The #ShieldGeeks Review #VIKINGS 5X04 "The Plan"




“100% more evisceration talk than expected.”

“These chicks are machines!” 


(CHECK THEM OUT FOR THEIR PODCASTED RECAPS AND FEEDBACK ‘CASTS! And Yes, we did one, too!)
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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. 


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!

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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 opened with Björn’s ships sailing through the Straight of Gibraltar. Björn is napping in the bottom of the boat, not bothering to take in one of the most beautiful sights on earth. He’s woken by Sinric. Björn takes a moment to relish that they’ve come so far and says his father would have loved to see this, and thanks the gods for the opportunity. 

 Sandi: I have to say that Sinric is certainly a fellow who seems to land on his feet in all circumstances. He's not wearing nearly as much makeup as he did in earlier seasons (but the female characters are sometimes wearing more!) and he's got a haircut, but he's still there, the polyglot factotum, and doing a good job. 

They discuss the map he found in Ecbert’s Roman library.



 Sinric tells him that the map was made during the era of the Roman empire and the world is much changed since those days. Rome was Björn’s original goal, but mighty Rome isn’t so mighty anymore. Sindric suggests an alternative and they decide to take the ships to Sicily. Björn is excited by the prospect of what they might encounter.
Lissa: Outside of York Heahmund and Aethelwulf are conferring. They have a large number of their army behind them for some reason that doesn’t exactly make sense, because they have no intention of attacking. (I have this vision of a commander shouting for his men to hurry into their armor and grab their weapons because the king wants to have another conversation.) 

Sandi: The army would be a psychological presence, really. One has to figure that there are folks watching them, hostile eyes. The army demonstrates the leaders' strength and purpose. 

Heahmund says he’s had a vision of the Northmen lying dead in the streets of York. Aethelwulf is a tad dismissive, but Heahmund insists it’s a true vision. They decide to close the roads leading to the city to prevent it from being resupplied. They’re going to starve the Northmen out. 

Sandi: Yeah . . . visions that presage one's success with one's own plans . . . not always the most reliable, you know? 

Strategically, starving out a city/town like York was not always the easiest thing to do. It takes a while, in many circumstances. Here, though, there has been prior fighting and the leaders had to know that the circumstances were already favorable for them. Well, on the surface, anyway.  


Lissa:  Ubbe arrives in Kattegat. He’s greeted warmly by Margrethe. Torvi watches them walk past with an expression of sorrow because Björn isn’t with him. In the hall, Margrethe takes a seat beside Ubbe. Lagertha, wearing her hair up in a very bizarre flat-top configuration of braids, announces that he’s always welcome in Kattegat and sidles up to the chair, giving Margrethe a pointed look. Margrethe gets up, but she’s petulant about it. She tugs the chair to the side so Lagertha won’t have to move it to sit down. Lags drops into the chair and has a chat with her stepson.



Sandi: I heard on the No Ship Network podcast last week that a change behind the scenes brought on a more "modern" feel to the female characters' appearances of late. Something about how they are presented for their images onscreen and how it affects their careers? Anyway, I am not a fan of the hair, here, though it is striking.

Lissa:  Ubbe says, a bit of desolation in his eyes, that he’s now at war with Ivar. He swears an alliance with Lagertha. If she will help him fight Ivar, he will help her fight Harald. 


Sandi: The idea of Ubbe and Lagertha allying with one another strikes me kind of oddly. She killed his mother. In front of witnesses. And no one, really, did anything about it. Ubbe knows this. Lagertha knows this. Everyone does. Still, here they are, with a wary sort of camaraderie? Not sure how this will play out. 

Lissa: Later, Lagertha goes to visit the Seer, whom we haven’t seen in quite some time (tee hee.) She wants to know if she will ever see her son again, and the Seer says she will, but it will be under terrible circumstances. Lagertha tries to find out what will happen that’s so awful, but the Seer won’t tell her. He says that all of the repercussions of Ragnar’s death have not yet played out, but that is all he will say. He says she would just use the information to try to avoid her fate, and that’s impossible.



Sandi: I can't help but wonder, here, if the Seer's evading tactics are to enable the writer(s) to have wiggle room for future seasons. After all, our characters really aren't getting any younger, despite appearances, but they remain highly popular. 

I remain morbidly interested in who kills Lagertha... Yep. 

Lissa:  Later, Ubbe is in bed with Margrethe and says he will never share her with his brothers again, for they are now his enemies.


Sandi: Though I do not trust Margrethe as far as I can throw her, I am relieved she isn't a community partner any longer. I do like Ubbe, though, and wish all good things for him and hope she either reforms her inner chick or that he finds someone else who will adore him, not just his role in society. 

