This week, the Vikings make plans for Paris and Athelstan becomes the biggest spoiler alert on Vikings to date.
King Ragnar is feeling emboldened with a settlement established in England. On the way back to Kattegat he asks Athelstan to tell him about Paris again. Athelstan tells him that he had questioned his monk’s vow of celibacy after seeing the women in Paris. Ragnar seems to look forward to that. What better way to earn renown throughout the known world than to have sons in every country, eh, Ragnar?
Here is Season Three’s Rollo beat down. Ragnar’s joy is disrupted upon arrival, when Aslaug doesn’t have his sons waiting for him. Rollo arrives and asks for Siggy. Aslaug has to tell Rollo the news of Siggy’s death. Rollo must have gained a new appreciation for Siggy while away, because her death hits him hard. He drinks himself into a stupor and gets beaten down in a fight with Bjorn. Bjorn saves Rollo from being attacked by all the men in town. At least this beating doesn’t leave him as marked up as in Season One or Two, and certainly not as messed up as in Season Four so far.
The settlement leaves Ragnar content enough to turn his raiding party towards Paris. He works with Athelstan on a layout of the walled city surrounded by a river. Ragnar asks Athelstan what he thinks of the city’s defenses. Illustrating the show’s amazing writing, Athelstan *doesn’t* say, “It’s impenetrable” – instead he says, “It’s impregnable.” Because that is Ragnar’s only real motivation at this point in life – not simply raiding, but leaving his mark, leaving a place changed by him and his future generations.
Meanwhile, back in Wessex, Judith has just given birth to a second child. Remember, she is married to Prince Aethelwulf, who was off fighting for Mercia when the child was conceived. So, this baby was a bit of a misstep. She has not revealed the father of the child, but we all know who it is. I honestly believe Ecbert knows who it is too, after his Roman bath party. Immediately after giving birth, Judith is pulled into the town center for judgment by the church, probably at her husband’s request.
I have to take a moment to highlight one of the cultural comparisons Vikings does well. The upper picture is the priest in Uppsala readying participants for a human sacrifice. The lower is a Catholic priest taking a woman to be tortured. I’d say they are tied for “Creepiest Priest Ever.”
Judith refuses to name the father of her child. As much as it honestly seems to pain him, Ecbert orders the guard to cut her ear off. This is where your classical Shakespearean training comes in handy, and will get you future jobs in the horror genre. Jennie Jacques, who plays Judith, really sells the horror in this scene. She’s so good that Ecbert elevates her to the level of the Virgin Mother afterwards.
Despite his calm exterior, Ecbert is relieved to stay the punishment when Judith whimpers Athelstan’s name. The child is Athelstan’s. Ecbert believes the child has a godly purpose. Even if Aethelwulf is unhappy about God’s choice of vessel, he has to accept the child. It also probably wouldn’t go over too well with King Aelle, if Wessex maimed his daughter too much.
Back in Kattegat, we learn that Ecbert ordered the massacre of the Viking settlement soon after Ragnar’s departure. Floki presents an old man who escaped and made his way back. Ragnar vows revenge in front of Floki while consoling the old man. Then Ragnar covers up all evidence of the massacre by strangling the old man. Ragnar’s eyes are set on Paris. He can’t have his people thinking about revenge or turning on him. There has to be deleted dialogue with Floki sitting on an editing room floor somewhere.
Athelstan, who has been struggling with his faith, finally has a sign from God. We assume he gets the revelation that he has a child with Judith. He had been confiding to Ragnar that his only regret in devoting his life to God was not having children. God appears as a ray of light in Athelstan’s dust-filled world. When he kneels to peek through the hole, Athelstan is thrown onto his back, creating the image of a crucifixion and the shadow of a raven. That’s what it looks like to me, anyway.
Athelstan runs to tell Ragnar of his revelation, saying he is born again. “Like a baby?” Athelstan explains that the Lord appeared to him. “Lord? Oh, your God. What did he look like?” This should be proof to everyone that Athelstan hasn’t had *that* much impact on Ragnar’s religious conviction. He still doesn’t understand the concept of an immortal God.
When Athelstan says he should leave, since he is fully Christian again, Ragnar insists, “You CANNOT leave me! I love you!…No one will hurt you here.” To which Athelstan responds, “It doesn’t matter where I go. All I care about is where you’re going.” Ragnar probably assumes this means Paris, but Athelstan probably means “heaven” now.
It’s at this point that I started fearing for Athelstan, because Ragnar’s getting a wee bit possessive. He put up less of an argument to keep Lagertha! He certainly didn’t throw out the “L” word for her. When that creepy wanderer shows up speaking Frankish, I knew Athelstan was a goner.
Let’s skip forward to Athelstan’s burial. (His death was covered in the “Memorable Deaths Part 2” a few months back.) Ragnar is distraught because, “We will never meet again, because I fear your god would object to me visiting you in heaven.” (Sniff) Greatest. Bromance. EVER!
I’m including this last moment because the screengrab was too pretty not to share. Ragnar shaves his head. Is it a sign of mourning, or mimicking a monk’s shaved head, or just a character transformation? He takes Athelstan’s cross and hangs it around his neck. “Forgive me, my friend. Not for what I have done. But for what I’m about to do.” Which friend? Athelstan, for Ragnar defiling the cross? Floki, for Ragnar wearing the cross? With Mr. Hirst we may never know unless we find a hidden deleted scene online.
Next week, Vikings heads to Paris! And despite all his father’s efforts to the contrary, Aethelwulf manages to survive another mercenary trip to Mercia.
Image sources: Vikings