Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Review: Vikings "Raid"

Non Spoiler Review:
Ragnar's rebellion against the old order catches up to him in Raid, as sea voyages give way to local politics. Haraldson attacks Ragnar directly and burns his village, forcing the Lothbroks to flee for their lives. The Earl is also busy finding a husband for his daughter, Thyri, something which comes as a surprise to Siggy.

Raid delivers a tense and action-packed first half with Haraldson's sudden attack and levels off to a more leisurely pace as the Lothbroks and their friends deal with the fallout of earning the Earl's enmity. The Haraldsons get plenty of (much needed) focus, and Siggy has a few surprises up her sleeves.

The series delves further into viking lore with more tales of the gods and various traditions. With its hectic pace there's no time to get bored, even with the significant time jump this week. Vikings has become one of my favorites of the season and I remain excited to see where Ragnar and his family end up.

Spoilers Now!
Athelstan questions whether he is still a slave and challenges Ragnar's belief system. Ragnar is still struggling with his next move and later goes hunting a buck. While he's gone Haraldson assembles his men and attacks the village. As the men are cut down, Lagertha and Athelstan gather the children. She gives the monk an axe and plans to stay and fight to await Ragnar.

In the woods Ragnar hears the distant screams and rushes back to find the village burning. He makes short work of several of the raiders before being wounded in the leg. As he makes it back to his house he gets an arrow in the back. Ragnar sends his family out beneath the floor as Haraldson approaches and calls him out. He emerges to greet him.

Ragnar collapses to his knees as the Earl muses he's worthy only of death and defeat. Ragnar accepts his fate and asks to speak to his god. He prays to Odin for aid and abruptly leaps up, killing one of the men and escaping on horseback. 

Lagertha and the family flee into the woods and make their escape in a boat, watching their house burn. After sending his horse away Ragnar runs up the hillside to the cliff. Lagertha sees him as he falls into the water. Athelstan dives in and rescues him. Together they make their way to Floki's home where they see to Ragnar's wounds. Lagertha and Athelstan both share prayers to their gods.

Haraldson is informed that Ragnar's fate remains in question, but he orders his boat seized. At the great hall they receive a visit from a Swedish earl, Bjarni. He introduces his daughter, Thyri, whom Haraldson has promised him. Siggy is shocked to learn of the news and storms out. The Swede gives Thyri a ring as a token of his affection. 

Siggy later confronts her husband for promising their daughter to an old man. It's a good deal, he protests and her future will be secure. The marriage will bring them land and important alliances. Haraldson admits he stopped caring about a lot of things when their boys were murdered. Siggy points out they were her sons, too. He reveals to her the killers dug a shallow grave and cut their heads off, disrespecting the bodies. He's never found the man responsible. He gives his wife the locks of hair he took from their sons' heads. Being married to a rich old man isn't so bad, he tells her.

Torstein, an old friend, arrives at Floki's home. Ragnar is beginning to heal. Rollo had told him he might be there, and didn't come himself given Haraldson is watching all his men. Ragnar wonders why the gods kept him alive. Torstein informs him the boat has been made part of the dowry for Haraldson's daughter to the earl from Sweden. As time passes, Lagertha is ashamed they having nothing left and are eating Floki's winter supplies. 

Rollo arrives at the wedding celebration for Haraldson's daughter. The Earl goes over to speak to him, remarking he was not invited but Rollo toasts to her happiness. As the couple heads off to the matrimonial chamber, Rollo tells the Earl Ragnar is dead. He's not seen a body but he's heard nothing and is certain he's dead. Rollo does not want to be an outsider, but the Earl reminds him it will take time to regain his trust. He allows Rollo to remain and work on his boats and when the raiding season arrives he'll decide then if he can join them.

Rollo meets Siggy in secret, who has come to warn him that Haraldson is really planning to kill him. She warns him to flee immediately and kisses him. Rollo is quickly met by several of Haraldson's men and is forced to fight them off in the village. He's brought down and taken to the Earl. Haraldson demands to know where his brother is but Rollo maintains he's dead. Siggy watches as her husband tortures him.

Athelstan learns more of the mythology of the vikings as they stay with Floki. Ragnar is growing impatient with his slow recuperation. Torstein returns to Floki's with news from Siggy that Haraldson has tortured Rollo. Siggy is certain he means to kill him but Floki believes it's all a trap to lure out Ragnar. Incensed, Ragnar asks Floki to request a meeting with the Earl and challenge him to combat on his behalf. It's an offer he won't be able to refuse as shame will stalk him for the rest of his life and he'll not be permitted into Valhalla.

The Verdict:
Raid was a strong episode, keeping the series advancing along with the inevitable confrontation between Ragnar and Haraldson. At this point it seems just as inevitable that Haraldson will fall unless he pulls a surprise from his bag of tricks. Ragnar's momentum and the growing love of the people looks unstoppable (though his massacred neighbours might disagree). His only vulnerability looks to be in his ambition, which could move dangerously into a messiah complex.

Lagertha needs to get the wife of the year award for fully supporting Ragnar in pretty much every endeavour. They've lost everything they've owned and are on the run, but she hasn't balked once. It was also interesting to see that Rollo continues to remain loyal to his brother despite his own ambition. I'm not sure when he'll crack and betray him, or even if he will at this point, but it's refreshing that he remains unpredictable.

Is Siggy working for her husband or against him? It appears Rollo has been set up to lure in Ragnar, but I'm not entirely sure Siggy is that forgiving of Haraldson for their daughter's marriage. Her character has grown on me and I'm pleased to see she's getting more development. There's the whole mystery of their sons' deaths that I'm sure is going to bring a surprise or two.

Athelstan remains a curious character given his almost envious questions about the Norse gods who look so much more interesting than his. But I've not yet reconciled this new Athelstan to the almost blindly devout monk we saw in the first episode. He's certainly developed an affection for the Lothbroks, and equally earned their respect for standing by them. He should put his mind to ease about his status as I'm sure neither Ragnar nor Lagertha would let something happen to him at this point. But what would be his fate should they allow him to leave? He can't really wander around Scandinavia unless they return him to Northumbria at the end of the series. 

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