[This is a review of Vikings season 2, episode 7. There will be SPOILERS.]
There is something momentous to be said about the way History's Vikings handles the topic of death. Behind the blood and gore exists a kind of honor and purpose; even when a body is mutilated. No one is simply killed for random reasons. When a life is taken, a greater meaning lingers in the shadows.
This week's episode, entitled 'Blood Eagle,' featured one of the most gruesome executions in recent memory. Sure, it's difficult to deny that Game of Thrones wears the crown when it comes to spectacular deaths; however, Vikings is not willing to play second fiddle. Jarl Borg's bodily mutilation at the end of the episode mimics our own, contemporary culture more than we would like to admit.
Creator/writer Michael Hirst deserves praise for his unflinching portrayal of the barbarism that existed within Viking culture. This is not meant to say that our Scandinavian brothers and sisters are any more blood thirsty than our modern society; if anything, they have a greater sense of purpose behind their sacrifices. Before continuing, if this review seems more "personal" than previous entries, it is due to the final scene's grotesque nature and its justifications surrounding the act. Being far removed from witnessing death on a regular basis, how does one watch something like that and not leave unscathed?
As season 2 moves ever closer to the finale, our heroes are diminishing with each new episode. Even young Bjorn was mortified at his father's description of what Jarl Borg would have to endure. Bjron has proven himself on the battlefield, but perhaps he has a kinder heart than his father? King Horik's plea for Ragnar to spare Borg's life may have been the better option. Lagertha's allegiance brings with it some warriors and a few ships, but they are nothing compared to what Borg could have offered, had Ragnar not given into his pride. By 'Blood Eagle's' end, Jarl Borg became the sympathetic hero, as he refused to cry out when his blood began to pour over his dead wife's skull.
There was little happiness to be found this week, yet Floki always finds a way to put a smile on our faces. Floki as a father may be a scary thought, but seeing him jump for joy during his wedding to Helga (Maude Hirst), brought some light to an overly somber episode. Back in Wessex, the ambitious King Ecbert has now joined forces with Northumbria. King Alle (Ivan Kaye) seems wary of the charismatic king, but a marriage between his daughter and Ecbert's son soothed his troubled mind. This alliance will make matters interesting when Ragnar returns to England in search of Athelstan.
'Blood Eagle' gave us a new perspective on Ragnar. At times, the handsome Earl appears gentle and kind, yet when his family is in danger, that mischievous smile quickly turns to wrath. What makes Ragnar so captivating as a character, is that even in his anger, he is not without forgiveness. As he hauntingly tells Bjorn what Jarl Borg will go through, Ragnar finishes his story by saying that there is still a chance to enter Valhalla if Borg refuses to cry out. As stated earlier, even vengeful deaths have substance and meaning. Perhaps that is why Borg's transformation into a bloodied eagle is so frightening. In the end, what is all this death for?
There are only three episodes remaining until the end of season 2 with much to wrap up. Will Ragnar and Horik be able to defeat this new alliance between Ecbert and Alle? Also, share your thoughts on Jarl Borg's death. Did any of you see purpose behind the act, or was this simply Ragnar's revenge for past transgressions? Keep watching to see how it all ends.
Vikings continues with 'Boneless' next Thursday @10pm on History. You can check out a preview of next week's episode below: