‘Vikings’: Ragnar demands ‘A King’s Ransom’ from the Northumbrians while tragedy hits close to home with Lagertha

Lord Eadric and Ragnar Lothbrok in "A King's Ransom."

Lord Eadric and Ragnar Lothbrok in “A King’s Ransom.”

This week’s episode of Vikings, entitled “A King’s Ransom” is one filled with intense action, political intrigue, and personal tragedy as Ragnar goes toe-to-toe with the Northumbrian King Aelle and Lagertha reigns in his stead at home.

At the beginning of the episode, the audience meets a new character – King Aelle’s brother Lord Eadric, whose quick wit and snarky brand of self-deprecation quickly established himself as my favorite Anglo-Saxon.  It is Eadric who Aelle’s chosen to lead an assault on Ragnar’s camp.  However, this plan backfires majorly, and Eadric finds his men slaughtered and himself captured after Floki collapses a tent on his head.

In a spectacularly clever move, Ragnar moves to reveal that he has Eadric while still remaining at a distance until he knows that he can cut a deal with Aelle.  The negotiating of this deal takes place over what may be one of the most awkward dinner parties ever.  Between the sheer polite horror of the Christian Anglo-Saxons, the amusement of the Vikings and the tremendous culture clash that occurs when the two are forced to share a dinner table, it becomes hard not to laugh in spots.

However, the laughter is cut short as Ragnar proves to be a canny dealmaker, demanding two thousand pounds in gold and silver in exchange for his returning Eadric and leaving Northumbria.  At first Aelle balks at this price, but eventually relents, asking only for time in which to gather the sum, but a member of his court interjects, insisting that they cannot trust “pagans,” prompting Aelle to instate the additional condition that one of Ragnar’s men submit to being baptised as a Christian, and while the Vikings laugh about it, in a twist, Rollo volunteers.

Throughout the series so far, I have been incredibly impressed with Rollo as a character.  He is well-written, far more complex than he appears and has, so far, managed to keep me on my toes.  So I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when once again, Rollo pulled the carpet out from under me.  However, where before he’s either done things that made me groan and bury my face in my hands, made me wince, or redeemed himself a little bit, this is the first time that Rollo seems to have done something that had a lasting effect on his sense of self.

Allowing himself to be baptised as a Christian means several things for Rollo, the worst of which, as pointed out to him by a thoroughly disgusted Floki (the first time we see anything close to genuine anger from Floki), being that he was required to denounce the gods.  While Rollo protests angrily that the ceremony “was a joke” and that he “didn’t even know what the old fool was saying,” he seems to take Floki’s words to heart, flying into a frenzy during the subsequent battle and yelling to Floki “How many Christians do I have to kill?”  Honestly, it’s interesting to see Rollo’s sense of self so affected by another person’s reaction to him, as well as to see a struggle with faith coming from the opposite direction as Athelstan.

While Ragnar and his crew are away, Lagertha, revealed in the previous episode to be pregnant, is left to manage the affairs of Ragnar’s new station.  One of the opening scenes demonstrates most clearly her approach to leadership and law as Athelstan witnesses a man accuse his wife of adultery only to, after both sides of the story have been heard, be reprimanded by Lagertha for his treatment of his wife and child.  She details stories of the god Heimdallr, who sometimes appears on Midgard in human form, and suggests that he may be the father of the child.  This cleverly leaves the man in a situation where he must accept and care for the child regardless of its parentage or risk angering a god.

In a second major scene, Siggy makes an appearance and approaches Lagertha to ask if she may enter the Lothbrok household as a servant.  When Bjorn voices his initial objections, Lagertha points out that if things had gone differently, she might very well be in the same position, and asks him how he would have wanted her to be treated.  In the face of this, he relents, and Lagertha places Siggy and Thyri under her protection, but says that she will not treat them as servants.  While I know that Siggy is never without an angle or a plan, a part of me is hoping for the development of the Lagertha–Siggy “badass ladies being badasses” friendship I’ve always wanted.

Unfortunately, the episode ends on twice as many low notes as high notes.  True to form for me, Lord Eadric, my newly picked “favorite Anglo-Saxon” is killed by Ragnar to teach Aelle a lesson, and on the bright side, after this, they do finally receive their payment.  However, they also earn the eternal enmity of King Aelle, and even worse, at home, Lagertha experiences a miscarriage.

The previews for next week’s episode, which will be titled “Sacrifice” are also especially worrying, with Athelstan sporting a new haircut and some clipped facial hair whilst renouncing his Christianity not once, not twice, but three times – the symbolism of which should not be lost on the audience.

So what is going to happen on Vikings next week?  Is Athelstan really going to renounce his faith?  What’s Siggy’s angle in entering the Lothbrok household?  How will Lagertha and her family cope with the tragedy of her miscarriage?  What are the lasting consequences for Rollo of his own conversion experience?  Let us know what you think in the comments!

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  1. I’m incredibly worried about what might be going down next episode. But I’m also really interested in seeing how Ragnar will react to the miscarriage upon returning. And then further worried, of course, about what this might indicate for Bjorn, given the sort of parallels between the Lothbrooks and the Haraldsons. Though that begs the further question, was this part of Siggy’s plan from the start? I kind of hope not, because I would like to see a friendship develop between Lagertha and Siggy. But it also seems pretty plausible.

    Which is all part of what makes the show so good; everything is woven together, so pulling on one string has multiple ramifications and we get to see that.