Season 3: Episode 9 “To The Gates”
By Matt Fowler
Warning: Full spoilers for the episode follow…
There’s something profoundly sweet and alluring about Ragnar’s decision to get baptized (or to force a baptism) just so he might have a chance of seeing Athelstan once again in the afterlife. Will it create chaos among his horde? Most definitely, though he hadn’t intended for them to see it happen. On the other hand though, he just might be dying. So what does he ultimately care?
As weird as it feels to know that Ragnar may have purposefully tanked the first assault on Paris, costing many men and women their lives (Norsemen casualties numbered over a thousand after the second assault this week), there’s a satisfying perverseness to the fact that Ragnar’s mind hasn’t been fully on the ball since Athelstan died. And now he’s also having to deal with both his injuries and a new plague that’s decided to sweep over the area in the wake of all the fighting. So he’s even loopier than usual. And he’s sort of letting the ghost of Athelstan take the reins. His big secret’s been that he’s been doing all of this, essentially, for Athelstan.
I don’t suspect that Vikings will head into Season 4 without Ragnar (especially since he’s supposed to patiently plotting revenge on Floki), but I like the fact that they’ve crippled him both physically and emotionally here. “Breaking Point” occurs a good while after the events in “To the Gates!” (enough time that Bjorn has now mostly recovered from his gruesome battle wounds), but Ragnar is still in horrid shape. And it’s now weighing very heavily on him that being king wasn’t even something he ever wanted. And because of that, he’s sort of clinging to the memory of the one guy he felt like he could truly relate to. He even sees Athelstan during a nasty, feverish vision at one point.
“Breaking Point,” while still occasionally cutting back to Wessex and Kattegat (Ecbert and Judith finally settled on suitable “mistress” terms while Aslaug punished an a-hole of a visiting missionary), kept the tension building over in Paris. A second attack was waged, as Lagertha and some hand-picked shieldmaidens infiltrated the city and worked to open the gates after a really cool stealth scene involving pillar shadows – and an agonizing one involving boiling oil.
Once inside, Rollo and Floki had to face down a GIANT SPIKED ROLLING THING THAT CRUSHED MANY ENEMIES IN ITS PATH!!! Wow! That was pretty sick. Especially when its victims remained attached to it (and alive) as it kept rolling. In fact, this second siege let loose with the blood a little more. Vikings is a violent show, though relatively gore-free. Characters can be covered in blood during battle, but rarely do you see the hacking and slashing you’d normally witness on – say – Game of Thrones. This week though, there was a bit more carnage going on.
We even got to see a guy’s hand get chopped off. As in, we saw the severed bloody part afterward. It’s not this show’s usual style. It’s not a problem though. It helped add to the intensity of the Paris debacle. By the way, that hand-chop trick that Earl Siegfried pulled, which caused him to laugh hysterically, was pretty damn great.
Vikings’ penultimate Season 3 episode delivered the goods, adding a second exciting attack on Paris (the Norsemen got so close this time!) and a new bold personal move by Ragnar (motivated by his dear friend’s death).