Two Historical Fiction Authors Review #VIKINGS Episode IV

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Welcome back to our review series on the History Channel show Vikings. 

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 Moonhere.)

Lissa: Crazy episode, huh?

Sandi: For real! Ragnar and Rollo were playing a deep game.

From queensmilitant on Tumblr
Lissa: First and foremost, it was great to see Siggy come clean about her motives. She wants her former position back and asks the Seer if the gods will ever smile on her again. He tells her the gods always favor brave women. Siggy is not a warrior, but she will fight in her own fashion to get what she wants.

Sandi: Siggy's time with the Seer at the outset was revelatory and totally in character. At this point in the season, it's good for the audience to be in on her motivation.

Lissa: It turns out you were right about what a poor decision it was to burn the grain stores. Kattegat is suffering hunger, and Ragnar has to apologize for his poor hospitality when King Horik comes for a feast.

Sandi: Winters were hard in the north. Infant mortality was up to 30%, and much of that was due to a paucity of food. And Horik...! Well, yeah. He intimates that Athelstan is gone, and Ragnar's quickly hidden reaction was great. Another tribute to the actor's craft.
From sikanapanele on Tumblr

Lissa: King Horik recounts what happened in England after Ragnar left and Ragnar asks about Athelstan.
Floki announces his delight that Athelstan is gone. He says he never believed Athelstan was loyal to their gods. Horik wants to re-unite with Jarl Borg because they need his ships and men if they're going to go a-viking and raid England again. Aslaug is opposed to the idea. They decide to send Rollo to talk to Jarl Borg because he "knows him best." Considering Rollo punched him last time they chatted, I'm not so sure this is a great idea.

Sandi: Floki's stance was very clear to me. He was honest about his perceptions and he remains a loyal friend to Ragnar - even if he cannot abide Ragnar's Christian friend. The actor is fantastic. Horik's position is, to my mind, ridiculous. The Northmen had a saying about revenge: A wise man takes his time to plan his revenge and a fool never takes it at all. So if Ragnar had never taken revenge for the serious wrong done to his people—not just himself, but all those beholden to him—he would have been deemed a weakling and a fool. He couldn't let Jarl Borg's invasion just slip into the mist. Now, we don't get a lot of Ragnar/Rollo discussion about a revenge plot in here, but clearly, it happened. I just wondered if it was before Rollo's visit to Jarl Borg or after! 

Lissa: Horik goes to talk to Siggy, and brings along his son because he says he wants the boy to learn the game of politics.... and something a little more. He also wants Siggy to teach the boy about the delights of the flesh while Horik watches. There's no doubt in my mind this is all about his dominance over her and later Horik confirms this when Siggy says she's no whore, but Horik tells Siggy she's his whore. Floki witnesses the exchange and Siggy goes over to ask him, "Can you keep a secret?"

From marystewat on Tumblr
Sandi: That made me snort. Perfect, and it clearly disconcerted Siggy who likely needed a sympathetic ear. Women do like to talk out their problems.

Now, the Siggy/Princeling Sex? As soon as I saw that Horik had his son with him, I was thinking, "He wants Siggy to 'make him a man.'" But watching? Ew? That put a whole new and dirty level on it, in my opinion. Ick.

From leslieknope-s on Tumblr

Lissa: Meanwhile, Lagertha has returned to that drunken lout of a husband. He says, with heavy sarcasm, how delighted he is to have his wife back, but is very unhappy she's left his stepson with Ragnar. He tells her she'll be sleeping alone that night, and sends in four of his men to her room to beat her unconscious. Lagertha fights like the shield maiden she is, but even she cannot fight off four warriors.

Sandi: Oh, I was so thinking of you, Lissa! Lagertha was fantastic. It was clear she knew that something would happen, because she was tense in her solitary bed. (As a side note: What is up with the elaborate headboard? Did it say Game of Thrones to anyone else?) 

