could see it a mile away.
I wonder how much of it is Hirst trying to build up these two characters, or perhaps they’re just needing something lacking in the Great Army camp. It literally came out of nowhere.
AN: Your favorite moment of the episode? Mine was Floki’s realization Ivar’s plan worked, and that Aethulwulf took the Repton bait and was surrounded.
Floki’s unbridled love and affection (and vice versa) for Ivar is a wonderful thing. What say you for On the Eve?
EE: Like you, I had many of the same scenes as my favorites. But for me it was Ivar winning over the trust of Bjorn.
I really don’t want to see these two going at it but I think after this episode, there’s at least respect from Bjorn’s side.
Will Ivar reciprocate? That’s a good question that I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing.
I also found Floki’s reaching out to Tanaruz to be a fantastic twist, as she tried to flee from Helga’s overbearing care.