Two Historical Fiction Authors Review #VIKINGS Episode I

Welcome back to our review series on the History Channel show Vikings. Last year, we really enjoyed discussing the historical aspects of the show, and we're looking forward to this season, as well.

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 first book in the series, Éire's Captive Moon, here.)

Lissa: Poor hubs didn't like this episode. Too much family drama. Not enough a-viking.

Sandi: It started with a bloody battle, though. Surely TL enjoyed that?

Lissa: As we thought, Rollo didn't quite have it in him to slay his brother once he was looking into his (magnificent, compelling, dreamy blue) eyes. His love and loyalty ended up being more powerful than his jealousy after all.

SandiRagnar's eyes do show off well surrounded by blood-spatter... Oh, well, yes, and they're gorgeous. Seeing Rollo on his knees did catch me off-guard, though. I think Rollo's ambition - though strong - cannot entirely overshadow the love and respect he has always borne his brother.
Broken by his own heart

Lissa: I thought the show departed a little from last year in the battle scene. Rather "300" for a show that had been gritty and realistic. Lifting a guy on a spear? Toying with an opponent instead of dispatching him quickly to move onto the next? Or was Rollo sort of trying to get killed because his heart wasn't in it after all?

Sandi: I think Rollo's fighting style in that battle stemmed from not wanting, truly, to kill his opponent. Some of Ragnar's men are the men Rollo grew up with, with whom he practiced fighting when they were young and working with dull-edged blades, when they were all telling dirty jokes by the steam house. That kind of bond matters.

These were men who were, in essence, fighting their own. Unlike the raids when they go against men who aren't of their people, these are countryman.

Deliciously mad
Lissa: FLOKI LIVES! His Eeyore-style advice of "Always expect the worst, and that way you're never surprised," gave me a bit of a chuckle. That delightful glee in his eyes when Ragnar mentioned the ships they would need is a fine example of the actor's skill.

SandiYou know, I wasn't fond of the Floki character at the inception of the show last year, but he has grown on me. He's a good, true friend, a gifted artisan, and he's got deep wisdom that might often be mistaken for "a delicious madness" was it that you said? His fighting in the battle was not his best; he left himself vulnerable over and over, which surprised me. But then, he didn't want to really kill, either.

The actor is terrific. And he signed the comic book MrsCherryBomb got for me. ;-)

Lissa: And so the Lawgiver decides to spare Rollo, though perhaps being ostracized and ashamed is a worse punishment than death for rebelling against his brother. One of the things I've always liked about this show is that it takes pains to show that the Vikings were a society of laws, not the gluttonous melee sometimes portrayed in fiction. Though some of the people wanted to disobey and kill Rollo anyway, Ragnar remained firm: they would respect the judgement of the law, even if they disagreed with it.

SandiThe men of the North were an orderly folk, at home. They had a stable society, workable laws, families that strove to work together for their good and the good of their relatives. The lovesigemann was respected even if he was not universally, in this episode, a man that they all agreed with. One has to figure he's made tough calls in the past and been proved right. As I believe he was, here.

Ragnar, I don't think, would have wanted to have to execute his brother if the sentence had been thus pronounced. It would have sliced him deep.

Lissa: I was touched when Siggy wrapped Rollo in her cloak.

SandiI confess, I wasn't, so much.

Lissa: My cynical side had insisted she was just using him to try to re-gain power after the way she egged him on last year, but when he was stripped of everything, at his lowest point, she warmed him with her cloak and tried to comfort him. I thought it was best that he leave, but she convinced me, too, that he could regain his honor.

I love how he hides behind the post here
SandiShe has a point, and I hope it proves true. Plus, we need him in the story - he's a great character study. (I know, I know...unromantic romance writer, here...)
I want to be suspicious of Siggy, but at this point in the story, I am less so than I have been, before.

Lissa: Earl Ragnar apparently naps outside in the falling snow. Bjørn comes to wake him to tell him Princess Aslaug and her babybump have arrived.

SandiI enjoyed seeing how Bjørn is growing. You can see the changes in the actor's face. The character is a man, legally, in their society and he does his best to act like it as much as he can.

Lissa: I gotta give some props to Aslaug. She didn't rub it in Lagertha's face. She tried to be polite and build a rapport with both Lagertha and Bjørn, and was soundly rejected by both. Understandably, so. But she did try to be as kind as she could about it. (Where did she get those green leaves to surround her feast dishes in winter?)

You tell her, son
SandiI did appreciate her efforts. But either she is stupid regarding people or she is self-absorbed enough not to think about how her outreach would be received.