 Lissa: She condemns Hvitserk as a traitor – Ivar, too. Margrethe urges Ubbe to take his rightful place as the leader of Kattegat. Lagertha is weakening, she says. Ubbe looks thoughtful, but says nothing. 

Sandi: Maybe he's getting a clue? Okay, maybe not. That GIF up there is rather, er, persuasive, no? I really don't like Margrethe and can't see that changing any time soon.  

Lissa: In the forests around York, a hunting team is out collecting food. They’ve used jaw traps to catch rabbits. We discussed traps a few years back, during the time of Björn’s “vision quest.” Here’s a snip of our discussion from my blog. 



Sandi: While torsion traps have been around for millennia, they were still made of wood with tight sinew or, later, other tension creators in order to function.   

 Lissa: Anyway, the Northmen have a bountiful catch of woodland critters piled up in their wagon and they seem to be about to return when they become the prey. Each of them is taken down in moments by an arrow. Aethelwulf’s men make short work of them. 

Sandi: That was really a big haul, there. They were trying to depopulate the forest of its edible inhabitants and they did a decent job, I think. 

But, as you said, they are taken down in their turn. Thus is the circle of life maintained. Here, it is more a circle of death. 

Morbid Me. 

 Lissa: Inside the York cathedral which has now become Ivar’s headquarters, Hvitserk tells Ivar that the hunting team never returned. Ivar ignores him and Hvitserk repeats it even more loudly. Ivar shouts that he knows. Hvitserk replies that they’re running short on food and wants to know what Ivar intends to do. Ivar indicates he has a plan, but doesn’t intend to share it with his brother. 

Sandi: Ivar doesn't put much value on the life of the individual, with few exceptions. That the hunters were prey in their turn evidently concerns him not at all. Instead, he rather expected their demise, or he wanted to appear as if he had. His plan (see the episode title?) is intact. Or flexible. Or both. 

 Lissa: Hvitserk confesses he left Ubbe’s ship because he felt like Ubbe thought of him as his obedient little dog, but Hvitserk isn’t anyone’s dog. After this unburdening of soul, Ivar pauses for a moment, and then barks.



 The whole room explodes into laughter as Hvitserk steams under the humiliation. 


Sandi: Though these Northmen aren't Christians by any means, they seem to prove the truth of a proverb: 

As a dog returns to his own vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness. 
(Proverbs 26:11, HCSB)

Hvitserk has rarely seemed to have had a distinct personality amongst his brethren, but here he is caninized (yep, did that injustice to wordsmithing on purpose) as the dog of the group. Kicked puppy? Something. He can't seem to see what has been before him since way before Ivar killed their brother Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye.  


 Back in Kattegat, Margrethe is talking to Torvi. They’re in front of an odd, elevated fireplace.
Sandi: This show can be phenomenal in capturing the realities of life in the 9th Century. The growing community of Kattegat is itself a prime example of all an important town should be for the time and place. Then, the People in Charge of Scenery or something go for drama. And that fireplace was certainly dramatic! Also, a few centuries before its time. 

 Lissa: Margrethe tries to reassure Torvi that Björn will return. Torvi is also worried about Ubbe’s return since Björn should be ruling Kattegat when she is gone. Margrethe says she thinks Lagertha is losing the favor of the gods. 

Lagertha overhears her and strides into the room. She tells Margethe that she could kill her for her talk of betrayal, but she’s sick of betrayal. 


Sandi: Really so very pleased that Lagertha caught Margrethe red-tongued, as it were. Margrethe has, since the beginning of her relationships with the Ragnarssons, been calculating and conniving. She wants to be a leader, but she doesn't have the requisite character, in my opinion. Now, that is quite clear. But will Ubbe be told of her, now that he and Lagertha are allied? 

Lissa: Every man in her life has betrayed her, and now the women are doing the same thing. Margrethe was a slave girl not long ago and had to follow Lagertha, but now she’s a free woman and Lagertha wants her to follow out of love. Margrethe flees in tears. 


Sandi: I do hope we get to see the consequences of this! 

 Lissa: In York, Judith’s cousin Mannel has arrived to assist in the fight. He’s tickled pink to be fighting for Aethelwulf and Heahmund and praises them until Judith says he needs to stop or he’ll make them vain. Heahmund seizes the chance for a small sermon on vanity. All is vanity, yet here they are, fighting in a war. 

Sandi: Many kudos to @DeeDonuts at Project Fandom for ferreting out the name of this character. Her keen IMDb skills are an excellent example of Google-Fu. 

Judith is SO flirting here, and she really should stop. Courtly love wasn't a happening thing for at least another two hundred years.  

 Lissa: Later, they gather on the hilltop overlooking the city (again surrounded by troops. What, did they bring them for decoration?) Aethelwulf wants to attack now, because it seems the city has been weakened by starvation and sickness. Heahmund insists they wait longer. His visions have shown him that the city will be full of the dead if they just show some patience.

