[This is a review of Vikings season 2, episode 6. There will be SPOILERS.]
Vikings takes a break from the war-centric first half of season 2, for an episode focused on the political maneuverings of ambitious men and women. Even without the plethora of violent skirmishes to fill your television sets, 'Unforgiven' was not without its share of bloodshed.
This week's tale broadened the geographical scope of the series more than ever, with Wessex and Scandinavia vying for importance in terms of plot. Ragnar, though not in a bad way, is no longer the most important character in the series, as Athelstan and Lagertha stole the spotlight from our favorite blue-eyed Viking.
Let us begin by discussing the priest and his interactions with the formidable King Ecbert in Wessex. Linus Roache (Batman Begins) is doing an excellent job of portraying the mysterious king from England. Until now, Ecbert had not yet revealed his true intentions for keeping Athelstan alive. Apparently, his ambitious appetites are even more ravenous than Ragnar's. In a way, Ecbert wants to learn what power the pagan gods possess. Unlike many of his Christian brothers and sisters, the kings respects the old Roman gods and Caesars, and desires to learn more of their power. It's unclear if he wishes to conquer the known world like Alexander the Great, but there is clearly no limit to his ambitions. Presuming Ragnar attempts a rescue mission for his lost brother, will Athelstan even want to go back?
The Seer's (John Kavanagh) words about brave women always being honored by the gods ring true for Lagertha and her plight with her abusive husband. Most likely, there were many of you (this reviewer included) who jumped for joy when the lovely shield-maiden stabbed him in the eye after publicly humiliating her. Where Siggy seeks power, Lagertha only desires for her family to be safe; however, her bravery and honor have earned her the respect of her people, who now look to her for leadership. Whether she wanted power or not, it is now hers to do with as she will. What will Lagertha do now that she is in control?
Back in Rangar's village, revenge is being served up buffet-style. While King Horik wants to use Jarl Borg's men and boats to attack Wessex, the viking brothers have a debt of blood to pay for past transgressions. Part of Ragnar and Rollo's charm is that they never do what you expect, but it also gets them sidetracked. There would be less blood and confrontation if the two forgave Borg and journeyed West in search of Athelstan, but hey, it wouldn't make for good television. With Jarl Borg in chains, what's to become of the strange man who talks to his wife's skeletal remains? Will this cause a rift between Ragnar and King Horik's relationship?
Unfortunately, "the game" of politics leaves many bruised and broken on its dangerous road, and there was none more so than Siggy. While she has never been a crowd favorite, there is no denying the sorrow in watching her being used for sex, like some prostitute. Unlike Lagertha, Siggy did not stab Horik in the eye, yet she may have her moment to channel her inner Valkyrie in a future episode.
'Unforgiven' was another exemplary episode from an already strong sophomore season written entirely by Michael Hirst (The Tudors). With revenge on the forefront of Ragnar and Rollo's mind, will Athelstan be stuck in Wessex for the rest of season 2, or will the Vikings come to the rescue? Stay strong with our Scandinavian brothers and sisters to find out.
Vikings continues with 'Blood Eagle' next Thursday @10pm on History.