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Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel - Tarzan (2003) ) is a super-Viking. He survives a battle where the only other one still alive is his own brother. Also he can see glimpses of the god Odin, a reaper of souls for Valhalla, perhaps a reference to the role of the Grim Reaper in Seventh Seal .
The local Lord, Earl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne - Excalibur ), is a kill-happy dictator. He forbids Ragnar from recruiting his crew and doing an unauthorised raid. However, Ragnar thinks he knows better than the Earl. The new plan is to sail into the unexplorted sea to the West, to a land named England. The trick is to use new technology - a sun compass that guarantees he can keep a straight heading.
Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel - Tarzan (2003) ) and his crew head due west. It is the year 793 of the Common Era, and the monks of Lindisfarne see some ominous omens of apocalypse.
One of the monks is a speaker of the Viking language. He says he lived in their land as a missionary. The only question this raises is, why is the Jarl so unwilling to believe in the existence of England?
Back home in Norway, Earl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne - Excalibur ) is paranoid as well as kill-happy. Any man who wants to have sex with the Earl's wife ( Jessalyn Gilsig ) is regarded as a traitor. Even the only blacksmith in the village is regarded as expendable. What happens if they need more swords or ploughshares?
Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel - Tarzan (2003) ) and his horde make it home to Norway. The local Lord, Earl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne - Excalibur ), seizes their spoils of war. The only thing Ragnar wants to keep is the Xian Monk. After all, knowledge is power.
Ragnar convinces the Jarl to allow him a second expedition to raid Northumbria.
Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel - Tarzan (2003) ) makes it back to Norway again.
The local Lord, Earl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne - Excalibur ), puts Ragnar on trial. He even tries to bribe Ragnar's brother with the prospect of a bride.
Ragnar has one loyal friend - Floki the shipbuilder.
Earl Haraldson holds a feast to celebrate the betrothal of his daughter. Since Rollo (Clive Standen ( Camelot ) turned her down, her father married her off to a rich old Swede. Siggy ( Jessalyn Gilsig ), the Lady MacBeth of the story, is unhappy about the union. The man is too old and too ugly, she says. She is as shallow as she is short-sighted. Since he is old, her grandchildren will inherit sooner than they would otherwise. And he is brother to King Horik (Donal Logue – Gotham ), so his children will be royal as well as rich.
Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel - Tarzan (2003) ) challenges Earl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne - Excalibur ) to a duel to the death. Siggy ( Jessalyn Gilsig ) is playing both sides, so she does favours for Rollo (Clive Standen ( Camelot ).
Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel - Tarzan (2003) ) sails three longships up the river and makes camp. The Saxon war-leader does not attack the Vikings head-on. Instead he decides to lure them out into an ambush. Likewise, Ragnar decides to play the waiting game. But a midnight raid on a sleeping enemy's camp is always an option, like in First Knight . Is it an ambush?
Back home, Ragnar's wife Lagertha the Shield Maiden ( Katheryn Winnick ) is in charge of the law court. Her rule is that women can do whatever they want with no regard to the consequences. For example, she claims that an unfaithful wife has been blessed by the god Heimdall. Since Heimdall was played by Idris Elba in the movie Thor , it should be easy to work out who the child's true father is. However, the Jarl-ette has a test of her own to pass. Will she give Siggy ( Jessalyn Gilsig ) a place in the homestead?
Ragnar decides to negotiate with the Saxon King. The Vikings want two thousand pounds (a metric ton) of gold. In return, the Saxons want assurances, the release of the King's hostage brother, and for one of the Vikings to convert to Christianity. Rollo (Clive Standen ( Camelot ) volunteers to be baptised, but Floki does not agree with angering the gods.
Everything seems to have gone well. However, this is an action-adventure show. If there is not at least one battle per episode, they may lose viewers. For some reason, the Saxons do not have any archers. A pity, because that is the best way to do battle against the Norsemen.
Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel - Tarzan (2003) ) takes his wife Lagertha ( Katheryn Winnick ) and their children on a spiritual pilgrimage. He takes along the Xian monk, Floki and his live-in girlfriend Helga, and Rollo (Clive Standen ( Camelot ) and his new wench Siggy ( Jessalyn Gilsig ). Evidently Rollo's half-hearted Xian conversion will never be mentioned again.
King Horik (Donal Logue – Gotham ) arrives and meets with Ragnar.
The Xian monk learns about the Viking religion. There is a night of magic mushrooms and group cuddling. The next morning, there are a range of sacrifices in front of a large totem pole. But what the Xian forgot is that the Vikings practise HUMAN sacrifice ...
Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel - Tarzan (2003) ) visits Jarl Borg to negotiate a deal over a disputed piece of land. The Jarl refuses to sell, and King Horik (Donal Logue – Gotham ) refuses to make him a better offer. Since the main story arc (the raids on Northumbria) were settled two episodes ago, this is a setup for next Season.
Ragnar is camped out near Jarl Borg's village. He meets a young Princess, who wants to meet the celebrity who raided Northumbria.
Rollo (Clive Standen ( Camelot ) stays with Jarl Borg as a hostage. However, the Jarl starts to point out how Rollo does all the work and Ragnar gets all the glory.
Back in Ragnar's village, there is an outbreak of an unknown plague. This is a good way to tie up loose ends and write out supporting characters.
This starts in the year 796 CE, which puts it three years after the start of the previous Season. Our hero Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel - Tarzan (2003) ) had made a pact with King Horik (Donal Logue – Gotham ). However, Rollo (Clive Standen ( Camelot ) has sided with Jarl Borg. The result is a massive battle.
This is a cliched blood-and-guts battle, with Rollo and Jarl Borg stripped to the waist. The spears are just for display, because most of the fighting is with axes. The Shield Wall tactic is a Saxon one, but since they also use overhead shields like the Roman testudo formation then we cannot take the historical authenticity of their tactics too seriously.
Back home, Ragnar must deal with the OTHER consequences of his trip to Jarl Borg's land. He made friends with a local Princess there, and now she comes to visit. Unfortunately, Ragnar's wife Lagertha ( Katheryn Winnick ) realises that the woman is several months pregnant!
This starts four years after the previous episode. Our hero Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel - Tarzan (2003) ) had made a pact with Jarl Borg, that they will join forces and plunder Northumbria together. However, King Horik (Donal Logue – Gotham ) refuses to sail with the Jarl, his arch-rival from Season One. The pact is called off, a bad idea which will have serious repercussions.
The Vikings set sail to plunder Northumbria. They have a massive armada, thanks to CGI. Luckily, they run into a storm and most of the ships are swept away. That way, when the few remaining ships reach land the story only needs a couple of dozen extras dressed as Vikings.
It turns out the locals are well-armed and violent, with swords and scale-mail armour.
The Vikings start to raid and plunder Wessex. The local Saxon King is a cunning one, and is willing to sacrifice Winchester just to find out where the raiders are. He offers them peace, but he may have something else in mind.
The Vikings’ translator, who was once an Xian monk enslaved at Lindisfarne, has second thoughts about slaughtering the Xian clergy. They may be the ones destroying the Vikings’ ancient culture, but their love of books (well, their own kind of books) makes them worth saving. Ironically, as the Bishops point out, the Xians are as brutal as the Vikings when it comes to torturing unbelievers to death!
Back home, Jarl Borg blames our hero Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel - Tarzan (2003) ) for abandoning the pact they made. While the hero and his men are away, the Jarl attacks his village. This is not a simple raid, he wants more ...
Jarl Borg visits the soothsayer, who forsees an eagle. The Jarl thinks this is a good omen, although this reviewer suspects it may be a reference to the Blood Eagle.
Meanwhile, our hero Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel - Tarzan (2003) ) enters peace negotiations with the King of Wessex (Linus Roache - ). The Vikings want farm-land, and the Saxons need more warriors to defend the kingdom.
Our hero gets called home to save his family. The paganised monk stays with King Horik (Donal Logue – Gotham ), so they can negotiate further with the King of Wessex. But when he takes some men to hunt for food in the forest, he ends up getting a reminder of the Bishop’s threat last episode.
Our hero Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel - Tarzan (2003) ) returns home, to free his people. He finds his family easily enough, even though they are in hiding. His plan is to lure Jarl Borg’s army into an ambush.
The paganised monk is now a guest at the court of the King of Wessex (Linus Roache - ). We see the similarities between the two cultures – their systems of dispensing justice are similar, although the Viking culture may give preferential treatment to women. The Saxons take communion with red wine, while the Vikings use blood from a human sacrifice.
The King of Wessex (Linus Roache - ) appoints the Monk to be keeper of the secret relics. These relics are from Pagan Rome, but the Monk is the only one who values them.
Our hero Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel - Tarzan (2003) ) hosts a great feast in honour of Jarl Borg, who he must befriend again so that they will join forces and plunder Northumbria together. This is the idea of King Horik (Donal Logue – Gotham ), who is the one who broke the pact when he refused to sail with the Jarl. It seems that friendship is something King Donal uses when he sees the need. Certainly, he uses the woman from Nip/Tuck ... although she seems to have developed standards (admittedly, not very high ones).
