Vikings Season 4, Episode 9, Death All Around: Recap and discussion

Rollo (Clive Standen) is on the other side of the battle this time (cr- Jonathan Hession - HISTORY)
Rollo (Clive Standen) is on the other side of the battle this time (cr- Jonathan Hession – HISTORY)

“I don’t care about Paris, I came for Rollo.” – Ragnar

The Viking ant colony works as one to deliver the vision of Ragnar Lothbrok’s great fleet of Viking ships as they carve up a mountain and through the woods to end run the Frankish troops. More importantly, it will unnerve Paris and all who face them on the battlefield as the Vikings, women, and men, are determined to leave the area as winners and not defeated.

Dangerous King Harald and his brother Halfdan find a Frankish farm and do a little berserker number on it except for the chickens, he spares them and goes for their eggs (protein shake before electricity). The two seem to be lockstep now with Ragnar who thinks bigger than the two of them.

In the road trip to Rome, we find the child Alfred with Aethelwulf who finally arrive to see the Pope. Their pilgrimage has been long, and perhaps fruitful. The look in Aethelwulf’s eyes for Alfred seems genuine enough and the Holy Father says. “We care very much for our flock in England but if Christian people do not do penance, a great and rushing disaster will swiftly come upon you.”

The Vatican was getting it from both sides at this time, the pagans in the North and the Islamic hordes from the east.

The Pope shows little Alfred a thorn taken from the crown that cut into the very head of the Christ. This is a powerful scene that sets up Alfred as one of the greatest Christian kings in history. As Athelstan’s seed is now human flesh and his goodness is foreshadowed, unlike Ivar whose evil is also foreshadowed in this episode.

Meanwhile, King Ecbert is having a good day as he is crowned King of Mercia and Wessex. The Bishop decrees: “Two proud and ancient Kingdoms…now one.” This fact makes King Aelle see the even more over Ecbert’s advancement in Royal circles. “You betrayed me,” says Aelle. “We were to divide Mercia equally between us.”

The best line of the episode was Ecbert’s: “Life is all about change…If we don’t change, we fall behind.” Ecbert then delivered the verbal blow to box in Aelle for good: “We are no longer equals,” says Ecbert. “You must get used to it.”

The AC/DC leanings of Emperor Charles are also revealed in this episode as Count Odo is dead, daughter Gisla is pregnant and court creep Roland is asked for permission to sleep with his sister and make her the Emperor’s mistress. But wait! there’s more…cut to Roland in the royal sack with the King.

Gisla smells a rat with Roland. As she is now pregnant and will not have sex with Rollo, much to his chagrin. But her wandering political mind is all over Roland and his sister. Wait until Rollo finds out Roland is “in” with the King, in more ways than one?

Of note is Floki’s metaphysical transformation as he receives a vision of Aslaug grieving Harbard. But what of Bjorn’s child Siggy? Who finds her dead but Sigurd, the girl child has drowned and her fate mirrors that of her namesake Siggy, who drowned trying to rescue Ragnar’s sons.

Aslaug is full on day drinking, while the little tyrant Ivar may be physically weak but mentally he is insanely intelligent and manipulative and cruel. Ivar beats his mother in a board game and calls her stupid; Aslaug tells him that she is the only reason Ivar is still alive which Ivar dismisses.

Aslaug has some teeth man

Breaking the bad news of Siggy, Sigurd says, “I found Siggy’s body in the river,”to which the terror Ivar dismisses as unimportant, as Aslaug says. “Who?” Pretty much sums up poor Siggy’s existence in Kattegat. This drives Sigurd out and Ivar is given the evilest cunning maternal smiles ever- Aslaug may be as skinny as a rail but that woman has a head full of teeth.

Ragnar and Bjorn are summoned to Lagertha by her screams. “I lost my child,” she says. “I’m sorry,” Ragnar says.
She composes herself and says “Go away…Just go away. Leave me alone.” Ragnar and Bjorn inch back and just sit with her and let he be. Almost a family once again. So sad.

The upbeat moment for the Vikings comes with seeing Paris through the trees. The only loose thread is Bjorn and Torvi, with Erlendur lurking in the shadows. Erlendur’s vengeance demands that Torvi kills Bjorn with his crossbow. Remember that Bjorn’s father kill Erlendur’s father King Horik. In the end, Torvi is firmly Bjorn’s woman and under Lagertha’s watchful eye in the edges of the camp, she turns the bow on Erlendur whose death was well timed as they needed every hand on deck to get those ships through the trees. Time for him to go now.

