The usual warning — This is not a review, just some random thoughts. But there are some spoilers.
So much to say about this episode.
At first I thought that Athelstan was having a vision of what was being done to Judith.
I kept wondering why King Ecbert would be risking King Aelle’s wrath. How can Aelle do nothing in response to his daughter being disfigured while under Ecbert’s care? A possible answer later, but first some thoughts on the strange triangle between Ecbert, Ragnar and Athelstan.
Both Ecbert and Ragnar seem to need or believe they need Athelstan. Ragnar needs Athelstan as a friend, a confidante, a safe-harbor. When Athelstan announces that he will be leaving because he can no longer worship the Norse gods, Ragnar tells him essentially that, and that he loves him. More on Athelstan’s “leaving” later.
As for Ecbert and Athelstan, the relationship is more father-son. Indeed, Ecbert manipulates matters with Aethelwulf so that Athelstan’s son will have the status of his grandson, as opposed to just a royal bastard.
Aethelwulf is just putty in Ecbert’s hands. Ecbert is able to get Aethelwulf to agree that Judith must be spared after she admits that Athelstan is the father, by saying it was the equivalent of a divine conception and that she was powerless to prevent it. Of course, Ecbert knew all along and could have easily prevented it, but let it happen.
Maybe Ecbert’s plan was that Judith would be reason for Athelstan to stay in Wessex, which is why he let the affair happen?
Perhaps pardoning Judith is how Ecbert deals with Aelle? They wanted to kill her, I got her off with only the loss of an ear.
I didn’t like the way the news of the settlement was handled. Ragnar kills the survivor to keep the news from the others, presumably so that it wouldn’t interfere with the raid on Paris. But what was there to stop Floki from telling everyone? And wouldn’t the survivor had told his story when he was shipwrecked? And no ships went to visit the settlement in the seven months since the slaughter?
At some point, there must be some reckoning between Ragnar and Ecbert because I can’t imagine the two story lines stay separate. But it looks like that reckoning must wait until after the raid on Paris.
You really felt Ragnar’s loss when he buried Athelstan. “You saw yourself as weak and conflicted, but to me you were fearless because you dared to question. Why did you have to die? We had so much more to talk about.” But later Ragnar, after shaving his head and donning Athelstan’s cross, says he has been changed by Athelstan’s death and says, “Forgive me my friend, not for what I have done but for what I’m about to do.” I am not sure if he is referring to Paris, Floki, Wessex or something else.
I was disappointed by Athelstan’s death scene. I would have expected Floki to have been at least somewhat unnerved by Athelstan’s calm acceptance, but he wasn’t. And after killing him, I would have expected Floki to ponder how Ragnar would react, but he didn’t. Floki’s character has become too one-dimensional. Zealotry and nothing else.
Athelstan’s death leaves Ragnar surrounded by his enemies. There is Kalf, who has his sights set on Ragnar’s throne. Kalf brings with him to Kattegat for the Paris raid King Horik’s son and the widow of Jarl Borg. Is he just playing mind-games with Ragnar? Or does he suspect that Ragnar intends to kill him after the Paris raid and restore Lagertha as Earl, so he brought backup?
As for Lagertha, I don’t understand why she wouldn’t return to the settlement in Wessex after Ragnar’s refusal to help her reclaim her earldom.
Rollo is a changed man after the Seer’s prophecy.
Bjorn hooks up with Jarl Borg’s widow. Part of Kalf’s plan?
On to Paris.