“100% more evisceration talk than expected.”
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Heillir! The Shieldmaidens of History (Protecting the Innocent from Anachronisms) welcome you back to our series on the History Channel show Vikings.
Follow us on Twitter, #ShieldGeeks where and Sandi and I will be live-tweeting during each episode, as has been our custom since Season One. We’ll follow up with a more detailed discussion on our websites the following day.
We are SO excited! So, Warriors and Shieldmaidens all, get your weapons and armor ready, because it’s going to be an amazing season!
Lissa: This episode wasn't quite as strong as the one before it. It was sort of a "getting ready" episode, like packing for a vacation, turning off all the lights, getting the pets to the kennel... that sort of thing.
We begin with Ragnar in Kattegat, walking through the marketplace. The hustle and bustle reminds us what a busy place it is. One of the traders drives a cart through the streets. Its cargo is a live emu.
Yes, you rather liked the emu! Really, it spoke well to the internationality of Kattegat, but then we'd also seen that before, with a host of culturally diverse people selling their wares in the market square.
Lissa: Ragnar stops to speak to a man he knows. He tells him he's getting a crew together to go back to raid in England. The man draws back with a smile and says he's a farmer. Just like his brother was, and his brother went to England to live in one of Ragnar's settlements. He found out that his brother had been slaughtered years after it happened, but Ragnar had known all along, hadn't he? He leans forward and spits in Ragnar's face.
Ragnar stands there for a moment, and a small smile ghosts across his lips. He thanks the man for his time and walks away. At his back, the man shouts that no one loves Ragnar any longer, not even the gods.
Sandi: That was expected. We needed to see this kind of response. The interesting thing, to me, is that there weren't more Kattegatians (I can't call them villagers anymore, can I?) who were up in Ragnar's face about the Wessex slaughter/failure/tragedy. But still, note that Ragnar can walk about in Kattegat without being on the defensive. He isn't otherwise assaulted, and people make way for him. He is still Ragnar, and that name means something. Even his sons, who might not all appreciate him entirely, nor agree with him, bank on that name.
Lissa: Ragnar speaks with Björn about his plans. It's a sad exchange, in a way, because Ragnar can see how the Seer's prophecy is coming true before his eyes... Björn has a great destiny before him, and seems destined to go on to greater things than Ragnar ever achieved. Ragnar tells him he needs ships. Björn agrees to give him some of the fleet he's assembled to go to the Mediterranean. It had to be very galling for Ragnar to have to go to his son - hat in hand, so to speak - and ask for ships that were built by the man who used to craft ships for Ragnar.
Björn mentions having to pass by Rollo's lands, and says he intends to see how much of a Viking his uncle still is.
Sandi: Galling, yes, but I think too that Ragnar is proud. I mean, he raised Björn until Björn was granted his armband. He and Lagertha created a strong son who is now doing what men do: make their own way. And even if he does become bigger and better than his father, Björn is also carrying Ragnar's name with him as he does so. It's hard for the older generation, too, to make way for the younger, but it is the natural way of things and a Viking will bow to that. They'll all meet in Valhalla and share stories one day, would be a way to acclimate himself to that.
Lissa: At the midday meal, Aslaug tells Ivar she's happy to see him with Margrethe. She tells all her boys they should be having children.
Sandi: Odd, but I don't really see Aslaug as a grandmother. She might be!
Lissa: Ubbe blithely says he probably already has a few and the boys laugh. But Aslaug insists they should marry and father legitimate heirs. Sigurd asks his mother if she married Ragnar because she loved him.
Aslaug replies tartly that love has little to do with it, but when he presses, she snaps that she did love him.
Sandi: This is odd, in the cultural context. A marriage in this society would not be based upon love, as a rule. A marriage was most often an arrangement between families, for the better fortune of them all in terms of land, influence, wealth, or all of the above. Marrying for love would be a foreign notion. Why would her sons even inquire about it? I could just slide this into the Boot Sole File.
And Aslaug married Ragnar because she was bearing his child. I mean, it's not a romantic story at that point, not really. Perhaps, though, Aslaug is trying to keep a legend alive with her sons. They are her closest companions at this juncture.
Sandi: Sigurd really takes the proverbial bull by the horns, here. Ivar is defensive of Aslaug—for good reason—and the sequence is indicative of the long-festering unease/antipathy that has developed between the two brothers over the years they've lived together.
Sandi: Sigurd was not playing fair, but then I imagine he's seen Ivar favored during his whole life. And Ivar really let his guard down, or was overwhelmed by his feelings, here. To show so much emotion, genuine emotion, makes him vulnerable.
Lissa: That evening, there's a feast in the great hall.
Sandi: Gotta say I enjoyed seeing that. This is a different kind of feast than we've perhaps seen in a while. Good to see all the Northmen in their fantastic costumes (History Channel continues to impress in the wardrobe department) and to have a feel for the atmosphere of the Great Hall.
Lissa: Harald and his brother Halfdan are in attendance - they're going on Björn's journey.