TV Critics April Neale and Ernie Estrella hash over this latest episode and are geeking for the finale next week:

Ernie Estrella: I loved how everyone was involved in getting the ships through the forest. I was raving at this strategy, this brilliant idea last week. You can see how it’s energized Ragnar, brought him back with his people and is right in the thick of it. Man, these were massive and elaborate scenes, orchestrating all of those people, so many moving parts, it was such a cinematic episode.

April Neale: It was and really brings home how industrious and cunning they were, and ruthless too. The amount of work just to fell the trees that served as a continuous conveyor belt of sorts to get these ships through the woods, insane. Also how many ships did they heave-ho like this? Makes you tip your hat to the Northmen. The women were no slackers either.

EE: What I didn’t like, however, was seeing Lagertha in the middle of it and thus contributing to losing the baby.

It was such a brief but powerful scene, though, (Katheryn Winnick has had so many this season) to see Ragnar and Bjorn come to her side, and try to console her in her loss. The imagery of them looking like a family made the fan in me smile, even in this tragedy. And who couldn’t love it when Lagertha asked to be left alone and both men simply scooted back two feet and sat behind her. I’m guessing that’s not what she had in mind but I dug the respect for Lagertha is ever present with these men.

They were there to take care of her and no matter their choices individually, they are still bound together, at least in the eyes of the viewers. We even see this when they travel in the boats out to see or at war. I love to see the three of them composed in the same frame. .

AN: Tragic and heartbreaking. I couldn’t believe how big her baby bump had gotten from last week to this and that gives a sense of time that these people needed to chop down trees and clear pathways to get the ships through the woods.

Her losing the baby and calling for Ragnar was powerful but as soon as she was consoled she snapped out of it hard. Ragnar’s betrayal really did a number on her. Bjorn, of course, is a man now but his allegiance to his mother is strong, stronger than to Ragnar? In many ways, I think it is.

EE: That’s an interesting take. I do think Lagertha is lonely in her rule. We’ve never seen her bond with her fellow shield maidens and while it’s broken, her original family is the one she leans on here, even for a brief moment. For the first time in weeks, I got interested in the England storyline again, probably dating back to when Kwenthwrith and Magnus were saved in that tower. This week we saw Ecbert’s coronation of Wessex and Mercia with King Aelle hating every minute of it. What I got out of this heated exchange was that everything stays the same, until it’s not.

AN: Right? There’s part of a lyric by Peter Gabriel is “The only constant I am sure of Is this accelerating rate of change..” and change is a powerful wake-up call. All we can do is prepare as best we can to deal with it, and Aelle got fat in many ways. He did not consume text and information the way voracious Ecbert did, he just existed in his King role without thinking beyond his immediate kingdom or even his nose.

People who dream and plan and prepare have a leg up always, they can bend to fit the moment much more effectively and they often make the changes themselves. Ecbert is a doer, a visionary, a schemer. Aelle is all about what’s on the menu for the next royal get-together.

EE: That’s a great point about Aelle. This is another interesting fork in the road of fiction vs. history and if you know Aelle’s future, then there’s still much to cover if Michael Hirst sticks with that narrative. However, everything else leads to this confrontation between the Lothbrok brothers. More on that next week.

Harald and Halfdan, I’m sorry, these two are still buffoons to me. However, I think it’s good that they carry out some of the ugly stuff that the Vikings did amongst all of the raidings. I know I shouldn’t be underestimating them and they represent that ever-present ambition within the ranks, but I squirm a little bit whenever they show up and oversell their enthusiasm.

AN: Halfdan’s hair, I just cannot with that and the tatts on their faces! Buffoons you want no part of. They’re sketchy and I do not trust their intentions. That’s the vibe I am getting despite the fact they are playing nice and cooperating with the whole right now. Interesting how Floki is distancing himself from these two.

EE: Yeah, he went from breaking bread with them to a head nod. A Norse “wassup” if you will. The title of this episode is called “Death All Round” yet there were only two people dying. Little neglected Siggy, which was quite sad, and finally Erlendur, who did himself in by threatening to kill his own son. First, let’s talk about the more surprising one.

I wasn’t expecting Siggy’s death at all, nor did I think Queen Aslaug would be so negligent in her boredom and day-drinking to literally forget about Siggy. I mean, sure, we all forgot about Siggy to some degree given all of the other storylines but the bigger issue here is that Harbard really messed her up. Is she angry because he left or because she was fooled by him and therefore made to look like a fool because she really took offense to Ivar calling her stupid. What do you think about this messed situation?

