Dymon Lewis ’14 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
While season one of Vikings created characters with an almost mythical aura of greatness surrounding them, season two seems poised to bring all these characters down to earth and expose them for the simple human beings that they really are. Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) may be a hallowed warrior, but really he’s just a farmer, a father, and a husband with an ex-wife and a current wife he doesn’t want to choose between.
Ragnar’s humanity is also contrasted to that of King Ecbert (Linus Roache). In their very awkward bath scene (Travis Fimmel is the KING of facial expressions), Ragnar explains his desire for land is so that his people don’t starve, while King Ecbert wants more power and thinks a bloodthirsty Viking army is the way to do it. The two men could be of great use to each other, but it’s doubtful England, and much less Wessex, is big enough for both of their egos.
When one of King Horik’s (Donal Logue) men travels to Wessex and informs Ragnar what happened to Kattegat, the Earl immediately packs up go. At King Horik’s request, Athelstan decides to stay in Wessex to act as a translator. Ragnar knows this is a bad idea, Floki knows this is a bad idea—hell, even the baby goats these characters always seem to be clutching know this is a bad idea—but Athelstan is a free man who does as he wishes.
What’s interesting about this episode is that initially it appears that King Horik and his men might harm Athelstan. But they’re much too busy raping nuns to notice him, and it also shows that despite his past, Athelstan is largely accepted in Viking society. When he is ultimately kidnapped and crucified as an apostate by Christians, one can’t help but remember the frightened monk that Ragnar kidnapped. Athelstan’s rescue at the hands of King Ecbert brings the character full circle. He was a monk kidnapped by Vikings because he spoke their language, and now he is a Viking kidnapped by the English because he speaks their language.
Siggy (Jessalyn Gilsig), Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland), Rollo (Clive Standen), and a few other survivors of the Kattegat massacre hole up in a filthy barn waiting for Ragnar’s return and rescue. Since Aslaug is a whiny little princess (seriously, all she does this episode is complain) it is up to Siggy and Rollo to protect everyone. The dynamic between Rollo and Siggy is not as romantically grandiose as Ragnar and Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick), but they are two schemers in love. When Rollo gets his groove back, happy to die just to stick it to the treacherous Jarl Borg (Thorbjørn Harr), it is Siggy’s sexual fire that is lit. When Ragnar returns, his interaction with Rollo is almost a reverse of their season one relationship. Ragnar wants to strike fast and furious but Rollo cautions against all-out war since they are so outnumbered.
Lucky for the brothers, Lagertha and Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig) are in a forgiving mood and arrive to aid their estranged family with an army of their own. The magnetic chemistry between Lagertha and Ragnar is still though there is stilted awkwardness in their greeting. However, the reunion between Bjorn and Ragnar is nothing but pure joy. Travis Fimmel does a phenomenal job physically reacting in such a way that viewers truly believe he is a man who has not seen his son in many years—too many years—and is immensely proud of what stands before him.
Next week’s episode promises a huge battle scene, a romantic triangle where clearly one female is the superior choice, and probably the death of a beloved character, because this is Vikings and no one’s safe—no one.
Overall Episode Rating: A