Season 2: Episode 4 “Eye For An Eye”
So, I’ll just come right out and say that the only thing that ruined this week’s episode, which featured (finally!) a reunion I’d been dying for, was a very-near dying of a favorite character and a crucifixion. But more on that later.
Episode 4 starts out with a whine.
Aslaug’s to be exact.
“It’s too cold. It’s too muddy. It’s too crowded. These peasants smell like barn animals.”
The normal princess-y things we expect from her. Rollo’s spent time out and about looking for extra farmers ready to raise pitchforks against Jarl Borg and to help the gang take back Kattegat, but all he managed to round up was a measly 30. Things aren’t looking promising, and with the princess driving Siggy mad with her complaints, something’s got to give soon. Lucky for her (and us) her “seeress” powers kick in and she spies a vision of Ragnar traipsing down a hill toward her with his axes at the ready.
Speaking of Ragnar, he’s convinced to sit in a big steamy tub with Ecbert in a rather uncomfortable scene. (Seriously, is Ecbert ever not in that tub?) Seems he’s got ambitious plans that go beyond being the king in Wessex and he thinks the burly Vikings might come in handy. Remember from the last episode that Ragnar thinks being burly Vikings might come in handy when it comes to getting what he wants, as well—English farmland.
Cut to Lagertha and Bjorn. Word’s reached both of them that Kattegat’s been seized and when Lagertha tries to use her feminine wiles to convince her new husband to help out her old husband, it nearly backfires and turns into a rape scene. Lucky for us, Lagertha changes tactics and uses her Shield Maiden wiles instead and nearly runs him through with a dagger and a promise to castrate him again if he ever treats her like “one of his whores.” Go, girl.
The Viking/Saxon negotiations are broken up by the news of Jarl Borg’s massacre. Ragnar and his men leave and Athelstan chooses to stay behind with King Horik. Athelstan later ends up a prisoner of that portly bishop Ecbert likes to bully and finds himself nailed to a cross with a crown of thorns—just like that priest in the last episode promised him. All looked lost for our beloved “halfling” until Ecbert pulls up on a horse (finally with some clothes on and finally out of his bath!) and orders the Viking priest to be cut down. Phew! Not sure if it’s out of the flame and into the fire for him, but at least he’s safe for now.
And finally, the payoff.
Ragnar arrives home and is happily reunited with Aslaug, his boys, and his brother. What more could a man want? Well, Bjorn arrives with his mother and a road full of men ready to support Lothbrook and his quest to take Kattegat back.
Previews for the coming episode make it look like it’s going to be a bloody run and hint at jealousy between the old wife and the new one. Might Ragnar have the chance to rethink his choice? One can only hope… <
Recap by Megan Applegate at Flickering Myth
Many of the series in today’s platinum age of scripted dramas provoke emotional responses from their viewers. This is symptomatic of well written and produced programs and one of the secrets to their success. Much of the time it manifests as speechless shock or a welling of tears in the eye. VIKINGS consistently makes you shout out loud, either cheering on the cast in battle or cursing the name of one of main protagonist Ragnar’s many enemies. Eye For An Eye, the fourth episode of History’s first episodic drama, is aptly named and will have you screaming both in elation and for blood by end of the hour. Spoilers lurk in the darkness ahead, traveler…Ye have been warned!
Eye For An Eye Synopsis:
Editors note: The events are not in linear order of the show. In order to present them in a cohesive narrative below, I’ve moved them about slightly.
Rollo takes Princess Aslaug, Ragnar’s children and Siggy to hide at a farm. Aslaug detests living at the farm, her OCD has had enough, but Siggy finally talks sense into her.
At Kattegat, Jarl Borg proclaims his ruler-ship of the townsfolk and puts a bounty the weight of a man in silver and gold for Ragnar’s head. Borg talks to the Seer, he prophesizes an eagle hovering over Jarl Borg when asked of his future, an eagle that is also the Jarl. He interprets this as a good sign, the eagle is his destiny.
King Eckbert proposes trading prisoners with the Northmen, his son for Ragnar. Ragnar and the King meet in the royal baths where they come to an agreement on land in trade for services to the King.
One of Horik’s boats arrives with news of the attack on Kattegat. Ragnar departs immediately, but Athelstan stays behind to aid King Horik as a translator, much to Ragnar’s dismay. On the voyage back, they hit rough weather and lose two of their boats.
