Vikings Season 1 Review “A King’s Ransom”

Being a non-Christian, Ragnar is no doubt unfamiliar with the proverb that pride goeth before the fall. Then again, even if he was familiar with it, he would probably be too arrogant to take its meaning to heart. Ragnar is riding a wave of success, including his discovery of the western lands and ascendance to the position of Earl, but his ambition and arrogance may be leading him into dangerous territory.

Ragnar and his men embark on another journey to England and this time Ragnar has his sights set on a much larger prize – the wealth of the King. There is something absurd about the idea of one boatload of men taking on the land’s native inhabitants. The Vikings are well-remembered for their bravery in battle, but the numbers just do not add up. It initially looks like Ragnar understands this and he keeps his men from committing suicide by storming the town. As usual, Rollo is awash with bloodlust and does not appreciate being held back by his brother.

However, Ragnar’s true strategy reveals itself at nightfall. The Vikings sneak into the English camp, slaughter their men, and capture the King’s brother. The emboldened Ragnar imagines that he will be able to broker a deal with the King, whereby he would exchange the brother for gold. The Vikings go to the King’s hall to negotiate and feast. Would a band of marauders have been welcomed by the King? It is true that the Vikings are fierce, but in a closed space and significantly outnumbered, the King would have had the upper hand in a fight. The King may have lost his brother, but we ultimately learn that his gold is far dearer to him.

The most shocking moment of the shared meal between enemies comes when the English bishop suggests that he baptize one of the Vikings in order to have confidence that the foreigners will keep their word. Rollo stands up and announces that he will become a Christian. In Rollo’s mind, saying the words is not the same as meaning the words. Thus, his willingness is not a complete surprise. Ragnar seems momentarily shaken by his brother’s offer, though. This was interesting since Rangar had been unfailingly confident since leaving his home shores. It was an event that Ragnar had not anticipated and could not plan for. If tragedy befalls the Vikings, Rollo will likely be blamed because he abandoned his own gods in exchange for the English god of gold.

When the King’s men and the Vikings finally come to blows, it is another gory fight scene complete with shield maidens and shield pounding. The Vikings decimate the King’s forces. We expect this to happen because the Vikings are the protagonists. However, it wasn’t a grand battle scene that you would expect from two armies. It was a group of thugs hacking their way out of a trench. Part of the issue here is probably the production budget. While it may be more difficult to depict a large and complex battle scene on the small screen, many current shows, like Spartacus, are able to do so. Hopefully, now that the show has established an audience, The History Channel will expand the budget.

Back at home, Lagertha is demonstrating that she is a firm, but compassionate leader. When she saves the lives of a mother and her bastard child, Athelstan looks at Lagertha as if he’s never seen her before. Lagertha has presented herself to him as no-nonsense and abrasive, but he now gets a glimpse at the true complexity of her character. Lagertha also shows her sense of integrity when she invites Siggy into her home. The obnoxious little Bjorn doesn’t want to let Siggy in because he holds a grudge against the Earl. However, Lagertha reminds him that if the battle had gone a different way, she would have been in Siggy’s place. Siggy’s previous conversation with Rollo suggests that her motivation in reaching out to Lagertha may not be in good faith. This is a shame because a friendship between the two women would be interesting in such a male-dominated show. When Lagertha (presumably) loses her baby and Siggy comforts her, you want to believe that Siggy is motivated by kindness. It seems unlikely that she is given her previous behavior.

When we see Ragnar returning to his ship, he looks ridiculously self-satisfied. Why shouldn’t he be? He’s outwitted the King and is returning home with chests full of gold. He does not know yet that his child has died. Will he take this as a punishment by the gods? There is no way that the season is going to end on a happy note for Ragnar. It simply can’t. He’s been on an upward trajectory and will only remain a sympathetic hero if he’s knocked down and picks himself up again.

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