The #ShieldGeeks Review #VIKINGS 5.13 "A New God"

“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 continue 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.)

  .¸¸•.¸¸.•´¯`• (¯`•ღ•´¯)•´¯`•.¸¸.•.¸¸.

Lissa: A lot to unpack here with this episode.

Sandi: Uff da! Yes, there is. Stuff that has me muttering to the Spousal Unit the next morning over coffee. (Our day starts at four in the morning, so he isn't always in a position to gripe at me. Heh.)

LissaKing Harald decides to head to York, which is probably a good idea, since Ivar is getting a bit… testy. Hvitserk confronts his brother about having killed Margrethe. Ivar’s casual and cruel about it. “She was just a crazy woman.” But Hvitserk liked her, he protests. Ivar suggests his brother might want to go to York with Harald, but Hvitserk insists his place is here. He fought at Ivar’s side. He deserves to be part of his kingdom. 

SandiHvitserk is starting to chafe, a bit, at his subordinate role. It's not like he wants to be The Boss, really, but he'd like to have a defined place where he can earn respect. He's still not Marlboro Man material, maybe (Have I dated myself?) but he's trying to stand on his own feet with pride.

Lissa: In Wessex, Alfred is informed of the murder of Cuthbert by Heahmund. He demands to know where Heahmund is and is told he’s in the chapel. He insists on speaking to Heahmund alone. He finds the bishop-without-a-bishopric praying by the altar, still smeared with Cuthbert’s blood. Alfred demands to know why Heahmund would have done such a blasphemous thing, and Heahmund claims Cuthbert was part of a conspiracy to dethrone Alfred. He throws Heahmund into a cell. 

SandiThing is, Heahmund is pretty gutsy, here. He is firm in his presentation and has, clearly, taken no prisoners. That he is then tossed into a cell seems right and proper, as Alfred has to get his head together.

Being king—especially Burger King Crown Wearer—is stressful and Alfred does not really have a ministry or cabinet on whom he can rely. At least, not one that seems to be wholly trustworthy and capable. 

Lissa:  Back in Kattegat, Freydis steps outside and finds her sperm donor sitting on a bench. She gives him a beatific smile and when he rises to speak with her, he’s garroted from behind.
SandiWell, yeah, we all knew THAT was gonna happen, didn't we? I believe it was a precipitous act and hope to the heavens that it will come back to bite her in her smug little face. 

And DeeDonuts (aka Sarah Powers) was right on asking how Freydis was going to make this work for the Hit Squad. We never actually find out, do we? 

Lissa: Lagertha, Björn, Ubbe, and Torvi talk over the situation with Heahmund. He can no longer protect them now that he’s incarcerated. Ubbe suggests that they all convert to Christianity, and then the nobles would have no reason to object to their presence. Björn is outraged they would think of denouncing the gods. Their father, Ragnar, is sitting at the side of the All-Father, across the table from Thor, drinking and happy. Does Ubbe not believe that? 

SandiUbbe is the "house-band" of the family, if anyone is. He's the one who has persistently wished for his people to be able to have farming land and the freedom to live as they wish, in peace. He's, ahem, sewn his wild oats I think and is wanting very much to settle down with Torvi to make a home. Converting to Christianity is not so much a matter of belief to him as it is a social issue. 
Björn, of course, doesn't see it like that. Renouncing his faith is inconceivable, even if it was just for show. 

I don't know if Ubbe's belief in the gods of his father is less than Björn's, but his commitment to striking for the smoother path is clearly his motivation, here.

Lissa: In Iceland, Floki attempts to make peace between the two warring families that threaten to tear his colony apart. Þórunn Kjetillsdottir, the pregnant woman, is the future, he says.
SandiStill having problems with the Iceland story arc. Is it an arc or has it flattened to the Iceland story PLANE? Anyway, don't know if Floki is a peacemaker. He's an agitator and outsider, but not usually a peacemaker. Not seeing good stuff, here.

LissaAlfred meets with Elsewith and tells her that if she agrees to marry him, she might be signing up for a difficult life. His throne is in jeopardy, which means she would be, too. She tells him that she would gladly join him in his fate if he’d have her as a wife. 

SandiThe way this has gone down makes me kind of sad, to be honest. I mean, yes, Alfred marries Ealhswith of Mercia. She will later become Saint Ealhswith of the Catholic Church. I am unclear, still, as to why Hirst felt it necessary to, er, muddy the waters with her character, here. And Alfred is very much not a romantic hero, but he is trying to be flexible, kind, and understanding. He can'thave missed the looks that passed between his proposed bride and Björn. Can he?

Still, they shake on it (figuratively) and all is set for the Marriage of the Decade or something. 

 LissaAlfred announces his intention to marry her to his court. They’re a fractious, noisy lot, shouting back at him as he makes his announcements. 

SandiNot altogether clear as to why they'd be all huffy about it. She IS a princess of her people and she does bring an alliance with her (at least she did in history, but I am unclear as to that, here). Perhaps it is her relationship to Dowager Queen Judith that has folks in a state?
 LissaHe also tells them he’s decided to restore Heahmund to his prior bishopric, which is conveniently vacant at the moment due to the *ahem* sudden demise of the temp. His nobles are pretty outraged at that one. He also announces that Torvi and Ubbe have decided to convert to Christianity. The nobles shout about that, too. 

SandiI get the brouhaha about Heahmund. Everyone knows that Murder Has Happened. And Heahmund's got a rep on him, now. Alfred is clear to point out that he is aware of it, but that the bishop will answer to God for his transgressions. And the Viking Conversion? That's not going to sit well, either. Time will prove the converts or disprove them, and the cynical-slash-fractious nobles aren't going to just take their baptisms at face value.

LissaAethelred walks with Judith and tells her that he, too, intends to marry. She asks whom he has chosen, and he says that she’s Cuthbert’s daughter. Judith didn’t realize he had any kids, which seems a bit odd for her, since she’s the one who made the deal with Cuthbert for him to support Alfred in exchange for the bishopric. She’s either losing her touch and not checking out her opponents, or Cuthbert was extremely good at hiding his mistress and family. 

Sandi: And remember, Heahmund brought up the whole celibacy issue, so it's interesting that Cuthbert's obvious non-celibate state is brushed over without comment. Is this because he was "only" a priest when said progeny were produced (and as you've said before, Lissa, the celibacy of clergy was not necessarily a deal breaker at this point in history)? Or is it because Judith was unaware? And is Aethelred's choice of wife made to rub his mother's nose in something? He's a strong and proud man, and he's been made to take a step back from what he has expected his entire life, after all.

Lissa: Harald arrives in York and tells the Jarl that he’s no longer in charge. 

Later, he talks with him about his intentions to attack Wessex and its boy-king, and eventually, to take on Ivar, as well. The Jarl protests. Ivar and his brother Hvitserk are sons of Ragnar. Everyone knows that name. Every one of them is a son of Ragnar.
SandiFor the uninitiated, Lissa's verses in the tweet above are a parody of the children's Sunday School classic, "Father Abraham". Totally works for me in this context. Jarl Olavson is making a point to Harald about the support the Sons of Ragnar have in Kattegat. Harald might be able to win a kingdom, there, but Olavson is not willing to go against the Ragnarssons. 

