Vikings Season 2 Review “Blood Eagle”

Vikings Season 2 Episode 7 Blood Eagle (1)

Winter has fallen on Kattegat. With the loss of the winter stores, its people struggle to make do with the little they have left. There are no more sumptuous feasts; there are rats, roasted over the fire. Ragnar knows who is to blame for their misery – the shell of a man shackled in a desolate barn. Jarl Borg will pay for his crimes in a manner that is shockingly and incongruously both brutal and beautiful.

King Horik isn’t enthusiastic for Jarl Borg’s death, as it will mean the loss of his warriors and ships. He asks Ragnar to delay the execution until they can find another ally. Ragnar reluctantly acquiesces and replies in an ominous tone, “But at least we are still allies, King Horik.” Horik replies that his goal is revenge on King Ecbert, “Come what may.” This does not bode well for the relationship between Ragnar and Horik. From the time that Horik ordered Ragnar to renege on the agreement with Jarl Borg to go raiding, Ragnar must have understood that Horik’s word means very little. When Horik fails to support Ragnar in punishing Jarl Borg, it destroys the last bit of confidence Ragnar may have had in his king. When Ragnar defies Horik and captures Jarl Borg, Horik must understand that this little Earl may bring him more trouble than anticipated.

Jarl Borg attempts to fuel the fire of mistrust between Horik and Ragnar. What both men fail to realize is that Ragnar is not inherently ambitious. If left alone, he would continue to rule at Kattegat and would venture out every once in a while to raid. He might even become inspired to relocate his people to England. Ragnar doesn’t appear to have plans to disturb the natural order of things. He wouldn’t even have been Earl if it weren’t for Haraldson’s paranoia. It’s when Ragnar is disrespected and backed into a corner that he becomes dangerous.

For reasons not entirely clear, the relationship between Floki and Ragnar has hit a rough patch. When Helga tells Floki that she is pregnant and he asks to marry her, he insists that Ragnar is not allowed to participate in the nuptials. The reason we’re given is that Floki is tired of everything being done for Ragnar, but this doesn’t ring true. This new animosity was unexpected and not explained well enough. Floki is mentally unstable, so perhaps that is the source of the problem. It is bizarre to see Horik at their wedding and not Ragnar. Surprisingly, we do not see how Ragnar takes the news that Floki marries without him present.

The scene of Floki and Helga’s marriage is beautiful. It’s also incredibly powerful to have it juxtaposed with the marriage of King Ecbert’s son in England. The Viking wedding is more joyful and community oriented. Floki and Helga are two people who have been together for a long time and love each other. By contrast, the English wedding is formal and austere. The young couple does not know each other – let alone love each other.

Ragnar eventually receives word that he does have a new ally – who turns out to be Lagertha. It’s a fantastic scene when she lures Ragnar out to meet and her. He circles her horse while she remains still. What I would have liked to see is Lagertha’s integration back into the group. For example, we didn’t see her reunite with Bjorn. It feels like there is a lot that we haven’t seen. How did Rollo find out about Siggy? Did Bjorn have sex with Porunn?

Bjorn is becoming one of the more interesting characters on the show. He was an angry, impetuous child. His time with Lagertha has softened him. His visit with Jarl Borg is a powerful scene that shows what kind of man Bjorn is. He brings Jarl Borg food and looks horrified at how desperate the man is to receive it. Giving Bjorn a softer side, which Floki counsels him against, makes him more likable. He is a better version of Ragnar.

There were several mystical elements woven through this week’s episode. Aslaug is pregnant – again. She says that she is going to give birth to a monster. It is unclear what this means. Will the child be deformed or will it grow up to be a bad person? In England, a raven comes to the window of Athelstan’s workshop. Even though he appears to be re-embracing Christianity and his former homeland, the look on his face shows that he misses the Vikings.

Ultimately, all of the week’s stories culminated in the scene of Jarl Borg’s murder. The ceremony in which Ragnar creates the blood eagle is violent and gorgeous. The lighting, the music, and the solemnity almost distract the viewer from the brutality of the act. Ragnar even treats it like a solemn event and doesn’t appear to take pleasure in it. At one point, he even strokes Jarl Borg in a way that seems compassionate. It’s like Ragnar knows that Jarl Borg is struggling not to cry out and Ragnar doesn’t want him to. It felt as though Ragnar wanted Jarl Borg to still go to Valhalla. It is a tribute to medieval times that such a method of execution was ever contemplated.

The process of creating the blood eagle was, thankfully, mostly shrouded. It was enough to see the horror on the faces of the witnesses – we didn’t need to actually see all the gore ourselves. By obscuring the mutilation, Ragnar’s character also remains shielded from the full gruesomeness of his actions. He is like the priest, performing a ritual – not a man who is exacting revenge against an enemy.

I did feel like this week’s episode felt like it had more commercials than usual. I’m not sure if that’s because I wanted to know what was going to happen – or if it actually did. Combined with some of the story jumps, it felt like we were missing scenes and important information. For example, why did Horik decide not to help Jarl Borg? Rather than add missing scenes to the DVD, I’d prefer that they lengthen the season, give us more episodes, and tell the complete story all at once.

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