[This is a review of Vikings season 2, episode 2. There will be SPOILERS.]
There is a pattern emerging in the early stages of Vikings' sophomore season. The pattern unflinchingly examines loyalty, honor, and what it means to "truly" love someone. All the power in Scandinavia is up for grabs, but who will emerge victorious?
The decision to jump ahead four years after last week's premiere was a bold move on the part of creator/executive producer Michael Hirst (The Tudors). Lagertha and Bjorn's presence was missed, yet the strong ensemble cast proved itself worthy by delivering a barrage of stellar performances. 'Invasion' may be the title of this week's episode, however, 'Allegiance' would have been a more suitable description for what took place in one of the series best hours to date.
After spending an entire season with Largertha, it was perplexing to see Princess Aslaug by Ragnar's side in the Great Hall. There is no doubt that the daughter of Brynhildr is a formidable figure. Actress Alyssa Sutherland (The Devil Wears Prada) uses her model-like stature and captivating eyes to appear almost mythical. If ancient mythology is to be believed, then Alsaug's mother is a Valkyrie, while her father slayed dragons. There are moments when the lovely princess seems out of place, like she doesn't belong with the rest of Ragnar's people. Is it possible that she is more than what she appears? What will her prophecies mean for Ragnar and his unborn son?
Rollo is perhaps the most important person in Ragnar's life. Watching the great warrior laying on the frozen earth among the filth was a sad sight. He has paid for his sins, but as Ragnar reminds him, his suffering is noting compared to what others have lost due to his treachery. Rollo's quest for redemption will be a hard one, but he is the only character who truly loves Ragnar beyond question. All brothers fight... Don't they?
The emphasis and importance of Rollo's affection for his sibling is crucial, due to everyone else's lack of loyalty. Let's go through the list of players who are most likely to turn on Ragnar. Lagertha has already left with Bjorn, who probably still harbors resentment for Ragnar's actions towards her. Princess Aslaug, while married to the Earl, may not have his best interests at heart. Her prophetic messages to her husband are foreboding, lacking any kind of warmth and care for her family. She is loyal for now, but one has to wonder where she will place her allegiance when times are tough? Siggy is another power player, who is willing to do anything to secure her place back at the top of the political food chain. Like Aslaug's love for Ragnar, her love for Rollo is based on personal gain. These people are not devoid of love, but the enticing allure of prestige calls to them all.
Even as Ragnar's men and women invade Wessex, it appears that this season of Vikings, for better or worse, will be about trust. Ragnar is in a difficult position, not only from this new Wessex King who Athelstan says is "just like him," but from back home as well. Can Ragnar survive a war on two fronts, or will his "friends" get the better of him in the end?
Vikings continues with 'Treachery' next Thursday @10pm on History.