By Leslie Gayle
Vikings, Season 4, Episode 8 – “Portage”
“Portage” isn’t what this episode is about
Denial isn’t a river in Egypt; it’s a river Vikings fans are cruising down in Francia. Last week I was confused. Did Ragnar say he was retreating? Yes, we learn this week, he did. Now I’m not only confused I’m also lying on the Seer’s couch screaming, “Make it stop!”
Ragnar figures out a way around the towers. Someone dies on all battle fronts this week. And someone is pregnant on all fronts. That’s it in a nutshell.
Our Favorite Moments:
Aslaug has been blind to Harbard’s exploits. Sigurd forces her to see them. Harbard’s defense is, “Everything I do is holy…Don’t try to possess me. Possession is not love.” I told her to give him a right hook when he showed his face again. Girlfriend was truly clueless on this one.
Harbard isn’t wrong, though. There’s a lesson in there for her to learn. She’ll either learn it or continue turning Ivar into a sociopath.
All the fleets retreat down the Seine. Lagertha warns Halfdan and Harald to hold their tongue on Ragnar, but she’s torn by the Vikings’ defeat and Ragnar’s decline. Bjorn also insults Ragnar, telling him that, “This weakens you. This weakens you in every way.” Is he speaking about the retreat?
Sudden inspiration hits Ragnar and he beaches the boats. The plan is to lift the ships over the cliffs and carry them past the towers. Floki is happy to show off his tricks. But has he, like Rollo, realized that all his skills only add to Ragnar’s glory?
How will Ragnar get back past the towers if things go south in Paris? Harald and Halfdan don’t see a problem; they turn tail and go fanboy over Ragnar, telling him he’s an insane genius. Their adoration feels disingenuous, like my dog after she rips into the trash.
Death #1: No One Gets Out of Here Alive
After “Yol,” I wondered if Jim Morrison (played by Ragnar) would “[gain] some great knowledge or just a new girlfriend with some really good drugs.” It was a joke, Hirst! But the latter appears to be true.
Ragnar insists Yidu give him the rest of her “medicine.” When she balks, he tells her that he never truly gave her freedom. She is still a slave. Yidu reminds him that she knows his secret. Who says that to a desperate killer hopped up on stimulants? Someone who’s not long for this world, that’s who. Ragnar drowns her. Add her to the list of characters I wanted to know better, right between Thorsten and Eric #2.
What was the point? A wealth of Chinese philosophy and history are simple references to trade routes and a drug from Southeast Asia? Are we to assume Ragnar no longer pursues knowledge? Was I giving him too much credit? (Does the “him” in my last sentence mean Ragnar or Hirst? Yes, I’m irritated about this.)
Death 2: How strange life is?
Ecbert returns from Mercia. He is the second-term president who doesn’t need anyone’s vote. So he stops campaigning.
Kwenthrith is pregnant. When Ecbert learns it is his pious son’s illegitimate child, the king shrugs it off: “How strange life is.” And Judith isn’t the least bit upset about the baby conceived by her husband, proving she couldn’t care less about Aethelwulf. At least she isn’t a hypocrite.
Ecbert convinces Judith of his love. He is all business in this episode, no Shakespearean flourish or prep school charm. Just when you think you know all his tricks, he simply says, “I love you.” We don’t even get the benefit of hand gestures or mournful eyes. Is this the same guy who gave Lagertha the oh, so subtle gift of a plow? Damn, he’s good.
Ecbert informs Kwenthrith that he will ascend to the throne of Mercia, not she. Why is she surprised? Hasn’t she heard the fable that ends, “What did you expect? I’m a scorpion.”
Kwenthrith the Krazy has always been a great character. Our interest in her ramped up this season, and motivation to keep her cranked up to 10 this episode. So, of course, she’s dead now. What the hell, Hirst? Yup, Judith kills Kwen when Kwen holds Ecbert at knife point. I have to just let this one go.
Death #3: Comment la vie est estrange
In Paris, Count Odo tells Emperor Charles to arrest Rollo because Rollo will ultimately betray Paris. Odo reasons that Rollo is motivated by a quarrel with his brother, not devotion to Paris, and Rollo isn’t really a Christian. Odo isn’t strictly wrong about any of this.
Rollo tells the Emperor that Ragnar won’t stop until he is dead, gaining more trust. And Gisla announces she’s pregnant, which may have been what saved Rollo from being arrested.I think Chuck never planned on Rollo winning her over, as he repeats Ecbert’s line, “How strange life is.” Rollo has been honest all along. I hope he has at least some subtext up his sleeve, because Paris is “tres snooze-fest” right now.
Death comes when Therese entices Count Odo into his B&D chamber and Roland tortures and executes him, per Emperor’s orders. We leave Paris with Therese making moves on the Emperor. Who’s yanking her chains now?
Odo’s death could have been a good death, like Horik’s or Athelstan’s. But I never liked Odo and I don’t know enough about any of these Franks to care. I really want to care, Mr. Hirst.
Does Charles trust Rollo? Or did he simply need a replacement for Odo, who he knew had sights on the throne? Does Roland trust Rollo? Will Rollo ever get his land from Charles? Is Chuck sick of it all, like Prince Wigston, and wanting to light the match on his way out? We have no clue.
The beauty of Vikings for three seasons has been watching relationships unfold. The character development has effortlessly pulled us through the plot. What I see in Paris are players being dragged by the gods through a plot with no motivation. The only Frank who has changed since introduction is Gisla. But the only motivation I see is her getting her driver’s license and keys to a shiny sports car.
I am glad Odo is dead, but I had hoped killing him would play some role in understanding the Franks. Has Paris been nothing but a gilded diversion on the road to Ragnar and Rollo’s battle? Will Ragnar’s exploits overshadow Rollo’s history again?
Death all round
My brain is still clambering for some meaning. Is the meaning, “Life sucks and then you die?” Athelstan, throw us a pulley and rope so we can tie a knot and hold on, or hang ourselves!
Next week’s episode is entitled “Death All Round.” How much more death can there be? We’re already at 11 on this Richter scale. Does the scale go to 12?