The #ShieldGeeks Review #VIKINGS "Promised"

"These chicks are machines!" - The No Ship Network

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The Shieldmaidens of History (Protecting the Innocent from Anachronisms) welcome you 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 third book in the trilogy, Éire's Devil Kinghere.)

Lissa: I was unable to participate in this week's recap because of a previous commitment, but Sandi graciously agreed to shoulder the whole thing. I'll be back next week, as usual.


After a rough technical start, I got back in with the episode about halfway through. This obliged me to return to History Channel's website to watch it again this morning! And, due to Lissa Bryan's commitments today, she gave me the go-ahead to post my comments for the both of us. Frightening, no?

  crossbow training

 We begin with crossbow training and shieldmaiden weapons practice led by Lagertha the Awesome. Erlandur and Kalf are discussing future opportunities to strike back at the family of Ragnar Lo∂brok—Erlandur's prime obsession. He intimates that Torvi is acting as his "eyes" in Kattegat, with the life of her son hanging in the balance. I cannot stand Erlandur!

 "Lagertha must never know what we did," Kalf tells his co-conspirator. No, really? This is what makes me so distrust Kalf. One night, pledging love and sexy times, the next day, plotting against her. Ugh!

  vikings_s4e5_kalf lag preggo

 Then, she drops her bomb on him: she tells him she's "with child"! Is she? The Seer once implied that that wasn't going to happen again . . .

  bjorn and ragnar talkingThen, we head off to see Björn and Ragnar discussing Harald Finehair. Yes, please note the order of the names, here. In the screenshot, too, Björn is in the forefront, on the viewer's left, giving him silent precedence as the scene begins. Was that on purpose? Ragnar asks his son why he doesn't care for little Siggy—Ragnar's grandchild. "She reminds me of things I'd rather forget," Björn replies.

 This is not the most mature attitude, in my opinion. But then the men have a "burn!" moment when accusations fly about Torvi's son versus Björn's custodial matters when he was younger (see Season One).

 "Your mother left me. You left me," Ragnar reminds his son.

 Björn goes to sound out Harald Finehair who says, "Mine is a small kingdom . . . for now." So I am thinking that Harald is claiming lordship over parts of Norway, though the land itself did not acknowledge him as king as a whole, yet. Such a gradual assumption of kingship was not uncommon in Europe during this time.

  harald wants to achieve fame

"What are we here for except to achieve fame?" Harald asks in response to Björn's remark that the man has ambitions. This is a good question, for a vikingr.

 Björn counters with, "Fame won't make your small kingdom any bigger." He said this, though, with a look that silently implied this was also a remark about Harald's, um, virility. I rather enjoyed that Harald, after looking about him, seems mostly amused by what he sees; as if he'd expected nothing else.

  bjorn implies harald is lacking

 On to Wessex! King Ecbert is sitting at a round table. As the legendary Arthurian Round Table wasn't even mentioned until the 12th Century by Norman chronicler Wace, this round table could not have been for Ecbert's guests in terms of implications of the legendary king and his realm. It might, though, be used for our modern eyes. Our "Good King Ecbert the Corrupt-by-his-own-Admission" is proposing an invasion of Mercia to establish Queen Kwenthrith on her throne once more. He does this with young Alfred on his lap, according to @ClassicalBeau on twitter.

  invade mercia

After denouncing "W"—the spy from earlier in the season—Kwenthrith informs King Aelle and King Ecbert that they have to invade Mercia to give it back to her. Okay, to me? This seems a very weak stance for her to take, for all that Aethelwulf is smiling at her during her rant/whine. He speaks for her and Ecbert says they'll go. Aelle, ominously, says nothing.

 Still in Wessex, Judith the Free declines Aethelwulf the Flagellant's directive to join him in bed. "I don't want to," she says. Her idea about her own freedom is not aligned with the truth of the matter, I daresay. And, the truths come out. "Sleep with my dad!" "Go sleep with your mistress!" Yeah, it was like that. I was surprised to see the tears in both their eyes, however.

 Now, Lissa, when I saw your comment online this morning about Ecbert putting "a ring on it" I had no idea that was going to be literal! Yet he's done so, here. Judith's manner is, for me, a bit repulsive considering the mores of the day, yet she's got her eyes open as to her status, anyway. A whore, but one who has freely chosen to be one. How free does that make her?

  vikings_s4e5_duke rollo

On to Paris! Darth Odious and Duke Rollo are discussing the previously agreed upon fortifications against the next invasion by the Northmen. "You don't know your people like I do," Rollo reminds the older man. "We must hold Paris . . . When my brother returns, everything will be decided here." For myself, I'm relieved that there is such clear communication between them. As has been speculated all over the Internet, Rollo's lingual skills, cough, are certainly superior.

