This week’s Vikings, titled Two Journeys, is a poignant and bloody episode that brings some old favorites back into the script — and sets off a mortal face-off between a former and reigning queen who both gave the great Ragnar Lothbrok sons.
Lothbrok’s first wife and, from what we see, true love of his life Lagertha concocts a masterful scheme with Torvi (Bjorn’s wife) and Astrid.
They separate the remaining sons Ubbe and Sigurd Snake-in-the-eye in a clever dinner invitation with the slave girl Margrethe to distract them and imprison them. Now her battle plans for Kattegat can commence.
Ivar survives the roiling sea and shipwreck with Ragnar only to have an emotional break when Ragnar silences him, after he says: “I want to be normal.”
Ragnar, fed up with Ivar’s inability to navigate the steep terrain of Wessex with his metal braces, tosses them away and yells at Ivar: “No, you’re not! Don’t you realize that?”
Harsh, but later in the episode, after the two dispatched (by throat slitting under the cover of night) the motley crew of complainer Vikings who survived with them, Ragnar has a moment to tell Ivar he was wrong. He tells him: “Your legs have given you a strength even your brothers don’t have.” Ivar is shocked and this furthers their closeness. He says: “I think that’s the first time you have ever admitted to being wrong.”
Meanwhile, another father-son scene is playing out inside the castle of King Ecbert, as his son Aethulwulf has discovered Ragnar’s banner on the beach, and the remnants of a Viking ship.
Ecbert is warned, but you can see by the way Linus Roache plays Ecbert, the two are not of like mind over Ragnar Lothbrok.
Ecbert looks to be a bit happy to be reunited with a man he respects and who has shared memories of their Athelstan, the departed monk who was an intellectual muse for them both.
Rollo and Bjorn also have their “journey” too, and domestic life with fine sheets and good food has sort of left Ragnar’s brother a bit nostalgic for the Viking life.
His favorite and only nephew Bjorn ignited his sea-faring passion and in doing so drove an irreparable wedge in Rollo’s marriage simultaneously.
Queen Gisla be damned, Rollo heads out to sea with Bjorn, but not until he is keelhauled first as punishment for his battle against Ragnar those years ago.
Rollo survives a brutal and long dragging under the boat to end the episode with him coughing up water and laughing.
The season is set to be an explosive and action-filled adventure as Lagertha takes Kattegat, Bjorn is reunited with Rollo, Ragnar essentially offers himself up to Ecbert and Ivar is the dangerous wildcard brewing in all of this Viking glory.
Here TV Critics Ernie Estrella and April Neale discuss the episode:
April Neale: Ernie, this was one of my favorite episodes in a long line of them.
The resolution of simmering bitterness and anger between Aslaug and Lagertha. The breaking through the wall of hurt between Ivar and Ragnar to almost a conspiratorial buddy relationship after the “you aren’t normal” moment.
The reuniting of Bjorn and his Uncle Rollo, the seether of the series, Floki, mollified by Helga’s good sense. Keelhauling, Viking ambush by Ragnar, Lagertha shielding up to fight for Kattegat. Whew! Where do we begin?
Ernie Estrella: How about we start with Lagertha and Aslaug? I found it fascinating that Lagertha uses Margrethe and tricks Ubbe and Sigurd Snake-in-the-eye.
1) I’m not surprised that she tried to shield them from harm’s way because they are Ragnar’s children after all but 2) I don’t care how poor of a queen one might think Aslaug is, these boys aren’t going to take kindly to their mother being conquered.
These kids are, after all, very protective of their mother. In the viking age a lot of the wages fought are revenge plots. Now we wait to see who gets revenge on Lagertha.
AN: Good point, although she is presented in this series as fully in her prime, and Sigurd Snake-in-the-eye is a rash and dimmer version of his smarter brothers Ivar and Bjorn. The jury on Ubbe is still out for me.
Lagertha knows how to judge people’s weaknesses and the Margrethe angle made sense to me, although it was a bit of a shock to see how much she knew about the push-pull of this slave girl (who frankly I am shocked is still alive at this point) between these four Aslaug and Ragnar sons.
EE: That’s a good observation. How is she still alive given the parties that are volleying her around? Also, I like that the point of their conflict is the poor job Aslaug had done as a ruler, and not over Ragnar.
AN: Yes, Aslaug — and I know you favor her — has a drinking problem. She also has a blind spot to the cruel little games Ivar has pulled on the people of Kattegat over the years.
My shock is that Lagertha had to kill so many Kattegat villagers given that the premise was Aslaug was a poor steward of the village and those people who grew up with Lagertha had to be killed until she felt guilty and called a halt to the slaughter.
I would have thought Lagertha would have conspired from the inside a bit more and been more judicious about who needed to be killed in the takeover.
EE: I do favor Aslaug in terms of a point of interest. I try not to let my rooting interest for Lagertha cloud my judgment of Aslaug since as you said she gave Ragnar the sons he was seeking.
