Wednesday night’s episode of Vikings explored the first ripples following a major character’s death. We also encountered a new locale and learned some fascinating tidbits about Floki’s state of mind. Read on for our recap of “Crossings.”
~Shield Wall! Spoilers incoming.~
A Promise of Vengeance
During her coronation, Lagertha lays forth a policy suggestion that proves popular with the people of Kattegat: she wants to build a wall. Admittedly, it’s a sound medieval suggestion, especially given the number of times the seat of power has changed hands (or cheeks). Lagertha does appear poised to be a sensible and respected ruler, but Aslaug’s laissez-faire attitude didn’t harm Kattegat’s standing, either. It’s easy to forget that Kattegat is Lagertha’s homeland, and I can now understand her desire to extend her influence here. That doesn’t mean I have to like how she did it.
Ivar makes a striking entrance, crawling into the hall with the help of two spiky axes. While Lagertha refuses his challenge to single combat, Ivar makes a promise that someday he will kill her regardless. His oath is a frightening parallel to the one that Lagertha made to Kalf. Still, Lagertha has a killer line when she asserts that she would beat Ivar handily. The scene is a great exchange, perhaps the best in season 4B so far.
Astrid is not willing to let Lagertha die so easily. She vows to protect her lover, and Lagertha sagely counsels her that if someone is thinking of murder, there’s likely nothing that Astrid can do about it. If the Seer’s prophecy means anything, she’s likely correct. But which son will kill her? The likely candidate is Ivar, but the truly tragic end would be if Bjorn accidentally brings about her death somehow. The fates are rarely kind to conquerors.
Longer Boats are Coming to Win Us
At last, the Mediterranean. Bjorn’s flotilla has reached a point in what is most likely Umayyad Spain. When they find a trading port, things turn as violent as you would expect. I was hoping for more from the first adventure in the Mediterranean, especially from one of Ragnar’s sons. By failing to focus too closely on any individuals, and offering no translations for the language spoken, the show skirts dangerously close to presenting an Orientalist fantasy of Muslim Spain. We haven’t yet crossed the point of no return, but showing giddy, white men lustfully kidnapping all of the women from a harem is a big step in the wrong direction.
During the raid, Rollo looks positively gleeful as he joins the fray. It’s a little disturbing to watch him go from his refined demeanor back to a scruffy, vicious pirate so quickly. To be fair, had she been born in Norway, Gisla would likely be a shieldmaiden and raider, too. Still, he’s bound to have trouble reintegrating whenever he gets back home.
Spiritual matters still plague Floki. In this case, it’s a general sense of aimlessness. Floki is an empty vessel, as he puts it. Helga wants to fill that void with another child, but Floki needs something else. Gustaf Skarsgard plays him with such haunting despair that he steals the focus of the entire raid. When he stumbles on the men praying in the mosque, his awe is clear. He remarks that their faith is strong, even though there is no picture of their god.
Like many conquering societies, the Vikings imported some beliefs as well as goods. Could Floki be starting a flirtation with Islam, as Ragnar did with Christianity? No matter what, this encounter shows off his growth as a character. While before he gleefully slew Christians and denounced them for heretics, he stands in the way of Harald and Halfdan, preventing them from killing the praying men. It’s an unexpected turn for one of the show’s strongest characters. Perhaps his newly adopted (read: abducted) daughter will interest him once he realizes what she can teach him.
The Coming Storm
In a surprisingly blatant supernatural display, Odin appears in the episode’s final act to check on Ragnar’s sons. Ragnar himself claimed that he was one of Odin’s descendants. It’s hard to argue with that when the god himself, or at least a man who looks a lot like Odin, shows up to share the news of Ragnar’s death.
The chief of the Aesir seems very concerned with the specifics of where Ragnar is buried. Viking funerals (as any Destiny player knows) involve a lot of fire. The title, while referring to Bjorn’s crossing of the Mediterranean, could also refer to Ragnar crossing over to Valhalla. The director included a shot of crows, Odin’s messengers, pecking at the ground beneath Ragnar’s cage. Giving the Viking king a proper funeral could be just as much of a motivation as seeking revenge for his death.
Each of his sons receives the message. Ivar, who spent the episode literally hammering out his frustrations as he forged a dagger with which he plans to stab Lagertha, rages at the news. Ubbe and Sigurd accept it quietly. Bjorn rightly interprets the sudden appearance of Odin as an omen of his father’s death. All are in awe of Odin. Will Bjorn press onward with his journey, or will he turn back and join in a quest for vengeance? Storm clouds are gathering, and the Vikings will strike English soil with thunderous fury.
A Hoard of Other Observations
- Harald and Halfdan serve as the barometers of Vikingness on the show. After watching their mad slaughter of Frankish soldiers and commoners, I’ve come to expect mayhem and violence from them at every quarter. They certainly live up to it this episode, mercilessly killing unarmed men and women both. And plotting to take down the Lothbroks so that Harald can be King of all Norway? Very Viking, indeed.
- As they leave the market town, Harald and Halfdan sing a Viking song translated into modern English. They could probably sing “yo-ho, yo-ho, a pirate’s life for me,” and it would have the same effect.
- Katheryn Winnick has remarked that Jordan Patrick Smith looks just like a young Travis Fimmel. It calls into question the likelihood that Lagertha saw Ragnar’s image in the middle of the night. Could Ubbe be protecting her from his volatile brother?