Harald is all, Meh, they aren't Ragnar, what's the big deal? Olavson, very seriously, gives credit to Ragnar for the growth of the Kattegat region, indicating that everyone is tied together through the efforts of Ragnar and, thus, are his sons, too. Going against any of them will be problematic. 

Will Harald back down...? Surely you jest. 

LissaAs the scene ends, we see Aethelred slipping down a dark hallway to hurry inside a room where men are seated around a table. It couldn’t have been any more obvious if there was a big neon sign over the door that said CONSPIRACY ROOM.

SandiDun dun dunnn!!

LissaBack in Iceland, Þórunn’s husband is outside in the rain, screaming her name. He runs inside the lodge and tells his family that he can’t find her anywhere. She’d gone to the waterfall to pray to Freya for a safe delivery and never returned. In the afternoon light, we see Floki sitting on the rocks, staring at the waterfall with anguish in his eyes. 

SandiWhich has me all suspicious again. Floki is . . . not entirely stable, here. I am immediately thinking that Floki has either caused something dire to happen to Þórunn or that he has let it happen without his interference, such as it would be. He's been in a limbo regarding his role as his proposed Colony of True Believers hasn't panned out as he had thought it would. Disillusioned and doubting, might he have let a pregnant woman come to grief under his eyes?

Lissa:  Heahmund is released and goes to bed with Lagertha. He tells her that Satan is coming and he’s glad she’s here so she can help him fight the devil. She gives him a look like she’s not sure if he means that literally. 

SandiLagertha's handling of the Christian faith has, consistently throughout the series, been distant. If she respects the Christian as a person, she is hands-off about it, maybe a bit disdainful but not outright negative. So she is here. She might give him A Look, but she's not going to tell Heahmund he's out of his ever-loving mind.

 Lissa: Alfred marries Elsewith, and I had complaints.
SandiI wondered where on earth the paperwork was. An alliance of this magnitude carried KINGDOMS to bed with one another. Pledges of mutual aid, peace, trading practices, and possibly even notions about succession and What Ifs would have been handed back and forth with a great deal of pomp and circumstance that had nothing to do with the CONSPIRACY ROOM. Hirst chose to focus on Alfred's tension with the unveiling of a possible conspiracy theory and I get it, but I can have complaints, too.

 Lissa: Brides didn’t commonly wear white until the Victorian era, and in the 9th century, people didn’t marry in a church. The priest would marry them at the church door and then they’d proceed inside for mass to bless the union.

SandiGenerally, a lady married in her best gown, at this level of society. Indeed, in the medieval era among "the lessers", it was common for a woman's bridal dress to serve as a shroud or burial gown in later years.

 Lissa: The Church saw marriage as a civil contract, not an activity appropriate for the sanctuary itself. Some churches added beautiful porches onto the buildings for this purpose. It wasn’t until the 12th century that the Church decided marriage was a sacrament. 

SandiThe BBC actually has a very brief rundown of the history of marriage in England. Anglo-Saxon unions are mentioned here as well. 

The Anglo-Saxons saw marriage as a strategic tool to establish diplomatic and trade ties, says Stephanie Coontz, author of Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage. "You established peaceful relationships, trading relationships, mutual obligations with others by marrying them," Coontz says.

That the historical Alfred reportedly saw his lady whilst he was out with his brother in battle and chose to woo her is much more romantic. I confess I liked that.  

 Lissa:  Afterward, we see a short bedding scene of the royal couple. This was a much-beloved part of the marriage festivities all the way up to the 17th century or so. The wedding guests would cart the couple off to their bedroom to the sounds of bawdy jokes and raucous laughter. They’d strip them down while a priest blessed the bed with holy water, and then would pop them in the bed and draw the bedcurtains. (“Privacy” was a very shaky concept.) 

SandiIt really was. The king and queen might merit a private room (meaning they didn't have to share their bed with anyone and attendants could be asked to leave during, ahem, marital relations), but in truth they likely would have at least one or two servants who slept on pallets in the room with them in every place they lived.

 Lissa: Alfred and Elsewith’s bedding scene was more of a solemn occasion, and it ended as soon as the curtain was drawn, but oof, it would have been an uncomfortable time for a bridegroom as shy as Alfred. He looked distinctly nervous and disquieted. 

SandiI still think he might have had his suspicions about his queen's interest in Björn Ironside, even if he never imagined she'd have technically betrayed him with the "living legend". Also, there were a lot of people. Historical Alfred was rather preoccupied with his own sex drive and it is possible he was feeling really weird about performing when there were expectations attached to the deed.

Lissa: Björn encounters a young man who identifies himself as Magnus – son of Ragnar and Kwenthrith. The last we saw of the poor kid, he was being abandoned beside the road after his mother’s death, sent out to try to survive on his own. He apparently has, and he wanted to meet his brothers, the other sons of Ragnar. And he wants revenge. He says Alfred is just as guilty as his grandfather when it comes to the betrayal and death of Ragnar. 

SandiHistorically, Ragnar never had an acknowledged son named Magnus, according to an article cited by author Rachel Tsoumbakos. However, in the series here, he was certainly shafted years before and it makes sense to me that he'd want payback. Clever of Central Casting to make Magnus a blond fellow, as well. 

He is a canny young man, having chosen to speak to Björn at this juncture. Björn is clearly unhappy and such a spur to his anger is met with a degree of acceptance.  

Lissa:  Torvi and Ubbe are baptized by Heahmund beside a creek, with King Alfred, Lagertha, and a very irritable-looking Björn in attendance. At the end of the ceremony, Björn spits on the ground and walks away, obviously disgusted with the whole thing. 

SandiI give him credit for showing up and not ranting at the situation. Clearly the alliance is important to him, though he disagrees entirely with how it is being facilitated, here.

Lissa:  Ivar calls Hvitserk over to his table in the hall. He has some exciting news, he says. He tells his brother that Freydis is expecting, but more than that, she’s told him something important.

 All his life, he’s seen his disability as a mark of shame, when he should have been proud. Freydis told him it proves he has been chosen. They are said to be descended from Odin, but Ivar is something more. He’s an actual god himself. Hvitserk chuckles at that, not realizing that his brother is serious. Ivar says that he remembers how Hvitserk used to mock him when they were children. Hvitserk interjects; he did not mock Ivar as a child.
Ivar brushes that aside. “But you pitied me,” he says. He goes on and says that he knows what he has to do. 

He’s going to reveal his divine status and he must have a sacrifice: someone whose name everyone knows. 

SandiIvar has been drinking Freydis's Kool-Aid (Mead-Aid? Kool-Mead?) as it has only validated every waking thought he's had all his life, I imagine.

 Hvitserk’s eyes widen, because, of course, it sounds like Ivar intends to sacrifice his brother, a son of Ragnar Lo∂brok. 

