Warning Major Spoilers if you haven’t seen this episode!
“Nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land.”
John Steinbeck – Excerpt from “Of Mice & Men”
The simple dream in “Of Mice & Men” is that of a man, owning and working his own land, and making his own way in the world. That was Ragnar’s dream too. His sons are having a difficult time achieving that dream, despite the head start Ragnar gave them.
This week, Vikings and Rus prepare for battle. Ivar educates Oleg on Norway’s terrain and Bjorn’s strategy. Bjorn takes over the tactical planning from Harald, who doesn’t seem to believe the Rus are a major threat. Harald has not inspired the earls to defend the capital. Bjorn secretly sends out a request in his own name.
Harald tries to romance Ingrid away from Bjorn. He reminds her that second wives have no power.
Gunnhild loses her child in a premature delivery. Bjorn is despondent, as if this child was his last hope. When Gunnhild suggests Ingrid can give him a son, Bjorn responds with “I wanted our son.”
Despite all common sense, Harald hates Bjorn. Bjorn has always come to Harald’s aid. He’s trying to help Harald protect the capital. But Bjorn took Halfdan and Gunnhild away from Harald. And the very earls that elected him, don’t respect Harald enough to defend the capital. Ingrid’s rejection of his proposal is the last straw. It seems she was not so ambitious to abandon Bjorn at his lowest.
Harald asks Olaf why Bjorn took a second wife, when he already had the strongest, most fascinating, shield maiden for a wife. The gods seemingly make everything easy for Bjorn.
Up until he wins the election, Harald had always been honorable – crazy, but honorable. He and Bjorn had a mutual respect. Harald may have kidnapped Astrid. But he waited for her decision to marry. Harald never raped a free woman. He finally loses all honor and control, and rapes Bjorn’s wife Ingrid.
Among the Rus, Katya knows that Ivar helped Prince Dir escape. But he now doesn’t trust her. She has told Oleg too many personal things about Ivar. Birds announce Spring’s arrival and the brother’s voyage back to Norway.
My Favorite Moments
Appetite for Destruction
Hvitserk has resigned himself to his fate with Ivar. He knows the gods are leading him right off a cliff. It is bittersweet. He has a purpose again, but not the one he hoped.
The Last Temptation of Ivar
Ivar is a completely different animal than Bjorn. Bjorn is on his 4th and 5th wife. Ivar is tempted with the reincarnation of his disloyal soulmate. Freydis made him believe he was a god. He casts off her blonde wig and rejects her. He uses the vague excuse, “You know I can’t.” Ivar can reject her based on loyalty to Oleg – keeping her blind to his other handicap.
Since we are in the East, Katya may be Mara’s daughter, who tempts the Buddha from his Enlightenment. Katya mentions that her religion believes reincarnation is possible. Ivar says he may be falling in love with her, even though he doesn’t know her. Does he finally understand she’s not Freydis? Can he finally achieve everything he wants, because he’s learned from his past mistakes?
I Will Sit Here A While
Lagertha lost her baby when exerting herself while preparing to battle with Rollo. Gunnhild loses Bjorn’s son, while preparing for battle with Bjorn’s brother. Her grief reminds us of Ragnar’s moment with Gyda.
The Mouse Takes The Cheese
King Harald falls on the battlefield. Erik goes to him. Harald tells the skógarmaðr (exiled outlaw) to leave and start a new life. Erik walks away with the crown of Norway. Hirst has said he wants Vikings to end with Erik the Red landing in Greenland. Does he pay for the voyage with the crown? Or does he keep it for Bjorn?
The Last Temptation of Bjorn Ironside: Father Why Have You Forsaken Me?
The capital is surrounded and overrun by the Rus. In the end, Harald and Bjorn both fall. Ivar is shown celebrating with Hvitserk and Oleg.
In Bjorn’s head, Bjorn and Ivar debate who was Ragnar’s favorite and who will carry his legacy. Bjorn literally turned away from his father twice. Does he feel guilty? At first the conversation is jovial.
The tone shifts to that of a samurai film, where all the heroes are doomed. Bjorn admits his past mistakes. Ivar tells Bjorn that the gods abandoned him long ago, and he can not win.
A sword runs Bjorn through on the battle field. Metaphorically, it is Ivar. But we know Ivar is not in the thick of battle. The two become wooden shadow puppets on the beach – play things for the gods.
Hirst repeats the scene “There is no way you can win.” Can Bjorn not win this battle, or the battle for a dead man’s affection?
I think Ivar has metaphorically committed a mercy killing. Ivar isn’t looking for revenge against Bjorn this time. There is no anger in his words. He is devastated when he sees the armies that will attack his home. He’s sad when he tells Bjorn he can’t win. He looks almost compassionate when Bjorn falls. Ivar knows the Viking world can’t win against what’s coming. Like Rollo before him, he knows they must adapt to survive.
We don’t know if Bjorn’s appeal to the other earls will be answered, or if he dies from his wounds. Maybe this entire battle was in Bjorn’s head, as he dealt with his daddy issues in the Seer’s psychiatric office.
The secret may be in the title’s namesake poem. Bjorn is consumed by his past mistakes and his future legacy. Ivar, like a mouse following his true nature, doesn’t doubt his past deeds. And he isn’t concerned about a legacy, he can’t pass to children. Will both ultimately lose? Tune in later this year to find out!
“But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
Still thou are blest, compared wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I cannot see,
I guess an’ fear!”
Robert Burns – Excerpt from “To a Mouse”
Picture source: History, Vikings, Bernard Walsh & Johnathon Hession