Lissa: Ha! I noted the modern-style headboard, too. Looked like something you would find in one of those rustic home decoration catalogs for twelve thousand dollars, and think, "I could make that with some twine and kindling from my wood pile."

But now that you mention it... There have been people on Tumblr noting some set pieces re-used from Game of Thrones.
From jongritte on Tumblr

Sandi: It was so hard to watch her just give up at a certain point in the fight. It was wise that she did, of course, but hard to see.

Lissa: It seems Björn has fallen in love! A slave girl named Porunn has caught his eye. As you mentioned, there's a bizarre little anachronism when Björn asks her if she has a "boyfriend."

Sandi: The term "boyfriend" took me out of the moment. He could have asked if she were spoken for or if she belonged to another man. As a slave, it was highly likely her body was held to account somewhere.

Lissa: Yes, as a slave, she more likely belonged to another man who had claimed her, not involved in a romantic liaison of her own choosing.
From jongritte on Tumblr

Ragnar and Aslaug watch this exchange. She starts questioning him about trusting Jarl Borg again after everything he put her through. She had to sleep in a dirty house! OMG! Okay, I'm being sarcastic, but she has a point. There is some serious bad blood there.

Sandi: Oh, pile on the sarcasm. I was rolling my eyes. A lot. "Daddy would have done it so much better!" Gak. There is bad blood, but Aslaug isn't trusting her husband in this instance, in the purview that was rightfully his in the Northern view of marital responsibilities. She has dominion on all home and family matters; he has the authority on the military and farming matters.

Lissa: I think Aslaug yearns for him to respect her mind, too, not just her domestic capabilities. She knows of his deep love and respect for Lagertha, and wants to try to attain the same position. But she just doesn't have it. She's not a warrior and she never will be.

Rollo is talking it over with Jarl Borg and discovers the guy has more than a few screws loose. (Or, should we say wood pegs, to fit in with the time period?) He has the skull of his dead wife, which he kisses, passionately, and asks what he should do. Skull Wife seems to approve of Borg returning to Ragnar's side.

Sandi: I was really creeped out by the kissing of the skull. And I thought, How Humiliating! to be the jarl's new, pregnant wife. She had to watch and appear to give her tacit consent. Not nice.

From on ladyhawke81 on Tumblr
Lissa: Athelstan is also talking to a king. Egbert reveals he's deeply interested in the pagan Romans who conquered this land before him. He takes Athelstan into a room of scrolls and sculpture. I cannot describe the intense lust I had for that room. I yearned for it to be real and for them to discover it again one day, still stuffed with all of those scrolls! Egbert tells Athelstan that his job is to decipher and preserve all of this knowledge, but if he ever reveals Egbert has it, Egbert will allow them to execute Athelstan.

Sandi: Scene change! First, it was good to see Athelstan looking well. No visible scarring. No limp. A smile on his face as he got to work on the illuminated manuscript. Ecbert's interest in Things Pagan was a surprise—but the threat to have Athelstan crucified if the monk breathes a word of it was not. And yeah...the depository was swoon-inducing. :)
From jongritte on Tumblr

Lissa: Rollo and Jarl Borg arrive back in Kattegat, and after they agree to re-unite, Ragnar orders all of Jarl Borg's men to be treated as honored guests. This ends up being the biggest issue I had with this episode. Rollo embraces Siggy, and then grabs an axe.

Sandi: Well, here, Ragnar and Rollo have clearly conspired. But when? That's what I wanted to know. That Ragnar had this planned out is clear by the end of the episode, but I missed chapter two or something.

Lissa: Wonder if there's an important "cut scene" or two out there that they're hiding from us Americans!

Sandi: And I wonder...does Rollo trust Siggy? Hmmm.

Lissa: Good question. I wondered if he has suspicions about her and Horik.For a moment, I wondered if that was where he was going with that axe.