Sandi: This part seems to be a replay of earlier, similar circumstances. Haven't we done this already? But, there is a bit of a twist... 

Lissa: Aethelwulf has a bit of a royal hissy fit. He shouts that Heahmund thinks he is leading this army. “How you put yourself before me, even though I am your king under God.” Heahmund quickly kneels before the king and tells him to do with him as he wishes, and Aethelwulf calms himself.
Sandi: As @SagaThingPod on twitter pointed out, the bishop quite overstepped, here.


Aethelwulf has, I think, always shown himself to be sincere in his faith. Not that he hasn't lapsed, but his convictions are true. Heahmund, after his own fashion, is another such. I really think he sort of got carried away, here.

 Lissa: Björn and his crew are sticking to the ruse that they’re traders. They stride into the city, encountering a local ruler named Euphemius. The trader ruse doesn’t last long before the swords come out and it’s a Mexican stand-off, Viking-style.



Sandi: We had a lot of snarky fun with the whole "We're traders!" idea on twitter. The appearance and behavior of a trader were well known to all those with whom they dealt, in this era. Anyone posing as such would have to be convincing. I mentioned that I had a similar situation arise in my book Éire's Viking, in which my Northmen didn't want to seem threatening to the folks of Éire, so they posed as shepherds. They had to hide all the signs of "foreign Northmen" from view and walk about with a small herd of sheep. 

Takes work to fake it. Ask anyone in the business of gathering intelligence. 


 Lissa: Euphemius breaks the tension by bursting into laughter.

Sandi: Euphemius means "well-spoken" or "of good repute". I couldn't help but wonder, when we saw him, if his name had been chosen by Michael Hirst for its meaning or its sound or if Euphemius has an anchor to the historical time and place in our story. 

So, I looked him up. There was indeed a Euphemius of Sicily in the 9th Century, as it happens, and the commanded does indeed force a nun to marry him - which really wasn't done, in their world. (Ref: history files.co.uk)


More on that in half a mo'... 

Lissa: Euphemius invites the Northmen to dine. While they’re munching, Euphemius tells them they’re not the first Northmen to come this way. Another ruler has some for his bodyguards and Euphemius would like to ask them to become his. Björn agrees readily. Euphemius gives Björn a kiss on the cheek and gets some epic side-eye as a result. 


Sandi: Euphemius certainly seems all that a host should be, until he wants the Northmen to act on his behalf. Didn't work well a decade or so ago with the men of Wessex, and it's not likely to work here. Oh, Björn might say he agrees—he and his people might be granted a bit more autonomy if he does—but we know better than to trust this, right? Don't we? 

Lissa: A beautiful woman sings for them, and they’re told that she is a nun – a very famous one who writes her own praise music. 


Sandi: She looked kind of amazing, in this scene. Aloof, strong, but she also appeared a bit preoccupied. I guess if she was dealing with Euphemius's proposal in the back of her mind, that might contribute. 

 Lissa: Halfdan is very taken by the Singing Nun. They learn she was kidnapped by Euphemius. He was given a death sentence by the emperor for the crime. Björn finds out that Euphemius is beholden to a more powerful leader, and Björn wants to meet him. 

Sandi: So that bodyguard thing? Riiiiight... The site I referenced above said that Euphemius was threatened with having his nose cut off as justice/retribution for making a nun marry him. Also unpleasant, but not universally fatal. Still, in history, he fought back. 

Björn seeks the highest ground—person of influence—here as a means for not only good information but also, I think, for power. He has goals and ambitions and is willing to travel far and be less than conventional as he achieves them. 

I believe, though, that he will always be a Viking, no matter what circumstances surround him.  

Lissa: In York, Hvitserk goes up to the parapet and pauses in reflection. 


Sandi: One could only hope, here, that Hvitserk was finally finding his clue.  

Lissa: He sends up a prayer to Odin. Did he do the right thing by staying with Ivar? He begs the god to send him a sign … and is nearly impaled by an arrow which slams into the shield behind him. Apparently, the army standing behind Heahmund and Aethelwulf wasn’t merely decorative after all.

Sandi: And we're back to the Army of Purpose. So, they were doing more than making a point. Apparently, they made several. 

But was one of them from Odin in answer to Hvitserk? And wouldn't Aethelwulf freak out if his arrows were thus interpreted? 

Lissa: Sinric has arranged the meeting between Björn and the emir to whom Euphemius owes allegiance, but Sinric is acting really squirrely, so squirrely that Björn and Halfan put a sword to his throat to ask if he’s a spy. 



