Winds, waves, and oars carried our Viking heroes out to sea last week. This week we saw how storms and family reunions impact the Lothbrok clan’s quests for vengeance and glory. We also got our first taste of Lagertha’s plans for conquest. Read on at your peril, for our recap of “Two Journeys.”
Shield Wall! Spoilers ahead
Did I Build This Ship to Wreck?
Being shipwrecked seems like it would really suck. As the episode opens, we find Ragnar and Ivar recovering on the English shore surrounded by the wreckage of their ship. While Ragnar might not have built the ships that carried them to England, he certainly seems to have planned for this expedition to sink.
Ragnar is back to being suitably intriguing. After his failed suicide attempt in “The Outsider,” it’s been hard to know what the one-time raider and conqueror truly desires. He clearly no longer wants to rule and seems perfectly fine dragging his followers into oblivion with him. His callous suggestion that he and Ivar abandon their crew shows how far he is willing to go to meet his own destruction. The Seer was right to call his return a portent of ruin. Ragnar is more dangerous now than he’s ever been.
But for all his faults, the disgraced king clearly believes in Ivar’s potential as a leader. The problem is, Ivar seems to possess all of his father’s madness and little of his restraint. Watching Ivar murder an entire troop of Vikings in their sleep was horrifying. With the full weight of seasoned warriors behind him, he is likely to be unstoppable, just like his real-life namesake.
I loved seeing King Ecbert, Aethelwulf, and Judith again on screen. Notably absent were the young prince Alfred and Ecbert’s ward, Magnus. I wonder if there’s a father-bastard-son reunion on the horizon for next week. I’ve been eagerly awaiting the Saxons’ next encounter with Ragnar, and we will finally see how that shapes out next episode, now that he’s in their custody.
Meet the Normans
Rollo may have his own little kingdom now, but he is like a lion in a gilded cage. Domestic life has obviously been good to him, and things appear to be going well between him and Princess Gisla. But he seems bored, and that plays out in his eagerness to help his nephew find a route to the Mediterranean.
His decision to travel with Björn, Floki, Hivtserk, and the Finehair gang, isn’t surprising. He imprisons the Viking envoys to save face, but the lure of adventure is just too much for him to bear. I wonder what guilt he feels about how things went on the Seine. Until he faced his brother blade-to-blade, Rollo’s face betrayed his anguish for having to side against his own people. The rest of the Vikings don’t trust him, either. I guess when your nephew keel-hauls you in revenge for your betrayal (ouch, by the way), you can probably call things settled.
Every now and then, we get a glimpse of the real-life historical inspiration for the events on Vikings. Rollo’s brood offers one such glimpse. His son William, who earns an avuncular grin from Floki by sticking his tongue out at the Viking emissaries, succeeds his father to the Dukedom, and through his line, we get another famous William. Who knows how long this show will run, but there’s a whole new generation of stories to tell.
So… I Guess We’ll Fight Now
Lagertha finally showed her cards in the high-stakes game for control of Kattegat. After luring Sigurd and Ubbe to Hedeby and imprisoning them, she mounts a surprise assault on Kattegat. The fighting is intense and brief. Lagertha’s force is impressive, well-trained, and vicious, and the warriors left in Kattegat are no match for them. Her assault also reveals that she has an ally in Torvi, her daughter-in-law, who commands a troop of archers waiting in the shadows. Given her force of personality and her record of victories, she likely has as many supporters as she does opponents.
One detail I find particularly interesting in this arc is Lagertha’s devotion to mentoring young women, especially women of lower station. Just as she took Porunn under her wing, so she takes an interest in sheltering Margrethe. Her lover, Astrid, may also fall into that category. Astrid provides Lagertha with a remarkable moral compass, and that is likely the only reason she decides to spare Ragnar’s sons by Aslaug. In the middle of the fighting, too, Lagertha rushes to Astrid’s aid. She clearly cares for the younger shieldmaiden, and I, for one, am happy to see her in what appears to be a fulfilling relationship.
The episode preview for next week shows Aslaug surrendering the ceremonial sword of kings to Lagertha. I don’t buy that she would give up so easily. This conflict is likely not over. Aslaug and Lagertha both have asked the Seer if they will rule, and that led them to this collision. Ambition does not break so easily. You must also consider how Aslaug’s visions will play into her moves from here. The show has dealt with many supernatural events, but none of them have been treated with the same level of credence as Aslaug’s prophecies. Will what she knows help her to defeat her rival for the throne?
Next week, the two journeys mentioned in this episode continue, and we will see the aftermath of Lagertha’s invasion of Kattegat. Come back then for our recap of the poetically titled “In the Uncertain Hour Before the Morning.”