Give it to Aslaug, she may have counted on Lagertha acting more from the heart than the brain. No action goes unchecked on this show, or very little anyway.
Similarly, you know I’m a Rollo fan, in the same way, so Bjorn having to go visit him and request safe passage along was very cool in my books.
It’s sad to see how far they’ve come but are not able to celebrate their lives. But what a twist it was to see Rollo ask to join Bjorn and have it out with his Fifi wife Gisla.
Now, the real Rollo and Ragnar lived centuries apart I believe so it’s moments like this I get interested in because it’s [showrunner] Michael Hirst getting creative.
AN: Yes, we all miss Rollo right? Clive Standen’s role has been fascinating and after three children with a French Queen, his Viking DNA is ready for some at-sea man cave time.
You know he misses his Viking family and he always loved Bjorn and Lagertha too. Ragnar is a bit more complicated.
But the opportunity to sail to the warmer Mediterranean? Heck, why wouldn’t he jump at the chance? Oh right, we have Floki who never forgives and Harald and Halfdan on board who will not be so amenable…
EE: What did you think about King Harald and his brother Halfdan doing their dick move? “We believe in you, Bjorn. The gods are with you.” Then they get put in prison. “Why did we follow you, Bjorn?”
These two never fail to remind me of the GOP. I do wonder if Harald and Halfdan are not unlike Ragnar and Rollo were as they kept knocking off fellow kings, and you can see that Bjorn wants to cut these guys loose but he needs them for numbers if he is to make it to Rome.
What’s your take on the brothers Grimm?
AN: They are blood and that is always thicker than water, and power positions in the Viking world are kept with the cunning and strategic use of force. Yes, those two would be total Trumpians if they were here!
Bjorn needs their expertise for battle and sailing but, yes, they are wearing out their welcome…again! Halfdan’s jacked up Gary Oldman/Fifth Element hairstyle is a clear indicator he is not to be trusted. #sorrynotsorry.
EE: Ivar and Ragnar’s journey does excite me though as it’s looking more and more like a suicide mission from the beginning. I could watch these scenes with Travis and Alex over and over.
They make each other stronger and more compelling together. For whatever it is worth in the end you can tell Ivar will either be inspired by, or he is learning to do things different than his father. What was your favorite Ivar and Ragnar scene?
AN: Travis Fimmel is consistently overlooked at award time and no one pulls off scenes with as much expertise as he does, with not only scripted words but his whole physical being.
These scenes with Ivar prove that Fimmel is one of the most underrated leading men in ALL of television.
Newcomer Alex Høgh Andersen is exceptional as Ivar and together their chemistry as father/son is spot on.
We know Ivar (based on history) is a great Viking king. Ragnar’s fate in Michael Hirst’s hands is less certain.
I hope Ragnar is not dispatched this season, though I know he cannot last forever. I think Ecbert misses him actually. Aethelwulf not so much.
EE: I completely agree about Fimmel, the entire body of his work in Vikings is sadly going unrecognized but it is indeed a complete performance and so much more physical and subtle than the usual suspects are during awards time.
Now I did find the two of them slaughtering the raiding party in their sleep to be a shocking ploy.
Ragnar obviously believes he can get closer with Ivar alone than he can with a raiding party, but it’s another decision where he has gone rogue and he probably regretted seeing any of them wash ashore alive, knowing that he had to sacrifice them. What did you think of it?
AN: I believe Ragnar is done with any notion of returning “home” and wants to live out the rest of his life in a journey, or with his version of how he ends in his control as much as possible.
The men he slaughtered he couldn’t stand. They were inferior to the standard of Viking that he normally would have put together for any raid.
Not loyal, they all were total jerks when they washed up on the shores of Wessex, mocking him and blaming him.
Ragnar just took it but was calculating their demise as he made his way into the woods of Wessex. He’s a true warrior, those he killed were wannabe Viking dilettantes. The worst of Kattegat.
Ivar is above all else pragmatic when it comes to the loss of life, and he is solidly his father’s son and I personally think he gets a weird satisfaction in killing people since he can’t actually get off.
EE: Agreed. Ragnar was dealing with the bottom of the deck, and perhaps that’s another reflection of Aslaug’s rule of Kattegat or his own neglect as a king since he just abandoned his people.
Hirst told me in my interview that the worst thing he could have done in the eyes of his people was come back defeated.
I wonder what he could have done to salvage that had he stayed. That long self-exile is worthy of a discussion all on its own.
However, this episode leaves us on quite the cliffhanger as father and son are on the Wessex doormat.
Next week we see if Ecbert throws a welcome back party for Ragnar or if they do mortal harm to him, and how Ivar handles the Wessex king and his son too. Lagertha and Aslaug will finally come face to face and the future of Kattegat is now in play.
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