AN: I feel like someone killed Siggy, my immediate thought was Harbard but that’s probably wrong. It may have just been an unfortunate accident. Aslaug’s descent into full on alcoholic fueled by that vicious little troll son Ivar is unreal. She is unraveled and Siggy suffered – Ivar is shown to have detested her anyway. That little prick has disdain for everyone, even his mother who he sassed and called stupid.

Harbard being loose and unwilling to commit to her and Ragnar’s lack of passion for her have rendered her a trapped hausfrau in Kattegat. She is a royal in Norse lines so that isn’t going over well-don’t forget how much time elapses that these Vikings were out in the field.

EE: No doubt this is stacking the deck for Aslaug who is not in the best place with Ragnar, Sigurd, and now Bjorn, who has absolutely no loyalty or allegiance towards Aslaug. He probably spent all of five minutes with Siggy, but blood is still blood, no?

AN: Right, at the end of the day she promised Bjorn she would look after Siggy and Bjorn will discover that she is a drunk who gave no f*cks about his kid.

I think he will feel badly for a day or two! Lagertha too, she was Siggy’s grandmother and maybe Lagertha will face off with Aslaug over this. Those two have been really civil all things considered but a dead kid can upset that truce.

EE: Now for Erlendur. Was there any point that you thought that Torvi would shoot it towards Bjorn? The scene prior it was Erlendur who was trying to assassinate Bjorn in the night but didn’t want to hit Torvi by accident or basically take his one shot at Bjorn. It’s funny what a coward he is because Torvi had such a clear shot at Bjorn, better than what he had in the night.

AN: That was a tough one for me because I really felt Torvi was deeply attracted to Bjorn, I mean, look at Bjorn and look at Erlendur! As Ilana from Broad City would say, “Derr!” But I never felt Erlendur would live through this episode, he’s too despicable and written so obviously as a seether and treacherous lurking part of the group and energetically I think Lagertha was totally on to him too and guiding Bjorn in the shadows.

EE: Yeah in this world, you just have to adapt and get over grudges. Look at Siggy and how she dealt with being a widow. She knew she had to serve Ragnar or put back in the soup line.

I get that Erlendur wanted revenge but he wasn’t man enough to get the job done. I mean he tried to force Torvi to do the dirty work for him and blaming the “gods” speaking these instructions to him. Good thing somethings have never changed. Now, here’s the part where I get the rest of the stuff in my head out, Aethulwulf and “his” son’s pilgrimage to Rome. I have to admit, I enjoyed seeing Aethulwulf having a good time, and it looked like he was proud to see Alfred make the long trip.

Making it past the beggars alone… reminds me of the telemarketers of today. Also, that Frankish Emperor waking up from a night with Roland, I did not expect that at all. What is it with this freak?

AN: I am so confused at this point with the brother/sister S&M freak show and Charles sleeping with Roland now. I really have no idea what the hell is happening. For a moment, I thought Aethulwulf “lost” the kid in that dirty crowd of beggars and w***es.

EE: Lastly, there’s Floki’s seer dream. That was vivid and telling what is going on in Floki’s mind right now. It’s nice to have Floki’s headspace in the right place now. You know, Michael Hirst could have easily killed him after what he did to Athelstan, but instead, he’s had this longer plan for Floki.

I think it was a neat way to touch on the Loki-Floki torture and also, get him back to doing what he does best. Build. Has this current Floki arc interested you, April?

AN: Floki always interests me, his tortured self, the redemption, the penance, the path back to Ragnar, all good stuff. He truly is the new Seer! His eyes went GoT milky white like Arya and Bran. He senses the disruption of normalcy in Kattegat and he feels the betrayal of Aslaug who spiritually is a Norse royal, he feels her pull (I believe) to Ivar’s dark side too. Except I think he probably would be quite supportive of Ivar.

EE: What did you make of Ragnar’s line to him, “I’m not done yet, I have one more thing to do.” Was that his duty to kill Rollo or something else?

AN: Oh yeah. Rollo’s complete defection from the Viking ranks and Ragnar’s bloodline has freaked him out in a murderous way. You can tell next week by the promos that it’s on and now that Rollo isn’t getting any from his Gisla in her sacred condition, he’s got more pent up energy to unleash in the coming battle! Look out Ragnar and good luck detoxing from Yidu’s “medicine.”

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