Sinric assures them he isn’t. He’s trying to arrange the meeting. He thinks he has it arranged when a strange interaction with Eupemius and the Singing Nun seems to throw everything off course. She says to Euphemius that he must take her where he promised or she’ll leave him, and he says he will. Hearing the interaction but not knowing what’s going on, Björn asks if the meeting is off, and if it was because of something the woman said. Sinric says softly, “Yes, because of something she said.” Halfdan stares longingly as the Singing Nun sails off on a barge with Euphemius.

Sandi: Well, Sinric is squirrelly. I don't believe he's a spy, per se but I do think he's capable of turning his coat if he felt it was worth his time and he'd be safe doing so. 

Hmmm...what does the interaction between the Singing Nun (can we call her Sally or would that be wrong?) leaves me very curious. I hope this is a mystery we hear the end of and that these two didn't just go sailing off into the sunset without further elucidation. 

Lissa: Back in York, it’s revealed that Ivar is fooling the Saxons into thinking there’s starvation and death in the city by burning meat in braziers. Ivar and Hvitserk walk down an alley, Ivar leaning on his cane and braces. 


Sandi: It is far easier, I'm sure, for him to assume command and enforce His Plan if he's on his feet rather than dragging himself around of using a wagon. Good move of his as well as the producers of the show. 

Lissa: He’s getting around in them really well. I imagine that for him, it’s incredibly painful, but he doesn’t show it.


Sandi: Well, I might not go THAT far... But... he certainly does command respect. Even more from his men that were all too familiar with his earlier, ground-level approach. 

Lissa: Hvitserk asks to know what Ivar is planning, but Ivar won’t tell him. Which struck me as a little reckless, considering a plan is only as good as its weakest link, and Hvitserk clearly has no idea what is going on. Ivar will only say that he once learned that the Romans were very clever, and that’s the basis of his plan. Hvitserk will find out in due time. 


Sandi: And whereas I believe Ivar does indeed have a plan, his refusal to discuss it leads me to believe it either a) isn't as solid as he pretends or b) he wants to appear as if he is all-knowing and so on with the clarity of hindsight. "Oh, thaaaat. I knew that would happen. Which is why My Plan worked." Everyone says he's a great tactician, he certainly is ruthless, but that doesn't mean he's got every detail worked out in advance. Some of it has to be luck.

A good plan, one can learn, rarely survives contact with the enemy. 

 Lissa: In Iceland, Floki is sitting on a ridge, praying aloud. He says to the Allfather that he now knows what his purpose is. His face is alight with it, and he looks better than we’ve seen him in… episodes? Years? Excitement is a good look for him, in any case. 



 Lissa: He says that he’s realized what a waste it is for him to be the only human on the gods’ land. He’s going back to get more people, true believers like himself, and they can keep out strangers to make sure it stays a place of only those with faith.

Sandi: The Floki journey is epic, really, and there's been no audience but us to watch it unfold. He left a man who felt he had no one. Who was throwing himself into the arms of his gods and, though he had a hope perhaps in mind, he was content to row his tiny boat with only the company of a raven. He nearly died. But. He had either an epiphany or some other heart-changing experience and now he's ready to return.

Floki is, in many ways, someone others will follow.

Sandi: You know, Lissa, he'd be appalled at your metaphor... 

 Lissa: Astrid walks out to meet King Harald at the shore. He says he hasn’t seen her in days; she’s been avoiding him. Astrid says she’s come to a decision. She cannot fight fate. She will marry him.

Sandi: There is a lot of subtext happening during this short discussion. Harald's awareness that he isn't in possession of all the facts but his willingness to move forward even so . . . he's brave, here. Willing to face much to gain what he hopes for in his ambitions for himself and his people. Astrid and her evasions and the narrowing of her gaze on occasion. Is she thinking she'll supplant Lagertha or come to a more equal alliance with her?  

Lissa: They wed – honest to God – inside a giant whale skeleton. (“Where did you get married, grandma?” “Inside a whale, darling.”)



Out of all the bridal bowers I’ve seen, this one takes the cake. Astrid comes to her wedding dressed in what can most charitably be called a sparkly prom dress. (Oh, how I long for the days of authentically woven textiles!)


Sandi: Well, it was certainly a memorable event. And I lament the authentic textiles and epic embroidery as well. (Sigh. Please, History Channel, bring them back!)

Lissa: A blue-painted acolyte assists a priestess as they say their vows. Astrid is asked by the priestess to think carefully before she answers whether she’ll take Harald for her husband and she has a vision of herself in Lagertha’s bed. But she says she will. 

 Reader, she married him.


Sandi: She gives her promises with full knowledge of what is required of her, but does she intend to fulfill her role in all ways or only in her own? We won't know for a while, I'm fairly certain.  

Lissa: Aethelwulf and Heahmund get word that the Northmen have abandoned York. The king, Heahmnund and his men enter York and find it in shambles inside. Broken carts lay overturned in the road and the buildings are empty.
Sandi: "It's a TRAP!" Lissa, we need to make a new file for these things. 

