And leaving shocking deaths in his wake
AV CLUB – With only two episodes before the mid-season finale, “Death All ’Round” continues last week’s housecleaning of unprofitable characters, concluding with Torvi finally standing up to—and snuffing out—treacherous weasel Erlendur with his own beloved crossbow. Like Odo, like Kwenthrith, Elrendur’s death has little impact, either on the plot or, I suspect, on viewers. His revenge narrative never registered on a personal level—not really Edvin Endre’s fault, but the little creep was always more of a plot device than a person, a feeble threat to Bjorn whose machinations were doomed to fail. (Last week’s ill-conceived crossbow fakeout faked out only those who imagined Elrlendur a lot more formidable than he ever was.) The other deaths in this episode, however, mean more.
First there’s Lagertha’s baby, as doomed by the Seer’s prophecy that Lagertha would never have another child as it was by the stray shot at the start of the episode of Lagertha wincing and putting her hand to her tummy. (While helping haul Ragnar’s ships through a forest, no less.) Still, when the inevitable comes and Lagertha sits pale and covered in her own blood in her tent, it’s devastating, especially because of Katheryn Winnick, Travis Fimmel, and Alexander Ludwig’s performances. The sight of the three of them—their past and Ragnar’s recent drug-assisted vision of the family they were still echoing—sitting together in wordless grief is powerful. Everything that’s separated them further from each other is momentarily swept away in shared sorrow. The sight of Ragnar simply holding his former wife’s head and stroking her hair (and Lagertha allowing it, for a moment at least) sees all the years—and the betrayals—drop away. And when Lagertha regains her wonted strength and orders the men out, they move away, but only a few feet, father and son adopting identical crouched poses on either side of the woman they both love. Like the best emotional Vikings moments, it works because there’s so little said. These aren’t people prone to explaining themselves or making speeches about their grief. Here, it’s the movement of Ragnar’s hand in Lagertha’s hair, Bjorn and Ragnar’s wordless refusal to leave, and Lagertha’s drained, set expression that are so eloquent.