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George Blagden talks season 3

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This might be the worst case of Stockholm syndrome in history.

The term Stockholm syndrome had not yet been coined in the era of Vikings, which returns for its third season, Thursday, Feb. 19, on History. But had the term existed, everyone would be looking straight at Athelstan, played by George Blagden.

After all, in the first season of Vikings, Athelstan was a Christian monk in England who was abducted by Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) and his team of Scandinavian raiders. Athelstan isn’t a slave any more, but he sure seems to have forgotten how this all began.

“Yeah, like you say, it’s a massive case of Stockholm syndrome,” agreed Blagden, who is from England. “And it goes the other way as well, with Athelstan and King Ecbert (Linus Roache).”

Indeed, when the Vikings returned to England in season two, Athelstan wound up being a captive of Ecbert in Wessex.

“So we see Athelstan start season three finding Ecbert again in Wessex, and it takes all of 10 minutes for Ecbert to try and convince Athelstan to feel comfortable there again,” Blagden continued.

“(Ecbert) hands (Athelstan) a cross, and Athelstan is easily led, maybe. He’s kind of aware of the men in this show who have allowed him to survive, meaning Ecbert and Ragnar.”

Stockholm syndrome, of course, is a psychological phenomenon in which hostages identify with their captors, sometimes to the point of defending them. Yet, it’s true that in Athelstan’s particular case, there were different moments when both Ragnar and Ecbert could have stood aside and let Athelstan die, but they intervened and kept him alive.

Maybe Athelstan is the most charismatic character in TV history. Everyone wants him to stick around.

“Ecbert and Ragnar are both curious about Athelstan because he’s so complex,” Blagden said. “He has a lot to offer them in terms of information and knowledge. He’s kind of a bridge between these two worlds. It’s a very unique position that he holds.

“But when you have very charismatic, powerful men like Ecbert and Ragnar telling him to do something, Athelstan kind of goes with the flow.”

The flow in the 10-episode third season initially takes Ragnar, his ex-wife Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick), their son Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig) and the rest of the Vikings back to England, where they’re intent upon establishing a settlement. In the first episode, however, King Ecbert proposes a new deal, throwing Ragnar and his forces into battle once more, but this time as allies of Wessex.

Later in the season, the ever-restless Ragnar wants to broaden his horizons, which potentially is very bad news for Paris. Considered impenetrable to outside forces, the Vikings point their blades at the city, driven as they are to secure their place in history.

“In school in England, at least, we get taught about the Vikings as this barbaric race of people who conquered Europe with raping and pillaging,” Blagden said. “But I think the accurate history on them is not that.

“That’s what Michael (Hirst, creator of the series) has tried to do, is show you that maybe the Vikings weren’t as bad as everyone thinks. We humanize them. We see them being very violent and potentially immoral in a Western, modern society. But the Vikings were a very curious people, and I think it’s why they advanced so much around Europe.

“They rubbed off on other cultures as well. (Hirst) was telling us that when they invaded England and started settling there – which is where this season begins – a lot of the Anglo-Saxon people started taking on their fashion. They started wearing braided hair, started wearing a lot of leather.”

Hmmm, the last time I looked at Athelstan, he had a decidedly Vikings hairstyle and was wearing leather, too.

Hey, in dangerous times, maybe Stockholm syndrome simply is good thinking. Never hurts to be flexible.

Source: Toronto Sun

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