SandiSo this makes me wonder. Is History Channel going for this obvious sacrifice or will Ivar be shocking everyone? I've read rumors that the next episode is "a doozy", but I don't know how that will apply!

Will Hvitserk be the sacrifice? Online resources have not all been consistent with his timeline (though his genealogy has been the same), but pretty much all sources indicate he died around the age of 87. Will Hirst be offing another Ragnarsson before his time? 

LissaWe see the ceremony with Ivar dressed up in a strange crown and face paint, and a hooded hostage being led toward a ship, and so the episode ends on a cliffhanger as we don’t know who it is Ivar intends to sacrifice.
SandiWe don't know the sacrifice, but we do know that the headgear he and Freydis wore was entirely odd. A cross between roasted marshmallows and roasted garlic on sticks. Also, where did they come up with the yards and yards (ells and ells?) of red fabric that Ivar used as a backdrop for his stage?

I was not thrilled with the stagecraft used at this last scene. The masks were great—they would have brought an uneasy air to the ceremony in the flickering firelight. But overall? I wonder where Ivar would have pulled all the red stuff from and how he got the coordinated cheerleaders and so on. 

Clearly, Lissa and I have issues, but we will bring them with us next week when we watch "The Lost Moment." 

.¸¸•.¸¸.•´¯`• (¯`•ღ•´¯)•´¯`•.¸¸.•.¸¸.

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

StumbleUpon Share on Tumblr

The #ShieldGeeks Review #VIKINGS 11.5 "The Revelation"

“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 the second part of 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.)

  .¸¸•.¸¸.•´¯`• (¯`•ღ•´¯)•´¯`•.¸¸.•.¸¸.

Lissa: Here we are again and it feels like it’s been forever! I really missed this show during the hiatus! 

SandiOh, me too. My website indicated that the last update for Vikings was posted back in January. Eleven months is, after all, a long time between the first and second half of a season.

Lissa:  Only a few days have elapsed in the show’s timeline since the great battle occurred and Lagertha’s forces were defeated. Ivar rides into Kattegat with bound captives behind his chariot, laughing in delight over his victory. He shouts at the crowd to bow before him, King Ivar.

He urinates on Lagertha’s throne and calls for “the queen” to be brought before him. Since Lagertha has fled, a goat with a floral crown is brought into the hall to peals of laughter. Ivar offers it a drink of mead.

SandiIvar's glee was offensive and, in my interpretation, tinted with insecurity. If you have to declare the obvious to people there is something inherently amiss. And so it is in Kattegat. Lagertha is theirs. A local girl. A shield maiden. A tried and true leader. A mother. Ivar—though a son of Ragnar—a usurper.

LissaHarald confesses to Ivar that he feels hollow. He’s won the world, but lost what meant the most to him. His wife (Joan Jett) is dead. The child she carried is dead.
SandiLast season, we speculated that the child she bore was conceived in the horrible gang rape she suffered. There is little wonder that it troubled her so much that ending her own life was perhaps the only alternative she saw. Trauma can be that way. Harald, alas, didn't know of this assault and could only imagine that Astrid's long sorrow was due to being pregnant with his child. I wonder if she would have borne it better, if that had been the case.

Still, I did kind of feel for the man. He's rather grown on me.

LissaIvar tells him that life goes on and he should take a new wife. 

SandiBecause Ivar is (at the least) a sociopath, he doesn't have any true sympathy for anyone else's pain, so his comment is one of those awkward things. Slap him? Ignore him? Challenge him?

Lissa:  We head to Iceland, where Floki is repeating his offer to his people to be a sacrifice.

Sandi: I can only, ahem, quote myself:

Lissa: Aud steps forward and loudly refuses his offer. She says Floki is blessed by the gods and they need him. Eynvid is enthusiastic about the idea of sacrificing Floki. He’s undoubtedly still salty about the death of his son. A vote is taken, and Floki ends up being spared by a single vote. 

Sandi: The narrow margin did surprise me, I confess. In terms of the series, I couldn't see Floki being killed off by the writers at this precise juncture, so the decision itself wasn't a surprise. 

Lissa:  Rollo lands and walks into Kattegat’s hall. He jokes with Ivar and Hvitserk that he doesn’t get to fight any more because he’s too important. He’s mixing a small crystal bottle of medicine while he does this, so it may be that his health is in question, but no one mentions it. Hvitserk says that Ubbe spared him during the battle, and Ivar rolls his eyes a bit at that. Harald says he killed his brother, Halfdan. Rollo counters with his own admission. 

Lissa: I’m not sure if Rollo and Harald are having a bonding moment over fratricide or not.
Sandi: Hard to tell with Rollo and Harald, but as a landed  magnate, at this time in the story, Rollo certainly had experiences with dealing with other leaders and perhaps heads of state, such as they were at that time, so it is possible that Rollo was seeking to find any commonality between him and King Harald.

Lissa: Ivar tells Rollo that Lagertha is still alive, but they haven’t found her yet. Rollo wishes them luck.

Sandi: He is, I think, still playing both sides a bit. Keep it friendly with the nephews even if they're going after Lagertha, for whom Rollo still cherishes a regard. 

LissaLagertha is in a deserted hut with Björn, Torvi, Heahmund and Ubbe. Her hair is silver and her hands are trembling, but she’s a far cry from the broken, mute woman we saw at the end of last season.

Sandi: Right. Though that image we saw of her back in January was stirring, the woman we see in this episode is much more the Lagertha we are accustomed to seeing. Her shocking losses at the battle didn't destroy her, though they knocked her off her pins for a bit.  

Lissa: She says she cannot believe this is how her story is supposed to end. Heahmund suggests they go to England. Lagertha scoffs at that and says they’ll be killed, but Heahmund says he’ll vouch for them as a bishop. Later, he and Lagertha take a walk to discuss the idea further and he says if they go to England, he won’t be able to keep her as a lover openly. He can’t give her up, but he must keep up the appearance of clerical celibacy. 

Sandi: I am still having a problem buying into their relationship, here, to be honest. The subterfuge of Heahmund's having brought the renegade Northmen to justice—a son of Ragnar Lo∂brok as well as the renowned Lagertha—should play out well and the bishop made sure his demeanor was as detached as he could make it.

Lissa:  At the time, there were many clerics who had women who lived with them (some openly married) and had families with them. The church formally condemned it, but they didn’t really crack down on it until the First Lateran Council in 1123. 

Sandi: Bishop Heahmund's historical image is not so much a lusty one as the way his character has been portrayed in this series. I've also heard that he is revered as a saint, but haven't found mention of him in either an Eastern Orthodox nor Catholic listing of saints. (If someone has better information, please let me know.) His battle prowess is undisputed, however. Oddly enough, bishops who warred were seen as more acceptable than bishops who wed.  