Lissa: They make it to the cathedral and Heahmund throws open the doors, apparently expecting the Northmen might be hiding inside, waiting to attack. But all they find are a pair of surprised horses. At the horses’ feet are a dozen or so rats. Heahmund says in dire tones, “Why are the rats above ground?”

Sandi: And we should cue the ominous music. Because rats are most comfortable under the ground where they can hide. It is their nature when in the midst of a human habitation. They come up for a gluttonous experience (which was likely, here) and/or because their own tunnels are uninhabitable.

The question Heahmund should have asked is, "What is underground now that the rats are up here?"

I am guessing we'll find out next week! 



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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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I Pulled My Book from Publication Because I Was Wrong About Jane Parker #HistoricalFiction #Tudor #HenryVIII

Last year, I made a promise to myself that when my rights toUnder These Restless Skies reverted from my publisher back to me, I was going to pull it from publication until it underwent extensive rewrites. I've now done that; the book is unavailable and will be until I finish the process.


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So, What Happened?

What happened was that I realized I was wrong. Terribly wrong. I had tried so hard in the novel to be fair to Anne Boleyn and depict her character as reflected in the true historical record that I ended up slandering and vilifying another historical character, Anne's sister-in-law, Jane Parker.

I can't plead complete ignorance. In my notes, I said that Jane's depiction as a sneaky, conniving person had fallen from favor, but she was a convenient villain (which is likely why history has traditionally blamed her).

But over the last few years since the book's debut, I've read more about Jane. I've updated my blog, routinely editing articles to reflect my findings, but I couldn't do the same with the novel. As more time passed, I felt worse about what I'd done.


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So How Are You Gonna Fix This?

I intend to re-write the novel to be more accurate, and to be fair to Jane. I'll also give new ebook copies to readers, and replace paperbacks if the reader wants to mail theirs back to me. It will be a lot of work, and potentially rather expensive (especially given the original book didn't sell all that well,) but I think integrity is important. I said in my notes that I was trying hard to be accurate, and I want my actions to reflect that.

I think authors should have the courage to admit they were wrong about what the historical record says, and to make it right wherever that is possible.



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When Do You Expect This to Be Complete?

I can't say how long this project will take. The original Under These Restless Skies took a year to write. I've never re-written a novel before. I'll update on this blog when it's finished.

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I want to apologize to my readers. I feel like I've failed you. I wanted to write a historical novel which entertained while giving readers a glimpse into the Tudor world I've found do fascinating over the years. I wanted to strip away the cobwebs of myth. Instead, I ended up adding more. 

And I want to apologize to Jane Parker Boleyn, Lady Rochford. You didn't deserve what Henry did to you, and you didn't deserve what history has done to you. Nor did you deserve what I did to you. I'm so sorry. I'll try to set my part of it right.



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The #ShieldGeeks Review #VIKINGS S5X03 "Homeland"




“100% more evisceration talk than expected.” 

“These chicks are machines!” 


(CHECK THEM OUT FOR THEIR PODCASTED RECAPS AND FEEDBACK ‘CASTS! And Yes, we did one, too!)
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!

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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 opened this episode with Floki, wandering lonely as a cloud around Iceland. His wounded hand is hurting and he sniffs at the wound – a nice authentic touch, since diagnosing infection was often done by smell in that era. He uses the muddy-as-chocolate water bubbling in a hot spring to soak his bandage before he wraps his hand, which was not so historical. Unless he’s got some theory about this being the home of the gods and nothing can hurt him here, this made little sense. Germ theory wasn’t a thing, but the people of the era had enough sense not to put particulate matter onto a wound. He probably would have rinsed his bandages in a clear stream, lacking anything else. Floki was the one who healed up Ragnar after he was wounded in battle and had to flee his home in the first season. He should know better.

Sandi: Ugh, yes. Even the most untrained of housewives knew not to use dirty water on a wound, and Floki is not ignorant of proper practices for basic health and healing. Not sure what he was thinking, here, unless he wasn't thinking at all. Even his own urine would have been preferable to the dirty water he used. And as we'll see later, his negligence will cost him. 

Lissa: Astrid, or Joan Jett, as we dubbed her last season, pulls up to the dock in Harald’s kingdom. She’s disgusted at having to step over bones as she walks down the pier. Which… yeah… why they leavin’ bones all over their docks? That’s how you get seagulls and rats. It’s meant to contrast with Lagertha’s orderly, prosperous kingdom, I suppose.

Sandi: The No Ship Network still calls Astrid Joan Jett. I had to smile when I heard their first episodic podcast for this season! 