Björn mentions Harald's old ambition to become King of Norway, but Harald says he doesn't think it's possible to depose Ragnar. Which is a bit odd, since Ragnar is obviously reduced to begging his own child for the boats he needs for a small raid, but perhaps Harald was just being diplomatic, considering his current plans.
He mentions how tall the Ragnarssons are, and Ivar says he's tall when he stands up. Harald is a bit - well a lot - patronizing when he says that he bets Ivar wishes he could go with them. Ivar tells him to go to hell.
Sandi: Ivar has to be seething, here. Regarding Harald, I think he might be a bit behind the times, perhaps, in terms of the current political climate. Unless he has spies?
Lissa: Lagertha enters with Joan Jett at her side.
Joan seems very popular amongst the people of Kattegat.
Sandi: This is a bit surprising. Lagertha resides in Hedeby, does she not? But Lagertha is a woman of substance, a jarl, and if Joan Jett is seen as her Current S.O., then it is likely that others court her for her favor. Even those who aren't beholden to Hedeby in any way.
Aslaug says they should make a sacrifice. Jointly, Lagertha tells her. Aslaug reminds her that she is the queen of Kattegat. Lagertha replies she never forgets anything.
Sandi: Aren't they so polite, here? *slanted smile* I like the edge that the actresses gave the scene. The time was short, but the animosity was well-played.
Lissa: After the feast, Margrethe runs outside and pleads with Sigurd for protection from Ivar. She tells him that Ivar tried to kill her, and she tells him Ivar's terrible secret, that he cannot pleasure a woman. She begs Sigurd not to tell anyone. Suuure he won't.
Sandi: I was making all kinds of rude sounds during this sequence. What was she thinking? Here I thought Margrethe (Hey, I went to the IMDb page to make sure I spelled it properly!) had a sense of self-preservation. She had taken time to connect (cough!) with each of Aslaug's sons. And she had used her wits to save her life when it seemed certain Ivar would kill her. So why on earth did she go to the one brother she knew had a serious hate-on for Ivar? She acknowledged that Ivar was crazy, we all know he's murderous (has been since childhood), so why do this? I was flummoxed. It does, though, make for more drama.
Lissa: The sacrifice ceremony begins. As with the other Viking ceremonies we've seen, this one is beautifully - reverentially - cinematic. Aslaug's face is painted red and black. She slices each of the animal sacrifices and drains their blood into a basin.
As Floki did long ago, Ivar approaches the basin and strokes the blood over his face.
Sandi: They really do give good ceremony on this show. This one is darker than previous sacrifices we've seen, merely in terms of the time of day and such. It makes everything smoky, more potently ominous.
Lissa: Aslaug appears to be as high as a kite, her eyes rolling back into her head and her lashes fluttering, but Lagertha leans down to whisper in her ear. "I want you to know that I can never forgive you for taking away my husband and my world. Look what you’ve done with it. You call yourself Queen, but you will never be Queen in Kattegat.” She flicks some of the blood in a dismissive manner in Aslaug's face.
Sandi: I honestly thought Lagertha had sliced off a piece of Aslaug's ear, there. It would have worked for me.
Lissa: Ivar follows his father out into the hills where Ragnar digs up his hoard of treasure from the earth, intending to use it as a way of buying himself men for the voyage since no one seems willing to volunteer.
Sandi: Ragnar teases his son in a not-too-kind manner, calling him his "crippled son" and so on, but Ivar seems to find this as a form of affection. And, to be honest, it likely is. Ragnar loves his children. It is one of the defining characteristics that continues to endear him to us even when he's making us crazy.@sandyquill @DeeDonuts "I stopped to make a withdrawal from the First Bank of Dirt." #VIKINGS #ShieldGeeks— Lissa Bryan (@LissaBryan) December 8, 2016
Lissa: Ivar picks up a coin and turns it in his fingers. He points to the face on the front. "Who is this?" Ragnar tells him its King Ecbert, and Ivar asks if he can keep the coin. Ragnar closes Ivar's fingers over it.
Sandi: And here we have more from the Wisdom of Ivar, for which he will become famous. Again, kudos to the History Channel for their attention to detail.
Lissa: Ivar warns him that buying men will only get him the dregs.
In town, Ragnar sits at a table, handing out his treasure to a long line of people who've come to take it.
@sandyquill @DeeDonuts "I'm spending my kids' inheritance." The joke t-shirt becomes literal. #VIKINGS #ShieldGeeks— Lissa Bryan (@LissaBryan) December 8, 2016
Sandi: A king is expected to share from his wealth, but it is tradition that the sharing is done amongst those who have shared in the work. All those on a raid, from the warriors to the navigators to the shipwrights, get gold. But here? These men haven't worked with Ragnar. He hasn't chosen them. It is a lowering thing for Ragnar to give his gold away. "Embarrassing" indeed.
Lissa: In preparation for the voyage, Ivar has iron crutches made. He's able to "walk" with his arms alone, dragging his legs along.
