The #ShieldGeeks Review #VIKINGS "The Joke"

“100% more evisceration talk than expected.”

“These chicks are machines!” 

By elithanathile on Tumblr

Heillir! The Shieldmaidens of History (Protecting the Innocent from Anachronisms) welcome you back to our series on the History Channel show Vikings. 

We—Lissa Bryan and Sandi Layne—are two historical fiction authors with a serious thing for Vikings. And for VIKINGS, the amazing series that is going to begin its fifth season on HISTORY CHANNEL.

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 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!


Historical fiction author Sandi Layne is with me again to discuss the historical aspects of the show. Sandi has written her own series on Vikings, both well-written and carefully researched. (You can read my review of the third book in the trilogy, Éire's Devil Kinghere.)

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Lissa: The episode opened with Ivar crawling toward a longship. We decided that he must have abandoned his braces and crutches for balance issues while at sea. Hvitserk helps him inside. Ivar is bubbling with excitement. “Now I can finally fulfill my promise to kill Lagertha!” 

Sandi: And this is the thing to remember in this episode, no matter what he says later: Ivar has never wavered from his desire for vengeance. It is a bit odd to see how excited he can get over it. 

LissaHvitserk asks him about their brother, Ubbe. Would Ivar kill him if he had the chance. Ivar answers with a rhetorical question, “Wouldn’t my fame be assured?” 

{EDITED TO ADD: It was Hvitserk who said the line about fame.}

Sandi: Hvitserk is rather torn, it would seem. One theme that runs through this episode is the concept of "Brother against Brother." Björn mentioned this as well, but it is clearly illustrated in conversations and confrontations between different brother-pairs in the course of this episode.  

LissaHe gives Heahmund the sword that was taken from him when he was captured, which was a thing rife with symbolism in the era. It was like giving Heahmund back his honor, his pride. He tells Heahmund its magic only works for its owner. 

Sandi: A sword such as Heahmund's was the product of long and costly labor, so it was inherently valuable. It conferred rank/respect on its possessor as well, making it doubly valuable. That Ivar returned it—even with the remark about its magic—was a sign of his respect for the man. Ivar will never forget Heahmund is a Christian; this isn't a replay of the Ragnar/Athelstan bromance in any light. But it is a show of respect to a degree. Even if he didn't see to it that his captive would have a shield . . . At least he could fight. 

LissaAstrid, wearing armor, meets up with Harald on the docks. She insists she’s going, despite his protests and worries about her pregnancy. 

When she pushes, he says “Your wish is my command.”
Sandi: There were numerous reasons Harald could have given Astrid to get her to stay, but he seemed to take a breath, get a lay of the land (so to speak) and seem to bow to his wife's will. A queen—especially a breeding queen, crass as that sounds—carries weight.  

Lissa In Kattegat, Björn and Torvi say goodbye to their younger children, who will be watched by Margrethe, apparently. (Should we worry?) 

Sandi: When Björn leaves young, motherless progeny behind, it hasn't always been a good thing! (I will never, ever forget Siglet's death. Never.) I am hoping that Margrethe, for all her grasping ineffectiveness, will be a good aunt and watch over her charges faithfully . . . unless she decides they're threats even as illegitimate children to her hoped-for future status as Kattegat's queen and mother of the next king . . .

I'd worry. But then, I'm kind of a pessimist. 

LissaBjörn tells Torvi’s eldest son, Gunthrum, that it’s a proud day when a father takes his son to his first battle. He must be saying that Björn is Gunthrum’s father in every way that counts, since he’s not Gunthrum’s biological father. Gunthrum beams at him. Torvi and Björn walk toward the ship, side by side, partners again in war, if not in love.

{EDITED TO ADD: It was Ubbe she walked with, not Björn.}

Sandi: Yeah, I think Björn took on the role of "dad" for Torvi's eldest, here, before proceeding to have two more sons by her. A good-sized family, considering the union was never formalized.  

LissaBut as the armies gather on the field, Lagertha has second thoughts. “The sons of Ragnar should not fight!”

Sandi: I basically slapped myself on the forehead when I heard this. "Really?" I asked Lagertha from the comfort of my basement, mead at my elbow. She's not foolish woman. She's not one given to what is deemed "missish" behavior (squeamish, sentimental, affectedly demure). She's a shield maiden and never lets anyone forget it, right? So here? Insincerity abounds, and not just with her. I see this as all as staged while she gets a handle on the opposition. She's just seeking strengths and weaknesses, not peace. Could not believe anyone went for it, even for show. 

LissaShe orders them to parlay. The boys meet on the field and exchange emissaries. Hvitserk goes to Lagertha’s camp, and Halfdan goes to Ivar’s.

Sandi: The exchange of emissaries (prisoners? sometimes...) is, of course, a practice of longstanding. 

Lissa Halfdan is reunited with Harald, who tries to talk him into coming back to Harald’s side. Halfdan tells his brother that Björn saved his life. Harald tells him he puts far too much importance on that. Blood is what is important. Ivar, overhearing, says he only cares about winning this war and Halfdan has to choose between a friend and his own blood. Outside the tent, Heahmund begins to pray in Saxon.

 Sandi: Brother v. Brother. Again. Ivar is all about triumph and showing himself as superior to basically anyone and everyone around him. Halfdan is in a tough space, but the choice was not a surprise to him; he had to have known he would have to make it. 

Sometimes, a man has to make a choice that is at odds with his family. It takes strength to do so. Right or not, I have to hand it to Halfdan for taking a stance.

And I have to hand it to History Channel for once again giving us the pleasure of listening to Saxon from the mouth of Bishop Heahmund. I do like these touches!

