Vikings Season 1 Review “Trial”

Vikings presents an interesting problem. You have all the plot devices that make you root for Ragnar and his men. Ragnar is the quasi-hero pitted against the oppressive Earl Haraldson. He and his men master the elements in traveling west to England. Ragnar and Lagertha have a deep love for one another and beguiling children. As this week’s episode demonstrated, however, at the end of the day, the Vikings are murderers. They don’t go into battle to protect their lands or fight in self-defense. They are ruthless aggressors who go into other people’s villages to steal and kill. Why is it that we still want Ragnar to come out on top?

One possible reason for embracing Ragnar is that he’s not quite like the other Vikings. For him, the journeys west are more about the challenge and less about becoming rich. He started with one monastery and now his aspirations have increased. He sets his sights on a decent sized medieval town. Ragnar is smart, though. Unlike his fellow marauders, he doesn’t want to rush into anything. After learning about Christianity from the priest, Ragnar has figured out that the best time to attack will be when the townspeople are unarmed and in church. When they burst in on the congregation, Ragnar is willing to let them all live if they do not resist. This veneer of magnanimity makes his invasion more palatable, but shatters once Floki kills a priest. Does Ragnar tell him to stop or try to save the people? Not at all. He smirks and the slaughter begins. You want Ragnar to be a noble soul, but he doesn’t let you forget that he’s more than a little flawed.

Lagertha heads out with the men, and it was a surprising that she was the only woman in the group. As soon as Lagertha lands on the sand with the others, I knew there was going to be some kind of drama involving rape. It goes hand in hand with our ideas of the Vikings. On a brief tangent, I’m not sure why so many shows lately are choosing to depict rape scenes. I think it’s because cable shows are trying to be more edgy, but it’s too much (e.g., The Americans, Bates Motel, Banshee, Vikings). Vikings is the only one that has had the decency not to be overly graphic. But yes, we get it. Vikings bad, rape of villagers bad. Let’s stop showing it and move on.

For Lagertha, her decision to stop Knut from raping a villager has serious consequences. She kills him and then announces it to the entire raiding party. Why would she do that? The scene was chaotic and there were no witnesses, so she easily could have said that he was killed by a villager and there would’ve been nobody to disprove her statement. Instead, her admission leads to Ragnar’s arrest. Though Knut is now departed, I recommend looking up the profile of Eric Higgins who played him. The physical transformation from his normal appearance to his Viking character is pretty impressive.

Earl Haraldson is determined to bring Ragnar down. He declares that there is one person who witnessed the murder, and Rollo steps forward. Earl Haraldson thinks that he’s been able to convince Rollo to betray Ragnar. I honestly expected that Rollo would. It was a complete shock when he went against the Earl and sided with his brother. Rollo tells Lagertha that he did it all for her, which is disturbing considering he should’ve been doing it for his brother’s sake. Regardless, good job Rollo on not being a complete jerk for once. This still doesn’t erase all the bad things he’s done. He’s got to get what’s coming to him eventually.

We learned even more this week about Earl Haraldson. I’m starting to warm up to his character. We now know he had two sons who died and has a daughter. However, any inclination to empathize with him goes right out the window when he kills the little boy and buries him in the treasure pit. He also doesn’t do himself any favors by having Ragnar’s men attacked. Ragnar isn’t going to let that pass, so Earl Haraldson should prepare himself for a world of hurt.

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