By Lesley Gayle
This week has major spoilers so watch before you read further. Brace yourselves. Hirst finishes off the season with suicide, matricide, fratricide and what would have been regicide, except His Regalness renounces his throne and kills himself.
Here goes. The battle between Vikings and English finishes off, it’s a bloodbath. Aethelwulf releases his men from duty to save themselves. He manages to evacuate the town well in advance of the Vikings’ arrival. Ecbert relinquishes his crown to Aethelwulf and refuses to leave town. Ecbert has a plan. Aethelwulf doesn’t argue with him, maybe because he needs to get people to safety, maybe because he just doesn’t give a damn about dad anymore and dad has given him the crown. (In truth I think Aethelwulf’s a much better man than that, but Aethelwulf can see dad has already lost his mind.) The Vikings find the town empty. Ecbert deeds the land of East Anglia to the Vikings in exchange for being allowed to choose the method of his own death. Which is smart, because he knew how Aelle was disposed of.
While the Vikings debate what to do next, Ivar kills Sigurd. Who didn’t see this one coming? As with most Vikings characters I feel a little sorry for Sigurd. He had a rough childhood. But damn he’s annoying. I feel worst for poor, sociopathic Ivar who has to live with what he has done.
We meet the much-hyped new character for Season 5, Bishop Heahmund, who is a warrior bishop. In the 30 seconds he’s on scene we learn he’s definitely not a pious, celibate bishop. The nice bishop comforts a grieving widow, before her husband is even cold in the ground. Add alcohol and 60 pounds to the mix, and maybe we’ll see a re-imagination of Rollo from Season One and Two. Except the Bishop will have to be sadistic and cruel to match wits with Ivar, and I doubt he can pull off deadpan comedy, like Rollo.
In the midst of all the male Viking drama, Tanaruz, Helga’s adopted daughter, (yes, I dared to learn her name) finds a random knife. Helga is full loony, singing as they wander through an inferno. Tanaruz stabs Helga and then turns the knife on herself. I think we all saw this coming. Everyone loves Helga, but Hirst hasn’t done much with her character, other than being Floki’s support system. And Floki’s historical character loses his wife and two daughters, on his way to Iceland. I wonder if Floki will be the one to write the sagas found in Iceland, after all those years of burning the English writings.
Our Favorite Moments:
A New Sibling Rivalry?
Ecbert speaks to Alfred as they leave. He counsels him, “You have a destiny, so you better get used to it.” Listen to the prince and the shepherd, and so on, and ‘I love you.’ And to his other grandson (whose name we barely know, and Ecbert doesn’t even utter), Ecbert basically says ‘sure, you’re special too. See ya.’ This is one of my favorite moments, because I have to wonder if this sets up another sibling rivalry. Grandad marked, not the first born grandson, but a bastard son, who isn’t even heir by blood, to be king. How does whose-his-face feel about that? (His name’s Aethelred. Why didn’t they just name them Stephen and Steven?)
Bjorn cries privately while Floki was burying Helga. When Floki & Bjorn say goodbye Bjorn says he is sorry about Helga, “You knew her a long time. Since I was a boy.” What? It seems strange to hear considering how close they are/were. Helga and Floki saved his family when he was a boy. Floki stood by Bjorn’s father his entire life. But Bjorn has gotten darker and colder this season, he can’t let the cracks show or dwell on the past. Floki says he is now “nothing” without his daughter, Ragnar and Helga. He’ll let the gods do as they please with him. “I shall be an empty ship without a rudder upon their endless sea.” Figuratively and literally. I wish we saw him say goodbye to Ivar. (sniff)
Another Blood Eagle?
Despite the disagreement between Ivar and Bjorn, Bjorn allows Ivar to give input on Ecbert’s fate. (It’s the least Bjorn can do, since he isn’t going to stick around to deal with the mess. Again.) Ivar wants the land Ecbert promised, but he wants to blood eagle Ecbert himself. I love this next interaction.
Bjorn tells Ivar he won’t be able to stand long enough to perform a blood eagle. (I can imagine you need some finesse in the process that requires two legs. You need to keep the guy alive while he’s being flayed. You can’t have him dying of blood loss while you adjust your braces and such. Oh yes, a sick sense of humor is a must if you love this show.) Ivar says simply, “I imagine me sitting.” He’s been day dreaming about it, clearly. You go, boy! He won’t let his disability deprive him of anything in life!
But Ivar doesn’t get to blood eagle King Ecbert. Those were Ivar’s terms with Bjorn. Bjorn didn’t follow through. I wonder how that will play out between the two brothers?
Ecbert steps into his really big bath one last time. He already knows he is going to hell, so the sin of suicide won’t add much to his damnation. He at least got out of a blood eagle. The question will be if the deed he signed over to the Vikings will be valid. He signed it after Aethelwulf was made king (And it was signed under duress. Not that Vikings care much about the law.) Aethelwulf has taken back land his dad promised before. It’s a good bet he’ll do it again. This strategy buys Wessex time, as the Vikings set up a settlement and plant crops.
I had hoped a blustery, defiant end for Ecbert – one final flowery say, cut short. But no. He is alone, contemplative and silent. Hirst better replace him with someone who talks pretty. Like Ragnar, Ecbert hears the voices of those who loved and hated him, all his crimes and triumphs. Ragnar’s voice reminding him, “Don’t be afraid,” brings him back to the task at hand. The rest is silence.
Bjorn is off to the Mediterranean. (Good, it seemed odd to do one raid in Spain, when Bjorn is known for sailing the whole Mediterranean.) That leaves the issue of who’s in charge and what Vikings will do next. Some want to settle in East Anglia. Ivar wants to raid further. Sigurd, of course opposes him. Ivar sets the tone with, “I wouldn’t piss down your throat if your lungs were on fire.” (I really want a book of Vikings insults. They’re the best!) Sigurd implies publicly that Ivar is named “Boneless” because his pecker doesn’t work. (Twitter beat you to that joke, Sigurd.) And Ivar implies that Sigurd’s pecker prefers the company of men. (What the what? Did we get another edited version in America?) Then Sigurd pushes the last button he’s ever going to push, saying the only person to ever love Ivar was mummy. Ivar goes nuclear and rashly throws his axe. He deliberately missed Sigurd by a narrow margin in the past. But this time Ivar doesn’t miss.
The brilliance of this scene, as always, is Ivar.
Without a word being said, we see the shock in Ivar’s face, followed by regret, followed by internalized anger about his Whole. DAMN. Life.
We see what was left of Ivar’s humanity, evaporate. I hope in Season 5, Hirst goes back to “showing” the audience and letting the actor’s act, rather than the repetitive dialogue that he’s relied upon these last 10 episodes.
In the trailer for Season 5, Lagertha is at the Seer’s office again asking about the future. He says the fall out from Ragnar’s death is only beginning. Ivar is bloody and we see Lagertha with Ubbe. Hello! She did say he reminded her of a young Ragnar. Let’s see where that goes! See you in Season 5!
Picture source: http://www.history.com/shows/vikings