Lissa Ubbe talks to Hvitserk about whether the gods intended this for him, and seems to be making some headway into Hvitserk’s mind. He begs Hvitserk not to sacrifice his life for Ivar’s. He pleads with Hvitserk to stay with them while Harald makes the same plea to Halfdan.

Sandi: Ubbe's level of intensity was clear, here. He's not only got a role to fulfill (eldest of the Aslaug-sons!) but his personality requires him to do his best by his younger brother. He wrote Ivar off a long time ago. He cannot have forgotten the axe-murderer of their childhood.

Lissa In a square of flagged spears, the brothers, Lagertha, Halfdan and Harald, and Joan Jett gather. 

Sandi: Oh, it looked very elegant. All the lovely banners and guards facing out to keep the peace within the square. This reminded me more of the idea we have of a medieval battle council than what might have actually occurred. I do wonder if there was an historical image History Channel used to create this, or were they going for the later-medieval look popularized through the centuries.

Lissa Lagertha tries to talk some sense into the group. 

She is the rightful Queen of Kattegat. Here they have a massive army. It makes little sense to waste it fighting over land they already possess, when they could use it to conquer new worlds. The war would do nothing but create more wars, wars of revenge undertaken out of a sense of obligation to avenge the deaths of the various people standing there.
Sandi: This all sounds good, but remember she is a queen and warrior (see somewhere above) who knew this was coming. All of this has to be a ploy. 

The word "joke", I found when I went looking about, originated as it is in English in the 17th century. It is all about wordplay, as taken from the Latin "jocus". This meeting here on the battlefield? Wordplay. The Joke is about how the main characters use words in ways that aren't exactly on the surface. 

LissaLagertha speaks to first to Ivar. She tells him there’s no way to win out of all of this. If he actually manages to defeat her and kill her, he’ll be regarded as a usurper, a brother-killer many times over. 

Sandi: She makes this sound as if he'd mind. Do you really think he would? 

(Me, neither.

Lissa If he loses, there will go all of his support. Everyone will believe the gods have abandoned him, and Ragnar in Valhalla will weep over them.
Sandi: Yeah . . . I still see this as something she is enacting for show. "Look, I tried to get him to stop this. I did. And if Ragnar were here, he'd see this and know I tried to save the lives of his sons!" She is, after all, a woman in her fifties (as per the timeline of the story) and the afterlife has to be part of her thoughts. 

She could conceivably die at any time. At the hand of one of Ragnar's sons! 

LissaShe then turns to Joan Jett. She says it’s wonderful to see her again and she doesn’t want to kill her. 

LissaJoan Jett is happy to see Lagertha, too, but she’s married now, to King Harald, and the implication is that she is honor-bound to fight at his side. “Queen Astrid, then,” Lagertha says.
Sandi: And the look on Lagertha's face. Subtle, but there. A bit of an ouch present, but with a stubborn stiff-upper-lip as well. 

No mention is made of the pregnancy, here. Lagertha's response would have been interesting, to be sure. Shock? Despair? Resignation? Betrayal? Alas, we'll never know because wisdom prevailed and this particular vulnerability was not publicized.

LissaBjörn turns the plea to his brothers. If they decide not to fight, there’s nothing Harald can do about it. He leaves the question to Ivar. 

Sandi: I see Björn's plea as more sincere than Lagertha's myself. Yes, he and his mother are in cahoots, but they are very different people, for all their renewed camaraderie. 

 Ivar breaks away from his martial stance. He says he doesn’t want to fight against his brothers. He hates himself for killing Sigurd and can’t kill any more of his brothers. Harald is outraged and tells him he can’t make that decision for them, but Ivar seems heartsick. He renounces his promise to kill Lagertha. Says she can have Kattegat; he doesn’t want it. 

Sandi: Back to "The Joke" again. More wordplay. If anyone actually believed Ivar, I've got a bridge on SimCity I could sell them . . .

LissaThey call for horns of mead. But as they raise them to drink, Harald pours his on the ground.

Sandi: Actions, they say, speak louder than words. Dumping the contents of one's mead horn is far from peaceful. It's insulting. On purpose. Harald handles it with class. Aggressive class, but class. The same cannot be said of everyone. 

LissaIvar flings the contents of his horn in Ubbe’s face. He asks what color his eyes are. Ubbe says they’re blue, and Ivar asks him if he remembers when they used to monitor the color of the whites of his eyes, because if they were bluish, he was at risk for breaking a bone. He may break bones, he declares, but he will never break a promise, and he has promised to kill Lagertha. 

LissaHe tells Ubbe he’s no longer his brother. How could Ubbe think he would forgive the way Lagertha killed Aslaug? He will kill her. 

Sandi: The eye-color thing was well done of the writers. They've not emphasized that weird Dune Spice thing with his eyes overmuch of late, so this was a timely reminder of different aspects of Ivar's condition. Though there is a bit of an awkward segue involved, Ivar's sincerity here is clear.

He doesn't get how his eldest-full-blood brother can forgive Lagertha for the murder of their mother. It shows, I think, how little Ivar truly cares for the viewpoints of other people. 

Lissa Lagertha, who’d paused with the cup at her lips, now pours it out, telling him he can try.

Sandi: And . . . we're all back to the basic honesty of forthright hostility.  

Lissa All of the men plus Lagertha and Joan Jett, have drawn their swords. The spears, cheerfully bedecked with their side’s colors, are lowered and the points surround the tense group. Harald turns to his brother and makes one last try, asking him if he’s sure. Halfdan repeats that Björn saved his life. Harald punches him and vows to kill him.