As you said, the contrast is likely deliberate. Harald has been distracted both by his epic-fail of a romance as well as his pursuit of kingship for Norway at large and hasn't been as careful with the administration on a more local level. Now, historically the man does indeed become the first King of Nordweg—er, Norway—so he has to prove himself effective eventually, right? 

Lissa: In his hall, Harald stands before his throne, dressed in a crown that’s a wide, leather-covered band with pointed triangular teeth on the top, an odd-looking thing.



I did a little research, and the closest visual match I found was the crown of Cerdic.



Sandi: There are a lot of claims and stories regarding Cerdic's life and descendants, but most of them aren't provable beyond the fact that he founded the kingdom of Wessex in the 6th Century. 

Lissa: In his new “palace,” the cathedral of York, Ivar meets a new girl, one who is utterly unafraid of him. She tells him that she’s always felt that disabled people are touched by God.


Sandi: This is not a wholly unique notion, of course. Whether a disabled person is blessed by the divine or cursed has long been discussed in different faiths the world over. This servant, though, sees Ivar's "boneless" state as a blessing. That the young man is gifted in other ways to compensate, perhaps, for his disability. 

Certainly it is true that for many with different disabilities, other abilities are enhanced. The blind often have a keen sense of hearing or smell, for example. And those with weaker legs might have developed a very strong upper body, perhaps. Also, some who are disabled call upon charm and other positive personality traits to help them interact with others. This might be seen as being gifted. 

Lissa: She strips on Ivar’s command and climbs into his lap, but he’s unable to perform with her. She says she understands he’s disabled, but it means he’s special and he’s destined for great things. She leaves when Ivar tells her she’s free to go. His face is that of a man utterly in love.




Sandi: I am still not sure of the object/idea that has captured Ivar's affection, here. I think it might be that he is indeed in love—but in love with the conviction the girl brings him that he is blessed. Perhaps, one might conjecture, this should be enough for him to go on with, but Ivar will forever seek to prove his superiority. 

Lissa: The Wessex team has dinner, all of them seated on one side of the table, Last Supper style. They’re still planning to take back York. They’re excited, because there’s a place along the northern walls that the heathens haven’t built up or posted men to defend. Heahmund tells Aethelwulf that they’ll take the city back on the morrow and they end with prayer.

Sandi: One should keep the deliberate arrangement of the table in mind, I think. Foreshadowing? If so, for how far into the future? The Vikings producers are far too careful not to have this established without a plan. Team Wessex could indeed be facing a harrowing time ahead. 

Lissa: We next see Bjorn, which we all cheered. He’s chatting with Halfdan, who says he came along with Bjorn for the same reason Bjorn went into the wild to have is “vision quest.” To prove himself to feel truly alive while he lives. One of his men, Sindric, suggests Bjorn will have more success in his upcoming venture if he splits his fleet in half while approaching land so they can appear like traders. Bjorn says he’s naked without his ships, and Sinric counters that it’s better to be “naked” than dead.


Sandi: It was great to see Björn again. The character has been part of the show since the first, and he provides a touchstone back to Ragnar for us. (For the record, the show is proceeding along quite well after the death of our central figure, I think, as we see life does indeed go on. In many surprising ways.) Previews show Björn riding a camel, I think? So I am guessing Björn accustoms himself to being "naked".  

Lissa: In a lovely little makeup/special effects touch, Halfdan’s facial tattoos are faded with the passage of time. It’s the attention to these kinds of details that keeps me coming back, I swear.

Sandi: As I used to watch Ragnar's head for the addition of new tattoos, so I also appreciate how the designs fade on others. It is, as you say, a fantastic touch. (Though how tattoos age while Lagertha & Co. don't remains a mystery!) 

Lissa: Aethulwulf breaches the wall in the weak spot Heahmund noted last episode and the Saxons flood into the city with no resistance. He splits his men into two groups and tells them to meet at the cathedral. They head down the twisting streets, and somehow it doesn’t occur to Aethulwulf that the lack of combatants is a red flag. It’s not until windows open above and arrows rain down does it seem to sink in.
Sandi: Yeah. Now, Aethelwulf has proven himself to be a fine man on the battlefield, but this is guerrilla warfare, for all intents and purposes, and that requires a different mindset. 

Lissa: From the windows above, buckets of fluid are thrown on the soldiers and dropped torches set it alight.

Sandi: I really liked this. Yes, yes, I'm strange and twisted, but the cinematography on this was brilliant. Shadows and flames and fire and destruction in confined spaces. Also a great plan on behalf of the defenders.

Lissa: The screaming men try to flee down alleys, but they’ve been lined with spike pits. The first few to fall inside become living carpets for the men behind them as they try to flee death raining down on them from all sides. Above, Ivar watches grimly as his traps funnel Aethelwulf’s men into bottlenecks they cannot escape.

