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television -> Vikings Episode 4 Review and Recap

Vikings Episode 4 Review and Recap

Trial

by James Chantrill

In this week’s episode, we get to see how the Vikings and the English work out their issues with a bloody conflict that was hinted at the end of the previous episode.  With the biggest battle we have seen so far in the series, there is still a greater one emerging: Ragnar vs. the Earl.

In the opening scene, we see the aftermath of the confrontation, with the English survivor on horseback making his way to King Aelle to warn of the impending doom being brought by Ragnar and the Vikings.  While the soldier tells of the violence of the Vikings, Ragnar manages to capture one of the English soldiers to show him the way to the nearest town.  Ragnar and the crew arrive at the town on Saturday, and through the lessons from Brother Athelstan back on the farm, Ragnar has realized that Sunday is the English holy day.  He and the Vikings wait until the next day to attack. 

Sunday comes and with that, the raid begins.  When the Vikings arrive at the church, a startled town looks at their impending demise.  After a brief battle in the church in which a few Englishmen threw their lives away at a clear disadvantage, we see Ragnar talk to the priest.  Once again, the foresight that Ragnar had with taking Brother Athelstan as his slave pays off with those invaluable language lessons.  Ragnar tells the priest to let the others know that if they don’t struggle, then they will not have to lose their lives.  He ends it with the added smart ass remark, “God Bless."

While the Vikings raid the town for valuables, there are a few key scenes that we see more of the brutality for which the Vikings are known.  The man that Earl Haraldson sent with Ragnar comes across a Saxon woman and tries to rape her, only to be stopped by Lagertha.  Lagertha attacks the Earl’s spy and only ends up almost being raped herself.  While the spy tries to rape her,  Lagertha knees him where it counts, grabs a hold of a knife and kills the spy with a few well placed strikes. 

While Lagertha has her hands full, we see Rollo come across a sick, elderly man in a bed.  The way that this scene was shot was fantastic as it looks like Rollo is going to use his axe to kill the man, but instead gives him a glass of water to drink.  Not very Viking-like  showing compassion to the enemy, but that is soon ended by Rollo taking the silver cup from the man and the silver water pitcher.  As this is going on, we cut back to the church where Floki is drinking the holy wine and finds out it is not to his liking, so he spits it on the floor much to the dismay of the English town folk.  Floki sees this and toys with them by spitting more on the ground before grabbing the jewel incrusted cross.  The townspeople are in an uproar by the actions of Floki and the priest try to stop him from taking the cross, only to lose his life.

With their treasure in some fishnet bags, the Vikings head back to the ship.  Lagertha slips out of the building where she killed the Earl’s man and joins up with Ragnar, only to be questioned about the Earl’s spy.  Ragnar asks Lagertha where the spy is and Lagertha says that she killed him as he tried to rape her.  Ragnar asks if there were any witnesses and is told that there wasnt. Ragnar then knows how much danger his wife is in as this can be punishable by death.  The Vikings then head back to their ship only to find a bigger surprise.

Waiting at the ship are a group of soldiers that were sent by King Aelle.  This is the first time that we get to see how the Vikings fought in a battle.  I never realized that the Vikings fought like Spartans, and by using the same tactics that they did, the clearly outnumbered Vikings manage to kill the soldiers.  So if you’ve seen the movie 300, then you can picture how the Vikings fought the English.   Seeing that the Vikings are clearly the superior fighters and that their force is almost defeated, the noblemen on horseback retreat back to the king.  When the noblemen arrive back at the king’s court, they are clearly shaken by the ferocity of the Ragnar’s Vikings and tell the king that the devil is inside them.  The king’s men managed to capture two of the Vikings that guarded the ship and the only thing that they were able to understand from them was, “Ragnar”.