LissaTorvi goes outside and takes some food to Margrethe, who is tied up in the pig pen. Which I thought was a bit of an incongruous touch. It’s an abandoned hut that has pigs? Or they brought pigs with them when they were fleeing for their very lives? In any case, Margrethe is chained up to the wall. Torvi puts her food down, and Magrethe demands to speak to her husband Ubbe. Torvi says she’ll ask him. Margrethe says no chains could bind her, not even chains made by dwarves and throws the food (which was being nibbled on by her porcine companions,) at Torvi. Torvi asks Ubbe what they’re going to do with her, and Ubbe makes a soft huffing sound, obviously unsure.

Sandi: In my research on the Ostmen of Norway, livestock was often kept in huts during cold weather. The huts were also often abutted to the main longhouse of the family, thus providing both protection for the animals as well as sharing their massed body heat with the humans.

In many parts of Europe during the medieval (and later!) eras, though, pigs were often left to wander during warmer months, feeding themselves on the bounty of the land before being recovered by their owners for the cold months. So a hut for pigs could be a thing, yes, and it might indeed be empty depending upon the time of year.

LissaRiders come up the lane and everyone is surprised to recognize Rollo as one of the men on horseback. 

Sandi: Duke Rollo, doing the rounds, yeah? As will become evident, he is trying to see how much influence he can wield and how this might serve him and his people in Normandy.

 Lissa: We cut to Wessex, where Alfred is seating himself on his throne.
Sandi: Though I am disposed to like Alfred-Gonna-Be-Great-One-Day, I have to say that his coming to the throne in the manner he did in the series irked me. (Okay, I can't really like Judith, here...) And Alfred—high-minded as he is—hasn't yet learned that delicate art of management, for all his tutoring.

 Lissa: Alfred tells the assembled group in the hall that he’s decided priests should give their sermons in English so the people can understand them. 

Sandi: Alfred made some rather sweeping innovations in his kingdom in terms of literacy and learning, so this works for me. He seemed to be very keen on making sure people could learn on their own and understand things. Which was not at all common, then. The clergy was rather territorial in this regard.

Lissa:  A priest retorts that Alfred commands the temporal; the church commands the spiritual. Alfred can no more command the church to make changes than Canute could command the tides. Alfred replies the gift of knowledge belongs to all men. 

Lissa: He says he’s also worried about Viking raids and his brother, Aethelred, will lead the forces opposing them. 

Sandi: I think the priest who was speaking was the man who—in exchange for his new office—supported Alfred's ascension as king over his brother Æthelred. Protesting against Alfred's suggestions indicates his gratitude for the new office (thanks, Judith!) has been short-lived.

 Lissa: Rollo asks to speak to Lagertha. He tells her he’s trying to save her life, but she’s still a bit miffed that he fought against them. Rollo tells her he’s always loved her and he knows Björn is his son. She tries to rebut it, but he says she can’t deny it to his face. 

Sandi: The possibility that Rollo and Lagertha are Björn's true parents has been hanging over the show for a few seasons, I think. Lagertha still denies this, but . . . something had to have happened between the two or telling Rollo that he was insane would have been easy. "We never had sex," for example, would have sufficed, yeah?

Clearly, that was not the case and that Björn's birth was timed so that Rollo has clearly carried this possibility with him for decades. 

Lissa: Björn walks over and asks what’s going on and Rollo tells him that he’s offered Lagertha safe passage to Frankia. Björn isn’t having any of it, but Rollo pleads with him and says he doesn’t want to have a life-long rivalry like he did with Ragnar. He tells Björn that he’s his father. Björn nods. He says he’s heard that. But what matters more: some old gossip, or the father he most closely resembles in features and in spirit. Björn says Rollo made his position clear when he sided with Ivar. 

Sandi: Personally? I think Rollo could be Björn's father. But Ragnar was his dad and the one Björn patterns himself after, the one whose dreams he seeks to honor.

Lissa: When talking it over with Ubbe, Björn gets so fired up, he says he’s going to kill Rollo. He’ll die a happy man. He grabs an ax and marches out, shoving Rollo to his knees. Rollo submits quietly and says if Björn wants to kill him, he should do it. Ubbe stops Björn as he raises his ax, and Björn says it’s not worth it.
Sandi: I was truly rather worried at that point that Björn would succeed in killing Rollo. This would have had dramatic fallout, but I am not sure how it would have affected whatever AltHistory thing Hirst is running behind the scenes, here.

Lissa: Björn spits on Rollo as he tries to apologize. Rollo stands and turns to leave. He tells Lagertha they will never meet again.

Sandi: See that face? To me, Lagertha seems sad at the prospect of never seeing Rollo again. I think much of this can be attributed to the wistfulness or melancholy associated with an aging person's recollection that the people they knew when they were all young are disappearing, slowly but surely, from the landscape. And for all that Katheryn Winnick is totally gorgeous and just forty years old in real life, Lagertha in the series was born in A.D. 765. The series began in 792 (S1E1, making her twenty-seven-ish when Björn was twelve) and he is about thirty-five now. So she would be about fifty. Not old by our standards, perhaps, but in the 9th Century? According to records in Viking Age Jorvik (York), "50 would be thought of as old".

Lissa: Rollo heads back to Kattegat. He tells Ivar, Harald, and Hvitserk that he knows where Lagertha is, but before he tells them, he wants to make a deal. Kattegat will pay a huge tribute in thousands of pounds of silver, furs, gems, and slaves to Frankia and they will swear on their torcs to come to his aid whenever he is attacked by enemies. Ivar chuckles a little at the amount and says Rollo is asking for a huge price. “Because I can,” Rollo replies. 

Sandi: What Rollo is asking for is exorbitant, considering what we know of him. He is being asked, in essence, to betray Lagertha. Now, betrayal and Rollo are traditionally uneasy bedfellows, as we've seen over the years. I have to think that he gives Lagertha & Co. a lot of credit and knows they'll relocated as soon as possible.

Thus, again, trying to play both sides, here. Rollo, Rollo . . .

Lissa: Ivar arrives at Lagertha’s hiding place and finds it abandoned. The firepit is cold. He screams in rage. 

Outside, Margrethe has been left chained to the wall. They take her with them. 

Back in Kattegat, Hvitserk scoops her up and carries her off. 

Ivar calls to him that Margrethe will kill him because she’s mad and possessed by an evil spirit, but Hvitserk shrugs it off. 

Sandi: He really does make poor choices. Now, Marge, here, is not anyone's idea of a heroine, but she is on a downward spiral and Hvitserk is apparently taking advantage of that. This is not pretty.

Unless he decides to get her better and provide a safe and loving place for her to spend her days.

Anyone? Anyone?

Yeah . . . I don't think so, either.

LissaIn Wessex, Judith is lecturing Alfred about how he needs to secure his rule.
Sandi: Yes, it was a parental job to look out for a suitable wife for a well born fellow. I know this. But still, Judith makes me cringe with her heavy-handed management.

Lissa: She says he needs to marry quickly and produce an heir. He asks if it can wait until after all the battles, but she insists it needs to be done as soon as possible. He asks how he’d go about picking a suitable bride and she tells him to let her worry about it. 

