This past week we had Ragnar Lothbrok’s (Travis Fimmel) personal character really emerging as he grappled with addiction and disillusionment while trying to sort out what the next move is.
Ragnar is a master at keeping everyone guessing and thinking three clicks ahead, sadly that was not the case for the slave turned drug dealer Yidu (Dianne Doan), whose meh character arc has an abrupt ending with her murder in Portage.
Ragnar is the murderer and he has his sons bear witness accidentally. Her mistake was to leverage him with the knowledge of the dead Wessex settlers and revealing this to the rest while they are still licking their wounds over the Frankish routing.
Hvitserk and Ubbe are horrified and Ragnar tries to mollify them, but Ubbe especially seems really bothered by his father’s actions.
The episode opens with Ragnar out of his gourd and jonesing for another hit, scouring the river for a Norse hideout as Harald says, “We bought into the magic of Ragnar Lothbrok,” to Lagertha, “In our world we cannot accept compromise. We cannot accept failure. Someone is always responsible for failure.”
You have to give it to Lagertha (Kathryn Winnick), she may be over Ragnar but she knows to be loyal. “If I were you, I wouldn’t talk like that about Ragnar Lothbrok to my face.” She’s more fearsome in many respects than Ragnar.
Now Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård) is the man once again, his engineering skills called upon by Ragnar to fool Rollo and the french for another surprise attack as they literally hoist the Viking ships over the cliffs in order to bypass more Frankish traps. But will it add up?
This season shows that even the great Lothbrok’s good fortune is coming to a close. Three deaths were served up this episode, first Yidu, her death not a shock to me as I felt no connection to her in the story.
Then we also say goodbye to Count Odo, who is killed yet in historical records he was a great asset to France. Last death was cray cray Kwenthrith (Amy Bailey), killed by Judith saving Ecbert (Linus Roache) as she delivers yet another guilt trip to the lying-est liar of all England.
Lots of housecleaning of the cast this episode. TV Critics April Neale and Ernie Estrella discuss the episode:
April Neale: Yidu, I knew she wasn’t going anywhere as a character. Do you miss her and what did you make of her murder witnessed by his two sons?
Ernie Estrella: Well I always like to think characters serve a purpose, Yidu’s appears to serve Ragnar’s and his sons rather than Yidu herself. That’s not always a bad thing but she was a square peg in this.
I do think this will come back to haunt him and she confronted him on Viking settlers that got slaughtered in Wessex. I think it’s important that people hold him accountable. One of the reasons we like Ragnar so much is that he does take this stuff in even if he doesn’t outwardly show it affecting him.
I think what I’m so amused by that murder is how a man of the sea, as Ragar is, think he can shove Yidu’s corpse once and she won’t get brought back to shore the minute he turns around.
AN: I’ve never been a huge fan of the Wessex storyline especially sans Ragnar, and even less of Judith. for help just makes her eventual death more certain. )The murders of Kwenthrith and Odo tonight were predictable and more perfunctory.
I will miss Kwenthrith, what do you make of Ecbert and Mercia and his keeping Magnus, Ragnar’s son as a chip of sorts for a future Viking “visit”?
EE: Yes, very predictable but in Odo’s case, long overdue. I find it symbolic that Odo could dish out the punishment but couldn’t take it. You get that feeling with a lot of the Franks. But I will absolutely miss Kwenthrith because she was such a wild card, and she was obviously trying to play the man’s game but could only do so much as a woman in this society.
I kind of wish she wasn’t caught monologuing while she sat on top of Ecbert, she had the chance but perhaps it was fitting that her mouth did her in. I do like Judith’s “Look what you made me do” line. It’s time she woke up and realized the deal she made with the devil.
AN: I have a love/hate relationship with Judith. She’s cunning but not in an interesting Ecbert-y way. What in the 50 Shades of Hell is the deal with brother/sister sadists and (ick) I think lovers Roland and Therese?
This whole “Odo’s Retreat” storyline is mental. He was a really important guy in Frankish history and he was turned into this whipping fetishist. I am also trying to sort out Emperor Charles remark to Therese (“I think you carry a terrible burden and you carry it alone”) explain, Ernie!
EE: Well, Therese is the best looking woman in all of Francia, so when the pool is that thin… perhaps some brotherly love is in order. As I said earlier, I am happy that Odo finally met his end in this show and upon looking him a bit I’m surprised by the deviation in history here by Michael Hirst but one it was revealed he had a sadistic fetish, that was eventually going to do him in.
Hirst’s philosophy is if it’s plausible, then the deviation is justified. There must’ve been enough latitude there to bring this kink in there.
I wish it had been Rollo though to swing the ax down on him because of how much Odo underestimated him. Emperor Charles is thinking with his ballpark frank. Therese is shaking it and I don’t think he gets out much.
He’s like the guy who comes to the strip club with tons of money but in reality is super creepy. If he was down to earth and nice, he’d earn more loyalty and friendship.
Backtracking a little, sadly, I’m not sure if we’ll see Rollo getting his hands dirty much anymore, but given Hirst’s decision to make Ragnar and Rollo brothers, that family spat needs to be dealt with somehow.
AN: That is hilarious. I keep forgetting that Therese is one Francia French lady in the court who isn’t looking like a Jacques Cousteau ancestor, all nose no chin. “Portage,” feels and sounds different to me in dialogue and story, Harald is talking trash about Ragnar then blowing smoke up his ass! “You’re insane! But this is beautiful. After everything we heard and thought, we feel stupid.” Right? What is up with that?
