‘Vikings’: ‘Trial’ puts Ragnar in the hot seat while Rollo’s loyalties are tested, Lagertha fights back

Lagertha in "Trial."

Lagertha in “Trial.”

This week, in an episode entitled “Trial,” Vikings takes viewers back to England, where a chain of events is set into motion which almost leads to disaster for Ragnar and his crew once they return home.  At the same time, we get glimpses of both Athelstan’s relationship with Ragnar’s children and Earl Haraldson’s family.

“Trial” picks up exactly where last week’s episode left off – with Ragnar and his band of warriors in England, but now they have a hostage who is leading them to a town.  However, once they get there, it’s not all hack and slash like the raid on Lindisfarne was; Ragnar has something up his sleeve.

To the dismay of his warriors, Ragnar insists that they wait before attacking, and while his crew was in the dark, I found myself laughing as it was revealed that they arrived on a Saturday evening and that Ragnar is waiting to attack until Sunday morning, when, as he has no doubt learned from Athelstan, all of the townspeople will be in church.  The off-kilter humour continues as upon breaking into the church in the middle of Sunday-morning service, Ragnar speaks to the priest using the Anglo-Saxon that Athelstan taught him, tacking on a “God bless” and a little smirk at the end of his demands for the priest to tell the people not to fight back.

As usual, Floki is a source of “Oh my god, did he just do that?” humour as he horrifies churchgoers in a particularly gleeful sacrilegious moment in which he drinks from the altar chalice and promptly spits the wine out, repeating the action upon seeing their reactions and delighting in their outrage.

Back at home, even a Christian far away from England can’t catch a break as Athelstan endures baby-sitting on “Hard Mode.”  While Ragnar’s young daughter, Gyda, seems agreeable, teenaged Bjorn does his best to resist Athelstan’s role as temporary man of the house.  To Bjorn’s chagrin, Athelstan handles his rebellion with good humour, even under threat of being sacrificed to Thor in a moment which threatened to have everyone in my flat rolling on the floor – it seems that even Viking teenagers are still teenagers.

However, while the episode contains plenty of humour, the plot gets pushed into a much darker corner when, in a rather intense sequence, Knut is caught raping a Saxon woman, and upon being confronted, attempts to rape Lagertha – a move which costs him his life.  It is this scene which sets the rest of the episode into motion, as it is revealed that Knut is Earl Haraldson’s half-brother and without any witnesses to affirm their claims, Ragnar is arrested for his murder after confessing to the killing in his wife’s stead.

The intensity that is ingrained in every aspect of the episode from this point on is palpable – even knowing that it is only the fourth episode and that surely Ragnar can’t face execution, I couldn’t help but worry about his fate, particularly once Haraldson brings in his brother Rollo, of whom most viewers are already suspicious, for a meeting.

Despite my suspicions, even after a scene in which Haraldson attempts to bribe Rollo with the possibility of marriage to his only daughter, Thyri and which left me certain that he was planning on betraying his brother, Rollo pulled through with loyalty that I didn’t expect from him (even if that loyalty was to Lagertha rather than to Ragnar).

An interesting theme that is touched upon twice in the episode after being a major focus in last week’s episode is the idea of doubt in one’s beliefs.  After his confrontation with Bjorn, Athelstan questions his God and questions his circumstances, even going so far as to say that “for the first time in my life, I am angry with you” in his prayers.  Later in the episode, we witness Haraldson consulting a seer, who foretells a difficult future for him and his family, and when he is reminded that “the gods let your sons die” asks the seer “Do the gods really exist?”  The bringing in of not only Athelstan’s doubts in his faith, but of Haraldson’s doubts in his own gods makes for an interesting parallel and I’m really interested to see where both of their doubts take them in the long run.

The episode ends with Athelstan approaching Lagertha after observing Ragnar sitting alone out on the side of a mountain and saying “I know what he’s doing.  He’s preparing himself.”  But what exactly is it that Ragnar is preparing himself for?  Does he intend, as the seer implies, to challenge Haraldson’s authority?  What happened to Haraldson’s sons and why does it affect his faith so profoundly?  What will happen to Athelstan’s faith?  Let me know your thoughts and predictions in the comments!

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