Sandi: Historically, Alfred met his wife Ealhswith of Mercia when he was campaigning with his brother. Alfred "met and wooed" the princess and their marriage sealed an alliance with Mercia. (

I am hoping that we get a bit of romance in this for Alfred's sake, even if Judith is back their, swanning about and trying to play diplomat/queen dowager.

Lissa: Lagertha is on the shore of a river with Heahmund. She asks him whether his status as a bishop will give her protection. He says he won’t lie; everything is different now that they’re in England, but he swears he would never betray her. He loves her. 

Sandi: Still shaking my head on this one. And here, Lagertha is acting more vulnerable than she might have done years before. Her world has been shaken, and she is less likely, it seems, to take on the world alone.

Lissa:  Ivar is having his legs worked on and he screams in pain as one of them is straightened. He threatens the servant. After he leaves, Ivar notices a blonde woman watching, and it’s that enchanting girl he freed from slavery in England. The one who told him he was special.

She weaves the same spell when he gestures her to come into the room and talk to him.
Sandi: The girl's whole dewy-eyed demeanor makes me suspicious, I have to say. Is she truly wanting to support Ivar the man or is she after a position or is she there to undermine him? Yeah, there's gotta be a plot somewhere. Still, it was SO cute when Ivar got to his feet and looked a bit nervous and a tad shy—for a breath—when she came into the room with him. Awww...

LissaHer name, she says, is Freydis. “Like Freya,” Ivar marvels.
Sandi: Now, since we know Ivar's words are never to be trusted (save his pledge to kill Lagertha, perhaps), it is hard to wonder how much of this is Ivar being Charming to Get His Own Way and how much it really is a man rather overwhelmed in this way for the first time in his life.

I wonder where this will go!

Lissa: Heahmund’s ship sails further up the river. He shouts in Saxon to the men on the shore that he’s Bishop Heahmund, friend of King Aethelwulf. The man shouts back that Aethelwulf is dead and Alfred is king now. 

We next see Heahmund riding up to a keep, followed by an iron-cage prison wagon, almost identical to the one Ragnar was transported in. As Lagertha, Torvi, Ubbe, and Björn climb out, the people scream at them. Heahmund looks straight ahead and doesn’t look back at them. 

Sandi: The episode closes with Heahmund looking detached on horseback as his notional prisoners leave the transportation cage of their captivity. Showtime.

 .¸¸•.¸¸.•´¯`• (¯`•ღ•´¯)•´¯`•.¸¸.•.¸¸.

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
StumbleUpon Share on Tumblr

No Score and Seven Years Ago...

October 28, 2011...

I don't remember what time it was, but it was late, probably the wee hours of the morning. I was trying to talk myself into doing something that made me very nervous.

I was going to post the first chapter of a story.


Late in the summer, I'd discovered fanfiction. It came as a shock to discover there were other people out there who rewrote books and movies to give them different endings or send the characters on new adventures. What's more, there was actually a huge community devoted to it... hundreds of thousands of stories.

I'd tentatively posted one a month or so earlier, and to my astonished delight, I had about twelve regular readers. Twelve! And they were reading it willingly! They were so nice about it!

I wasn't sure they'd be so nice about the one I was thinking of posting.

It was... weird. There's just no other way of describing a story that's about an alien with a tail and his kidnapped Earthling bride. Like viral you'll-be-memed-for-eternity kind of mockery. But I'd loved this story since it unfurled itself in my mind, and I wanted to share it. If the internet has taught me anything, it's that there's always someone out there who likes the same kind of stuff you do, even if that stuff is weird stories with heavy-handed allegory, pop-culture references, and geeky Magellan jokes.

I told myself there were hundreds of stories posted every day. It was likely no one would ever read it, but I was kind of charmed by the idea it would be floating around out there in the digital ether, perhaps finding and enchanting a reader someday.

But what if people were mean? I was a sensitive little thing back then. It was one of the reasons I'd never considered typing out one of my stories and submitting it to a publisher. I didn't think I could take cruel criticism or repeated rejections.

I told myself I was prepared. If people were cruel, I had an exit plan. Delete everything. Vanish into the void. No one would ever know. (I didn't even tell the people closest to me that I was writing, so I was pretty confident my real life and secret writing life would never intersect.) It would be like I never existed. I'd delete my account, and never return to any fanfiction site, thus avoiding any discussion or reviews.

I must have stared at the screen for an hour before I hit the "post chapter" button. I decided to back out of this whole stupid idea. But my finger hovered over the red X the same way it had the "post" button. I just couldn't click it.

A story isn't alive until it's read, after all. And I wanted so badly to let this one out into the world, albeit as anonymously as I could to shield my sensitive little self, but still... to let it exist in other people's imaginations.

It was like standing on the edge of a pool, knowing that first plunge will be an icy shock and trying to steel yourself to do it, because maybe it won't be so bad once you're in the water.

I finally reached up and punched the "post" button before I could talk myself out of it again. I switched off of the office light and went to bed, telling myself it wouldn't be a big deal and I was worrying myself for nothing.

It actually did become kind of a big deal. It's the reason my publisher contacted me to see if I'd want to write a book. But that's another post for another day.

Today, I find myself in the midst of indecision again. My publisher has closed and while I have other stories to tell, I don't know what to do with them. I'd rather be with a publishing house, but I don't want to have to go through the submissions process/rejection, so self-publishing is probably my best option, but it's a lot of work. So, I'm hovering with my finger over the button, still trying to talk myself into making a decision. (Which, frankly, is a trait which argues against self-publishing being a good option for me, but that's also another post for another day.)

StumbleUpon Share on Tumblr

The #ShieldGeeks Review #VIKINGS "Moments of Vision"

“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.)

  .¸¸•.¸¸.•´¯`• (¯`•ღ•´¯)•´¯`•.¸¸.•.¸¸.

Lissa: This was a beautiful, complex episode, easily the best of the season. As I was watching, I was wondering how in the world I would describe it in our chat because the structure of it makes a narrative description so difficult. It was a visual feast, and words are poor substitutes at times.

Sandi: Oh, yes. A wonderful episode. One of those you want to watch immediately after just to get the nuances. I know I will probably be enjoying it more than once in the break before Season Five, Part Tveir. History Channel could have done all the emotional stuff before the battle and then gone on to the horrors of war—but they've been there, done that (very well), and took it a step further. The bloodshed was more poignant when contrasted with the moments spent before in the immediate way in which they were presented. 

Lissa: This episode was about a huge battle between Lagertha’s forces and the combined forces of Ivar, Harald, and the men Rollo sent to assist his nephews. But amid the chaotic and terrible scenes of battle were beautiful and touching scenes that happened before its start. The only way I can describe it without driving our readers mad is to discuss what happened to each set of characters. Because this really was about relationships, in the end.

Sandi: And that is really a profound truth to this and any other part of history, really. There are huge issues in the world but they are determined largely due to relationships people have with one another, as individuals or as groups. And this episode shows how touching and devastating that can be. 