Sandi: I discussed this with my spouse, as I thought iron was not perhaps the best choice for a seafarer. But Spousal Unit is a craftsman and he reminded me that the Vikings would have known that regular wooden crutches would be soaked repeatedly and swell and become unusable unless it was coated in pitch—at which point it would become flammable.
Lissa: The swelling of the wood is an excellent point. Iron really would be more durable and easier to maintain in sea-faring conditions. If he kept the metal well-greased and used a pumice stone to remove any rust that began to build, he could probably keep them in good condition for years.
Sandi: It pays to have to connections, for those iron crutches would have been costly.
Lissa: He trips and falls at one point, and his brothers start over to help him up. Aslaug - very correctly - stops them, and Ivar pulls his own way up.
Ragnar smacks him on the shoulder and tells him nonchalantly that they have a ship to board.
Sandi: I appreciate that Ragnar handled this so casually. It could have been a lot uglier.
Lissa: That night, Ivar creeps to Margrethe's bed. She cries out in terror when he puts a hand over her mouth. He tells her he knows she told his brothers. She swears she didn't and pleads for her life. Ivar tells her he believes her, and he just wants to lie next to her.
Sandi: Ha! I bet she didn't get any sleep that night . . .
Ragnar comes to visit Aslaug as she's removing her hairpins to go to bed. He gently caresses her neck as he speaks. “Love was not what brought us together. But you endured me. You suffered my words and my neglect. And you never turned our sons against me.” He's grateful for that. Aslaug's eyes fill with tears.
Sandi: Ivar asked when Ragnar was going to see Aslaug, and here he does. The "farewell" visit such as he made to the other people in his life.
Lissa: In her own bed, Aslaug has a vision of Ivar floating over the sea, and his limp form swept up by a tornado of water. She tries to run into the sea and save him.
In the morning, she warns him if he goes on this journey, he will drown.
He tells her he finally has a chance to prove himself to the gods, and that one day at his father's side - as a true Viking man - is worth a lifetime of pity. She cannot tell him what to do. He's going and doesn't care if he dies. Aslaug kisses his head and tells him to go.
Sandi: This was a GREAT scene. The episode is titled "The Vision" but I think this moment is more indicative.
Lissa: At the docks, Lagertha has a tender goodbye with Björn.
Sandi: Torvi seems to really lay it out for him, here. I don't know how much was spousal-teasing and how much was sincere "With your shield or on it!" Spartan-wife/mom thing, but she seemed quite determined.
Lissa: The small fleet sails, only a handful of boats with Ragnar, the rest with Björn.
Sandi: It really is a small fleet, as well. Not an impressive flotilla, but just a few ships. Well, that is what was requested, no?
Lissa: As they sail away, Ragnar notices Ivar clinging to the side of the ship. Ivar confesses that he's terrified of water. Ragnar sits down beside him and tells him there's worse ways to die than drowning. Ivar retches over the side, apparently seasick as well as afraid.
Sandi: Being terrified of the water makes sense for a man that would have to rely solely on his arms to keep himself safe in the ocean. Ivar is, though, determined to win his sea-legs and Ragnar lets him.
Lissa: Ragnar's new men are obviously not sailors. Their oars only shallowly dip into the water as they head out to sea. It's gonna be a long voyage, it seems!
Sandi: This was a great detail. As Ivar predicted, Ragnar got the dregs to crew his longships. Older men. Weaker. Perhaps even a bit lazy. Not determined warriors. Even in Season One, the older warriors had more to them than this bunch.
Sandi: Ragnar saves his son here, and it's another good moment. Ivar will have learned much, I'm thinking, during this part of his life.
Lissa: While this is happening, Aslaug is rocking in her room, her face contorted in agony. Her lap is soaked with blood. We had a lot of discussion last night over what we were seeing. In the Sagas, aslaug has a vision of her sons dying and is so agonized that she weeps blood, but this appeared to be more along the lines of a miscarriage. But we haven't seen Aslaug with a lover since the time jump, or any indications that she's pregnant.
A massive wave overturns their ship. Ragnar struggles through the water to try to untie his son. The last scene we see is Ivar going limp.
Sandi: We know, though, that Ivar lives a long life, and is a warrior of renown. So one can only imagine here that Ragnar saves his son again and brings him to safety in some way. Unless a supernatural agent steps in, that is likely to be the case.
It is somehow fitting that here, Ragnar is saving the life that he was prepared to let end when the lad was an infant. And that the mighty king is struggling in a storm on the way back to a village that he's known has been gone for a long time, with only a ragtag crew.
As you said, Lissa, a "preparing to go" episode. I am hoping the next one, "Two Journeys" according to IMDb, will have a landing in Wessex and a journey for Björn.
Thanks for joining us! Tune in next ODINSday for another episode!
If you’re looking for incisive comments, please check out ProjectFandom. @DeeDonuts on twitter is the chick in charge, there, and she always has sharp things to say!
Heill þú farir, heill þú aftr komir, heill þú á sinnum sér!
Hale go forth, hale return, hale on your ways! – Vafþrúðnismál 4