[This is a review of Vikings season 3, episode 6. There will be SPOILERS.]
There is no doubt that season 3 of Vikings has been a brutal affair. The more Ragnar pushes towards his unyielding need for glory, the more bodies he leaves in his wake. It seems only yesterday when our beloved king wanted only farmland for his people. So, what drives him now?
From the very beginning of 'Born Again', we see that Ragnar is not in his right mind. When the messenger from Wessex arrives with news of his people's slaughter at the hands of Aethelwulf, Ragnar appears to be angry, but then silences the man forever. Now, only Ragnar and Floki know about what has happened across the sea. Will Floki find Ragnar's hands around his neck in the near future?
Viking culture, at least the way show creator Michael Hirst has portrayed it, involves taking vengeance seriously - like the Old Testament saying of "An eye for an eye." After his inevitable attack on Paris, will Ragnar seek vengeance on King Ecbert and his son, or is he too focused on future glories? Either way, the Viking King is not the man we knew in season 1 (when life was simpler).
In this simpler time, Ragnar and Athelstan had been friends. The brave priest watched his fellow monks being slaughtered, only to then befriend the man who had captured him. Without ever holding a grudge, the priest and Ragnar developed a bond for each other as if they were brothers. When Athelstan told Ragnar that he had been born again through Jesus Christ, it was a powerful moment - as Ragnar violently proclaimed that he did not want his friend to leave (and admitted that he loves him). Athelstan said that he would follow, even though he knew most of Ragnar's associates would despise him - especially Floki.
After the crazed Viking told his wife Helga that a blood sacrifice was required in order to please the gods, we all knew that this episode was not going to end well for one of our heroes. In a frighteningly calm fashion, Athelstan embraces Floki's presence, like he knew it was his time. What did the monk see that gave him such a surreal calm? Now we will never know - for in his absence, he has left a brokenhearted Viking King with no one left to console him. Ragnar's farewell speech to his fallen friend is one you'll want to watch a few times. Deeply moving and hauntingly memorable, Australian-born Travis Fimmel is still maturing as an actor in a fantastic way. If you dare, look into those piercing blue eyes and you will see the pain behind them. Vikings has lost another of its treasured cast members.
If you are curious about next week's event, you can look up the Siege of Paris (845) and discover some differences and similarities to the upcoming battle. With Siggy and Athelstan now deceased, who do you think is next? Michael Hirst appears to be on a killing spree with his pen, but with news of History renewing Vikings for a fourth season, hopefully he will find it in his heart to leave some of our favorite characters standing for at least another year?
There are still so many questions left to be answered in these final four episodes; like, what will become of Judith and her baby? Even when she's missing an ear, the princess is still lovely, but what's her role now? It seemed as though she was destined to see the father of her child at least one more time - but with that possibility now a distant memory, her future appears bleak. Thankfully, Mr. Hirst has not let us down yet, so we can all rest easy knowing that skilled hands are writing wonderful scripts week after week.
Vikings continues with 'Paris' next Thursday @10/9c on History.