Lissa: The episode had a “cold open” dropping right into the action before the credits and Halfdan and Harald are singing the same war ballad on the opposing sides of the field. Their haunting voices wove through a montage of pre-battle scenes. It ended with a raven looking out over the ground where the battle will play out.

Sandi: Loved the opening. I am a huge fan of dropping a viewer/reader in where the action is happening. The brothers' war song has been part of their presence since we met them, seasons ago. It has always been haunting, the notes alone telling of the strength and pathos of battle, and this was never more evocative than it was in this episode. And the raven? Oh yeah. First episode, season one, Ragnar. I will always think of him when I see a raven and I did in this episode as well. 

Lissa: Lagertha meets with Heahmund. She tells him this may be the last time they meet, for if they die, he’ll go off to his Christian heaven and she will go to Valhalla. She thinks this may be the day she dies. He tells her he doesn’t intend to die today, and she is amused that he still believes he gets to choose whether he lives or dies. She asks him to kiss her and after he does, she says, “Now I can die.”
Sandi: This moment still puzzles me. I don't doubt that Lagertha and Heahmund shared "a moment" (or however many). I don't doubt that a woman who has been greatly loved and then lost the love of her life can find passion and satisfaction in a new relationship. But if she were going to say this to anyone, I would have thought it would have been Joan Jett, not Bishop Heahmund. As quickly as they drew together, we the viewers were not privy to the varied nuances of a relationship that might seem to lead to a "and now I can die" kind of statement. Unless, of course, it was merely just something she said to him, since she couldn't say it to another. 

Lissa: We see her say this line in several different tones throughout the episode. “Now I can die.” This one sounds wistful and almost fatalistic, but when she utters it on the battlefield, it sounds fierce and powerful.

Sandi: Which, really, is much more like her. Fierce and powerful have always been adjectives which applied to Lagertha and it was good to see them so evident in battle. Lagertha is, first and last, a shield maiden. 

Lissa: Hvitserk talks with Ivar in camp.

Sandi: Ivar is . . . a cunning fellow. A manipulative man, first, last, and always.  

Lissa: Ivar asks him if he has any regrets, and Hvitserk says he regrets he hasn’t had any children, but in that regard, he and Ivar are the same. Ivar says he will have many children, so many children that they will populate the earth. There’s a dude with ambition. He was Duggar-ing before Duggar-ing was cool.

Sandi: And yet, for all his braggadocio, Ivar left no known descendants. Here, I truly believe, he was either boasting of his non-existent sex life to his more, er, able brother or he was doing his usual one-upmanship thing. He has never viewed Hvitserk as an equal. 

Lissa: Hvitserk laughs at that, and he thinks Ivar is laughing along with him until Ivar grabs him and puts a knife to his throat. He says Hvisterk has doubted that he’d made the right choice to get off Ubbe’s ship and join Ivar. He doubts Hvitserk ever loved him. Hvitserk tries to plead, and Ivar relents, saying he’s sorry, he’s nervous about the battle. Harald interrupts and says the drums have sounded for battle.
Sandi: Why Ivar decided that just before battle was the time to disconcert his brother is beyond me. Unless, of course, he did so with the wish to have his brother fall. Which wouldn't surprise me. Hvitserk is a son of Ragnar and, though he might be a "dog" to Ivar, he is also an older brother and that matters. 

Lissa: In the battle, he is injured, and we see him think back to the moment he climbed off Ubbe’s ship. Ubbe spots him in the midst of the fighting and he makes his way over. He lifts his sword and swings it at Hvitserk with a scream, but stops the blade at his brother’s throat. He can’t do it. He can’t kill him. Hvitserk looks almost disappointed when Ubbe strides away.

Sandi:  You mentioned, last night, that Ubbe didn't give Hvitserk the honor of a fight, here. This could be construed that way, yes. But I think that, for Ubbe, he can't kill his brother and though Hvitserk may have, at that juncture, welcomed the opportunity for battle, he is left standing as if he weren't worthy of one. Which was not, I don't think, Ubbe's intention. 

Ivar, I think Ubbe might have been able to kill. Maybe. 

Lissa: Torvi runs across the battlefield screaming when she sees her son Guthrum take an ax to the chest at Hvitserk’s hands, but it’s too late. He falls and Hvitserk reaches out to almost touch a weeping Torvi’s cheek.

Sandi: This was so, so sad, I think. Guthrum, Torvi's firstborn, dying right in front of her. I thought it was him or his memory (?) that reached out to touch his mother. I told you, I really have to watch this episode a few times! 

Lissa: I thought she would die at that moment, too, but the battle resumes, and Hvitserk turns to strike down another enemy. Björn runs over and crouches over his dead stepson. He tells the boy that now he’ll be dining with his Valhalla.

Sandi: One kind of wishes Ubbe had been able to summon the intestinal fortitude to at least wound his brother in order to prevent this death. If, indeed, it was preventable. Björn's dash to say his farewell was good to see, simply because he was there to do it. Which may be weird, but at this point, his firstborn died when he was gone, and his other children were in the questionable care of a woman no one likes. Probably not even her husband. 

Lissa: Joan Jett is painted bright blue on the sides of her cheeks for battle, but her expression is far bluer.

Sandi: And this is the part where I'm thinking, Okay, so, here is where we find out why there was a Joan Jett character. Even in the still image above, we can see the emptiness of her expression. She is clearly distancing herself from her caring spouse here and the viewer just knows something bad is going to happen. 

Lissa: Harald asks her to share her sorrows with him, but she says she can’t. Harald points to his hair, and tells her to cut it. She’s surprised, because he said he would only cut it – “Cut it if I married the woman of my dreams,” he interrupts. “And I have.

She cuts the long braid and holds it to her lips.

Sandi: Clearly, Harald is doing everything in his power, just before the battle, to ease the heart of his wife. Reminding her of how important she is to him, kneeling before her, asking her to cut his braid—all these things bespeak his wish to please. That she is so emotionally unresponsive (for all her braid-kissing) is kind of wrenching. At least, it is for me. Peter Franzén is a wonderful actor. 

Lissa: Halfdan talks with Björn. He tells him he has a connection with his brother, but he owes Björn greater loyalty. Björn took him on an incredible adventure. He gave his life meaning – showed him that life was more than fighting for worthless glory against his own Viking brothers - and Halfdan will always be grateful for that. If he dies today, he’s fine with that. He says he’s ready for Valhalla.

Sandi: Halfdan certainly emerged fully from his brother's shadow over this season. That he found so much meaning in his relationship with Björn—bromantic as it all was—was a bit of a surprise perhaps, but there is no doubting the man's sincerity.

Lissa: Later, Halfdan is on the battlefield when suddenly, everything goes quiet. He sees the churning field around him empty, and then it turns into the deserts of Africa. He bends down and picks up a handful of sand, which sifts through his fingers and becomes the soil of Kattegat again.

Sandi: This bit of the Other Side as seen in Halfdan's psyche was intriguing. He envisions the desert—not because it is arid and empty, but because it was where he grew strong, I think, in himself.  

