Vikings Season 2 Review “Eye for an Eye”

Vikings Season 2 Episode 4 Eye for an Eye (2)

This week’s Vikings took a heavy emotional toll on viewers due to a devastating turn of events for Athelstan. After integrating into the Viking culture and Ragnar’s family, Athelstan makes a split second decision that will change everything for him and potentially for the Viking raiders.

In the aftermath of Jarl Borg’s invasion, Rollo leads Siggy and Ragnar’s family into the hills. They come upon a hovel that looks like a safe place to camp out. Princess Aslaug scoffs at the suggestion and tells Rollo she wants something “more inviting and comfortable.” Clearly, Aslaug doesn’t understand how it works when you’re running for your life. Siggy is the voice of reason and assures Aslaug that they’ll be able to make it through this tough time. In this time of trouble, Aslaug is mostly concerned about herself and doesn’t demonstrate the generosity and concern for others that you would want to see in your leader’s wife.

Back in Kattegat, Jarl Borg gives a pathetic pep talk to the villagers who just watched him slaughter their friends and family. He assures them he will be a just ruler, but I doubt anyone believes that. Even Jarl Borg is not entirely secure with his new position. He goes to see the Seer and asks him what his future holds. The Seer tells him that he sees an eagle in Jarl Borg’s future. Of course, this image has some kind of greater significance. I couldn’t find a solid explanation of the role of the eagle in Norse mythology. There is an eagle associated with holy tree Yggdrasil, but I’m not sure how that links up here.

Jarl Borg is equally confused by the eagle imagery. The Seer says that he sees “an eagle hovers over him, and he himself is the eagle.” Jarl Borg wants reassurance from the Seer that it’s a good sign, but the Seer just keeps repeating that he sees an eagle. So what could this possibly mean?

In Wessex, Ecbert decides to meet with the Vikings. To make sure that they are on equal ground, he proposes an exchange of hostages. He volunteers his son as part of the exchange. Ecbert is surprisingly logical, which actually makes him scarier.

Ragnar ends up being the volunteer for the Vikings and meets with He Who Loves Baths. Ecbert invites Ragnar to join him in the water, which is awkward. Ragnar can’t refuse, but is understandably uncomfortable stripping while Ecbert stares intently at him. I got the sense that Ecbert was sizing up his enemy rather than taking any homoerotic pleasure in the moment. Still. Awkward.

Ecbert suggests that they could give land to the Vikings in exchange for them performing some contract work for him. I don’t think it was wise of Ragnar to offer up the information that he is a farmer. That’s unlikely to be something Ecbert respects. But, Ecbert has grander ambitions, and a Viking army would come in handy for intimidating his enemies. Before anything can be worked out, though, Ragnar gets news of Jarl Borg’s treachery.

Ragnar doesn’t hesitate in returning home to his family. King Horik decides to stay and treat with Ecbert. I predict that is not going to go well. Horik strikes me as someone who is a good fighter, but not shrewd when it comes to negotiations. Ragnar points out that Horik can’t even speak the language. Horik responds by suggesting that Athelstan stay behind.

This is the moment of truth for Athelstan. In this moment, he has to decide if he is going to follow his friend to his Viking home or if he is going to stay in his old homeland. Without hesitation, Athelstan volunteers to stay. The decision disappoints Ragnar. He tells Athelstan, “I am surprised to hear you say that, for you know my family better than anyone.” Athelstan is sending the message that he is not part of Ragnar’s family. Ragnar gets in a parting dig when he tells him, “If you change your mind, your friends will be leaving at first light.”

Athelstan probably doesn’t realize how much protection he receives from being with Ragnar. The other Vikings have no loyalty to him, and he’s now an enemy in England.

Aslaug gets a hard dose of reality in their new home and won’t listen to Siggy’s advice on coping. Aslaug complains, “Everything is so dirty here.” How about cleaning it up? Siggy points out that many of their people live in such conditions. Her words fall on completely deaf ears. We all know that we would never hear such complaints from Lagertha.

Meanwhile, Bjorn hears of Ragnar’s troubles and wants to help him. Lagertha initially resists, but then changes her mind. She tries to talk to her husband, Earl Sigvard, about sending men, but he turns violent and tries to rape her. Finally, the Lagertha we know and love returns. She trounces him and makes it clear that she will not be so ill used by her own husband. Hopefully, he now understands that no man owns Lagertha.

Back in England, as Athelstan listens to the screams of the women being attacked by Horik and his men, he appears to have the first doubts over his decision to stay. He pulls out the bible that Floki gave him and opens it to a picture of the crucifixion. The image starts to bleed, an ominous sign of what’s to come for our poor priest.

Ragnar’s return home is marked by tragedy. Floki explains that they lost several ships on their way back. Floki’s response is unusually sober. His flightiness is replaced with a sad understanding of the lives they lost. It was nice to see that he has some emotional depth.

When Ragnar finally makes it back, his number one concern is his children. He doesn’t give much affection to Aslaug and tells her, “I was afraid that I would never see them again.” Ragnar’s only seems interested in her when he wants to have sex.

Lagertha doesn’t get a much warmer response from her ex-husband when she shows up with Bjorn. Ragnar is ecstatic to see his son, but looks conflicted over seeing Lagertha. He throws his arm around Bjorn and takes him into the house, leaving Lagertha standing in the road. I hope that next week we have a more satisfying interaction between them. It’s been a long time since they’ve seen each other and it will be interesting to see if the spark is still there.

The biggest moment of the episode is saved for the very end. Athelstan’s vision becomes a reality when Ecbert’s men capture him. Declared an apostate, the Bishop crucifies Athelstan to send a message. The suffering on Athelstan’s face is overwhelming and the extent of the pain is unimaginable. It is Ecbert’s mercy that saves him. But, why would Ecbert want to save him? My guess is that Ecbert is going to use Athelstan to gain knowledge of the Vikings. I wonder, though, what was going through Athelstan’s mind as he was hoisted into the air. Did he have the ability to think about what brought him to this moment? We’ll have to see next week just how broken he is.

Though I am frequently down on Ragnar, Travis Fimmel does a fantastic job bringing him to life. Ragnar isn’t an effusive character, so Fimmel’s skill in communicating with his expressions is key to making the character believable. Of course, any review of this episode would be incomplete without the acknowledgment of George Blagden’s amazing performance. He makes you feel Athelstan’s pain and empathize with him.

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