television -> Vikings Episode 8 Review and Recap

Vikings Episode 8 Review and Recap


by James Chantrill

During last Sunday’s episode of Vikings, we got to delve a little deeper into the Viking mythology/ religion with a trip to a holy temple that is only traveled to every nine years. 

This episode opened with Ragnar explaining to Athelstan why every nine years the Vikings have to travel to this temple.  They do this for the sake of making sure that the Gods will continue to favor them and offer protection.  During Ragnar’s explanation we find out that a considerable amount of time has elapsed as it looks like Athelstan has assimilated himself to the Viking way of life (we also find out that Ragnar and Lagertha lost their unborn son).  Ragnar then explains that he will take his children to the temple for the first time and asks if Athelstan will come along.  Athelstan agrees that he will travel to the temple as well, but Ragnar tells him that he would have taken him regardless of his answer. 

It then cuts to Lagertha outside with the villagers accepting their gifts for the Gods and hearing what they hope that the Gods will help them with.  The prayers are a pretty standard affair that mostly consists of protection for loved ones.  During this, Lagertha looks over at Ragnar who is having a hard time coping with the death of his unborn son since it looks like he’s been pounding down the mead very heavily.  Lagertha has her daughter take over for her so that she can talk to Ragnar and this is where we see a reoccurring theme in the show (one of faith in the Gods either being shaken or completely lost).  Ragnar looks at Lagertha and asks why the Gods find it necessary to give with one hand and take with the other.

Before the trip to the temple starts, we are shown an even better example to how much time has passed since the show has started.  We see this with Athelstan taking the bible that he fought so hard to protect out of a secret stash from underneath a floorboard (the bible is in tatters and disarray with pages missing and dust all over it).  Once the trip starts, we are shown sweeping vistas of the countryside and of the mountains until at last we see a cliff and this giant majestic-looking temple off in the distance by a waterfall.

When Ragnar and his people arrive, this is the first time that we get the sense that there are other Viking tribes in the area since the forest around the temple is packed with people.  At this point, we hear Lagertha whisper to Ragnar, “Does he know?” (This is referring to Athelstan and if you permit me to jump ahead a little bit, it deals with Ragnar using Athelstan as a sacrifice).  Ragnar and his troop of people head into the temple where the head priest splatters them with some type of blood as he blesses all the Gods and their weapons.  It is here that we see how much Athelstan has become accustomed to the Viking culture as Bjorn (Ragnar’s Son) asks Athelstan about a shrine of Thor (to which he answers thoroughly and completely).  This is where we hear the prayers of Lagertha who prays that she can give Ragnar another son before it is too late for her. 

We later see the Vikings preparing for the festival that night and it is here that we see that Rollo is with the former Earl Haraldson’s wife.  Not only do we see this, but also how the relationship between Rollo and Floki is still full of resentment. I have a feeling that this will only get worse which will make for some great drama in the future.  We also hear a rumor that the king of the Vikings may show up at the festival.

Ragnar and Athelstan are walking around the woods when they come across animal pens that have nine of each animal in them.  Ragnar explains that these are for the sacrifice at the end of the festival and when Athelstan asks about the empty pen, Ragnar explains that it is for the human sacrifices. 

As night approaches, we see Athelstan walking throughout the festival only to come across Rollo who offers him psychedelic mushrooms (or demanded he eat them depending on how one looks at it).  Athelstan starts to hallucinate, he wanders around the festival again experiencing the full range of emotions being tossed around his head and at one point he stumbles and falls.  It is here where a Viking tells Athelstan that he needs to continue on his journey and that the Gods will hold him up.  With those words of encouragement, Athelstan continues on his way and runs into a woman that tells him that she has been waiting for him to get to her.

The king of the Viking tribes finally shows up (played by Donal Logue, a familiar face from some great shows) and he decides that he will wake the priests up that morning with a rooster and some well-placed kicks.  The priests responded by beating him with sticks as they did not recognize that he was the king until they were told.  With the king showing up, Ragnar decides that he will seek an audience with him and is granted the chance.  At this meeting he takes along Athelstan who later verifies what Ragnar says about their being more lands to the west with more riches.  With that out in the open, Ragnar pledges his allegiance to the king as long as they join forces with larger raiding parties to the West in mind.  Later on, when it is just the king and Ragnar alone the king asks a favor from his new friend to be his emissary to another Earl who has been making threats to the king and Ragnar agrees.

While Ragnar has his meeting, we see what Rollo has been up to with his new “wife” (Earl Haraldson’s wife) and to put it bluntly, there is already trouble since Rollo was with other women during the festival.  Rollo tells her that he is not going to change and that she needs him more than he needs her.  Rollo says that he will be a great man at some point and that she will wish she never had left him and this is where we see how manipulative she truly is.  She tells Rollo that if he was such a great man, why wasn’t he invited to the meeting with Ragnar and the king? She drives her point further by showing that Rollo needs her more than he thinks.

We cut back to Athelstan and we see the creepy looking oracle again as he takes Athelstan to the head priest of the temple.  At this meeting between them, the priest asks Athelstan if he came of his free will and if he is still a Christian believer.  Athelstan answers that he came of his own free will and that he is no longer a Christian.  The priest, not completely satisfied by that, makes Athelstan deny Christ three times which I found almost poetic like the head priest knew about Christian beliefs and their lore.  Athelstan denies three times and the priest grabs his wrist and turns it over to find a cross wrapped around one of them.  This is where the priest tells Athelstan that he is here as a sacrifice and that he is unworthy.

The oracle explains to the Vikings and Ragnar that Athelstan is unworthy to be a sacrifice and that the Gods would not accept his sacrifice.  The oracle says that unless another Viking takes Athelstan’s place, the Gods will take away their favor and protection from them.  A few moments pass and one of the Vikings stands up and offers to be the sacrifice to save his family, friends and all of humanity on earth.

At dawn the next day, the sacrifices are given to the Gods and the king uses a ceremonial sword to kill the human sacrifices.  Once all of the sacrifices are done they are strung up in the trees around the temple to bleed out onto the ground. It was a very morbid affair, but truly shows what the Vikings held most sacred. 

With this episode, we really took a deep look into the abyss that is the Viking religion (and like most religions in the past sacrifices where common practice to please the Gods).   This episode was great in the aspect that although the violence in the show is great to watch, its drama between the characters that makes a show last.  Whether it was Ragnar dealing with the death of his unborn son, the relationship between Rollo and Floki or even how prominent Athelstan was and how he has created a rift between himself and Ragnar by not being sacrificed.   Another great part was how Lagertha is feeling like she may be cast aside soon by Ragnar in favor of another woman who can give him a son.  I thought that this was a fantastic episode and as always, I look forward to seeing what Ragnar is up to next Sunday.

Keywords: Vikings, History Channel Vikings review, Sacrifice
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