Sandi: The turning of the honor guard is a clear indicator that someone (or multiple someones) tipped the hat to them before the conference began. "Look nice 'til we do this, and then, show those spears, warriors!" Both sides do this but—out of chivalry? on orders?—none of them make a more aggressive movement yet. 

Lissa  And so it will be war. 

Sandi: The audience clearly was ready for hostilities to begin in earnest; History Channel's been building up to it in virtually every episode this season!

And . . . they continued in a masterful job of keeping the tension going just a bit more. 

LissaLagertha holds back Ubbe and tells him, “Not here.” They will meet on the field. The group slowly breaks apart, walking toward their armies. Joan Jett slides her sword back into its scabbard. She has drawn it in defense of her husband – or was careful to be seen doing so, that is.
Sandi: Astrid committed herself to fighting when she insisted her pregnant self accompany her husband, so . . . yeah. She's gonna make it good, I think. I do see her as more transparent, perhaps, than others. She wants to fight. 

Someone. She wants to fight someone. 

LissaIn Wessex, Aethelwulf and Aethelred are sparring in the courtyard while Alfred and Judith watch from the ramparts. Judith is wearing an olive brocade gown, and if it wasn’t for the sweetheart neckline, it would have been a nice change from the “prom gowns” we’ve been seeing, because it’s more toward period than many. Her hair is styled to hide her missing ear. Alfred’s hair hangs down around his face, less kempt than usual. 

Sandi: Brocade, as a fabric, emerged in the Middle Ages (Reference: Empire Textiles blog), and it was worn by the elite of society. Not sure why the costume designers have to include sweetheart necklines, though. *sigh* 

Alfred looks a bit off balance. He's been making a lot of strong statements of late. As a mom of sons, I can say that this is not uncommon for men in his time of life. He is asserting himself and taking stances that are important to him, even when they're at odds with his father.

Or brother. Remember the pervasive theme, here . . . 

Lissa Judith asks about Aldred’s trip to Lindisfarne. Alfred says he was disappointed in the monks and the way they taught. He tells her he told the abbot he should be teaching in English. Judith asks how he took that. Not well. Alfred says he also tried to advise the abbot who was only protecting his monastery from the Vikings with prayer. Judith asks what he would do, a hint of amusement in her voice – arm the monks? Alfred replies that he wants to build a navy to protect his nation from the Vikings. Judith says he should speak to his father about that. Alfred reminds her his father is dead. He says Aethelwulf is too busy trying to shape Aethelred into a king and too set in his ways, just like that abbot, and will refuse to listen.
Sandi: Alfred's recent wish to emphasize his true father is not, again, uncommon in terms of his age and abilities. It does feel disrespectful, but he's a strong-willed fellow in an age of other strong-willed fellows. 

LissaIn Iceland, Floki tells his True Believers that what they need to do is build a temple. Eyvind points out they haven’t even built houses for themselves, and now they should devote their efforts to a temple? Kjetill Flatnose interjects and says that Floki can build the temple on his land.

 LissaEyvind accuses Kjetill, in much more crude terms, of being an apple polisher. He stresses that their situation is still dangerously uncertain. His daughter is pregnant and he fears the child has no future. What will they do? Once they eat all of their animals, they will starve, because there will be no food for the winter. Floki tells him if he’s unhappy, he can go home, but Eyvind says that there’s no way to do that. They have left their homeland behind, abandoned their queen. For better or for worse, this is their home for now. 

Sandi: I refer once again to SagaThing on twitter:

Lissa The armies are amassed on the field and the brothers stand at the heads, glaring across the field. 

Sandi: I was not the only one that saw echoes of Braveheart in this sequence. Intentional or not.  

LissaIvar worries their ships are vulnerable, so Harald tells him to take some of their army back to protect them. He asks Ivar to take Joan Jett with him and picks her up to stuff her into the back of Ivar’s Roman-style chariot.
Sandi: This is Harald getting his own way, sorta. "Can't keep her at home, but I can get her out of the fighting. Yep. Gonna make it happen." And that Ivar went along with this was interesting, too. I wondered what advantage he saw for himself, here? To leave a battle where he might have slain Lagertha? 

LissaHarald tells Joan Jett that he couldn’t stand it if anything happened to her. He puts a hand over his heart in salute to her as Ivar drives off. Then sends Hvitserk into the woods to flank the opposition. With a roar, his third of the army rushes into the fray. 

Sandi: Finally, the collective fandom says in a breath.

LissaA battle scene ensues, and as always, the History Channel does its battles beautifully. The action is close and chaotic, and bloody. One man’s arm dangles down where it’s been mostly severed, and a woman’s spine is severed when the sharp edge of a shield is slammed down into it. 

Sandi: So we were waiting for eviscerations and we got amputations. Worked for me. I think the depictions of violence are always on target, here. I don't feel it's gratuitous but rather descriptive. The body language of each main warrior, their facial expressions, and their fighting styles are all clearly individualized and I really enjoy the spectacle. 

LissaThere was one interesting moment… When Heahmund catches sight of Lagertha fighting on the other side of the field, the sound vanished for a moment. And then he was clobbered.

Sandi: Right! So this was significant. Now, an outcry might happen if Lagermund (yep, the ship has a name and it's not even a thing here yet) proves to be valid, but the work up to it here is not unnoticed. Indeed, it is significant to the story. 

LissaIvar pulls his chariot up short. 

LissaWhen Joan Jett questions him, he says he has to listen. He tells her to wait; good things happen to those who wait. Which is a line that was coined in 1892, but okay.
Sandi: Yeah . . . well . . . for all the brilliance with battles, the dialogue isn't always what we would call On Point, Lissa. Alas.