From mymarsrevolution on Tumblr
Lagertha's face is terribly battered after what her husband's men did to her. He stands up during dinner and announces how pretty her breasts are, and rips open her blouse to display them. Lagertha grabs the knife from the table and sticks it in his eye. One of his own men finishes him off with a blow from a sword.

Sandi: Oh, this was marvelous. Her husband was being such a horrible person. It is clear he is attempting to prove dominance, but any man that has to resort to force and humiliation is not a real man at all. Lagertha's swift and sure response was awesome. She had perfect aim.

Lissa: The historical Lagertha stabbed her husband to death with a knife she had hidden in the folds of her gown. The Saxo Grammaticus implies she did it because she wanted to rule alone. I wonder why the show's producers decided to do it this way?

Sandi: I didn't know that until I read what you wrote. I just saw it as as Well Done by the show, and saw that Lagertha had the apparent support of those around her husband's table for her actions.

Lissa: A motive for the marriage, perhaps? "Allow him to abuse me publicly until no one would question whether he deserved it... And then I'll be QUEEN!"

From mymarsrevolution on Tumblr
Björn has brought Porunn to his room, and it becomes clear why in just a few minutes, but the girl thinks it's because he intends to have sex with her. She strips and asks "Master" if this is what he wants. But Björn wants her to be willing.

The reason why he put her in there is because her usual lodgings - the barn - isn't the safest place to be at the moment. Jarl Borg's men are blocked inside. One of Ragnar's men tells them they'll be safe if they remain silent ... right before Rollo torches the barn. He asks Floki where Björn is and Floki shrugs.

Sandi: Now, see, at this point I wasn't sure if Björn was in on his father's plot or if this was just a fortuitous circumstance. How far had Ragnar taken his son into his counsel at this point? I hadn't any idea. I think having Floki not know makes sense because, wonderful as he can be at times, he is not always big on discretion.

Lissa: Jarl Borg remembers the Seer's prophecy about the eagle right before Rollo comes in. "I told you I always look for revenge," Rollo tells Borg, before Floki beats Borg to a bloody pulp.

From mymarsrevolution on Tumblr
SandiThat scene was very much about the eyes. Watching Rollo was an education. He seemed a bit distant in his expression, but entirely committed as well. He is really a fascinating character.

Lissa: They drag Borg into the room where Ragnar and Horik are waiting. Horik asks if he's dead and Ragnar says not yet... Looks like we're going to see Jarl Borg become an "eagle" after all.

Sandi: That was an evil place to leave off! I wonder if they are going to do the notorious blood eagle? I cringe to think of it, but... I put nothing past History Channel. They've done a great job thus far.

Lissa: I think they will. They sent out a Tweet during the show explaining what the term meant, but not mentioning that its authenticity was in doubt.

From onaiwah on Tumblr
Here's what troubled me: the Vikings had very firm beliefs and customs regarding hospitality. Of course, there are stories in the old legends about people violating it, but they were sort of like our movies about weddings being interrupted by crazy stunts where the bride runs off with another man. It has happened, but it's an extreme rarity, and not something that would be looked upon with approval.

Not only did Ragnar and Rollo violate the rules of hospitality, they also broke their word. That wasn't looked upon lightly in their culture.

Sandi: I think, here, it comes down to the need and expectation for revenge. Hospitality is good, but men sought revenge. Even for a stolen weapon, it was sanctioned. So this? I think that the hospitality was more of a surprise than anything to anyone who observed Ragnar's actions. That he wreaked such utter revenge did, to me, make sense in terms of the expectations of the day, as I referenced above. A wise man bided his time, but he took revenge thoroughly. This was why I had my character Charis do so in Éire's Captive Moon. It gained her stature even among the Northmen; and no one seemed to think it was out of place.

Lissa: I didn't think of it that way, so I suppose you're right. more of a trap than an actual guest/host situation.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic review, ladies!! This is one of my favorite shows! I completely agree with you about the characters. They are all so fascinating and continue to reveal things to the audience about themselves. :D
    Thank you for sharing!


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