‘Vikings’: ‘Raid’ leaves Ragnar and his family on the run, Earl Haraldson and Siggy’s court in turmoil

Lagertha, Gyda, Bjorn and Athelstan make a hasty escape in "Raid."

Lagertha, Gyda, Bjorn and Athelstan make a hasty escape in “Raid.”

In what may be the most intense episode of Vikings yet, Ragnar and his household find themselves under direct attack by Earl Haraldson and his men, Athelstan continues to struggle with his place in his new world, and Siggy finds betrayal closer to home.

Last week, the episode ended with Ragnar preparing himself for something while Haraldson consulted a seer who warned him that Ragnar sought his death, and this week the Earl seeks to prevent this in the most extreme way open to him: a raid on Ragnar’s home.

A flurry of violence in the form of a band of men on horseback descend upon Ragnar’s farm, killing people and torching buildings with reckless abandon.  In pulse-pounding sequence, Lagertha, Athelstan and the children escape onto a boat, while Ragnar pretends to give himself up, only to then flee the scene and fake his own death by falling into the water from a cliff side.  Even then, it is only after a daring rescue by Athelstan that the family is able to secret the grievously wounded Ragnar to Floki’s home, where the shipbuilder treats his wounds and grants shelter to his newly fugitive friends

However, from there the waiting game begins for Ragnar and his family, who must lay low in Floki’s territory while Ragnar’s wounds heal and Earl Haraldson’s men continue hunting for them.

Athelstan’s continuing attempts to discover where he belongs in his new surroundings take a turn for the very personal in this episode.  From a slightly tense discussion of slavery and his rights as a member of the household with Ragnar, in which Athelstan indicates that he has no intentions of escaping, onward, the episode offers us a glimpse of Athelstan’s changing views on Viking society.

In a particularly emotionally stirring scene, the family prays over a heated knife that Lagertha is preparing to use in order to cauterize Ragnar’s wounds.  While Lagertha invokes Freyja and her children follow her lead, Athelstan, rather than stay silent, offers a prayer and asks “do not let this man die.”

Later in the episode, Athelstan makes an active effort to learn about the gods, istening patiently as Floki, Helga and Lagertha tell him about where the each of the gods live and about Valhalla, and while I had the advantage of a working knowledge of Norse mythology, it doesn’t take knowing much about Viking beliefs to grin and shake your head when he innocently asks about Ragnarok and is confused by the awkward silence that he receives in return.  In fact, his earnest attempts to learn about the Viking creation story and the gods may be the most endearing thing yet on the show, but at the same time, there is always an undercurrent of loss that makes it all very bittersweet, particularly after Athelstan’s questioning in last week’s episode.

Despite the terror facing Ragnar’s family, and the continuing struggles that Athelstan faces, the real emotional turmoil in this episode rests with the opposing camp.  Where Ragnar and his household experience the episode’s title in a very literal manner, the title comes into play in a very different, but still extremely visceral way within Earl Haraldson’s own household, which is rife with heartache, loss, and betrayal.

In the previous week’s episode, the audience both learned that Earl Haraldson and Siggy had two young sons who are now dead, and met their daughter, Thyri.  In this week’s episode, it is revealed that Earl Haraldson has gone behind Siggy’s back and arranged a marriage for their daughter to an elderly Swedish Earl without consulting either Siggy or Thyri.  Furious, Siggy confronts him about it, accusing him of not caring for their daughter’s happiness, and in a confession that was less overwrought than strung tightly with barely controlled emotion, Haraldson tells Siggy the full story of what happened to their sons – that they were not only murdered, but disfigured and disgraced – and presents her with locks of their hair that he carries on his person.

Honestly, during this confrontation, I think I almost stopped breathing for a short time.  Throughout the series so far, much of the communication between Siggy and Haraldson has been nonverbal, and for their first extended conversation to be something so devastating (and devastatingly acted – the emotional depth that Jessalyn Gilsig and Gabriel Byrne brought to this scene has left me absolutely stricken upon each viewing) opens an entirely new window into their characters.  For the first time, the audience sees that their dynamic may have once been very different, until while they kept their power and their wealth, two of the things that mattered most to them were violently taken from them, and now their relationship is twisted by doubt and fear.

It is perhaps this same doubt and fear, and more than a little anger that leads Siggy to betray her husband twice in favour of helping Ragnar – first by attempting to warn Rollo of the Earl’s plans, and then, after Rollo has been captured and tortured, by visiting another of his men in order to pass word to Ragnar of Rollo’s capture.

After all of this build-up, the episode ends with a bit of a cliff-hanger, as upon receiving word of Rollo not only being captured, but refusing to reveal his brother’s location even under torture, Ragnar requests that Floki go into the city and pass word to Earl Haraldson that he wishes to meet him in single combat.

So what will happen next week?  Will Athelstan lose his faith?  Is Siggy really betraying her husband, or is there something else in the works?  Can Ragnar really take on Earl Haraldson in combat despite his wounds not being completely healed?  And after this week, how have we altered our views of Haraldson and Siggy?  Let me know in the comments!

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6 Responses

  1. Well….poor Rollo DID end up with scars. That bothered me a bit at first! I read somewhere that Clive said he was happy with them and was impressed with the makeup people doing such a great job. Which they DID! Those were some fairly gruesome scars! But I wonder if Clive will eventually become tired of the prosthetic scars having to be applied each day he films? I would think that could become tiresome especially if the show continues on for years. And I HOPE IT DOES! Maybe they’ll soften his “scars” over time? Good thing Clive is so darn handsome! His good looks overcome those jagged scars snaking across his lovely face! And ROLLO sure didn’t seem overly concerned about them! LOL!

  2. As handsome as Rollo is, I HOPE he will not be maimed for life! But based on what the Earl said before he started cutting him….it doesn’t sound good. Would not surprise me if he sliced him from his mouth to his cheek. That would be horrible. Well…let’s hope that Rollo survives this. He hasn’t given up Ragnar yet so he can’t be all bad!

  3. Very enjoyable episode! What happens to Rollo, though? Will he be maimed for life, killed,……….? Can’t wait to find out!

  4. Yes this episode! I really liked the scene between Athelstan and Ragnar in the beginning as well, how it turned to “but this is your world now” and then Athelstan pushing too much. I think that was such a good moment (one of many), to see Ragnar getting fed up and putting his foot down, now that time has passed and we’ve seen a lot of his relative permissiveness in regards to the priest.

    And then of course everything with the Earl and Siggy hurt so much.

    • I personally was thrilled with that scene. I found it interesting given that Ragnar refers to him as not being a slave in order to give him power over the farm and the children in his and Lagertha’s absence, yet when they returns, they seem to slip into a similar (but still rather different) dynamic as before, so it’s no wonder that Athelstan is uncertain of where he stands.

      That said, seeing Ragnar put his foot down when he’s pushed a little too far, or when there is a misunderstanding (was Athelstan being a little snarky or was he entirely in earnest after all?), was definitely interesting in regards to their dynamic.

      And oh my god, yes. I had seen someone at one point say that they thought the Earl was a fairly black and white villain character (which I disagree with entirely), but if they stuck around to see this episode, I dare say their opinion would have to change.