EE: You know I was secretly hoping Ragnar was going to pick up an ax and thrust it into Harlad’s chest. He had that look in his eye. But it was a brilliant idea by Ragnar and invention by Floki (the bromance survives!) and I think morale was pretty low. Someone, like Harald, could have incited mutiny and gotten the support. That’s a razor-thin situation that could’ve gone either way.
AN: True. Harlad is an odious character in general too. I am also having a hard time with the fakeout scene where Erlendur shoots Bjorn with a crossbow – which apparently was either a premonition or daydream (?) in Torvi’s imagination, no explanation given.
EE: She should take up the shield and jump in with Lagertha because life’s gotta be boring for her. I wished it wasn’t a fake-out scene though and I wish it had a different outcome.
I kept expecting her to turn the crossbow on Erlendur instead. The worst thing that could have happened was that she miss and Bjorn comes to the rescue, that is unless he doesn’t care to get in the middle of that marital quarrel.
AN: I really feel like the story is unraveling and there are about three corners Hirst has boxed us into a corner with.
EE: I’m waiting for Bjorn to unleash. Torvi knows about Erlendur’s assassination so I don’t know why she would still take his threats to kill their son seriously. I don’t know what Bjorn is waiting for, but there’s no one in his way to get revenge.
Sure, it seems petty to deal with that while they’re in the middle of this battle with the Franks, but maybe this should’ve been dealt with before the raid started. It is a lot of drama.
AN: Let’s talk about Gustaf Skarsgård’s Floki’s when he says “No. I can do it, Ragnar. I can do it for you. Everything I do is for you.” His Helga’s alive, and has made a remarkable recovery. He continues to torture her and remain aloof and cryptic, this will never change will it?
EE: I will admit, I cheered when this happened. Perhaps Ragnar sees how much crap he’s put Floki through and how lonely he’s become. I do want Floki to stick around long enough to become the Floki who eventually helps establish Iceland for the Vikings.
It would be the proper ending for him, but something tells me that Floki will take it upon himself to take care of the Norwegian Thompson Twins. I’m also glad to see Helga alive, yes, I’m eating my cake and having it too, but I’d rather see Ragnar’s circle be comprised of Floki and Helga than Yidu and animals.
Maybe this opens Floki up to Ragnar’s flaky devotion to Northlanders’ rituals and beliefs, perhaps we will see a humbled Floki. We shall see. Are you saying that you’re tiring of Floki and his antics?
AN: Floki is a constant guessing game and the previous episodes seemed like he was the anointed Seer once the Kattegat Seer kicks the bucket. I dislike a lot of things about him but he is interesting. Would he be a great choice for a boyfriend or husband? No way. Hat’s off to Helga for hanging in. I would like to see more of the engineer and building genius Floki in action.
EE: A few weeks ago I made a mistake and thought it was Siggy who was peeping on Harbard when in fact it was Sigurd. These kids and their names. I rewatched the previous two episodes and noticed Siggy was much younger than Sigurd.
I just don’t understand why Sigurd had long flowing locks, unlike his older brothers who look like they lost fights with a lawnmower. Anyhow, I apologize for the confusion there and Sigurd brings his mommy to see Santa’s kissing more than mommy.
AN: I totally screwed that up too-these little Ginger terrors all with their girly haircuts. The blondies are all Floyd’s barbershopped out. Hard to tell. And finally, Harbard was called on his Johnny Appleseed shit!
Back in Kattegat, Sigurd shows Aslaug Harbard in a threesome with female villagers. She goes mental, as Kevin Durand gives a masterful bulls**tters speech where he ALMOST had her mollified, then she was back to throwing things.
I mean, this line: “I have sex with them to free them from their devils and their fears. Everything I do is holy. I try to live like the gods. I reject everything of this world… I take on the sins of the world upon myself.” Ha! Ashley Madison’s patron saint right there!
EE: LMAO, he does come up with some boooolshit and it stinks to high Valhalla. He’s got a great cover, though, waiting for the warriors to up and leave to raid and then macks on their women, I mean, ALL of their women while he’s gone.
Then to say he’s doing the god’s work. He’s just needs to start up a cult and he’d fit right into today’s society. I just kept thinking how he’d be a walking Petrie dish. With the lack of grooming back then, the wandering between villages, Aslaug’s just having regrets that she cheated on Ragnar with a major douche gigolo.
Next week it looks like we may see the Lothbrok brothers confront each other as Ragnar issues another attack on Paris. What do you say we close this discussion on the Duke.
AN: I think Duke Rollo loves being the “hand of the king” in France, he’s finally getting the recognition and fame he so badly desired when he was stuck being Ragnar’s brother. What do you make of Clive Standen’s Rollo as he seems to be the best son-in-law the King of France could ever hope for?
EE: Now that he can speak French, he’s saying everything they want to hear. He’s proven himself and his loyalty to the Franks. It’s hard to see someone turn on his people like that but it’s clear that Rollo feels loved back here.
I’d like to see more of his internal struggle play out though, I wonder if he’s lonely and whether or not he can face his brother and nephews and make that hard decision to kill his family. He’s whiffed before at that, and I wonder how Hirst rectifies this conflict and how much he’ll service history.
They’re not related in real life and Rollo goes on to have a bloodline that goes on to fill English royalty. So it’s really interesting how Hirst steers this ship.
AN: I would like to see more of Rollo’s path, but I am also keen on the brothers’ struggles between them, there’s a lot of stories there, and Bjorn needs to watch his back!
That’s all until this Thursday, April 14, when Episode 9, Death All ‘Round, airs at 10pm on History.
Watch the trailer below.
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