Lissa: He turns and sees Harald standing there. Harald says he didn’t want to have to kill him, and then brings his sword down on Haldfan, hacking him where the shoulder meets the neck. As Halfdan falls, Harald tenderly cradles him and says he’ll meet him in Valhalla.
Sandi: Harald did what Ubbe couldn't, here. He met his brother who had chosen the opposition and cut him down. Looking him in the eye, with a clean stroke. .It was brutal, but honest, and both brothers understood that it would have happened. Harald loves his brother; you can see that. But he loves more than his brother. This relationship, though important, did not cause him to veer from his greater cause. His greater vision, perhaps, with a bow to the episode's title. 

Lissa: Princess Snuffles has a tender moment with Björn, snuggled up against his chest.

Sandi: Looking at the picture in this post, they could have been at Woodstock in 1969, listening to a ballad or something. But no, this couple is preparing to separate, with the keen understanding that life can be brutal and abrupt, so they are taking what they can and giving what they can to each other in silence, here. 

So much of their relationship—such as it was—was without deep conversation before the audience at home. We lack a connection with the pair of them, though Björn will likely always have a home in our Viking fandom-heart. 

Lissa: After they’ve dressed for battle and she’s adorned her face with streaks of black paint so she can blend in with the trees, he nestles his nose against her neck.
Sandi: The sense of smell is the sense most closely tied to memory, I have read. In this way, he draws her in, to keep her near. 

Lissa: She goes with her father into the forest where they blend in with the trees, waiting for a band of Vikings on the crest of the hill. When they start down, to the sound of war drums, the Sami hit them with a round of darts. But the men swarm down and overwhelm them. Snuffles’ dad falls first, and then she is slain. When Björn finds her body after the battle, he weeps over her, stroking her face.
Sandi: The cinematography, here, was more moving for me than the deaths were, alas. I enjoyed the angles and lighting. It was sad, yes, that Björn lost another loved one, but as you said in your tweet, Lissa, we hardly knew Princess Snuffles ourselves. 

Lissa: Margrethe walks into the creek that borders Kattegat. Around her, she sees the bodies of those on the battlefield floating. She turns the bodies over and recognizes faces. She lifts one from the water and walks out with it in her arms. It turns into a log as she strides from the water toward Torvi’s children.

She lays the wood at their feet and tells them that “This one is dead. Soon they’ll all be dead. All of them fighting.”

Sandi: Margrethe's visions are disconcerting. She is obsessed and it shows in her mental wanderings. Her focus on Torvi's children, on their losing their mother to death, on all kinds of negativity makes one uneasy and I had to wonder if anyone could see that, in Kattegat. Did no one keep an eye on the kids? 

Well, Margrethe wanted answers, so she went to find them. No holds barred.

Lissa: She goes in to visit the Seer. He is sitting askew in a pile of robes, and his voice is very faint.
Sandi: At this point, we estimate twenty-five years or so have come and gone since we met the Seer in the first place. He was pretty old then, for a Norseman. By the time Margrethe consults him? He's gotta be ancient. Still, he must command respect. At least from some. 

Lissa: She asks him if he knows her, and he says, “Yes, Margrethe, slave woman.”

Sandi: Oh, yeah. The murmurings on twitter last night were all mentioning this. Insulting, as Dee Donuts says below. Dismissive. Belittling. We all liked it because no one likes her. Does anyone in the fandom? 

Lissa: She asks him if Ubbe will be king of Kattegat and if she will be queen and both times he says a curt ”No.”
Sandi: If there was anyone, anywhere who didn't comprehend that Margrethe was only in it for the status? I'm guessing they are no longer deceived. 

Lissa: She tells him she has Torvi’s children in her custody and if she kills them, Ubbe will be closer to the crown. He tells her she’s insane, and she’s dismissive.

Sandi: The callousness of her suggestion regarding killing the children was appalling. It's like she has a checklist and she's going to ask all her questions, tick off all her boxes, whether they be lives or positions or even rationality. 

Lissa: She asks him again about Ubbe being a king, and he says, “Because you asked if he’d be king of Kattegat.” She doesn’t pursue this interesting line of questioning, and that’s regrettable because it opens a lot of possibilities. Ubbe will be a king, but not king of Kattegat, and she will not be the queen (she didn’t specify a location when she asked about being a queen.)

Sandi: I haven't seen anything in history indicating that Ubbe Ragnarsson was a king, though he is noted as a battle leader in the Great Army. (Guthrum, in history, was apparently alive and campaigning with Ubbe in the middle of the 9th Century in Wessex.)

Lissa: Later, we see Torvi arrive home and she sees Margrethe standing in the doorway, her hair tangled down around her arms. “Where are my children?” Torvi asks. Margrethe gives her a slow, chilling grin. Torvi repeats the question and then draws her sword. Margrethe retreats into her bedroom and Torvi follows, her blade extended, but as soon as she enters the room, she sees the little ones sitting by the wall and grabs them into hugs.

Sandi: Oh, I was SO relieved to see that the children were alive and well. I mean, they probably have Our Babysitter was a Troll! stories to tell Torvi and Björn in the future, but hey, at least they can tell them. The suspense created by careful scene framing and the movement into the rooms in question was well handled by the director and film crew. 

Lissa: Lagertha is fighting on the battlefield. At one point, we see something I’ve never seen before in film or television and is best described in the following Tweet.
Sandi: This is a clear example of using what is at hand to accomplish a task, yeah? 

Lissa: Uh huh. That happened. I’m just going to quietly back away from that one.

Sandi: I think everyone will join you. 

Lissa: Anyhoo, the moment changes when she sees a vision of herself as a young girl. Little Lagertha runs across the battlefield to a man plowing a field. She cries to her father that she’s frightened. He crouches down and smiles at her and hands her his own necklace, a Thor’s hammer. He tells her to never be afraid because Thor will always protect her. We saw her kiss this same necklace in the opening scene with Heahmund.

Sandi: This scene was charming, for all its brevity. Seeing Little Lags, there, in such a comforting moment was healing in the midst of an episode rife with bloodshed. The gift of an amulet of Mjøllnir was precious and that Lagertha still has it speaks of its importance to her, at a time that she deems pivotal. 

Lissa: Joan Jett appears. “You have to kill me!” she cries. Lagertha asks her why, and Joan Jett first says unless Lagertha kills her, that she and Harald will kill Lagertha. Lagertha assures her that she knows Joan Jett didn’t betray her, that Joan Jett loves her. Joan Jett cries that she cannot bear this child. “Child?” Lagertha whispers; she didn’t know of Joan Jett’s pregnancy.

Sandi: Was this Joan Jett's plan all along? To confront Lagertha, if she couldn't fight at her side, to get her former lover to kill her? To bring up a child to Lagertha, of all people, was either thoughtless (an entire possibility, given the time and circumstances) or calculated for effect. As I don't personally deem Joan Jett to be the most effective strategist, I just have to figure she didn't consider what effect her words might have. 

