EW – Vikings recap: ‘In the Uncertain Hour Before the Morning’
Season 4, Ep. 14 | Aired Dec 21
Queen Aslaug is queen no more. She knows this, she has no escape plan; she walks into the town square knowing her time has come to an end. There is a freedom to knowing you will never be free again. The Queen looks amused by her invader. “How strange, Lagertha, that you should play the usurper. One woman against another.” Aslaug knows Lagertha values herself as a powerful woman in this world of powerful men — knows that, at this moment of triumph, it will darken Lagertha’s soul just a little bit, the implication she has broken her own rule.
“I was never the usurper,” says Lagertha. “Always the usurped.” Aslaug took Lagertha’s husband, her world, her happiness. “You’re a witch,” Lagertha says. “You bewitched him.” Perhaps she believes that; perhaps it is an easy justification, a way to establish herself as the force of moral right. Aslaug smiles. She did not bewitch Ragnar, but she knows he is dead. “In my dream, his boats were sunk in a storm,” says Aslaug.
She will not fight. She knows she would not win. Aslaug has never been a warrior. Yet, she has raised warriors. “I have fulfilled my destiny,” she says. “The gods foretold Ragnar would have many sons. I have given him those sons. I am as much a part of his saga, Lagertha, as you are.” It is another gambit, a way of snatching some greater victories from the jaws of this mortal defeat. Lagertha may defeat Aslaug. But they will be history soon, are already history; the legends have already formed about Ragnar and Aslaug and Lagertha and their ilk. Aslaug asks only for safe passage. She promises Lagertha will have Kattegat and she promises she will not demand her sons seek vengeance. It will be a peaceful transition of power.
“I understand,” says Lagertha. What does that mean? What message is she receiving from Aslaug? Does she know that, in some strange way, this great day of victory has not been wholly victorious? Does she sense this woman whom she always doubted — this usurper, this alleged witch, this poor excuse for a monarch — has hidden depths to her personality? Does she suddenly recognize, in Aslaug, a warrior?
Aslaug turns her back and prepares to leave her life behind. And then her life is taken and a smile crosses her face. An arrow in the back and a great funeral pyre for the woman who made warriors, for she who never gave up the old faith. She is in the saga forever now, even if her time in this story has come to an end. What future has she cursed Lagertha, too?