Warning: Major Spoilers for this episode!
Happy Holidays! I hope you were able to slip away from family and watch Vikings’ “Hell.” It was truly a gift from Hirst – a reminder of why we keep watching this show. There was so much unspoken to think about!
In Kattegat, Hvitserk accuses Ivar of the disappearance of the Seer. Ivar has no conscience in lying to his brother, so my call on Freydis ordering Margrethe’s death may be way off. Ivar has the hubris to say that only he can speak on behalf of the gods. Not even the Seer claimed that.
Ivar promises the town folk of Kattegat that he’ll punish whoever “took” their Seer. The good folk of Kattegat clearly don’t care who rules over them, so long as their businesses still thrive, because Ivar has fans now. Or maybe it was the public display of dissenters’ bodies that turned public opinion. If Hirst’s hints at Ivar’s growing fascism went over your head in the last few episodes, it’s hard to miss this symbolism:
Fearing God’s wrath after dreaming of hell, Heahmund dumps Lagertha. I think he was too quick to judge the dream.
His dream was just a vision of Ubbe’s battle strategy, and maybe a little sleep apnea. Did he hurt Lagertha for nothing?
Ubbe attacks Alfred, to keep him on his toes. It was a scene reminiscent of Ragnar preparing Alfred’s dad, Athelstan, for battle. Ubbe is convincing in his loyalty to Alfred. I do like that Ubbe has kept his arm ring with him in battle though.
Ubbe meets with Harald to negotiate. He tricks Harald into a day’s delay to discuss demands and tribute. Magnus shows up and accidentally informs Harald of the movement of the king’s army, but it is already too late.
During the battle, Jarl Olafson’s wife, Gunnhild, gets in one good slash to Bjorn’s face. But Bjorn gets the better of her. I assume she’ll shack up with Bjorn next since she’s shown bound and Jarl Olafson conveniently died in battle and she looks a lot like Porunn.
King Alfred defeats King Harald. It’s another great battle for this season. Ubbe introduces a catapult he saw in Paris as a boy and boxes Harald’s men in with fire.
Hirst gives us an extra gift this week – Headmund’s death in battle. King Alfred gives him a glorious send-off befitting a far better man than he was. Lagertha still cares.
Lagertha disappears. She took a bad hit to her leg, but she isn’t found dead on the battlefield. Did she just wander off like Ragnar or Porunn, or did the Valkyries literally carry her off?
My Favorite Moments:
Ivar is a cult of personality now, complete with his own statue. Hvitserk still voices his disbelief to Ivar publicly.
The god Ivar preaches to his followers, who have warmed to his divinity. With a halo of light behind him, he makes another impossible campaign promise – to solve of the Seer’s disappearance. The Seer being the living archive for their whole way of life and future. Little old ladies and berserkers alike, love him.
Ivar’s personal life is also perfect. He’s so in love. I’m still waiting for this storyline to tip. When Ivar learns he isn’t a god and the child isn’t his, how painful will Freydis’ death be?
The Battle Strategy
This strategy had two parts – delay Harald and control the field. Did Bjorn send Magnus to Harald? Or has Bjorn been playing Magnus. There is a hint as troops leave that they may be working together. And if he did, was Bjorn kept in the dark on Ubbe’s battle strategy? Magnus clued Harald into the movement of Alfred’s troops. But Magnus was clueless Harald was awaiting word of negotiations. And he didn’t know about the firewall.
The battle that followed was one of the show’s best, ending with King Harald’s withdrawal.
King of King
“God works in mysterious ways. Each one of you, ask yourselves, do you know his ways? Can you be so sure as to know the divine mind that guides all things?”
Alfred shows why he deserves to be king. He isn’t the strongest warrior, but he befriended the right Viking. And just like King Ecbert, he can spin inspiring words and pretty talk. As with Ivar, Alfred is bathed in holy light for his sermon, as eloquent and heroic as Shakespeare’s Saint Crispin’s Day speech.
In the end, Alfred acknowledges, “there would be no victory without these Northmen who have embraced our cause…and our God.” The camera cuts to Bjorn standing alone, looking upset despite the victory. Yes, he can’t find Lagertha on the battlefield, that’s part of it. But I believe, with the timing of the camera cut, this image is about something else.
It’s time to have a real talk about Bjorn Ironsides. In comparison to other Vikings, Bjorn has not accomplished much on his own, except getting two women pregnant. Being Ragnar’s son is a difficult position mentally for a Viking. Someone always had his back in battle before he earned his name. Ragnar, Lagertha, and Rollo always looked after him.
Do you remember why Rollo has power now? Bjorn left Rollo in charge in Paris. Floki built Bjorn his ships based on his love of Ragnar and money earned in raids Ragnar organized. Basically, Bjorn road Ragnar’s coattails. He found an outdated partial map of the Roman Empire in Paris, but Rollo gave him the actual information needed to navigate the Mediterranean safely. And when he went back to Northern Africa, he failed at the only job he ever earned on his own. His boss was killed.
He lost Kattegat to Ivar. And since then, he only complains. He has no suggestions or plan. Ivar, Hvitserk and Ubbe have all proven to be better strategists. Now, with Alfred acknowledging the Vikings’ contribution, Ubbe has earned Ragnar’s dream of a settlement. And Bjorn has lost ranking he may have had as Ubbe’s older brother. Ubbe went all in, giving strategy and his soul to Alfred, just like Rollo did in Paris. Bjorn knows this. Hell, he may not even be Ragnar’s son. So what will he do now?
A Brother’s War
Judith tortured the conspirator and got good intelligence. She had to break the news to Alfred during the celebrations, that his brother was in charge of the conspiracy after Bishop Guthred’s death. In truth he wasn’t the mastermind, he went along for the ride. Aethelred couldn’t mastermind anything on his own.
We end with Magnus The Troublemaker, Magnus the Illegitimate, Magnus the Misspoken, sailing off with a defeated King Harald. Harald had said Ragnar’s name would be forgotten, before being beaten by Ragnar’s sons and increasing their fame. Will he have the strength to sail back and attack Ivar? Will Magnus be welcomed by Ivar and Hvitserk? Will Magnus be upset at all Aslaug’s sons for Ubbe denying him? Let’s remember, even though he isn’t Ragnar’s son, he IS Queen Kwenthrift the Crazy’s son.
Stay tuned next week to find out!
Picture source: History & Vikings