Vikings “Mercenary” Review (Season 3 Episode 1)

Vikings Mercenary Season 3 Episode 1 04

It feels like we’ve been waiting for the return of Vikings for a long time. It’s finally back from season 3 and there are a lot of layers to sift through. King Ragnar may have wiped out his enemies at the end of last season, but that doesn’t mean that he and his family are out of danger. The Vikings return to England and learn that King Ecbert has changed the terms of their arrangement. King Ecbert is sly, but he’s definitely underestimating Ragnar.

We start the episode with Lagertha’s trip to the Seer. She asks about whether she will ever have another child, and the outlook is not good. She also asks what’s in her future and when she will die. Fortunately, the Seer does not have an answer to the latter. This scene communicated the complexity of Lagertha. Though she is an Earl now and a confident woman, she still has emotional needs and fears. The Seer’s prognostications remind viewers that even though this is a historical drama, there are still a supernatural quality to this Nordic culture.

When we see Ragnar, he is on the side of a mountain, looking down at his kingdom with Bjorn at his side. This is a nice juxtaposition to the end of season 2, when Ragnar was alone on the mountain. This foreshadows that Bjorn is becoming his father’s equal. Ragnar also gives a portentous warning to Bjorn, “Power is always dangerous, it attracts the worst and corrupts the best.” Ragnar has never been motivated by power, so it will be interesting to see if this applies to him.

Lagertha is back in her own village, confident in her position as Earl. She has a new right hand man, Kalf, who professes unwavering loyalty to her. There are moments when Lagertha talks to Kalf, where you think she may not entirely believe him. In what might be arrogant from anyone but Lagertha, she is perplexed that he has not asked her to marry him. The look on her face suggests that she’s suspicious of a man without ambition. Unfortunately, Lagertha has grown overconfident and doesn’t see that Kalf is only waiting for her departure to steal the Earlship. This is a point I’ve often wondered about. If the leader and the warriors all leave for months, what is there to stop someone else from filling the void?

At least so far, Ragnar doesn’t have this problem. As the Vikings prepare to leave for England, Ragnar’s realm seems relatively peaceful. We see him more at ease, playing with his children. But, there also are troubles in the Lothbrok house. Ragnar’s handicapped son is driving a wedge into the family. Aslaug cares for the fussy child who is unable to walk, while the child’s deformities unsettle Ragnar and the other children. It’s telling that when Aslaug asks if Ragnar loves their child, he immediately says, “Of course,” but when she asks if he loves her, there’s only silence. Ragnar’s love for Aslaug has always felt tenuous. He took her in as a wife because she was pregnant, not because he loved her. He has often seemed more interested in her for her breeding abilities. He certainly doesn’t look at her like he looks at Lagertha. Judging by Aslaug’s look at the dock, she knows this.

The Vikings return to England only to find that King Ecbert wants them to help fight a war in Mercia. Ragnar is not happy with the change of terms, but he knows that he doesn’t have much leverage at this point. Floki is, again, the voice of reason and warns Ragnar that Ecbert should not be trusted. The Vikings agree to fight, but Ecbert proposes that Lagertha stay behind to start the farming. Lagertha is clearly pleased and flattered by Ecbert’s attentions to her. But, I don’t see her dropping her guard or surrendering her independence. I love that in all of these interactions, Athelstan’s translations are greatly abbreviated.

Ragnar and his company join up with the forces of Princess Kwenthrith. There’s something about this character that rubs me wrong. The actress who portrays Kwenthrith is Amy Bailey, who also starred on Syfy’s Dominion. She was good on Dominion, but she is really bugging me on Vikings. I don’t know if it’s her or the character. Kwenthrith’s instability is an obnoxious combination childishness and inappropriate sexuality. The weird dancing in the woods and her extreme facial expressions don’t work for me. I feel like Ragnar shares my dislike every time he looks at Kwenthrith. I won’t be sad when they leave her behind.

The battle against Kwenthrith’s uncle is one of the best we’ve seen on the show. It’s a lot bigger than anything we’ve seen on Vikings before. I particularly love the moments when Ragnar emerges from the heat of battle and it’s clear that he’s in charge. Floki taking out the king was also fan-freaking-tastic. It’s impossible to tell what he’s thinking when he holds up the crown. Seeing the Kwenthrith cowering in the boat had to be sickening for Ragnar. He lost his people for this weak, pathetic woman. Compared with Lagertha and Porunn, Kwenthrith can’t hold a candle.

The personal relationships fall into the background in this episode. There’s a short confrontation between Bjorn and Porunn, during which she admits that she’s pregnant. There are some meaningful looks exchanged by Siggy and Rollo, which suggest that their relationship hasn’t recovered from her affair with Horik and his son. There is also very little interaction between Ragnar and Lagertha.

Vikings is definitely an ambitious series. It has a lot of historical ground to cover, in addition to the family drama. The Vikings are going to head to Paris this season, so we can expect even more bloody battles. Hopefully, in between the slaughtering, there is some time for Ragnar/Lagertha, Siggy/Rollo, and Bjorn/Porunn to sort out their issues.