Vikings Season 1 Review “Raid”

In last week’s episode of Vikings, we ended with Earl Haraldson exacting revenge on Ragnar by ambushing Ragnar’s men. The Earl’s blood lust is not sated and he turns his gaze to Ragnar’s village. While the Earl views the slaughter of the villagers as a sign of strength over his dominion, he inadvertently elevates Ragnar’s social status. If Ragnar were merely an annoyance and not a threat to the Earl’s power, he would just kidnap him and kill him in the town square. Instead, the Earl’s reaction demonstrates that he is afraid of Ragnar, and that Ragnar is somehow important enough that his entire village needs to be destroyed.

After hearing a commotion, Ragnar rushes back to his village and witnesses the chaos and mayhem. A smile plays at his lips as he creeps in for the kill. He fights his way through to his home and helps his family and the priest escape. Ragnar is severely injured and comes out to face the Earl. Dropping to his knees with blood pouring from his wounds, Ragnar looks as though he is prepared to capitulate. In this tense moment, it is unclear if Ragnar will be taken captive. It was notable that the Earl came himself to humiliate Ragnar. We have rarely seen the Earl go outside of his home. It lended credibility to his role as a leader to actually see him out leading people.

Naturally, Ragnar escapes. After running through the forest, Ragnar finds himself staring over the edge a cliff. He falls from the cliff and disappears into the inky black water. Fortunately, his family’s boat is near and Athelstan dives in after him. Given her devotion to Ragnar, it was surprising that Lagertha did not leave the boat. However, the larger purpose is likely to create a more solid bond between Ragnar and Athelstan. By saving his life, Athelstan has repaid the debt of having himself been saved by Ragnar.

They take Ragnar to Floki’s and are terrified that he is dying. Lagertha tries to mend his wounds, while she prays to the gods to save him. Her face reflects the grief that she feels at the idea that she could lose the one person whom she loves more than anything else. In a touching moment, Athelstan joins with the family and offers his own prayer to his god. Nobody is offended or mocks him.

The relationship between Athelstan and Ragnar continues to evolve in interesting ways. Athelstan is adjusting to his new life, but is uncomfortable with the idea that he is a slave. Athelstan challenges the Vikings’ way of life by highlighting the moral paradox created by slavery. If it is a crime to rape a Viking woman, why is it not a crime to rape a slave woman? Ragnar is not ready to abandon his way of life and fully consider the implications of what Athelstan suggests. But, there is a sense that the seed has been planted and these may be ideas that Ragnar comes back to in the future. In the meantime, Athelstan pushes for his liberation, a notion not rejected or accepted by Ragnar. The two men approach each other as equals in many ways, despite the fact that they come from disparate backgrounds. It is just a matter of time before Ragnar releases Athelstan.

Back in the town, the Earl reveals that he has sold his daughter to an old, corpulent Swede. Siggy is livid. She doesn’t believe that her daughter will be happy in the marriage, and she is affronted that the Earl would have made the decision without her input. This is the first time Siggy is shown as anything other than cruel and manipulative. She is still a mother grieving the loss of her two sons. For some unknown reason, the Earl thinks this is a good time to give Siggy the grizzly details of the desecration of their sons’ bodies. For a moment, the Earl’s loss almost inspires some pity for him. It is hard, though, to pity a man who murdered someone else’s child and buried them with his treasure. This is also the same man who just ordered an entire village of men, women, and children murdered. He gets no pity.

We see more of Siggy, but her actions suggest we don’t really know her at all. She goes to Rollo, stares at him lovingly, and urges him to flee. This is a strange turn as there hasn’t been much to indicate any particular affinity between the two. We’ve been led to believe that Rollo is pining over Lagertha. Was Siggy a childhood love interest? When Rollo is captured, Siggy again takes the extreme risk of sending a messenger to Ragnar. This is all very confusing. Siggy has been the one urging the Earl to exercise his strength and power, now she is trying to undermine him?

As reprehensible as Rollo has been, he withstands torture in order to protect Ragnar’s location from discovery. The scene of him strapped to the table was difficult to watch, even though the camera did not capture the gory details (thankfully). This type of editorial choice demonstrates why this is a thoughtful series. The writers know that you can evoke the same emotional impact from the audience by the suggestion of torture without having to actually show it. The blood dripping down onto the ground is enough to communicate the horror of the situation. Surprisingly, when the family learns about Rollo’s capture and torture, Lagertha seems almost as angry as Ragnar. Their family is starting to feel more cohesive – when one is attacked, they will band together to take action.

This episode had a different tone than the last couple. The focus was more introspective as illustrated by the theological conversation in Floki’s home. This retreat to intimacy was a nice way to slow the story down and to give us additional time to anticipate the Earl’s defeat.

Be sure to check out my interviews with Katheryn Winnick (Lagertha) and George Blagden (Athelstan) from WonderCon this past weekend. You’ll learn the correct pronunciation of “Lagertha” and what may be in the future for their characters.

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