 Then, we see Rollo and his Duchess in bed discussing his northern lands. He wants to establish his own court. Historically, remember, this will be Normandy (Northman's land) and the area will figure prominently for centuries to come. Gisla, though, wants him to focus on being near her father to advise him. Power and influence stem from the king, of course, and she wants to retain her own as well. She has certainly morphed into a sensual being of late. She's licking food from her fingers, posturing, and so on as she endeavors to persuade her husband to change his focus for the nonce.


Then, we move to Charles's audience chamber. He's meeting with Therese-the-sub-spy's "handler" Roland is sowing distrust of Darth Odious into the emperor's ear. We bring the mistress herself and the man says Therese is his sister. Sister. And they were having sex not that long ago. Two things come immediately to mind: "Ew, ick!" and "Wait, is he lying to make their closeness seem acceptable?" This means that Roland is not her husband, as I thought, unless it's secretly (which is entirely possible, with as much subterfuge as the Paris court is hosting). I trust no one, here. During the discussion with Therese, the emperor is very careful not to allow her close to him, as if she were contagious or something.

 But the viewer still wants to know: Can she be trusted? And by whom? And when Charles sort of laughs at the end of the scene, should I be worried? He appears strong, for just a moment.

 And we return to Kattegat and the Ragnar's Secret Snake and Former Slave Abode. It is during this scene that Yidu first (to my eyes) starts acting shifty, becoming pushy in encouraging Ragnar to share his secrets with her. Ragnar suspects her of lying about her origins and indeed twitter was alight with speculation once again. Ragnar has basically said he'll tell her his secrets if she tells him the truth. And he wants those "Ancient Chinese Herbs" she gave him before that had him swinging from the rafters. Is he becoming an addict or is it just a passing fancy?


Emperor Xizong of the Tang Dynasty is whom I believe Yidu says was the ruler of China. He reigned from AD 873-888, and a rebellion broke out during his tenure. (According to one source, anyway, Xizong had a thing for a certain ball game—Cuju—which is now considered the earliest form of European Football (American soccer).) It is clear at this juncture that Ragnar suspects Yidu is royalty.

 We speed back to Wessex, where the "raid Mercia for Kwenthrith" deal is reiterated. Judith is clearly trying to get in everyone's craw, here, feeling strong in the support of Burger King Ecbert. Why she feels it necessary to throw this strength at her father Aelle at every opportunity is beyond me; it's also vastly unwise of her.

 Nice photography management and a bow to the show's producers for hiding Amy Bailey's pregnancy during these scenes. It wouldn't do for Queen Kwenthrith to be burgeoning just yet, even if she's taken a new lover. Kwenthrith—a poster child for the "Don't Drink with the Queen" campaign—has demanded to know if she can trust Ecbert. Really? He responds with—and this is a direct quote—"Why would you doubt me?"

 Oh, Burger King. Let me count the ways! Okay, maybe not here. lissa ecbert queen k are alike tweet   Understatement? Could be!

This is followed by another scene that illustrates in big bright colors how hypocritical Ecbert is as he prays to God. He is sincere in his prayer; this, I believe. But he seems to see the Divine as being manipulated as easily as those around him are.

  Ecbert the hypocrite in church

We return again to Kattegat, which pleases many in the Vikings fandom, if podcasts and twitter are to be believed. Harald was doing his hair and talking to Björn comes to talk to him. We are seeing more instances of Björn taking on leadership roles in Kattegat and the wider world. Harald is proposing joining forces to raid Paris. Everyone wants in on the gold, even if they turn on one another right after. Harald does a fine job of rallying the troops while making himself look good.

Harald's people arrive and it's a happy day. But not for Ragnar. He's throwing knives at a shield for target practice, but he's bleeding out his mouth. Is this due to the internal wounds that were never properly treated from before or due to the medicines he's been taking from Yidu?

 When Halfdan is introduced to Ragnar, there is a split here between the views of the Old Warrior and the Young Warrior. Ragnar has seen battles. He's wise and weary. He is not as eager to fight. Then, too, he's won his fame. Halfdan is all set to go for the "beauty of it" as well as to strike at the Christians, he says. Ragnar assures him, with a rather manic, bloodstained smile, that he will have the opportunity to kill a great many Christians once they reach Paris.

