By Leslie Gayle
Remember when our merry band of thieves were simple wide-eyed farmers and fishermen, in awe of the big world? Remember that fateful raid on the monastery at Lindisfarne, when Ragnar wondered why the monk hid the Bible instead of the gold? And Rollo wondered where all the women were?
The next few months of recaps are going to be highlights from the first three seasons. Some now seem more important in hindsight. Season One was dense with character development. One element that struck me on Vikings was how little dialogue there was. Most of the character development is through action and subtext. It isn’t until we meet King Ecbert, who loves to hear himself speak, that we really notice it.
Vikings opens with Ragnar and Rollo on a battlefield. Ragnar sees the souls of the dead taken to Valhalla and Odin’s Raven that follows Ragnar everywhere. Later this episode, we learn of Ragnar’s curiosity when he tells Bjorn of the spring raids, and his hopes to travel west to see new people and gods. If you weren’t already interested in the main character, these two shots of his baby blues will suck you in.
We learn a little bit of Lagertha while Ragnar is in Kattegat. Lagertha has unwelcome wanderers at the farm looking for some fun. It is the first time we get a hint that she is a badass shield maiden and how she deals with men who try to rape women.
Floki is my favorite character introduction on Vikings to date. He immediately comes across as a mix between Heath Ledger’s Joker and one of Jane Goodall’s chimps. He informs Bjorn that he unfortunately has his father’s eyes and to Ragnar, “It means he’ll be just like you, and he’ll want to be better than you. And you will hate him for it.” (We start to see this prophecy unfold in Season Three.) Floki goes on to show Bjorn how he finds the right tree for boat planks and his passion for his craft.
One of the first funny moments occurs when Rollo visits Ragnar’s household. He asks Bjorn where his parents are and Bjorn replies “They are having sex.” To which Rollo quickly replies, “Then we must wait.” It is the first in a string of deadpan one-liners from Rollo.
Soon after we meet Floki, we see him again, doubting his abilities. That was the last time he ever doubts what that gods have in store for him. As soon as the sails are raised he starts to get a bit full of himself.
During a storm on the first trip west, Floki challenges the men’s fears, claiming the storm is a test to prove, “Thor loves my boat!” It is when we learn the boat-builder and Viking can’t swim. WTH?
In one last stroll down Floki lane for this week, Floki sets fire to the monastery at Lindisfarne. He plays with paper, immediately seeing if he can eat it, like a six-month-old or one of Jane Goodall’s chimps. Ultimately he decides it’s a great fuel for his favorite toy, fire!
After Ragnar’s crew returns from England, Haraldson takes all the loot. He allows Ragnar to keep one thing and Ragnar chooses the priest. Ragnar shows off his choice to his family, and it feels like he spent all their savings on a boat and came home with a handful of magic beans. And those beans grow into Ragnar’s tangled future conflicts, and awaken the Frost Giants. Ragnar leaves Athelstan out for the kids to play with while he and Lagertha go to have sex again. In the time before television and phones, you took what you could get for entertainment.
Ragnar walks a line between master and friend with Athelstan. Ragnar plies him with drink, gaining knowledge and intel on the English. Athelstan can’t hold his mead yet.
Then Ragnar uses this knowledge to convince Haraldson that more raids to the west will be easy pickings. The priest learns too late that his “host” is wilier than him, even with all his book illuminating. The boy has no poker face, either. At least he learns how to handle Ecbert later down the road.
I’ll leave it there for now. This week was heavy on Aethelstan and Floki. But they figure heavily down the road. Next week we’ll get through Ragnar’s meeting with King Aelle. I suspect we’ll see a lot more of him and his snake pit second half of Season Four.