Vikings “Mercy” Review (Season 4 Episode 3)

Vikings  Mercy

One of the things Vikings does consistently well is balance action with emotion. This week was no exception. While the historical context can be vast and perilous, it’s the interpersonal relationships that control the heart of the show.

We begin with Kalf telling Lagertha that he loves her, which is kind of a big deal. She seems more flattered than anything else and doesn’t say that she loves him. Those of us still holding a miniscule flame for Ragnar and Lagertha can appreciate her hesitation. Part of what keeps her aloof is that Kalf wants children and Lagertha cannot have more. It’s familiar and unfortunate that her relationships are all defined by her ability to procreate.

Just when I kind of was coming around to liking Kalf, he makes the poor decision to have Bjorn assassinated. Are you kidding, Kalf? Do you not think Lagertha is going to find out you tried to murder her son and come after you with her ball-removing knife? Giving King Horik’s ring to the Beserker only ensures that Bjorn will figure out who sent the assassin. I don’t know who at this point I’d root for to talk down Kalf – both Lagertha and Bjorn have just cause.

Floki is still enduring the torture cooked up for him by Ragnar. Sadly, Helga shares in his misery. That poor woman has endured way too much for this selfish, unworthy man. Ragnar goes to see Floki and it’s a pretty pathetic sight. He presses Helga to tell Floki that their daughter has died. Floki is crushed, but right now I have a hard time feeling any pity for him. It’s not like he was ever a good father. I think I would soften towards him if he could realize and admit that what he did to Athelstan was wrong. But that’s probably not going to happen.

Things aren’t going well for Rollo in Paris, mostly due to his inability to communicate with anyone. His wife declares that she wants a divorce, which seems unlikely to happen considering how the Franks are benefiting from his knowledge of the Viking invaders.

Judith and King Ecbert continue to pine over Athelstan. It’s kind of odd how much they’ve deified him. It’s also ironic that they justify their adulterous coupling by swearing on the life of Athelstan. I have to admit that the England scenes are my least favorite since they pull us away from the Vikings. But I trust there’s a larger plan at work and that it’s important to see the environment Athelstan’s son will be raised in. If they keep setting him up like the spawn of Jesus, he’s going to be a monster.

The biggest moment of the episode is Bjorn versus the bear. Between The Revenant and this episode of Vikings, poor bears are getting a bad deal lately. It’s a brilliantly shot scene, and feels appropriate for the story and the time period. Personally, I’m an animal person, so I don’t like watching even fake animal death scenes. I’ll just say that it’s impressive, but I still wanted the bear to get in a couple more swipes.

There were a couple of stand out moments for Ragnar in this episode. I loved the scene where he seems to hear Bjorn’s cry in the wilderness and then has the vision of young Bjorn running towards him. I also liked the scene with the return of Athelstan. The monk repeats the word “mercy” to his friend. The fact that Ragnar shows mercy by releasing Floki is not so much a statement of forgiveness, as an acknowledgement that the punishment is destroying Helga. I like this bond that has developed between Helga and Ragnar. I hope it is explored even more. It will be interesting to see where Floki goes next. He can’t exactly reintegrate into Kattegat.

I am really amazed at how much story Vikings is packing into each episode this season. We go from Hedeby, Kattegat, Paris, England, and the wilderness with a fluidity that’s a tribute to Michael Hirst’s writing talent. The downside that we haven’t spent a lot of time with some of my favorite characters, like Lagertha, but I think that will be remedied in episodes to come.