And I loved the Worse Uber Ever tweet. :) 

LissaIn the woods, Hvitserk hears a noise, but the warning comes too late. A salvo of tiny poisoned darts slam into his men, pricking their chests, necks, and cheeks. It’s Princess Snuffles’ Sami warriors. He orders his archers to shoot back, but they cannot see where the darts came from and their arrows fly uselessly into the foliage. Another barrage of darts strike and his men fall from the poison. Hvitserk turns to retreat and is hit from behind. And then rope traps start stringing up his men. The survivors try to flee. 

Sandi: Guerrilla warfare: Freaking out warriors since the dawn of time. Well done, Sami warriors! 

LissaA horn sounds, a plea for reinforcements from the battlefield. Joan Jett says they need to go and help, but Ivar snaps at her that they’re already too late. 

Sandi: So, this made me squint a little. "Withdraw to the boats to make sure they're okay (really, Ivar?) but be ready to join us at our signal." 

Which happens. And no one shows up. 

Fatal to the morale, possibly, and this could seriously damage their alliance, I think. But that is in another episode. I hope. 

Lissa Harald sounds the retreat and his surviving men flee from the field. Lagertha and her warriors stand aside and let them pass. They pick over the battlefield, identifying the dead.
Sandi: Yeah, a messy business, that. But it was noble of Lagertha to allow her enemies to retreat. She has, after all, lived to die another day. (Yes I said that.) And there is the post-battle business that has to happen. 

LissaLagertha comes across Heahmund and asks who he is. She rolls him over and he coughs, alive for now. 

Sandi: Harald had said he was dead, earlier, but clearly this is not the case. I believe, though, that Harald believed his words to be true. This was not a case of playing with words, here. Not intentionally. 

 LissaShe’s told he’s a Saxon priest, and stops Ubbe from killing him. She says to keep him alive if possible. 

Sandi: And so Lagertha gets the pleasure (?) of bringing another Christian priest into her home as a captive. 

Somewhere, I imagine Ragnar is making that small smile of his and shaking his head. 

Next week, it's the penultimate episode of this part of the season and I cannot wait to see how they will set up the final one! Remember to find us, the #ShieldGeeks, next week on twitter! 

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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
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The #ShieldGeeks Review #VIKINGS "Full Moon"

“100% more evisceration talk than expected.”

“These chicks are machines!” 

By elithanathile on Tumblr

Heillir! The Shieldmaidens of History (Protecting the Innocent from Anachronisms) welcome you back to our series on the History Channel show Vikings. 

We—Lissa Bryan and Sandi Layne—are two historical fiction authors with a serious thing for Vikings. And for VIKINGS, the amazing series that is going to begin its fifth season on HISTORY CHANNEL.

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 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!


Historical fiction author Sandi Layne is with me again to discuss the historical aspects of the show. Sandi has written her own series on Vikings, both well-written and carefully researched. (You can read my review of the third book in the trilogy, Éire's Devil Kinghere.)

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Lissa: We started with Ivar talking to Heahmund while he looks up at the moon about the battle to come, which will be so terrible the world itself will tremble. He ended with the prediction that the winner would inherit the earth.
Sandi: As with Floki's Christianesque quotes in earlier episodes, Ivar's seems out of place, here. Is this deliberate on Michael Hirst's part or did they "just happen"? Granted, Ivar isn't directly quoting, but it's an off-quote. A misquote made mockingly? We don't know. Either could shed more light on the characters in question. 

Lissa: Björn and Halfdan are sailing toward Kattegat. Björn says he no longer loves Torvi, and he feels bad about it.

Sandi: Björn is what I would deem a serial monogamist. He and Þorunn were married (and his youthful love of her was so sweet, even if I deemed it inappropriate in terms of station and so on) and had their daughter, who died of basic neglect (IMO) (and we never did get that resolved/handled/met by significant characters, by the way, which irritates on occasion) and he was with Torvi for years—long enough to have two sons by her. We can count his fling with Astrid, but I don't, really, as it didn't seem to be a matter of his heart, but of his will, if that makes sense. I feel bad for Torvi, but we've seen it coming for a while now, as the audience who sees all from our recliners at home. 

Lissa: He says she doesn’t deserve it.
Sandi: He's been with Torvi for a long time. I checked the fandom wiki because there are amazing fans who keep track of minutiae and I love that. The estimation for Björn's ages are on his page, there, and he has probably been with Torvi for at least ten years. His sons by her, Erik and Refil (according to the wiki), are certainly evidence for a longstanding—if informal—relationship. No, she doesn't deserve being shunted aside again, but the woman is strong and stands up under the pain.

Lissa: Björn gets a hero’s welcome as he enters Kattegat, scooping up his kids and kissing Torvi on the cheek.

Sandi: I liked seeing him affectionate with his sons. He doesn't spend a lot of time with them, as he's got the wanderlust here, but he seems genuinely invested in their welfare. (But again, I think about little Siggy!!) This is, I think, another one of the Ragnaresque qualities he portrays. Ragnar always showed great affection for his children. 

Lissa: They go into the great hall and he’s cheered. Lagertha is very glad to see him.

Sandi: As a mom with sons, I think it's cool to see them kind of tower over you as Björn does over Lagertha. :) Remember, in the show, it is estimated that Björn is about thirty-seven at this point, so Lagertha would have to at least be in her early to middle fifties. No joke for the 9th Century Norsewoman. Naturally, she wears it well. 

Lissa:  She tells him that Ivar is on his way with an army. Björn says he got here just in time, then.

Sandi: Never one to back down from a challenge, Björn has always been wary of Ivar, I think. He has the advantage in some respects as he is, indeed, older and has wide experience, even if he lacks Ivar's utter ruthlessness and guile. 

