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Vikings - Series 1.04 - "Trial" - Recap and Review (Spoilers)

We’re just about at the half way point of Vikings this season, and this week sees Ragnar and his group head back to England and it won’t play out exactly like it did the first time

Ragnar has taken one of the soldiers hostage and is using him to get information about the village they plan on attacking. Sound familiar? Rollo wants to attack the village right away but Ragnar insists they must wait till Sunday? Why wait when surprise is their biggest advantage? I’ve been saying all season that Ragnar is a lot smarter than we give him credit for and we see here that he’s learned some useful information about Anglo-Saxons and Sundays from his pet monk at home.

We meet the Anglo-Saxon King for the first time, and we learn that he knows of the attack on Lindisfarne and he’s not exactly rolling out the welcome mat for these pagans from the North. He makes it very clear that they are not welcome. Since they are intent on butchering half the population I would say it isn’t shocking he’s not inviting them over to the castle for Sunday dinner.

Ragnar and his men enter the village and it looks deserted? Has everyone been warned by the King and fled? Not so much. Ragnar leads his group to the church and gives them his best “I told you so” look. They bust in on the service and it’s pretty clear they are not looking to just make confession. Ragnar tells the priest they will not hurt anyone if they do not resist and if we hadn’t already known it would be clear he had been getting a lot of information from Athelstan back home as he ads a “God bless” just for good measure. Travis Fimmel is perfect in this scene playing just a right mix of ferocity and amusement, with a little bit of a condescending tone thrown in for good measure.

The Vikings begin to raid the town and we get a few different scenes (backed by a FANTASTIC score) one depicting Floki causing trouble in the church (when is he not causing trouble) and another of Knut and the attempted rape of an Anglo-Saxon woman. This is an interesting scene; in particular because what stops this would be rape is actually Lagertha. What stood out for me is that Lagertha’s empathy does extend towards not just Viking woman but to this Anglo-Saxon woman as well. We know she has no qualms about killing these people, but rape is out of the question for her. Perhaps because she is so well respected in her own culture that she does not believe women should be treated this way, no matter who they are? Knut retaliates by trying to rape Lagertha instead and she ends up killing him.

Back on the beach all the King’s men have shown up, albeit a little late to the party. Their numbers are far greater than that of Ragnar’s but that doesn’t seem to be a problem. Here we get to see how the Vikings really worked together as a team as they employ the use of a shield wall and after a few minutes fighting easily defeat the King’s men.

Back at home Athelstan is on babysitting duty and Bjorn still isn’t too happy about this. I went through the same phase when my father brought home a monk and left him in charge, so I think this resentment is totally justified. Athelstan is having a little trouble adjusting to his new to role as babysitter. He just can’t figure out what will make Bjorn like him. What kind of music do the kids listen to these days? He gives Bjorn his most adorable smile. Bjorn responds by offering to sacrifice him to Thor. If this show was a comedy we’d have some great starter material right there.

His lack of ability to kick it with the youngsters aside, Athelstan is still struggling with this newfound situation, and decides to consult his book and pray to God. Again another magnificently acted scene by George Blagden, and the viewer can actually feel Athelstan’s confusion at being abandoned by his God but also his anger, which I think will lead the way for some interesting character developments as the series progresses.

Ragnar and his band of warriors arrive back home and are greeted by the Earl himself who wants to know where his friend (spy) Knut is. Instead of telling the Earl that Knut died in battle, Ragnar says that he in fact killed him for trying to rape his wife. I’m not exactly sure why Ragnar wouldn’t have just told the Earl a lie in order to protect himself and his family, but he decides to go the honorable route and take the blame. The Earl of course has him arrested.

The Earl summons Rollo, in order to have a little chat about his brother. We finally get to see the Earl have a backbone and it turns out he’s pretty intelligent himself as he digs at all of Rollo’s fears about his brother. Mainly that Ragnar is obviously the boss in the relationship. Rollo is obviously a jealous and vain man, but I do think there is a loyalty to him. But the Earl tempts him to betray his brother by offering him half the treasure brought back from England, and the ultimate prize, to step out from Ragnar’s shadow. If Rollo plays his cards right he might even get a bride in the form of the Earl’s daughter.

As we saw in the first episode, Viking law and justice is taken very seriously so Ragnar is given a trial to determine if he is guilty for the murder of Knut. Ragnar does not deny that he killed Knut for raping his wife. Lagertha says she can corroborate Ragnar’s story but the Earl thinks its awfully convenient of her to have been there. She decides to admit to the killing herself and no one knows whom to believe. The Earl pulls out his trump card, Rollo, of course thinking that Rollo will confirm that Ragnar killed Knut and the Earl will be rid of that problem once and for all. But surprising for the Earl (and the audience) there is some loyalty left and Rollo confirms that Ragnar killed Knut because of the rape.

Ragnar is set free, but the Earl is obviously not happy to be bested. Ragnar and his group go back to his home to celebrate and everyone is in high spirits. The Earl attempts revenge sending his men to attack Ragnar and his group. They manage to fight them off but the encounter clearly sticks with our hero and clearly this means war between the two.

What Worked?
-- I have to give a special note to the score on this week’s episode. In general I’ve enjoyed the score each week, and I especially enjoy the opening credits, but it really stood out the week. Especially in scenes when there is a raid or battle, the score really works to enhance the scenes and expand on what is being presented visually. (Note: the score is done by Trevor Morris.)

 - - Any of Floki’s scenes are always a delight to watch, I honestly hope we get more if his character because Gustav plays the role wonderfully.

 - - We get to see more badass Lagertha this week, which is always welcome. Any time we get to see her kick butt is always nice.

-- Athelstan's questioning of his faith in God is a nice touch, and something you would assume he would be dealing with.  It's good that the show is acknowledging this and the scene is brilliantly acted.  I hope they delve more into the moral dilemma, because I think the religious questioning is a strong storyline for the show.

What Didn’t Work?
- - I still can’t figure out Ragnar’s motivation behind taking the blame for Knut’s death. I have a couple different theories but it seemed like a plot device to me, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in itself, I just wish it had been better explained.

What did you guys think of the week’s episode? Who will win if the Earl and Ragnar go to war? Is there a certain character you’d like to see more of? Do you think the relationship between Rollo and Ragnar will ever get better? Do you want more backstory on what’s really going on between Rollo and Lagertha? Sound off below!


 

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