Has Jarl Borg been forgiven? Is the eagle still in his future?
Jarl Borg is chained up, awaiting his punishment. King Horik (Donal Logue – Gotham ) has Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel - Tarzan (2003) ) hold back on the execution – no pun intended. After all, they need a partner in the expedition to raid Wessex. But the King has doubts about Ragnar, and secretly consults the prisoner.
Floki marries his woman in a traditional Norse Pagan ceremony. As with the communion/human sacrifice of the previous episode, this scene is intercut with the Saxon’s Christian equivalent. Back in Wessex, the Royal Houses of Northumbria and Wessex have a marriage ceremony to cement their alliance.
The King of Wessex (Linus Roache - ), emboldened by his alliance with Northumbria, makes another alliance with the Princess of Mercia. She is the favourite to win the civil war there, and control over her will mean Wessex controls three of the main Saxon kingdoms. But she has an agenda of her own, and needs that the King cannot fulfil alone.
Lagertha the Shield Maiden ( Katheryn Winnick ) has a visitor while she takes a bath, but this scene lacks the nudity of the similar scene in Camelot . This highlights the strange lack of nudity in this show, which makes it tame even compared to BBC shows ( Rome springs to mind). Jessalynn Gilsig did more graphic sex scenes in Nip/Tuck, for example. However, last week’s execution was unbelievably gruesome and grotesque in comparison to the show’s relatively puritanical attitude towards sex.
The slave girl has finally come to take a liking to her besotted Master. This comes just as he and the other Vikings take to ship again. King Horik (Donal Logue – Gotham ) wants to raid Wessex again. His claims that the Saxon King betrayed them are unproven. After all, the men who attacked Athelstan were loyal to the Bishop, not the King. But will Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel - Tarzan (2003) ) appreciate the distinction?
King Horik (Donal Logue – Gotham ) insists Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel - Tarzan (2003) ) and his ex-wife Lagertha the Shield Maiden ( Katheryn Winnick ) lead their armies into battle with him. Unfortunately the King of Wessex (Linus Roache - ) has studied the strategies of Caesar, as translated from the Latin by Athelstan. This, combined with reinforcements from Northumbria, means the Norsemen will be in for the fight of their lives.
Ragnar is worried that his son will die in the battle. But he forgets that he has other loved ones in peril - his brother Rollo (Clive Standen ( Camelot ) and his ex-wife Lagertha the Shield Maiden ( Katheryn Winnick ), to start with.
The King of Wessex has his eyes on the prize with Mercia in turmoil. He is happy to give the Norsemen peace at a good price. But will King Horik keep the peace treaty?
Ragnar’s wife Lagertha the Shield Maiden ( Katheryn Winnick ) gives the slave-girl her freedom. She wants to be a shield-maiden, like her boyfriend’s mother.
King Horik (Donal Logue – Gotham ) finally makes his move against Ragnar. However, his plan relies on two of Ragnar’s inner circle both betraying their leader. There seems to be a fatal flaw in this plan.
Bjorn has to come to terms with the fact that his girlfriend is no longer a slave. Worse, she wants to be a shield-maiden like his mother.
Lagertha the Shield Maiden ( Katheryn Winnick ) still rules her own Jarldom, Hedeby. She has a lot of suitors who want to marry her, although she has her heart set on a young man who plays hard to get.
Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel - Tarzan (2003) ) wants to sail back to Wessex as soon as winter ends. He and all his men have trouble with their wives, and seek to escape back to the safety of the front line. All except Ragnar's eldest son, whose woman has become a shield maiden and joined the voyage.
The King of Wessex (Linus Roache - ) is happy to see them. After all, he needs them as mercenaries to fight a proxy war against Mercia. But more than that, he is quite taken with Lagertha.
Ragnar and his men join the Princess of Mercia. They sail upriver to where her uncle the usurper is camped. Yes, the episode gets kick-started with a great battle scene.
Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel - Tarzan (2003) ) and his army feast and celebrate their victory. However, the job is only half done. They need to face the Princess's brother and his army.
The King of Wessex (Linus Roache - ) has accompanied Lagertha the Shield Maiden ( Katheryn Winnick ) and Athelstan the monk to their new farm-land. He gives Lagertha gifts, both personal and extravagant.
Back in Kattegut, Siggy ( Jessalyn Gilsig ) and the wives of the other two main characters have the same dreams. This alone would be a sign of magic, but the dreams themselves are of a surreal, prophetic nature. Then a stranger (Kevin Durand - The Strain ) wanders into the village.
Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel - Tarzan (2003) ) and his army close in on the Mercian rebels. One of his men has a death wish, and risks his own life in a suicidal manoeuvre.