Lissa:  He is introduced to the king of the Sami people and his daughter, Princess Snaefrid, whom I will be referring to as Princess Snuffles because Snaefrid is just too hard to spell consistently.

Sandi: Seeing the Sami included was looked upon with wide favor on twitter. SagaThing had this to say:

Lissa: Björn is instantly taken with her and kisses her cheeks very slowly.

Sandi: And there we are, thinking, There he goes again! Serial monogamist, remember. Gives Torvi a parting gift and in minutes is making eyes at a new woman. *sigh* 

Lissa: In Iceland, Floki is leading his band of true believers to where he says the gods prepared a home for them. Some of the people gripe, but Aud silences them, saying she’s seen this home in a dream, and it’s made of gold. One of the people asks Floki why he won’t speak to them, and Floki says it’s because they wouldn’t understand.

Sandi: "It's a Floki-Thing. You would't understand." Uff da! (A Norwegian exclamation or interjection expressing surprise or dismay.) Now, I am sure Floki means only the best, here. I am. He's the truest of True Believers in this context. But still, he is skating over thin ice with this kind of response when he's brought so many others to join him in a place that exists—in large degree—in his mind and heart. 

Lissa: Back at the great hall, Halfdan is telling Lagertha and Ubbe and the others seated at the table about their trip to the Middle East. Björn gives Gunthrum a knife that belonged to Euphemius. Gunthrum asks about him and Halfdan says they ate him.
Sandi: Torvi has our admiration, to be sure. Björn kind of cracks me up, here, and he does it in a very Ragnaresque way. The offhand tone in which he admits to inadvertent cannibalism was designed for shock value, clearly. Torvi, though, remains visibly cool and calm at the revelation. 

Lissa: But Lags has other concerns. She speaks to Halfdan about Harald and whether Halfdan will betray them in favor of his brother. Halfdan says Björn saved his life and he’s going to be loyal. Lagertha says Harald once swore to her that he had no interest in her kingdom. How solid is Halfdan’s vow? Björn steps in and says he believes Halfdan is loyal to him.

Sandi: The bro-pairing remains solid. Björndan is a thing, here. They have one another's backs and all that. (Today. I mean, you know, this could all be by-the-way when they see Harald and Joan Jett again.) Lagertha's behavior at the beginning of her convo with Halfdan is flirtatious, to a degree. She's using her wiles and strengths in an endeavor to either elicit information, gain an ally, or both. Due to the Björndan thing, we're not sure how effective she is, compared to the established friendship. Halfdan is a bit of an odd duck. 

Lissa: Floki leads his flock to a hot springs. The settlers look around and don’t see any houses at all. Eyvind is furious. He says he ought to cut off Floki’s head for this. The words have barely left his mouth when a geyser erupts.

Sandi: I was shaking my head. After having seen the land, walked through quite a bit of it on their way to this place, did Eyvind really expect that there would already be houses? Had he not been paying any attention to Floki? Or was he, here, just adding more tension in the hopes of destabilizing Floki (now that the promise of milk and honey hasn't exactly materialized) in the hopes of coming into prominence himself in this new land? 

Lissa: The crowd gasps. One of the women whispers that this is an evil place, and the waters boil because they’re close to hell. Or maybe she was saying Hel. But Hel of the Vikings wasn’t like the Christian vision of hell with its fire and suffering. Hel was a neutral place, the realm of the dead, not a place of reward or punishment.

Sandi: This being the case, I can't see that he woman's use of "hell" makes sense. Nor does the term "Hel" in the Norse context. The only truly negative reference to Hel comes from the Prose Edda of the 13th Century — hundreds of years after the events of this show. (Reference So is this another inadvertent Christian insertion or is it done on purpose? I can't see Floki's True Believers paying heed to a Christian priest and, really, there hadn't been one for quite some time in Kattegat. 

Lissa: Aud speaks up again and says this hot water was given to them by the gods. Here, they can wash their clothes and bake bread in its heat. Would anyone like some freshly baked bread? The crowd calms and disperses toward the springs.
During the banquet, Torvi goes over to Björn and says she noticed his interest in Princess Snuffles. She says she’s not jealous. She knew when he didn’t return from England that their love had died. But she asks him to swear he will always care for their children, and he swears it.

Sandi: And he adds that he would always look after/care for her, as well. He doesn't want her to be in need and she has been a faithful partner, a good mom, and he knows that she is loyal to his mother, so it behooves him to treat her with the highest regard. *cough* It really does. Torvi's pretty awesome. 

Lissa: He tries to give her a gift, but she asks him to give it to someone else. He insists he got it for her specifically. She kisses him tenderly.

Sandi: And so we have "closure" for this relationship. More or less. This is nice, as when Þorunn left, it was kind of iffy on whether or not she'd return and how they'd handle their relationship if/when she did. She's been gone since the end of Season 3, so more than fifteen years, in Vikings-time. I am thinking she's gone-gone. Unless Hirst has more surprises in store. Björn gets his own surprises in this episode! 

Lissa: Lagertha asks him about Torvi and Björn says that the relationship is over. He tells her that he wants Princess Snuffles. Lagertha points out, wisely, that Björn knows absolutely nothing about this girl, but when has that ever stopped a guy? Lagertha tells the king that Björn wants his daughter.

Sandi: Lagertha didn't approve of Þorunn right away, either. She's careful. Really, though, it seems to me that they all move far too quickly in this circumstance. I mean, if Lagertha were promoting the match to cement an alliance with her suddenly-unattached son so that their people would be stronger? Then, yes, sure, bring on the wedding-between-strangers. But just because Björn's eyes were captured? All in one evening? Really? Sure, he's a grown man and knows what he wants and so on but does he ever consider his position in the world or is he led strictly by hormones? Don't answer that. 