 Sandi: Compared to how smug and fierce he usually is when a plan is going his way, this was quite grim of him. 

 Lissa: Hvitserk, in the crowd, fights like a Berserker, ridiculously exuberant.


Sandi: But unlike the berserker moments we've had in earlier seasons, this wasn't ritually so. I think it was just a young man enjoying himself . . . a lot . . . in the midst of a battle. Empathy might not be his strong suit. 

Lissa: Ivar leaves his perch and jumps into a chariot to join the fray. It crashes, leaving him sitting on the ground, essentially helpless as a herd of English soldiers crowd around.



His face is red with blood, which you noted, the pouring rain doesn’t seem to rinse off.



Sandi: He presents a strange, menacing-in-miniature, diabolical figure to the Christian warriors who storm the area. The red face, bloody teeth (they, at least, got cleaned quite soon), and his determined, fierce cheer had to be confounding for the opposition.  

 Lissa: Ivar laughs screams at them in Old English, “Do you know who I am? I’m Ivar the Boneless. You cannot kill me!”

Sandi: His name will be famous, indeed, but I think it's here that the Britons are learning to fear it.  

Lissa:  An arrow embeds beside him and he only finds this amusing, throwing his axe at the man who tried to shoot him. The soldiers are virtually trembling with fear as they edge closer. Heahmund notices and tries to close the distance, pointing his sword at Ivar.



Sandi: It's interesting, how the veritable company of armed men are apparently stymied by Ivar's defiance, here. They could have killed him; Ivar is not immortal, after all. A tidal wave of armed men could overthrow him, even if he is an extraordinarily fortunate fellow here. But there is a visible reluctance to do more than throw things at him. Is it the demonic aspect of his grin? The force of his personality? His claim of invincibility? Even his own men hold back.

Lissa: Ubbe stops his men from intervening for a moment, but an arrow impales Ivar’s leg. He looks down at it in annoyance, breaks it off and goes back to taunting the English.



Ubbe sends in his men. Three of them shield Ivar as he giggles maniacally.




Sandi: (Ugh. My homophone issue. I cringed after I read it. Why can't one post-edit a tweet? Okay, okay....) Anyway! Yeah, the stalemate is broken when others enter into it. This kind of adds to the otherworldliness, in my opinion, of Ivar's ability to hold the Britons off. 

Lissa: Heahmund tries to rally his troops with theological pronouncements, but the day is lost.



The English retreat to the cheers of the Vikings. Ivar is left laughing and clapping, as if the whole battle was a comedy put on for his amusement.


Sandi: It was weird! I mean, sure, yes, battles can happen this way. Sure. Strange circumstances lead to victories that leave everyone a bit off-step. But this was an odd conclusion to this fight, in my opinion. 

 Lissa: Joan Jett is imprisoned in her room. An almost comically massive guard is stationed outside her door. She tosses jewelry around and scoffs as three girls come in bearing gowns that they drape over her bed. Outside, Harald is giving a feast. When he’s told Joan wouldn’t come, he stands to go get her, but in she strides, wearing one of the gowns. She feasts and drinks with Harald but eventually says she’s tired and is going to bed. The Vikings in the hall hoot as she leaves. Harald grins and follows her, which they cheer.

Sandi: I was reminded of the Biblical account of King Artaxerxes and Queen Vashti. The king, there, told his wife the queen to come display her beauty before all his guests and she told him no. She was then un-queened and a new queen was sought for and found. I had to wonder, in the time between Joan Jett's refusal to go out and her eventual capitulation, if some similar fate would happen to her. But no, she puts on a pretty gown and goes out as requested.

Even if I didn't exactly recognize her without the heavy eyeliner. And, to be honest, the gown was beautiful but it clashed with her tattoos. Her usual style is more "her", I think.

Lissa:  In the bedroom, Harald tries to play off his nervousness with manful chuckles. He tries to kiss Joan Jett and gets a sound punch in the nose for his pains. He goes back outside, blood dripping from his injured schnozz and tells his people in a jovial tone that he never had any luck with women.
Sandi: He really does seem to lack basic skills in this area. Even kings have a problem getting a girl, it seems. Especially when he hasn't quite won his kingdom. Yet.

Lissa: As you said, he seems to be playing the long game with her. His people seem to take his “defeat” in good humor, but unless he eventually wins her over, he would really lose status in their eyes. In the Sagas, men often go through terrible trials to win over women, and the women often refuse their sexual advances, especially until the men offer marriage, but the men prevail in the end. The Vikings gave women higher status in their society, but it was still a sexist era, and the man was supposed to be triumphant in his “wooing.”

Sandi: In the Viking culture, the women do rather rule the roost within their homes, so this works for me.  

