Season 3: Episode 1 “Mercenary”
Warning: Full spoilers for the episode follow…
Even though Vikings’ Season 3 opener, “Mercenary,” took us on a tour of the familiar (Kattegat, Wessex, Vikings dominating Anglo-Saxons), it did a great job of setting up some new character dynamics for the series. Namely, romantic-slash-lustful ones in the form of Lagertha and King Ecbert, Ragnar and Princess Kwenthrith, and Athelstan and Judith.
The theme of Ragnar, as a former farmer, being a reluctant king was also prevalent. It seems like he enjoys being able to have the final word on matters (he doesn’t lack confidence) but his reasonings for travel and conquest have always differed from his brethren. Even his own son Bjorn seeks to dominate and capture in the name of “power” – something Ragnar knows drives men into deception and darkness.
From a fandom standpoint, I think it’s awesome that Lagertha is not only back in the thick of it, but with her own lands and title to boot. She spent Season 2 mostly on the outskirts of the story trying to find her own way while also doing the best for Bjorn, but now she’s fully returned to the mix. And it’s not that I’m clamoring for her and Ragnar to reunite (though I do like that the two of them share dreams of farming). I don’t even want that. I just want her to be a solid presence on the series. Ecbert was right in admiring her dazzling uniqueness.
Aslaug’s now the one being left out in the cold. Remaining behind in Kattegat as usual, and now having to care for her suffering, deformed son who Ragnar seemingly couldn’t get away from fast enough. In fact, the entire first third of the episode, which saw our raiders waiting out the winter, showed us just how much the brave and bold men of the village were, at heart, children. Scared of commitment and contentment. And just dying to get on those boats and leave their families in the distance.
Bjorn, as he himself mentioned, had to “bring his trouble with him” as Porunn invited herself along on the trip, ready to throw down like a proper shieldmaiden. And it’s not that he wants to get away from her because he feels “trapped” like the rest of the warriors, but he anticipates worrying about her in a battle. And that’s exactly what happened during the end moments. Ragnar will have to have a serious talk with him about focus, hopefully explaining how he himself was able to do it for so many years fighting alongside Lagertha.
I don’t exactly know when it’ll all play out in this season (since we never know when people will head back home or how long it will take, episode-wise), but Lagertha has some serious trouble brewing back in her village. A handsome aid named Kalf (Ben Robson) has gained her trust by honorably refusing to marry her because it might “look bad” for both of them, but he secretly plots to overthrow her with the aid of Einar (who resented her back in Season 2).
However, Lagertha is not only looking to make a new home in Wessex, but has a very powerful suitor in Ecbert. Will she ever return to her Scandinavian home? I fear for her if she does because she’ll be walking into a situation where she’ll likely have no allies to help her. Her whole “When will I die? question that she posed to the Seer at the top of the episode also makes me worry.
The end battle (featuring Ragnar, his family, Floki, and more trying to topple Kwenthrith’s uncle) once again proved that Viking tactics and force often overwhelm foreign enemies. Rarely vice-versa. Though Ragnar did discover that the warriors he left behind the last go round failed when confronted with the combined forces of the uncle and the younger brother. But all it took was a bonehead move from the Mercian army – that looked intimidating but was actually really thick-headed – and Ragnar was able to divide and conquer. A victory that caused Kwenthrith to have, what looked like, some sort of traumatic orgasm. Horrified ecstasy. Oh, yes. She has her eyes on Ragnar. And he’s probably going to go for her too because Ragnar is nothing if not a terrible decision maker when it comes to women and relationships.
There was nothing wholly new going on in the Vikings Season 3 premiere. A big battle. New sparks of love and lust here and there. Betrayal back home (this time in Lagertha’s camp). But it effectively brought Lagertha back to the forefront while also establishing Ragnar’s dream of settling down and cultivating land at some point. As in, he actually wants to develop something and grow his people’s futures and fortunes rather than just hacking and slashing his way through new foes for no reason.
- The episode features archaic languages: old norse, spoken by the Vikings and old english spoken by the Saxons. Only Athelstan, Ragnar and Echbert are able to speak both languages. Ragnar and Ecbert are both taught by Athelstan. Athelstan usually translates. But Ragnar and Echbert are able to communicate independently with the other language without a need to be translated.