Lissa: Ubbe goes outside and hears sobbing. He follows the sound until he locates Torvi, crying her eyes out and clutching the gift Björn gave her. Ubbe sits down with her and tries to comfort her. She tries to give him Björn’s gift to give to Margrethe, but he refuses. He gives her a gentle kiss, but as he draws back, their eyes meet, and the kiss becomes serious. Margrethe glowers from the shadows.

Sandi: Now this had me thinking . . . well! Torvi could be very good for our Ubbe. Older, yeah, but that won't hurt him any and he'd be a good uncle/dad for Björn's sons, right? Okay, this might be a flash-in-the-pan kiss, but it was sweet. Okay, except for the whole "Ubbe's married" thing . . . But none of us like Margrethe, anyway. Okay, the ShieldGeeks don't. 

Lissa: She confronts him when they’re in bed and when he tries to say he was just comforting her, she retorts, “You don’t have to kiss someone when you’re comforting them!” Probably the wisest thing that ever came from her lips.

Sandi: No kidding! But I was also irritated because for Margrethe, it's not because she's vastly enamored of her husband; she's all about ambition. 

Lissa: But she has more important things to talk about than Torvi. She gripes again about Lagertha being weak. She wants Ubbe to kill Lagertha and Björn, or to allow Ivar and his legions to kill her. Then, as eldest brother, Ubbe will be king and Margrethe will be queen. “Is that what you want?” Ubbe asks as she climbs on top of him. “Yes,” she says. She wants to be queen. Wouldn’t that be an amazing thing for a woman who was a slave?
Sandi: For that, I said this:
Sandi: Really, Margrethe has one note and it's a flat one.

Lissa: Lagertha is catching up with her son. She tells him that she misses Ragnar, still, after all this time. She frequently thinks back to when they were farmers. She longs for those days, when life was simple. She wishes she could be a farmer again someday. Björn tells her she’s earned the peace. He says he’s very proud of her, all she’s accomplished. She tells him that Astrid was kidnapped by King Harald and her life is filled with ghosts. He brings her back to the present with gentle humor, and you could see Ragnar in him.

Sandi: I so enjoyed this interlude. I am not sure how much Lagertha truly misses the simple joys of her younger life, but perhaps she compares the calm assurance of owning Ragnar's heart, raising her two children, and living the life of a shield-maiden/wife to the tension and conflict and uncertainties of her present existence. Yes, she's got power and prestige, but at what cost? It was lovely to listen to the two of them talk. 

Lissa: That’s one thing this show has managed beautifully. The characters that are gone are still “present” in the younger generation. They’ve used very subtle mannerisms in their acting to call those people to mind. It’s extraordinary, and I’ve never seen another show pull it off as well as this one.

Sandi: They've given their characters a broad scope of living, here. About twenty-five years, more or less, have been presented in these seasons and that has allowed the characters to grow as well as the time together allowing the actors to get good handles on how they each behave in character. Well done, all the way around on this. 

Lissa: Ivar and Heahmund are seated at a table, playing a game.

Sandi: And look, Ma! No one is in chains or bleeding!

Lissa: I thought it was chess at first because of the differing size of the pieces and the way they were carved, but D Donuts recognized the game.
Sandi: Donuts is great. :) And I never, ever remember the name of the game. Hnefatafl. I should chant it to myself a few times a day to grind it into my head. I keep thinking it's Happy Falafel, which makes NO sense. 

Lissa: So, apparently Ivar has been teaching Heahmund how to play, a reversal of what I thought at first. They’re talking about the war to come and Heahmund asks if it scares Ivar, fighting against his brothers. Ivar chuckles a little but admits that perhaps Björn scares him a bit. He’s not terribly bright, but he is a fine warrior. He says Lagertha knows she’s going to die, but she has no idea how bad it’s going to be.

Sandi: Ivar may or may not be telling the truth about how he views Björn. As a younger man, he may have accepted him as an authority to a limited degree, and he likely respects the older man's broader experiences, but Ivar tends to fall back on, "Do you know who I am?!" in terms of how highly he esteems himself. Regarding Lagertha? Yes, there is a deep-seated need for vengeance there, which I totally understand. I do wonder, though, what form that vengeance will take in its final moments.

Lissa: Heahmund says he’s surprised Ivar has left the strategy up to him. Ivar says he knows that Heahmund wants to win. Heahmund says the only reason he’s fighting is because God wants him to do so.
Sandi: It is a favorite excuse, yes, but I do believe Heahmund is sincere, here. I mean, sure, he can put a face on anything—a bishop has to have a bit of the politician in him—but he's still a man of faith. Even if he interprets that faith in his own ways. 

Lissa: He and Ivar debate free will for a moment and then Hvitserk interjects. He says he’s not sure if he joined Ivar of his own free will or not.

Sandi: Coming from Hvitserk, this is something of a small boom. Not a bombshell of revelation, but a bit of a surprise. Hvitserk admitting to being manipulated? Or weak enough to "go along" without it being a free will issue? That surprised me. It's kind of left here, in the episode, but I wonder if the revelation will reappear in the future in one way or another. 

Lissa: The boats are leaving Harald’s ports. Joan Jett watches from the deck. Suddenly, she vomits.
Sandi: That or fainting, yeah. What about the old "Gee, Aunt Flo hasn't been by in a while . . . when was the last full moon, anyway?" Or my personal favorite, "Ew, this meat smells SO icky!" (Okay that might just have been my experience with early pregnancies...) For some women, morning sickness comes early on, and others miss it entirely. I guess Joan Jett won't be one of those lucky ladies... 

