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“Vikings” Recap/Review: "Blood Eagle"

Dymon Lewis ’14 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Ivan Kaye and Linus Roache in the Vikings episode "Blood Eagle." Photo Credit: Jonathan Hession/History Channel.
Ivan Kaye and Linus Roache in the Vikings episode “Blood Eagle.” Photo Credit: Jonathan Hession/History Channel.

“Blood Eagle” marked the end of Jarl Borg (Thorbjørn Harr), the formal reveal of the depth of King Horik’s (Donal Logue) treachery, and the return of Earl Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick). In a ten episode season, the progression of the storyline must be tracked carefully since there is absolutely no room for filler. So “Blood Eagle,” the seventh episode of the season, had to conclude old plot points, introduce any final twists and prepare viewers for the denouement. While season one ended with a battle between brothers, season two will be ending with a battle between kingdoms. And the sides are not nearly as clear cut as they once seemed.

There was a lot of shade being thrown around on this latest episode of Vikings—but none so much as the ship builder Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård) towards Earl Ragnar (Travis Fimmel).  Floki is an enigmatic and entertaining character. With a name so similar to the Norse trickster god Loki, of course Floki is equal parts brilliant, cunning, crazy and cruel. His devotion to his gods is in sharp contrast to Ragnar’s interest, if not admiration for Athelstan’s (George Blagden) stories about the Christian God. Floki’s faith drives him and his ship-building can be understood as religious fervor—there is no wavering in his belief and no tolerance for a religion that judge his religion to be no more than barbaric paganism.

Maude Hirst and Gustaf Skarsgård in the Vikings episode "Blood Eagle." Photo Credit: Jonathan Hession/History Channel.
Maude Hirst and Gustaf Skarsgård in the Vikings episode “Blood Eagle.” Photo Credit: Jonathan Hession/History Channel.

While a division between Floki and Ragnar is not outside of the realm of possibility—Ragnar is Ragnar after all—Floki’s anger at Ragnar has not been properly set up for it to be believable that he would so far as not invite  the earl to his and Helga’s (Maude Hirst) wedding. While Ragnar and Floki were previously divided over Athelstan, the former monk turned Viking warrior and now Monk again has been in Wessex for a while now. Vikings is not a show that waits for its viewers but still a bit of foreshadowing to discord between the shipbuilder and the earl could have been done without slowing down the momentum of the plot. This whole fight could very well be an elaborate Keyser Söze-esque plot designed to mind-screw King Horik but still it’s a bit much for viewers to swallow.

While King Ecbert of Wessex (Linus Roache) and King Aelle of Northumbria (Ivan Kaye) prepare for the inevitable return of the Vikings by forming an alliance through the marriage of their respective son and daughter, the intrepid Viking heroes prepare for their return to England with some cinematographically breathtaking violent execution. From the moment Ragnar proclaimed he would draw a blood eagle on Jarl Borg’s back, it was obvious that no one—not even King Horik, himself—could stop the determined earl from punishing his enemy for so great a transgression.

Ivan Kaye in the Vikings episode "Blood Eagle." Photo Credit: Jonathan Hession/History Channel.
Ivan Kaye in the Vikings episode “Blood Eagle.” Photo Credit: Jonathan Hession/History Channel.

Still, Thorbjørn Harr managed to infuse his cunning character with enough personality that although viewers can despise him for raiding on an defenseless Kattegat, they can still have sympathy for him as he cradles his first wife’s skull while waiting to be murdered in a most gruesome, painful manner. Just Ragnar’s verbal description of the blood eagle was enough to curdle the blood—but the scene itself, while bloody, was a cinematic masterpiece. The director was able to show the horror of the execution through the expressions of the crowd rather than cheap blood and guts. The ritual of the execution was beautiful—super messed up but still beautiful.

The big shocker for this episode was the return of Lagertha—now Earl Lagertha of Hedeby. Lagertha has always shared Ragnar’s wanderlust and love of batter. Their first big fight as a couple in the first season was when Ragnar wouldn’t let her come with the war-band to raid. So it makes sense that she would want to join Ragnar and  Horik. Ragnar accepts her help but it remains to be seen if he can truly do what she has asked of him: accept her as his equal. Her role as a war-band leader will be especially interesting when she encounters the English—who so far have not been depicted as forward thinking in terms of female rights as the Vikings. Here’s hoping she kills a couple more kings and takes over the kingdom. She could easily rule England all by herself.

Overall Episode Grade: A

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