 Ragnar will never forget that his best friend was a Christian, I think.

  vikings_s4e5_harald and halfdan at party

 In the Great Hall that night, there are many games being played and gold changing hands in bets, as well as much alcohol served. Queen Aslaug has, of course, provided all that is needed to entertain. From outside the festivities, Ragnar and Yidu are watching with some detachment. Ragnar denies Yidu's assertion that he would be missed. He also denies that he is excited about returning to Paris. "I feel so old," he tells the former slave. He also tells her a great secret of his: The destruction of the Wessex settlement some time before. "Nobody knows."

 Yidu does her part, tear falling down her cheek. "My father's the emperor."

  vikings_s4e5_enter floki

Floki and Helga join the party and there's one of those "hushed" moments as the crowd parts before them. A look is exchanged with Ragnar, who is outside, which leads me to remember something said by twitter-er @Detrocker2264: that Floki and Ragnar were destined to be on the same side and that Floki is playing a role again, here. Ears and eyes for his old friend Ragnar, under cover of a false front. 

Is that going to be proven true? Will Hirst use that device again or is something else afoot?

 "You are the genius that built the boats that changed our world," Halfdan says to Floki. High praise indeed as they try to suss out the cause for the troubles.

 "I killed his pet Christian," Floki tells them with all apparent cheerfulness.

 Helga tries to hush him, and I notice a change in her appearance. She used to be a "flower child" in how she was presented. Now, she is older, as are many, changed and hardened and wary.

  vikings_s4e5_yidu ragnar bathtime

We then move to Ragnar's Sanctuary for Sensual Water Fun and find a scene between him and Yidu. She is immersed and apparently naked in the bath while he is clothed and bathing her from outside the tub. Or, er, something. I don't think Great Cuts is going to offer his services before a haircut, though he does cut her hair at the end of it. Ahem. 

We go from the furtive darkness of the, er, bath-and-a-haircut moment to the sunny outdoors where Ivar is in the middle of bunch of children apparently playing Keep Away from Ivar. Not very nice, to be sure, but this is not a modern playground. Aslaug is watching from the sidelines, trying very hard to keep her mouth shut and even Floki is nearby, ready to lightly interfere to toss the toy bladder (?) back to his apprentice with a scowl. Another boy tries to take it away (foolish - don't they know Ivar's a prince and well guarded?) and Ivar gets angry. With an axe.

 Cue screaming children. "It's not your fault," Aslaug tells her blood-spattered son.


Ivar axe murderer tweet convo

 Floki has a strange look on his face while Helga investigates the scene. She's distressed; he's almost energized. "Oh, look! My apprentice can kill with an axe already!"

  vikings_s4e5_ prewedding lag

We leave this disrupted day to return to Hedeby, where Lagertha is getting ready to wed Kalf. (In as aside, may I just say that Katheryn Winnick has a most amazing figure?)

Then, a dash back to Kattegat, where Björn is contemplating the ring the berserker had on him. A check with No Ship Network confirmed that NoShipper Steve was the one who predicted on last week's podcast that there would be a big reveal centered on this ring, delivered by Torvi. The man should be a Seer! Because it happened here that Torvi wound up telling Björn that the ring belonged to Erlandur the mostly-an-ex-husband, who got it from his dad, King Horik.

 And as the episode winds to a close, the climax of what has been, for me anyway, ages of annoyance and speculation. Kalf approached Lagertha at the site of their wedding (a very modern-seeming tent made of bolts of gauzy cloth and flowers, apparently). Lagertha appears briefly distressed when he waxes rhapsodic about her beauty.

 But only briefly. Because even as he's kissing her, she's removing a knife from her sleeve.

 She promised she'd kill him.

 The Northmen had a saying about vengeance: A wise man is one who lets his vengeance wait. Lagertha is a wise woman. "Long live Earl Ingstad!" Most awesome episode close EVER.

  vikings_s4e5_hail earl ing

So much to wait for next week! I hope you'll join us @LissaBryan and @sandyquill! 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

1 comment:

  1. So many little amusing moments in this episode.

    Sister= definitely eww.

    Ecbert has a real spiritual quandary, as he knows what he's supposed to re: God's tenets, but he's too much of a sinner to follow through. Repentance literally means to do a 180 from your sinful behavior, and he enjoys his sins too much to do that.

    I liked that Kalf didn't cry for help or anything when Lagertha stabbed him. He knew he had it coming, still loved her, and died in her arms. The most he could hope for, really. The actor did some nice post-ep interviews.

    Also wondering about why Ragnar had a bloody mouth.


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