The King of Wessex (Linus Roache - ) invites Lagertha the Shield Maiden ( Katheryn Winnick ) and Athelstan the monk to join him in his Roman-style bath. Things go well for the Royal couple, but the monk and the Princess have some unlawful sexual tension. Worse, the Saxon noblemen are unhappy about allowing Pagans to live in an Xian country.
Back in Kattegut, Siggy ( Jessalyn Gilsig ) and the wives of the other two main characters have suspicions about the stranger (Kevin Durand - The Strain ). He tells tall tales about his amazing exploits, which bear a strange resemblance to the legends of Thor. Is he a sorcerous entity, or just a wanderer who likes to seduce lonely housewives?
Everyone seems to be getting a lot of sex this episode, and not with the person they are married to.
The victorious army returns home to Wessex. Ragnar's son survived the battle unscathed, but the boy's girlfriend - the wannabe shield maiden - got smashed in the face. She is still alive, but she will never be as pretty as she used to be.
The King of Wessex (Linus Roache - ) invites Lagertha the Shield Maiden ( Katheryn Winnick ) and Athelstan the monk to stay with him. However, they both turn him down. Lagertha confesses that she finds him fulfilling but selfish. Likewise, Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel - Tarzan (2003) ) seems to distrust his ally. This seems quite unfair. After all, he has always been true to his word and is smart enough to realise that double-crossing Ragnar would be a very bad move.
Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel - Tarzan (2003) ) returns home with his crew. Rollo and his nephew have both lost their wives - one to death and the other to disfigurement. They take their frustrations out in a fist-fight.
The King of Wessex (Linus Roache - ) orders his son to take an army and protect the norse settlement. Unfortunately the Prince has just discovered his wife was unfaithful. The last time he saw her flirting was with Rollo, and although Rollo was with the army the whole time the Prince assumes the worst. As if to start a tradition, the Prince marks the territory for the Xians by burning a large wooden cross.
This is set many months after the previous episode. A couple of babies are born. One is Ragnar's grandson, while the other is the son of the Princess of Wessex.
Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel - Tarzan (2003) ) discovers the fate of the settlement in Wessex. However, his main priority is now to plan the attack on Paris. He is even willing to make a deal with former enemies, such as the Jarl who usurped Lagertha.
Athelstan the Xian monk has a vision that he believes was sent by his god. Likewise, Floki the Pagan has a vision.
Athelstan has gone from the line-up. This may be because the actor George Blagden has now gone to a better place. Versailles , in fact, where he is King Louis XIV.
Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel - Tarzan (2003) ) has forgotten all about the Saxons and his expeditions to England. Instead he has led his forces up the river Seinne and besieged Paris itself. However, he has not forgotten about Athelstan's fate. He puts Floki in charge of the big assault, which may be a case of giving him enough rope to hang himself. After all, the allies are at each others' throats so Floki has his own side to worry about as well as the Parisians.
The King of Wessex (Linus Roache - ) has his own problems. The Princess of Mercia, now its Queen, decides to break her promises to him. Naturally he sends his son to sort her out. After all, if she kills the son then he would have an excuse to invade ... and he would get to comfort his grieving daughter-in-law.
Floki leads the big assault on Paris. As an expert boat-builder, he has designed floating siege towers. Of course, he believes the gods are on his side because of the sacrifice he gave them. However, the Parisians hide behind their religious icons.
Meanwhile, Lagertha the Shield Maiden ( Katheryn Winnick ) leads the assault on the main gates. She and the senior leaders have a massive protective shield, but the rank-and-file vikings are at the mercy of the crossbowmen.
After the massive battle scene, we get some soap opera scenes of the wives. The Shield Maiden has mixed feelings about the usurper, and the scar-faced one wants to entrust her child to the cheater.
The vikings try another assault on Paris. Last time they made a full-frontal attack in broad daylight, and they split their forces between two different targets. This time they go stealthily at night, and focus all their attention on one access point.
King Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel - Tarzan (2003) ) delegates the fighting to his senior commanders, but manages to handle the negotiations single-handedly. He thinks he is dying, although nobody else in the camp shows any sign of illness, and he wants to be baptised as an Xian.
Back in Kattegatt, the rivalry between the two religions reaches a new level. An Xian missionary has come to town, and preached that the Asgardians are false gods. He is so eager to prove that Jesus is magic that he is willing to accept trial by ordeal.
A month after the negotiations, the vikings are still camped on the banks of the Seinne. Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel - Tarzan (2003) ) is on his death-bed, and requests an Xian burial. The Francs can hardly refuse him. After all, he is a King - and an Xian King at that!