Vikings “Born Again” Review (Season 3 Episode 6)

Vikings Born Again Season 3 Episode 6 14

This week’s Vikings was absolutely heartbreaking. Even though the loss of Athelstan wasn’t a surprise, it felt like it wasn’t his time. It’s like his story had a fantastic build up—he was kidnapped, enslaved, integrated into Viking society and then cut down for ideology. Compounded with the recent loss of Siggy, it cuts deep. The impact on Ragnar (and fans) will be long lasting.

The Death Of Athelstan

Athelstan has wavered in his faith to the Christian god and the Norse gods. All that changes in this episode. Athelstan is blinded by a brilliant light and hears the voice of god. He falls to the ground much like the painting by Caravaggio, The Conversion of St. Paul. His spiritual epiphany obliterates any reverence he held of the Viking religion. He is once again a Christian. He completes his rebirth through baptism in the fjord and casts off the bracelet symbolizing his allegiance to the Norse gods.

Floki observes Athelstan and somehow retrieves the bracelet. He turns Bjorn against the priest and all of the men discover they now have a Christian in their midst. Turning Athelstan into a social outcast isn’t enough for Floki, though. He has a vision that the bow of the ship he’s carving begins to bleed and takes this as a sign that a sacrifice is needed.

Floki goes to Athelstan, who seems to know why he is there. The contrast between the two men in this moment is striking. Athelstan appears peaceful and happy. Floki is overwhelmed and shaking with rage. Athelstan commits his soul to god right before Floki strikes him down. Floki then anoints himself with Athelstan’s blood.

Interestingly, we do not see the moment when Ragnar finds out that Athelstan has been murdered. It was a good decision to leave this out. It would have been overwhelming emotionally. By picking up with Ragnar burying his friend’s body, it creates a sense that Ragnar will carry on. In what manner remains to be seen.

The Impact On Ragnar

Since we first met Ragnar, he’s had a curiosity that is unusual among his people. It’s the reason he spared Athelstan’s life. He wanted to know more about England and more about this completely different culture and religion. His compulsion to explore and discover new places and people is unique and something the people in his life do not fully understand. Except Athelstan.

The feeling of brotherly closeness between Ragnar and Athelstan was never more apparent than in this episode. The fact that they were kindred spirits was amazing considering their diverse backgrounds. Their friendship wasn’t tainted by the jealousy that defines all of Ragnar’s other relationships.

Now it’s over.

Over the past season, Ragnar has become more and more isolated. He lost Lagertha years ago. Now his marriage with Aslaug is essentially over. His relationship with Rollo never fully recovered after the latter’s betrayal. Whatever friendship Ragnar once had with Floki has been obliterated by the boatmaker’s obsessive hatred of anything related to Christianity and Athelstan. How is he going to move forward? I’m sure that he will try to avoid his loneliness for a while by raiding Paris and taking some kind of revenge against Ecbert. But by the end of the season, Ragnar may not progress past where he was at the end of season 2 – alone on the mountain.

It’s unclear what Ragnar is going to do next and why it requires him to ask his friend’s forgiveness. I hope his plan will include exacting vengeance on Floki.

The Dark Cloud Over Kattegat

In addition to the death of Athelstan, the people of Kattegat seem to be under a dark cloud. Lagertha reappears for the birth of Bjorn’s child looking dirty and beaten down. Porunn is still absorbed in self-pity and says as she’s giving birth that she doesn’t want her baby. She later rebuffs Bjorn’s sexual advances and points him in the direction of Torvi. Aslaug is a miserable wreck and Helga gets choked by her psychotic husband. Rollo is starting to look like the normal one, and even he’s not doing so hot. I guess they should all be thankful that they still have their ears, unlike poor Judith (that was a particularly brutal scene I had to cover my eyes for).

I still don’t understand why Ragnar let Horik’s son live. Isn’t it obvious the kid hates him? The fact the boy is aligned with Kalf should be a big red flag. Speaking of Kalf, I really want Lagertha to put a sword in his gut.

Things are bleak at the moment for the Vikings and it’s unclear how that will resolve. There is now talk about Ragnar possibly dying in season 4. That would be a big mistake. Vikings isn’t just a historical journey; it’s driven by a connection with the main characters. This is Ragnar’s story and Bjorn couldn’t carry the load as the protagonist. Hopefully, things will not go down this path.