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Sweatpants & TV | Vikings, Season 5, Episode 16: “The Buddha”

By Lesley Gayle

Warning: Major Spoilers if you haven’t seen this episode!

Suffering exists because of attachment to our expectations. This is the most basic Buddhist teaching. I wish Hirst had set up that teaching last week. Because then we fans would have known to have no expectations for this week’s episode, “The Buddha,” which was mostly bad.

Hvitserk is given a statue of Buddha by a happy wanderer. Remember Yidu? She was the promise of an additional philosophy, another path for Ragnar to choose perhaps, instead of choosing a Christian god or fighting his brother. I personally, had high expectations. But Yidu turned into nothing but a drug dealer. So I will follow the teaching of Buddha and have NO expectation that Hvitserk will see this statue and all of Eastern philosophy, as anything but a way to confuse Ivar, for his own amusement.

I will NOT see the Chinese man as another wanderer, screwing around with people’s lives. Maybe this statue foreshadows that Ivar, with his old gift from Alfred, and Hvitserk, are about to play mental chess against each other. Hvitserk’s piece does have the crown, so maybe he’ll be victorious. There I go again, having expectations.

Maybe that happy fat Buddha is a symbol that Hvitserk will not accomplish anything because he only focuses on immediate earthly pleasures.

(Yes, this scene was actually written and not deleted out.)

The big question on everyone’s minds after last week was, “Is Lagertha dead?” No – we see Lagertha looking over Heahmund’s body after the battle.

We see nothing else of her this episode. I’m going to bet her end story is the widely publicized directorial debut of Katheryn Winnick, and that the ENTIRE episode will be about Lagertha. Bjorn isn’t convinced that Lagertha would “just wander off”. Ubbe reminds everyone that people do “just wander away” for no reason in Hirst’s world. (We all know it’s true.) Torvi says Lagertha would only wander off if she had “come to the end of reason.” That could be true, because the majority of Viking fandom certainly thought Lagertha had no reason for that horrible relationship with Heahmund.

In Wessex, Alfred makes good on his promise of a Viking settlement. Bjorn is skeptical, whiny, and broody again.  He makes the excuse that he can’t participate in the new settlement because it’s a Christian settlement. I still believe he knows he has no respect in this English world and no talent for farming. His only talent is getting women into bed with his broodiness, which he does again, with a new relationship with Gunnhild. This new woman dotes on his broodiness.

Bjorn decides to direct his broodiness, I mean, energy, to Ragnar’s old dream of Kattegat. He joins King Harald and Magnus to plan an attack on Ivar. It should be noted, in the end, Kattegat was Lagertha’s dream, not Ragnar’s. Ragnar never wanted to rule.

Magnus doesn’t care about losing the battle to Alfred now. He’s just stoked to be a Viking and have a brother.

This is Magnus when Bjorn arrives on scene…

 

In Wessex, Alfred orders the arrest and death of all the conspirators. But he leaves his brother Aethelred alone. Aethelred assures his mom that he went only along with the conspiracy out of momentary jealousy. But when Alfred falls ill again, it appears Aethelred openly conspired against him with the clergy. And it appears he’s inherited his grandfather, King Aelle’s, contempt for liberated women.

Harald kills off several disgruntled men aligned with Earl Olafson, in order to take York. He announces he’s going to attack Kattageat.

Finally, Freydis is close to her due date, and the wife of ailing King Alfred has announced she is pregnant too.

Despite the let down after “Hell,” this episode did have a few highlights I loved.

My Favorite Moments:

Gotcha

Ivar learns that Harald’s forces were defeated by Ubbe, Bjorn and LAGERTHA. Hvitserk throws the obvious logic back in his face. Ivar chooses not to respond. Is this why the gods have him here – as keeper of the truth? Ivar thinks Harald will come back with his tails between his legs. Brandishing his old chess piece from Alfred, Ivar declares he wants to battle Alfred, in the Spring. Sadly, he’s probably only doing it to grab Lagertha. I wonder if Ivar will sacrifice a Great Hall intern next episode to distract from the fake Lagertha sacrifice.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Bjorn says goodbye to Torvi. He thanks her for being loyal to his mom, and not turning their children against him. “Thank you.”

Those were the last words Ragnar said to Aslaug, in a FAR, FAR better scene. It is a sad reminder of much we lost in Season Four. Are these Bjorn’s final goodbyes, as they were with Ragnar? Is Bjorn’s story ending when he gets back to Kattegat? And does Hirst really think our memories are that short?

A New Path

Thank the gods, something meaningful is finally happening in Iceland! The exiled son comes back to Floki’s settlement, despite horrible weather. (No, I’m not learning his name.) His father and family are dying, and he begs for Floki’s compassion. I like this because there is finally some sense forming from the weekly pain and darkness in Iceland. Flatnose, the father who has lost so much, says he will give the blood-feud family a second chance. It remains to be seen if anyone can be saved, physically or spiritually, because the rescue party gets stuck in a storm.

Moonstruck

Maybe it was Grunnhild slapping Bjorn’s broody face and then jumping into bed with him, when he got even more broody, that set the tone for me. But Harald’s scene reminded me of Nicholas Cage’s line in Moonstruck. He’s a wolf, unlucky in love.

Harald is upset that Bjorn arrived in York. Bjorn’s mother did kill his wife and child. And Bjorn’s broodiness stole Harald’s potential new woman. Will Magnus have Bjorn’s back when Harald seeks revenge? This scene works because Hirst chose to use no dialogue. Let’s hope he keeps that trend up. I think we’ve all grown tired of characters repeating the plot each episode.

A Mother’s Love & Queen’s Duty

Hirst cleared out another actor’s locker this week. Judith killed Aethlered – her first born. She had to do it to protect Ecbert’s dream and the future of England. Aethelred was NOT the brightest penny. He would have pulled England backwards. Plus, Aethelred went right back to betraying his brother, in the very SAME episode after King Alfred spared him! To his credit, Rollo felt genuine remorse, and kept his betrayals down to one per season! I’d like to think Judith took it upon herself to save us all from painfully obvious dialogue and Hirst’s narrowing, inward spiral, of repetitive brotherly betrayal! Seriously, it was the SAME EPISODE!

Thank you, Judith. Your silent grief was a gift we will not soon forget. Your acting was the highlight this week.

Will Ivar learn of King Harald and Bjorn’s plan? Is Alfred’s wife pregnant with Bjorn’s child? Will Hvitserk climb that mountaintop in Kattegat and meditate?

Stay tuned next week to find out!

Picture source: History, Vikings & Jonathan Hession

Leslie Gayle

Leslie is a one time CPA, wife and mom of twins. She’s an over thinker who loves karate, thunder, and travel. Her sweatpants are yoga pants and she takes her coffee with milk.

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