Back at the Lothbrok farm, Brother Athelstan is having issues trying to manage the farm, but mostly trying to keep Ragnar’s son Bjorn under control.  Brother Athelstan tries to reason with Bjorn over dinner one night but Bjorn, like Ragnar, is very headstrong as he wants to go to the port to welcome home his father and mother.  Later that night, as Brother Athelstan prays, it seems that his faith is starting to wane as he asks God why he has done this to him.  While Brother Athelstan questions his faith later in this episode, we see a paralled scene in which Earl Harladson does the same. 

When Ragnar arrives back at the town port, he is met with just as much fanfare as last time and even gets a respectable greeting from Earl Haraldson. Upon seeing Ragnar, the Earl is looking for his spy and can’t find him, so he asks Ragnar what happened to the man.  Ragnar, knowing the laws and customs can’t let his wife face the possibility of death, so Ragnar steps up and says that he killed the spy for the attempted rape of Lagertha.  Angered by this, the Earl has Ragnar arrested for murder and has him taken away.  It was interesting to see how deep Ragnar’s crew's loyalties go when they were willing to kill the Earl’s men before they could take Ragnar.

While Ragnar is imprisoned, the Earl takes this chance to start to plant the seeds of betrayal in Rollo’s mind.  Rollo is brought to the Earl where he is offered half of the treasure from the raid and the possibility of the Earl’s only daughter in marriage.  The Earl tries planting seeds of discontent in Rollo’s mind and offers the possibility of greater glory for him. Rollo (who has issues with his brother, Ragnar) has a lot to think over about betraying his brother Ragnar and the audience is left to wonder his intentions.

The trial of Ragnar Lothbrok begins with the Earl questioning Ragnar about the reasoning behind killing his spy whom just happened to be the Earl’s half-brother.  Ragnar repeats that he only killed him because he tried to rape Lagertha, and that any man would do the same regardless if he was the Earl’s brother or not.  The Earl asks if there were any witnesses other than Ragnar and Lagertha and Ragnar responds with no. From there, the Earl says that he, in fact, has a witness to the crime.  The Earl’s witness turns out to be Rollo and in the possible, “Et tu, Brute?,” Rollo tells the court what he saw.  Rollo for reasons unknown decides to not betray Ragnar, and instead agrees with what Ragnar has said about the killing.  Earl Haraldson knows that he has to let Ragnar go free but he already has a backup plan.

Ragnar and his crew celebrate the raid and Ragnar’s brush with death and we find one of the possible reasons why Rollo saved Ragnar’s life.  Rollo tells Lagertha that he only saved Ragnar for her, so it seems that Rollo is still in love with Lagertha.  While they celebrate Floki gives us some comedic relief by imitating how the Earl looked when he had to give half the treasure to Ragnar’s crew and let Ragnar live.  Clearly still angered by the outcome of the trial and Ragnar’s disrespect to him, the Earl sends bandits to Ragnar’s little party to have everyone killed.  Even drunk Ragnar’s Vikings are able to defend themselves with only the loss of one of their comrades who was ambushed while outside. 

With his plans failing at every turn, the Earl goes to their oracle to see what his future will bring and what is going to happen between him and Ragnar.  The oracle (still creepy as ever) explains what he sees and it isn’t looking good for the Earl.  He is told that Ragnar is looking to the Gods that he claims kinship with for help and that Ragnar is looking to overthrow the Earl.  As I mentioned earlier, the Earl’s faith is shaken as he asks the oracle if the Gods are even real.  While the Earl has his meeting with the oracle, we see Ragnar on top of a hill looking at the landscape as he prepares himself for what is to come, the eventual battle with the Earl.

With each passing episode this show maintains to keep you intrigued while adding new things that keep this historical drama fresh.  Michael Hirst is great at writing the characters as we saw in this episode; there was a ton of character development from the possibility of Rollo’s betrayal to the faith of two main characters to be shaken.  I believe that the show is really starting to find its footing with its balance of violence, drama and history.  As always, Vikings has left me wanting more.

Keywords: Vikings, History Channel Vikings review, Trial
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