We start this week sailing off to Paris. (I just got back from Paris! I can attest to it being raid-worthy.) And despite all his father’s efforts to the contrary, Aethelwulf manages to survive another trip to Mercia.
As the crew cruises along, Ragnar has a lot of time to think. Athelstan is dead, and Ragnar definitely has Floki pegged as his main suspect.
We finally meet the cast of Parisians we’re up against. Emperor Charles is a skittish, frail leader. Most fans know that he’s known in history as Charles the Simple. But the jury is out on what Michael Hirst will do with this nickname. So far in Season Four, Rollo is the only one being called “simple”.
At base camp along the Seine, Ragnar toys with Floki. Now that he doesn’t have Athelstan to consult, he takes to his snakes. “I wish (Athelstan) was here with us. He would have been useful.” Floki insists, “We will manage without him.”
Does Floki not see this imagery, a mouse dangled over a snake? I personally think Ragnar gave Floki command of the first strike, not to punish Floki for mistakes, but to keep his hands clean of any potential errors. Athelstan did say the city was “impregnable”. Ragnar certainly doesn’t want to look impotent when the whole venture goes to hell. And Ragnar didn’t want Athelstan disappointed in him for attacking Christians again.
Back in Kattegat, Porunn is going through posttraumatic stress or postpartum depression. (I never quite understood her motivation.) She tries to hand her and Bjorn’s baby off to Aslaug. At this point Aslaug is still a fairly good mom and reassures Porunn that the gods have a plan.
In Wessex, Queen Kwenthrith has gone off the reservation and needs reminding of who’s really in charge. In a scene worthy of Monty Python, Ecbert insists, “She may be forgiven for slaughtering our nobles, but only if she begs mercy and reconfirms her subjugation. BUT if she REFUSES, we will show her the iron FIST. And with her LIMBS being fastened to four horses, HER body will be TORN apart! (pause for composure, look towards the Bishop) But also *tell* her that we have a *repugnance* for such measures, being *Christian*.
Aethelwulf is sent off to put Kwenthrith in her place, or possibly be killed, so Ecbert has cause to start a war. Thanks again, dad. At least the boy has caught on to dad’s games. Aethelwulf deftly manages to dodge that knife and Kwenthrith’s bed again.
On this visit we learn Kwenthrith hid the fact that she was pregnant with Ragnar’s child for the last year. It wasn’t a very significant part of Season Three, but it will play a motivating force in Season 4B.
The Vikings first attack Paris with Floki’s floating scaffolding along the river and battering rams at the gates. Rollo coordinates things on the ground, waiting to join the fight. The Seer had told Rollo that he’ll marry a princess. Rollo catches a glimpse of his would-be princess, inspiring him to scale the wall.
Lots of fans think this is a match. I’m still not sure. I have yet to see him look at her the way he looks at Lagertha, but they may be a perfect match. Whether that match was made in heaven or Valhalla remains to be seen.
Throughout this threat, Emperor Charles has been shirking his duties as leader, hiding away and covering his fear with creepy masks. Gisla has shown open contempt and lack of confidence in her father. But to be fair, she shows contempt for almost everyone around her.
After the first raid, Emperor Charles surveys the damage and the bodies of the Vikings. “Now that I see them up close, they are far less frightening than I supposed. Indeed, they are almost human.” Almost human? So I guess it isn’t so terribly bad when you sell your daughter off to one of them.
I need to include this image of Charles the Simple glaring at his daughter after the first battle. We still don’t know if he really is simple. I can’t decide what he thinks of his daughter. Does he trust her? Does he think she’s an insufferable brat, like I do? Did he already have a plan to marry her off at this point?
I’ll end this rewind with Floki. Poor Floki. After his gods-inspired creation fails to win Paris, Floki feels lost. Have the gods abandoned him? Later in camp, Helga avoids him after he confesses to her that he killed Athelstan. He desperately screams out to her “Helga, don’t leave me!” Has Helga abandoned him too? He is lost in a fog.
Next week we’ll finish off highlights from Season Three. Paris is nice to visit, but we all have to get back to work. Well, everyone except Rollo.