Lissa: Yep, sure enough she tells a concerned Harald that she’s with child. He’s delighted. Joan Jett visibly struggles in the face of his happiness and he tells her, “Don’t cry! Don’t cry!” He thinks it’s wonderful. First he “finds” a woman, and now she’s going to give him a child!

Sandi: And how many kinds of awkward do we have here? Was Joan Jett pregnant before the assault she suffered at the hands of Haakon's crew or was that later? I would like to think that her child is Harald's, due to the line of succession and all that, but Hirst might have some soap-opera tricks up his sleeves! 

Lissa: Floki is seated on a hillside overlooking his hot springs settlement. He prays aloud and asks the gods why they have not shown themselves to the true believers the way they showed themselves to him?

Sandi: He says he wants a sign, and lo and behold, one appears. After a fashion. Does he know about the child?

Lissa: Below, in the spring, a couple are swimming. They pause to kiss and the woman asks if her partner could feel the baby kick. The man is enthralled. It’s the first child to be born in this new world!
Sandi: We are ignoring current medical wisdom about pregnant women in hot tubs, right? Right. A pregnancy—the promise of new life—should act as the sign Floki is waiting for. 

Lissa: Björn goes into the Sami king’s home to tell him that he wants to marry Princess Snuffles.

Sandi: At this point, remember, no one has yet seen Björn and the princess exchange two words. She's been on-screen silent and biddable. Which makes a romance writer wonder why Björn would be so enthusiastic about being with someone with whom he has nothing to be demonstrated in common aside from their respective positions in society. 

Lissa: The king shakes his head and says Snuffles is more valuable than Björn could ever be worth. That’s why, Björn says, he’s willing to offer more than he’ll ever have. The king says it’s fine with him if Snuffles is down with it. She says nothing, but gets up and goes out. Björn follows her to her bedchamber.

Sandi: I was hoping they'd finally, you know, talk. 

Lissa: What follows is the most bizarre wedding scene I have ever witnessed, and I once saw a drunk bride and her husband get arrested after a brawl at the reception and an attempted stabbing with a cake spatula.

Sandi: So this was a wedding? An official "Hey, we're formal, now?" thing? We've seen lovely Viking weddings, we've seen weird and awkward, and messy and muddy, even. But this? Way weird. (I've never seen a brawl at a wedding, but I'm okay with that.) 

Lissa: Snuffles strips off her top and we see she has intricate tattoos below her collar bones. She leads Björn closer to the bed and reaches over for a rope with a pouch tied at the end of it. She uses this to bind his hands, and then ties him to the headboard with a violent yank. She gives him a sound slap. With a paintbrush, she draws antlers on Björn’s stomach. We then hear her speak for the first time as she tells him about how the women of the Sami tribe neuter reindeer.

Gentle readers, I solemnly swear I’m not making this up.

Sandi: This was all very . . . uncomfortable. And not just for me, either. Björn isn't entirely sure what's going on, but he's so besotted (?) that he doesn't protest any of the rough treatment. Nor does he seem to have an answer for her conversation while it was happening. 

Lissa: The Sami women, she says, cut open the deer, but don’t remove the parts. Instead, they gnash them to bits with their teeth. She says she won’t do that to Björn, whom she told her father she wanted to marry as soon as she laid eyes on him, but he’ll have to work hard.

Sandi: The fact that she'd been (silently) panting after him was a revelation and puts a new color to her father's conversation earlier. But I do not find her remotely appealing as she discusses the treatment of reindeer, here. Who made that an example of pillow talk or foreplay? Really? 

 Lissa: And then she consummates their union. Mazel tov!
Sandi: And may I ask, here, what is the thing this season with women proving their strength by tying up a man (who is likely willing anyway) without his consent and taking him? Lagertha basically raped Harald (though he would have consented to sex if given the option, I'm pretty sure) and Princess Snuffles doesn't even ask. She just takes. Can they not demonstrate a strong, sexually confident woman without this kind of thing? I'm with Donuts, up there. I didn't need this, really. I am wondering if this is all going toward some Big Season Theme or if it's just a bid to hold viewer, er, attention? This was not my favorite part of the episode, obviously. 

 Lissa: Floki talks to his tribe. He’s so pleased to see them all working together to create the settlement. He says they’ll put together a civilization. They’ll have a law-giver to make decisions for the group. They won’t ever need to enforce the law with an ax. All will be fair and democratic and peaceful and fluffy bunnies will cuddle with wolves.

Sandi: The lovsigeman was the general authority in terms of the law before the Thing or Althing was organized in Norway. It makes sense that Floki would want to make sure there'd be one, here . . . especially as he has an idea for a leaderless society. 

Lissa: Eyvind, ever the voice of skepticism, speaks up. He says that Floki wants to be king and demands he admit it. Floki just smiles.
Sandi: Floki really is approaching this in a less-than-realistic manner. According to SagaThing:
Sandi: Honestly, I'd rather see a grim fellow in charge here, but Floki is his own man and I can't help but be interested in how he'll shape this society. 

 Lissa: Alfred has arrived at Lindisfarne. The abbot shows him a mural of the Viking invasion.
Sandi: I have a soft spot for the monks, I know, and it was good to see the Scriptorium again. It seems larger than it used to be, but that might be because it is more densely populated and busy. 

Lissa: I must say, the art was carefully done in period style, one of those lovely historical touches we adore so much.

