I watched the Vikings’ preshow where Ubbe, sitting by a fire, tells children (and the audience) the story thus far. It was a dark and rainy night. I think I now understand the rationale behind Vikings’ release dates. Michael Hirst has to prolong our torture – that’s a given. But we also need to be stuck inside on a winter night, huddled by a fire. That’s how the Vikings would have heard their stories (sans all the gif battles while live tweeting).
The opening scene for episode 11, picks up with Season 4A’s ending. “WHO wants to be KING!” And then the music becomes more intense, like we’re ratcheting up a roller coaster. Hirst is setting up his dominos again. I think these dominos will twist around tighter, and fall harder than in the first ten episodes.
Ragnar asks Sigurd, Hvitserk and Ubbe if they want to challenge him. But Ragnar simply lays his hand on Ivar’s head, discounting his youngest son in the challenge. His sons are split in their opinion of Ragnar’s return. Bjorn has no respect for his father anymore. Floki is less torn in his feelings. He is still devoted to Ragnar, as is Lagertha to some degree.
Torvi has several children now, we assume with Bjorn. Lagertha has a much younger girlfriend. (So young, that she had heard of Ragnar’s exploits from her wet nurse.) And Ragnar tries to hang himself. He fails. We don’t know if he really meant to kill himself because no one wants to go raiding with him, or if he wanted to gain knowledge from the tree as Odin did, when the god hung himself.
Our Favorite Moments:
Bjorn Is Unimpressed
After Ragnar challenges the boys, Ubbe steps forward with his sword. Ragnar walks over without grabbing his sword (tension!) and finally hugs his son. (Aww, hugs.) Your eyes just start to well up when Bjorn shows up, demanding to know why the HELL Ragnar bothered to come back at all (ooooh, snap!) Bjorn goes on to tell Ragnar about his son Magnus in England, with much disgust over his dad having spread his seed indiscriminately about the world. When Ubbe says he won’t raid, but instead will watch over their kingdom and mother, Ragnar says “You are right to think of family.” Bjorn stomps off, disgusted at his father’s hypocrisy.
He Loves Me Not, He Loves Me!
Ragnar asks Floki to go to England with him. Floki won’t go back on his word to go with Bjorn to the Mediterranean. Ragnar tries to change Floki’s mind, “If you don’t go with me, I’ll never see you again.” Over the course of a day or two, Ragnar and Helga have some back and forth tension. She didn’t wake Ragnar for breakfast. Ragnar has often taken advantage of their short food supplies, and Ragnar gave Helga and her daughter winter handouts, so I’ll take that as a deliberate slight on Helga’s part. Ragnar knows Helga is good for Floki. And Helga knows Ragnar is BAD for Floki – she’s already weaned Floki off that drug. Now the needle is back in his hand. As Ragnar leaves Floki’s camp, he tells Floki he loves him.
Ragnar has released Floki from his hold. The boat builder has finally pleased his personal god. Floki yells back that he loves Ragnar Lothbrok too! It sounds just like “Thor loves my BOAT!”, yelled over the thunder in Season One. Hopefully he can now let go of Ragnar and see him as a man, not a god.
Bigger Sibling Rivalries
When the boys discuss their father, Ivar’s decision whether to raid or stay in Kattegat is never brought up. It’s the one ton rotting moose in the room (Vikings haven’t yet seen an elephant.) He’s never asked what he would do. His fate is assumed. Ivar wonders if Sigurd is staying behind because his brother’s afraid of getting seasick. Sigurd insists he isn’t afraid of anything. “Not even me?,” Ivar threatens. Clearly Sigurd has seen more of what Ivar is capable of than the others.
During training tensions mount between the two, arrow fly and axes are thrown. Ivar gets closest without a kill, just a trim of Sigurd’s bangs. Training between the boys is a razor-thin line between your run of the mill brothers trying to “kill” each other, and brothers trying to KILL each other. The animosity between Ivar and Sigurd is far more intense than Ragnar and Rollo’s was, even in Paris. Ivar and Sigurd were left behind on the Paris raid with “mater.” It is funny that back then Sigurd was the little spy about town, left alone. But Ivar grows up to be the one forced to watch on the sidelines.
Boys Will Be Boys
Ivar is curious about his brothers’ sex life. He crawls around Kattegat, catching his brothers with the servant girl, Margaret. She hooks up with all of them. Clearly this girl is hoping to capture a Lothbrok boy by any means possible. She’s even willing to try her hand with Ivar.
Ivar is fearless. So fearless that knowing up front that he can’t procreate, doesn’t prevent him from trying. He won’t be left out of anything in life. He openly discusses what he wants with his brothers. The only one who chides him is Sigurd: ‘Have you ever been with a woman?’ (Insert classic Ragnar eye roll) Ragnar wants to be like all the boys, just like his dad pushed for when Aslaug coddled Ivar. Has Ragnar’s return inspired Ivar’s boldness?
Ivar could have devastated his reputation in the Viking world by allowing Margaret to live after she learned his pecker doesn’t work. The clever girl uses the threat of the gods against him. The gods would punish him for killing her. Margaret tells him ‘lots of men can have sex and children, that is easy. Being a son of Ragnar and finding greatness is the difficult thing.’ He cries. I haven’t decided if Ivar is so evil that he can intimidate anyone into silence, or if he is such a great read of people, as to know who to trust. Maybe both.
Like Father, like Son
When none of the sons want to raid with dad, Ivar calls them ‘bastards that don’t deserve their father.’ In the final scene, Ivar tells his father how their mother never let anyone sit on dad’s throne. But Ivar would sit on the throne when no one was around. This is my favorite scene by far, and the best on-screen chemistry in all the Viking kingdom. We end where we begin, with the unspoken question of who wants to be king. Ivar finally insists that he be included in the challenge. I can’t do the scene justice by writing, so I’ll just leave it here to watch. It speaks for itself.
Next week we’ll continue coverage of the building conflict and carnage.
Picture source: http://www.history.com/shows/vikings and @TeamParmenter