Bjorn pleads with his Mother to assist his father when he returns. Lagertha appeals to her husband to assist in aiding Ragnar evict the usurper. He is drunk and instead attempts to rape her. She fends him off and saves him from Bjorn who has sworn to kill his step-father.
Rollo has had some success in finding men to fight Jarl Borg but 30 warriors isn’t enough. He is proud of his new role, as defender of Ragnar’s family. Siggy is proud of him in turn for finally becoming heroic, proud Rollo, again.
Visions galore come at us now. Athelstan gets hammered and has a vision as he reads a bible, the stigmata appears on a painting of Christ in the Book. He really needs to control his drinking. At the farm, Aslaug has a vision of Ragnar on the hill. He arrives at Floki’s docks the next day. We learn that Aslaug has her monthly, making blood the common thread between their visions.
An army approaches the farm. It’s Lagertha and Bjorn come to help Ragnar take Kattegat back. Bjorn and Ragnar bond immediately. Lagertha looks both proud and a bit melancholy. Her expressions betray that she has missed Ragnar, too.
Jarl Borg ends our episode rallying his lieutenants against Ragnar. He boldly proclaims he shall kill Ragnar Lothbrook.
Athelstan and a hunting party of King Horik’s men are ambushed by King Eckbert’s people, attacks that were ordered when Ragnar’s group left for home. He initially escapes, but is eventually captured, then crucified. King Eckbert has him cut down, despite the mob.
The entire episode is foreshadowing of things to come. The eagle that the Seer claims to be Jarl Borg’s destiny is most likely an imminent blood eagle I’ve mentioned in past articles on this series. Athelstan’s crucifixion is also a herald of this thing to come, a gruesome affair that is actually tame in comparison to the blood eagle. We now see how far this series will go in showing the cruelty of that age. After releasing Athelstan, it’s even more apparent now that this King has nothing but contempt for the Church. He most likely also understands Athelstan’s usefulness as a hostage. The man can speak their language after all. A battle between religious beliefs has been brewing with Athelstan at its nexus.
Medieval Christians, historically, have a notorious and infamous reputation for dirty pool when facing other religions. The “Zero Tolerance” rule of thumb when dealing with pagans, to include demonizing their deities and destroying their historical artifacts was one of the very causes of the Dark Ages themselves. For as benign and charitable as Christianity has become, during the Dark Ages ignorance and fear drove the mob to do dastardly things. The Northmen, on the other hand, had a deep-rooted respect of their pantheon of gods. As the Vikings interbred with more and more of the lands they raided, they also assimilated the religious beliefs. Soon the old gods of the Vikings were relegated to myth, Thor’s Hammer was replaced by the cross.
Finally, near the end of the 10th century when King Harald Bluetooth (an inspiration for Robert E. Howard’s classic CONAN character) of Denmark became the first recognized Christian Viking King, the end of the Viking’s Religion and Era was nigh, finally ending around the Norman invasion of Britain in fall of 1066.
But they didn’t go away, completely. We find them controlling our lives to this day. The days of the week have their origins in the gods of the Vikings, well at least six of them. Sunday and Monday were the Sun’s and Moon’s Days, respectively, Tuesday, Tyr, god of law, Wednesday, Wotin or Odin’s Day. Thursday, well that belonged to the legendary god of thunder, Thor. Friday was reserved for Odin’s wife and Thor’s mother, Frigga. Saturday, the traditional Judeo-Christian Sabbath Day and named after the Roman deity Saturn, is the only Roman infiltration in our weekly lives.
King Harald had one more influence on us modern folk that many of us see as we text and scroll through facebook on our phones, the Runic spelling of his initials. Yes, that little symbol that resembles a radio antenna for your bluetooth signal is actually his name, a symbolic representation of how the media protocol is able to communicate with conflicting programming in a manner similar to how Herald united Denmark and Norway under a Christian banner.
Next week the thickening plot should come to a head, at least somewhat. With a title like Answers In Blood one can be sure that some bit of vengeance shall be laid out by Ragnar and his band, and I am certain Athelstan will contribute much to the episode with his capture.
Recap by This is Infamous
Inside Look: Ep 204 Eye For An Eye
Writer and executive producer Michael Hirst discusses the various themes of survival and conflict that touch each of the characters.