And the leaves, like the hothouse flowers at a winter wedding in Season One, just made me shake my head a little.

Lissa: Aslaug tells a little about her life story... I hope they'll give more details as the show progresses. She talked about Brunhilda's death when she was young, but not the method of it. (shudder) Nor did she mention how she was raised. (Harry Potter's cupboard under the stairs has got NOTHIN' on Aslaug's story!) I have to admit ... and this is awful ... Every time I hear Brunhilda's name, I think of the time Bugs Bunny sang the Wagner opera.

Oh, but he did
Ragnar then makes the most oafish, clumsy proposal of polyamory possible.

SandiI know! I was just staring at him, thinking, No, he's not THAT stupid, is he?

Yes, yes he was, apparently. And this AFTER vowing to his beloved wife that he'd never touch Aslauga again, etc.

And this really ouched me. I mean, Ragnar and Lagertha were the Viking Power Couple, totally into each other, happy home, etc. And then he gets all ambitious (which I get, I really do) and his homelife falls apart. Daughter dies, wife loses the unborn offspring, etc.

So he's sired a child with The Legendary Princess, and then tries to get his wife to just submit to that? I'm The Man, Deal With My Need for Progeny.

Lissa: I'm amazed Lagertha didn't stand up and use her chair to brain her dolt of a husband right then and there. She may be the daughter of farmers, but Lagertha has an innate nobility and dignity. She packed up her trunk and her axe and out the door she went. The scene in which she says goodbye to
her son was beautifully acted. I understood - and somewhat approved - of Bjørn's decision to stay with his father. After all, he's the heir to a jarl, and is at the stage in life in which he needs to learn to be a man of his world, but I gave a big smile when he came running down the path.

SandiA Viking wife could divorce her husband merely by saying, in front of witnesses, that he had failed in his duty to her. Everyone knew what Ragnar had done, so her people, her community, would have understood her leaving and not condemned her in any way. I was gutted when Bjørn first decided (doing the manly man thing) to stay with his father, after all that Lagertha had thought and done for her son's benefit. When he chose instead to go with his mother, I saw the blending of the young boy that he still was in parts of his heart with the fierce need to be able to protect her and to stand strong by her when she had been wronged. That was a great scene.

Lissa: Ragnar has to live with the consequences of his choices. He's lost everything in his life he loved. He touched Aslaug's belly when he came into the house, as if acknowledging what this terrible price had purchased, but will it be worth it?

SandiGood eye, Lissa. But then, you're awesome. Will it be? You've read the Saga, yeah?

Lissa: Sets and costumes: I loved seeing the goat hide being prepared for tanning, and the weaving scene in the jarl's house. I mentioned the anachronistic machine-planed boards of the dock. Yeah, it probably would have been difficult for the crew to get hand-planed boards for it, but for a minute, it looked like they were filming at the local marina. I love the braids in Lagertha's hair. The textiles were just lovely, especially Bjørn's cloak and the one Lagertha wore when she was leaving.

SandiI loved the tanning hides, too. When I saw them being dipped, I actually said "Lissa, did you see that?" But I said it out loud and no one heard me. lol Not even myself, since I was wearing video-game-quality headphones. (My guys...)

I think the machine-planed boards were a nod to expediency and certainly easier on my eye than the modern boot soles that so freaked me out last season. lol

Love the hair in this show. Love the clothing. The attention to detail in the weaponry, even if it's just seen as adornment. And the weaving impressed me, too. Warp-weighted looms were common in this era. (I have a picture on my Pinterest boards: )

Overall, I was highly excited. I know your TL wasn't thrilled about the family drama, but I think it was all necessary to set the scene for the next episode when, I understand, they're jumping forward about four years. The actor who will play Bjørn is the same young man that played Cato in Hunger Games. (Yes, IMDb is my friend...)

Looking forward to next week. Let's raid England!

My Vikings are raiding Éire. ;-)


  1. Excellent review of the program. I look forward to your next post!

  2. I love your reviews! A couple of comments: did you miss the fact that the lawgiver had in his hand the gold coin (a fortune) that Ragnar had shown earlier to Bjorn? I surmise from that, that the decision for Rollo to remain was exactly the one that Ragnar wanted him to make. What a guy! And regarding the fabulous textiles, I wonder if the design crew is able to do more this time because, with the success of Season 1, they have more cash to work with. On to England!

    1. No! Wow, I didn't notice that. I'll have to tell Sandi and watch the episode again to see if I catch that.


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