On November 30, Vikings returns for the second half of season four. One of the most exciting plot points the previews have promised is the clash between Lagertha and Aslaug. Both women are powerful figures in the world of Vikings, striving to better their station and their family’s position, but Lagertha holds a special place in our hearts. Cunning warrior, shrewd leader, and top-tier mother, Lagertha is a feminist icon. Like the nine sacrifices every nine years in Viking lore, we’ve picked nine times Lagertha has proved herself worthy of accolade in the shining halls of Valhalla. We’ve ranked them below in order from Most Epic to Most Extremely Epic.
9 – Fighting Knut, Killing Him, and Then Fessing up to It
Our first outing with Lagertha the Shieldmaiden did not disappoint. While raiding a town in Northumbria, Lagertha catches Knut taking advantage of a local woman. When she intervenes, Knut tries to force himself on her. Lagertha instead forces him to stop breathing. Far from shrinking away from the political consequences of her action, she speaks up at the trial and claims responsibility for the act. Ragnar winds up taking the blame for it, but Lagertha demonstrates that she knows her worth and is not in need of rescuing.
Vikingness Score: 7 out of 9 Valkyries, for taking responsibility even when she had an out.
8 – Leading the Fertility Sacrifice at Wessex
Lagertha is a leader. The other Vikings trust her to be the chief social architect of the colony in Wessex, and that says a lot about her leadership capability. One of the responsibilities is overseeing the ritual sacrifice to Freyr to increase the bounty of the farm land. This ritual involves Lagertha ordering the slaughter of a cow, being covered in its blood, and then sprinkling the blood over the fields, all while shouting graphic sexual metaphors in a language the assembled English nobles and clergy don’t understand. Add to this the fact that she is a woman performing these acts in a time and place where men traditionally held power, and you can almost hear the exclamations of “swounds!” You can bet there was a lot of praying after this encounter.
Vikingness Score: 6 out of 9 Valkyries, for offending stuffy English sensibilities.
7 – Unmanning “Uncle” Einar
Einar had a complicated relationship with Lagertha. As a relative of the late Earl Sigvard, he might have been Earl instead of Lagertha. He at first supports her claim, and he tries to extract sexual favors from her as a reward. Lagertha teaches him, with judicious application of force, that he is totally in the wrong. After that, Einar betrays her at every turn. When at last his machinations put him at the wrong end of a Frankish crossbow, Lagertha approaches the wounded steward, takes out a knife, and castrates him as he slowly bleeds to death. Cold.
Vikingness Score: 6 out of 9 Valkyries, for ridding herself of a creepy “uncle.” Whose uncle is he, anyway?
6 – Slaying Earl Sigvard
Lagertha will brook no insult nor any invasion of her space. Her second husband, Earl Sigvard, is a slovenly drunk, abusive and petty. After Lagertha runs to Ragnar’s aid during the crisis with Jarl Borg, Sigvard tries to assert his power over his wife by demeaning her and trying to undress her in front of his men. He is Fragile Masculinity: Danish Viking Edition. For his trouble, Lagertha gives him a table knife in the eye. As he sputters and screams, she doesn’t run, she stares defiantly at the occupants of the longhouse, blood on her face, and all but dares them to seek retribution. Instead, Einar finishes the job and proves to all assembled that Lagertha is not to be trifled with.
Vikingness Score: 7 out of 9 Valkyries, for putting a stop to uncomfortable dinner conversation.
5 – Becoming Earl Ingstad
After Earl Sigvard’s death, Lagertha sticks around in Hedeby. Freed from her bonds to Earl Sigvard, she could easily seek life elsewhere. But she decides to stay put, consolidate power, and establish her own rule. When she rides again to Ragnar’s aid, this time as Earl Ingstad and with a full complement of warriors, you can see the awe and admiration on his face. She even rides in on a white horse. Take that, patriarchy.
Vikingness Score: 7 out of 9 Valkyries, for subverting cultural norms.
4 – Playing the Long Revenge Game With Kalf
When a relationship starts with one partner saying, “Some day, I will kill you,” you know things are bound to get messy. So it goes with Kalf and Lagertha. Lagertha sees in Kalf the potential for greatness. What she fails to see is his calculating ambition. He usurps Lagertha’s place as Earl while she is in Wessex, so she vows to have revenge on him. When they start a romantic relationship, Lagertha stipulates that she desires him but that she will never forgive him for his treason. They have a passionate affair. After they make their vows on their wedding day, Lagertha fulfills the first vow she made to Kalf and stabs him in the gut. They share one last kiss before he dies.
Vikingness Score: 8 out of 9 Valkyries, for the practical lesson in “til death do we part.”
3 – Putting King Ecbert in His Place
The King of Wessex is a suave dude. He’d have to be to be the historical figure who first united the warring kingdoms of England. While the Vikings visit his hall, the King brings his considerable charm to bear on Lagertha, and she proves to be more than his equal. When he tries to convince her to stay on as his mistress, Lagertha calls his bluff, showing that’s she’s keenly seen through to the King’s true nature. “Although you have made me happy and fulfilled,” she tells him, “I have come to understand that the only person you truly care for is yourself.” Burn.
Vikingness Score: 9 out of 9 Valkyries, for speaking truth to power.
2 – Storming the Gates of Paris by Night
After the initial failure of Floki’s attack plan, Lagertha brought King Ragnar’s forces so close to victory. With a small force of lightly armored warriors, she attacks the gates of Paris by night and very nearly takes the gates without sounding the alarm. She is fast and lethal, felling sentries with stealth and athletic grace that makes Ryu Hayabusa look like the cave troll from Moria. After they are spotted, she cleverly turns death traps against the Frankish defenders, lighting boiling oil on fire and getting the first gate open for the larger assault. Don’t mess with the best.
Vikingness Score: 9 out of 9 Valkyries, for coming close to tasting the mead in Valhalla.
1 – Leaving Ragnar
Even in modern television, women’s desires and needs are often portrayed as secondary to the needs of their male counterparts. Not so with Lagertha. After Aslaug shows up pregnant and seeking a place in Ragnar’s home, Ragnar tries to entice Lagertha to accept a polygamous relationship. Lagertha has none of it, and she packs up to leave. Their farewell is heartbreaking, and it says something about her character that Björn chooses to go with her. It takes tremendous courage to walk into battle, even with fierce allies at your side. But to walk into an uncertain future, alone, and with little material support? That takes a soul made of steel.
Vikingness Score: 10 out of 9 Valkyries, for choosing her own destiny and knowing her worth.
What’s to Come
Nearly 10 years have passed in the story since we last saw Lagertha. Though she was critically wounded in the Battle of the Seine, she escaped to safety. Since then, she has taken a new lover and honed her grudge against Aslaug to a fine point. How will she fare in that coming fight? No matter how things turn out this season, we certainly haven’t seen the last of this Viking rock star’s greatest hits.
What are your favorite Lagertha moments? Let us know at @getfandom on Twitter.
Check in later this week for our recap of “The Outsider.”