Lissa: The battle is raging on around them, but it’s as though they’re the only two people there. The view shifts briefly to show that around them, people are dying in hideous fashion, but returns right back to them. “You have to kill me!” Joan Jett cries and rushes toward Lagertha’s extended blade.

Sandi: This was a beautiful moment, though it was fatal and devastating to the characters.  

Lissa: Impaled upon it, Joan Jett falls, and Lagertha cradles her on the ground as she bleeds out and dies. “May Freya lift you up and take you gently to her hall.”

Sandi: Lagertha was shocked, but she went with Joan Jett's wishes. I wonder if she would  have responded differently if approached in a non-battle setting? 

Lissa: We had a brief discussion about this last night. Brief because so much was happening in the episode that it was hard to keep up. You suggested it might be because Joan Jett didn’t want to bear a child that might be the result of gang rape instead of Harald’s.
Sandi: I still tend to side with the "gang rape" angle for her, here. Though she could have found a way to end the pregnancy without ending her life (possibly) such procedures/treatments would have whispered their ways back to Harald, to deleterious effect. Dying in battle, or at the scene of one, anyway, carries more honor and disguises her wish to end the pregnancy. 

She was not stupid, for all her lack of wisdom. Marrying a man and then having apparently enthusiastic sex with him, without any method of birth control available (one presumes), she had to know pregnancy was a possibility when she made her marriage oath. So if she had not been assaulted, the pregnancy might not have been the traumatic thing it was, to her. Such a horrible attack could well have made her wish for death, which led to her seeking it from Lagertha's hand on a field of war. 

Lissa: And then a quiet moment comes. We see Floki’s True Believers building a boat grave for Eyvind’s son. He tells him gently that this new world cannot repeat the cycle of vengeance and violence that rent their homeland asunder. Floki tells him he knows Eyvind’s pain. He, too, has lost a child – his only child. And then shortly thereafter Helga died, and it destroyed his world. But this is not the way. They must be better people. He offers Eyvind the position of lovsigeman, or “law-giver.” He tells Eyvind that it will give him the power and status he’s been craving.
Sandi: Yeah. Consolation prize behind burnt temple number one. Or something. Not well-considered, from where I sit, but I do believe, sincerely, that Floki was seeking to bring peace from violence. 

Lissa: But peace is not achieved so easily. Aud runs to fetch Floki and show him something. It turns out to be the body of Thorgrim, drowned in one of the hot springs.
Sandi: I have to wonder where they're going with the Iceland story, here. Their numbers, small to begin with, have dwindled significantly. And, of course, no farms. But, back to relationships... 

Lissa: Floki has to tell Ketjil that his son is dead. In front of Thor’s burnt temple, Floki tells the people that they’ve failed. They acted like humans when the gods had given them a chance to rise above. Something drastic has to be done to atone for this and perhaps persuade the gods to give them another chance. A sacrifice must be made. Floki offers himself to be that sacrifice as everyone gasps.

Sandi: And I get it. Floki is devout. He sees his life and current mission as blatant offerings to his gods. So when a life is required, his should be the one offered. Even if he is the notional leader, the inspiration. Even if there might be a more concrete/practical solution.

Lissa: Do you remember in the early seasons when Floki tried to offer himself as a sacrifice? One was called for and when no one immediately volunteered, Floki looked around and then made to stand up, but Helga put her hand gently on his chest and shook her head.

Sandi: He's consistent, and one must give him credit for being that way. Even if some of his methods are at odds with practicality. 

Lissa: We return to the battlefield. Ivar gives an awesome speech in Norse to his troops. “We will not die as old men in our beds! We are bound for Valhalla!”

He speaks of how victory is much sweeter when it’s difficult to attain, slapping the shields of his men who roar with approval.

As they prepare to charge, Ivar spots Heahmund fighting for Lagertha. For a moment, I genuinely felt sorry for him, but as always with Ivar, pain became rage.

Sandi: Their nonverbal communication has always been eloquent. Even here.

Lissa: Ivar also sees Lagertha, but through his eyes, she’s fighting skeletons – fighting men who are already dead, as I interpreted it. She turns and looks at Ivar, then points her sword at him. He sends in the troops, along with Rollo’s army.

Spotting this huge horde, Heahmund shouts for their army to retreat. Lagertha stops fighting and runs with them.

Sandi: "He who fights and runs away . . . lives to fight another day." I can't remember where, but I read that once upon a time. Retreat to homes and families might not grant immediate entrance into Valhalla, but it does bring strength and comfort.

And frustration lacing the victory with those left on the field.

Lissa: Behind the lines, Ivar lounges against the hill. “Come on, Lagertha,” he murmurs. “Come fight with me.”

Sandi: And here is the thing with this half of the season. Ivar's driving desire has been to avenge the death of Aslaug by slaying Lagertha. Personally, one presumes. And here, at the midseason finale, she evades his sword. 

All that drive and determination . . . is left to simmer in the angry heart of a young man while we wait for the second half of the season later this year. 

Lissa: Back in the Kattegat hall Björn is telling people to pack up to leave. Ivar will be here soon to celebrate his victory. The camera pans over and we see Lagertha, sitting against the wall. Her hair has turned white, and her face is haggard and blank. She is a broken, defeated woman.

Sandi: Truly, if Björn hadn't said what he did about Ivar's presumed victory celebration, we might have concluded that one of the famous/infamous time-jumps had occurred between one scene and the next. Lagertha is defeated, as you said, with a thousand-yard stare that sees only yesterday.

Lissa: We talked a bit about what did it… what was the final straw that broke Lagertha’s indomitable spirit. Joan Jett’s death? The loss of Kattegat?
Sandi: I think it was the loss of everything more than "only" the loss of Joan Jett. That death might have been the one to make her retreat, but it wasn't the only loss suffered. She has had a lifetime of loss, really. Or perhaps she felt that Joan Jett's demand for death at her hands was, after all, a betrayal. By a woman she had loved and considered a friend, if nothing else. And Lagertha had, as she stated often, been betrayed many times.

The "straw that breaks the camel's back" is a figure of speech, but it's an accurate description for many who develop that stare into yesterday. 

Boats row toward Kattegat and sitting in one of them is Rollo, Duke of Normandy. His features are downcast and he looks sad and defeated himself.

Sandi: Well, he's been away from us for quite some time, but the Duke of Normandy has had his own trials and burdens as he's carved a niche out for himself. Normandy is, remember, a way to say Land of the Northmen. Vikings' Land. Has he worn that appellation with pride or derision? Has he had to prove himself over and again to family and the court of the Franks? 

All of this is likely, yet he came after the battle. Was he sent for or did he come of his own volition? 
So many questions! I am very much looking forward to the second half of this season. 

And as soon as I know when that is, I'll make sure to tweet about it. :) 

.¸¸•.¸¸.•´¯`• (¯`•ღ•´¯)•´¯`•.¸¸.•.¸¸.

Thanks for joining us! Tune in next season for our continuing series!

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
StumbleUpon Share on Tumblr
Share on Tumblr