Sandi: We really do. Thank you, History Channel, for including them. It was also nice to see the era-appropriate attire, here. Yes, Alfred's clothing when he was visiting the Scriptorium was a bit elaborate, but not out of place for his time and station. It was pleasing to my eyes. 

Lissa: He shows Alfred to the scriptorium where Athelstan would have labored. He doesn’t have any of Athelstan’s work to show Alfred because the monks never sign their art; their talent is a gift of God. After they wander around a bit more, they end up in the abbot’s office. He tells Alfred that Athelstan was taken from Lindisfarne when the Vikings invaded and returned a pagan, having abandoned God. He asks if Athelstan was not crucified as an apostate. Alfred says he was. Alfred lifts cross from under his shirt and says it belonged to Athelstan. The abbot asks how he got it and Alfred says that it was given to him by Ragnar Lothbrok. The abbot is stunned. “The devil incarnate,” he says in horror. Alfred tells him there is good and evil in all men. “We are all devils and angels.”

Sandi: It must have been something new for Alfred to have such a different perspective on Athelstan; the man was nearly a saint to all who knew him at home. And Ragnar, though a pagan and Viking and maybe even a barbarian, was a friend of Athelstan, acknowledged as such by everyone. So this was different and I think that's not a bad thing, in and of itself. I was glad that Alfred made no apologies for having the cross or receiving it from Ragnar. Alfred, here, is quite a confident young man. 

Lissa: As he turns to leave, Alfred pauses and says to the abbot that all of the abbot’s prayers and writings are in Latin, but the populace does not speak Latin. If the abbot wants to get closer to the people and share the word of God, he should do so in English.
Sandi: During Alfred's reign in Wessex, historically (A.D. 871-899), he did indeed become a proponent of prose in the common tongue. He said that there should be a non-Latin translation of books that would benefit all men to be able to read. He also translated works on his own. It really was something of a passion for him and I was so pleased to see it come to light in this episode. 

Lissa: While it would have been helpful to have things like government documents published in English, the current thought of the church when it came to Scripture and other religious texts was that it was downright dangerous to have them translated into the common tongue. They believed uneducated people would misunderstand what they were reading. They preferred to leave those works in the hands of the educated and in the hands of the clergy, who could explain them to the people properly.

Heahmund is looking up at the moon from his window. Ivar nearby listens as Heahmund talks about the Virgin Mary giving birth to Christ. Ivar doesn’t understand how a virgin could have a child, and is skeptical about the whole tale. Heahmund says that Ivar believes that the ocean is bounded by a giant serpent that once fought with Thor. Ivar says he does… because it’s true. It’s also true, Ivar says, that the moon is a woman. A treacherous woman who betrays the men who love her, promising them everything, then cheating and breaking their hearts. As he says this, he draws a knife along Heahmund’s cheekbone. It’s not really the moon’s betrayal he’s discussing.

Sandi: I enjoyed seeing how Heahmund continues to share his beliefs even in these circumstances, knowing how Ivar is very much not disposed to accept them. It speaks to the bishop's stubborn refusal to be other than what he is, I think, as well as showing the amusing wish of his to keep pricking at his captor in a way that is established as acceptable between them. But, Ivar's patience isn't unending, to be sure. 

Lissa: Heahmund tells Ivar that if he kills him now, he’ll never know if he’s right. Ivar says he doesn’t want to be right. He wants to find a true and noble man who will never lie. Heahmund swears he’s that man.

Sandi: Heahmund likely has multiple reasons for this stance. From his mere wish to stay alive in this foreign land to his wish to create converts perhaps, his purposes are multilayered. Heahmund is not a stupid fellow, after all. 

Lissa: Lagertha, Björn, and Ubbe discuss strategy over a Hnefatafl board. If Ivar’s army comes over land, they want to halt his progress on a battleground of their choosing and attack before Ivar gets to scout the location and plan for its topography. Then, they attack his ships, so he’ll have to divide his forces to protect them. Ubbe worries they’re leaving Kattegat undefended and if Ivar attacks by sea, he’ll simply walk into Kattegat and take it over.

Sandi: They should listen to Ubbe, as he's spent more time with his brother than the rest of them have, but . . no . . .

Lissa: Lagertha says they have to choose and agrees with Björn’s plan, which I thought was kinda mean of her, considering she put Ubbe in charge of planning their strategy last week and now that the Favorite Son is back, he gets to be in charge? They all admit that Ivar may have already planned for this, in which case, their strategizing is for naught, but they can only hope to try to be prepared.

Sandi: This really wasn't fair. I don't know if Ubbe felt the inequity of the moment or if he bowed without effort to Björn's higher position (?) and longer experience, but it seemed that the conference proceeded apace regardless. 

Lissa: Alfred is speaking to his father in his chamber at the monastery.

Sandi: This was SUCH a good part of this episode. One of my favorites. 

Lissa:  He says he came in search of Athelstan, but he’s not here. But Alfred knows he’ll always be in his heart. He invites Athelstan to recite the Lord’s Prayer with him and gets down on his knees. As he recites, we hear Athelstan’s voice, and it echoes the episode in which he taught this prayer to Ragnar. It’s often called the “silent episode,” because throughout the entire thing, Ragnar did not speak. Until the prayer.

Sandi: The comments I saw on twitter about this were entirely favorable. We do enjoy hearing from Athelstan, even if it's been ages, and having his voice here in this place, praying with his son, was like a benediction. 

Lissa:  At the end of the episode, Lagertha and Björn look up at the sky and see a full moon. War is upon them.

Sandi: So the full moon has come. The episode title, fraught with possibilities of different meanings. I look forward to war in the next episode, but we know Michael Hirst and the History Channel! They might drag it out a wee bit to keep us on our toes!

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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
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