Lissa: The Ragnarssons have a very intense meeting in Ivar’s cathedral/lair. Ubbe is looking particularly worse for wear with a beaten face he didn’t have after the battle. In the course of the conversation, it’s revealed that Ubbe woke Hvitserk in the middle of the night and urged him to come along on a secret mission.
Sandi: The transition here was rather abrupt and I was initially afraid I'd missed something. Like there was a skip "for the American Audience" (sigh). But no, it was just that abrupt. Segue, History Channel. Learn it. Live it. 

I see that the effort was to build tension by going into flashback mode, but I found it disconcerting. This is likely a personal issue.  

Lissa: They headed for the English camp and spoke with Heahmund and Aethelwulf. They said they didn’t want to fight any more. All they wanted was to farm the land Ecbert had granted them. After they left, Aethelwulf said to Heahmund that they had no right to that land. Alfred asked Heahmund if, as a man of God, he was in favor of peace, and said to Aethelwulf that Ecbert may have no longer been king when he granted the land, but now Aethelwulf is king and he can grant it, should he choose to do so.

Sandi: Historically, Aethelwulf was deposed as King of Wessex after his pilgrimage to Rome (A.D. 856), but he ruled in Kent and elsewhere until his death in 858. Now, how that will play out in this show is left to the History Channel. The show itself began in the year 792 (S1, E1) and Björn was what, twelve years of age at that point? (I had to check the fandom wiki!) That would make him in his seventies at least as Aethelwulf has gone to Rome already. And we know that's not the case in this show, so . . . 


Will Aethelwulf give up his lands to the Danes? In history, he is a strong force against them; so I am thinking not.  

Lissa:  Heahmund enters the tent where Ubbe and Hvitserk are sleeping and gives Ubbe a good thrashing. He hauls both brothers outside and sends them packing, his soldiers pelting them with mud as they flee the English camp to go back to York. And now Ivar is shaming them in front of everyone for suing for peace.



Ivar says they made the Vikings look weak. He says it’s time that he, Ivar, was recognized as the leader of the Great Army.

Sandi: Ubbe and Hvitserk got off quite easily, I think, for what they did, here. Heahmund did slap Ubbe around, but it could have been far worse. The humiliation at the hands of their brother, though? Not so cool. Far harder, I think, for the pride of the elder brothers.  

Lissa: Ubbe says as the eldest brother, he will never tolerate this. Ubbe and Hvitserk will take their men and head home to Kattegat. Ubbe tells Ivar that their father would be outraged that Ivar sundered their family. Ivar responds he doubts that very much.
Sandi: Ivar is likely on the money with his view that Ragnar wouldn't be outraged, but . . . Ragnar might indeed be saddened by the fact that his sons are at such odds. For a long time, Ragnar tried to maintain a good relationship with his brother Rollo. This would pain him, I think. 

Lissa: It was a fantastic scene, the best of the season so far. Those who follow our #ShieldGeeks discussion would have seen us all fall silent for a good five minutes while it was going on. I think that’s one of the first times that’s happened since we started our live-Tweets!

Sandi: I was, again, worried  that there had been a technical failure. True story! I went poking about your twitter and a few others to see if the silence was because something went wonky, but no . . . we were all just that enthralled.

Two words: Great. Writing. (And the actors were awesome!) 

 Lissa: Floki is sick… bad sick. He leans heavily on a stick as he makes his way to a waterfall. He unwraps his hand and it is an infected mess, puss oozing from the wound. He sees two visions of women who dissolve into bees and birds, and falling to his back, he whispers in Old Norse that he knows now he was brought to this place to die.


Sandi: That wound? Seriously excellent makeup job. I can imagine the stench, too. Floki's gone septic, clearly, here, and that's affecting his brain. 

 Lissa: But in a few moments, he looks down at his hand and sees it wholly healed. A vision? A fevered dream? With Floki, it’s hard to say, but he shouts joyous praise to the gods.

Sandi: He's happy, looks good, and I am inclined to hope for his sake that he is truly healed. There are supernatural instances in the course of this story (though the producers keep them to a easily digestible minimum) so this could totally be the case.

 Lissa: Ubbe and Hvitserk pack up their longships to go home. Ivar taunts them from the bank, because they’re barely filling the two boats they’ve taken.



Lissa: All of the men are staying with Ivar. As the ships get ready to cast off, Hvitserk gets off the boat. The expression on Ubbe’s face at that moment was just heartbreaking.

Sandi: I stand with Ubbe. He has a goal, he's off to meet that goal, and keep to what he believes to be the best thing for their people. He wants to go home and make it stable and a good place. He left Margarethe behind and, who knows, maybe the whole idea of growing his family is appealing at this juncture? Still, he had hoped for the support of his brothers and he doesn't have it. 


He might just be my favorite, right here. *nods* 




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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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