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#Vikings - Series 1.06 - "Burial of the Dead" - Recap and Review (Spoilers)

"Burial Of The Dead"

Welcome back to an all-new episode of Vikings! This week we get the final showdown between Earl Haraldson and Ragnar. I was informed this week that Lothbrok in Norwegian translates to Fluffy pants. I hope this is no indication of his fighting skills, but either way it’s a good nickname.

Floki delivers Ragnar’s message to the Earl. Floki as always is a delight to watch. It seems the Earl will decline Ragnar’s challenge, but after a flashback to his conversation with the seer he decides to accept.

Lagertha and Ragnar are having marital relations and it’s a pretty hot and heavy scene till Lagertha announces that she thinks they should just run away. I think this is a pretty big moment for her character. We’ve seen how strong she is and for her to suggest that they just runaway is a big deal. It shows how truly worried she is about Ragnar’s chances. Ragnar doesn’t share her fears, but insists that the odds are in his favor.

Siggy and the Earl also share some fears about the upcoming battle and talk about their sons again. I’ve never really cared for this storyline much, as I didn’t feel it had much payoff. The Earl admits he respects Ragnar, and sees himself in Ragnar. He says he knew he was right about the Western lands, but couldn’t support him because he would lose all of hi own support. His reasoning isn’t flawed and it’s nice to see the mirror between the two characters acknowledged.

We see Thyri with her new husband the Swed. They are also having marital relations but it’s not quite as passion filled as Ragnar and Lagertha. Thyri does have some spark to her, though, albeit in a different way. Life with her new husband is not everything Thyri hoped it would be, which is unsurprising. He threatens to beat her if he doesn’t get her some pickled hearing. Obviously he doesn’t realize that the bedroom talk food of choice is blood pudding. Either way I’m on Team Thyri. Hope we see more of her character.

Tensions are high as both the Earl and Ragnar prepare for the big battle. Despite Ragnar’s assurances to Lagertha that everything will be ok, he does look a little worried as he survey’s his family and I don’t necessarily think it’s because he fears his death but perhaps what will become of them should he die.

The Earl prays to the gods, but seems dissatisfied with them, and Siggy gives him a lock of their son’s hair telling him if he believes in anything, he should believe in them.

The day has come, the battle is here, and everyone has turned out for the big day. The rules are simple. They each get two shields and that’s it. It’s a basic fight to the death type thing. This scene is actually filled with tension which is always surprising to me in these “we know how has to win” type situations. Obviously Ragnar has to win this battle, but there were a few moments where I was concerned about which way it would go. This is a scene where you will get the maximum amount of enjoyment by just watching it because it is a great few minutes in which all elements really come together.

Ragnar wins the battle after a tense couple of minutes and Siggy is by her husband’s side as he passes into the afterlife. We also see the end of the Earl’s right hand man, swiftly dealt with by Rollo, and the end of the Swed, whom Siggy kills. That seems like a rash decision, who will Thyri bring pickled hearing to now? (Ok I’m just bummed because Thyri didn’t get to do it herself.)

Ragnar is declared Earl and it’s time for everyone to declare his or her allegiance. Rollo swears his allegiance but it’s clear he isn’t 100% happy with Ragnar’s position, as he asks him how they can ever be equal? Look like Ragnar still has to look out for Rollo.

Ragnar has granted the Earl a large funeral, and Athelstan is confused as to why. Ragnar explains that the Earl was a great man and a warrior, and he deserves such a funeral. As usual this week we get to learn more about Viking’s culture through Athelstan’s eyes, something that doesn’t get old. We meet one of the Earl’s slaves (the gorgeous Roanna Cochrane) who is being prepared to be sacrificed with the Earl. Athelstan seems horrified by this, and it served as a reminder to me, that he was once a slave himself not too long ago. It’s easy to forget sometimes considering how far he’s come, but his situation could have been very different.

Athelstan is guided through the funeral traditions by Bjorn who seems at first amused by the priest’s discomfort with the sacrifice of the slave girl but then angry with him for wanting to leave. He forces Athelstan to stay and watch proclaiming, “It is only death!” What a great insight, once again, into how the Viking culture views death. This whole scene is particularly well done, down to the subtle fear shown by the slave girl as she faces her death.

The funeral is getting kind of rowdy, it’s clear that Viking’s funerals resemble Dothraki weddings. It’s time to light the funeral pyre and Siggy asks permission to light it. It looks for a minute like Ragnar will let her, but at the last minute he shuns her and doesn’t allow her to. It’s clear that he’s not planning on letting Siggy off that easy.

Ragnar also gets some happy news at the funeral as Lagertha announces she is pregnant with their child. How fierce is she that announces this at the funeral of their enemy?

Siggy and Thyri are gathering gold in an attempt to run away when Rollo finds them. He insists that Ragnar will not kill them, but Siggy says that people will still shun them anyways. Rollo says he will vouch for them and asks her if she would like to be married to another Earl. Turns out Rollo has plans for the throne.

We flash forward a bit in time to the winter, and shout out to the adorable reindeer. Bjorn says he can’t wait for spring, because he wants to go raiding to England. Ragnar tells him in no uncertain terms that he won’t be raiding in the spring. Bjorn is angry but actually takes it surprisingly well for Bjorn.

 Athelstan has finally decided to speak up and get them to tell him what Ragnarok is. If you remember when he asked in the last episode everyone got very quiet and refused to tell him, but we learn this episode (in a what seems to be drug induced, terrifying vision), that Ragnarok is your basic Vikings end of the world type myth. What I really liked in this scene was the similarities to the Christian end of days we saw in episode 2. Excellent parallels.

The scene abruptly cuts to the spring, as Ragnar as his merry band of warriors are back to England. We meet King Aelle who hears that the Northmen are back and sailing up the river. He has a secret weapon though which is a pit of snakes. I really want to know if he plans on throwing the snakes at Ragnar and his men or if he’s going to throw Ragnar and his men at the snakes. Questions for next week!

What Worked 
- Not drawing out the big battle the whole episode was a smart decision. This was a big episode in which a lot happened, and until the end the pacing was pretty steady. If we had waited until the end of the episode to find out who won between Ragnar and the Earl I feel there would have been even more pacing issues.

 - Fimmel’s uncertainty throughout the episode is subtle but well done. I don’t doubt that Ragnar knows what he’s doing, but it’s a very human side to him that I quite like to see. Ragnar has always been a character I found easier to relate with in comparison with the Earl and Fimmel’s portrayal and subtle nuances has a lot to do with that.

 - Athelstan crossing himself as the slave girl is sacrificed and as the Earl’s pyre was lit is a nice touch, and I like when we get to see that he still holds aspects of his old life in high regard.

 - It was good to see more of Viking culture, this week with the funeral. Despite being a new kind of show for the channel, this is a History channel show, and I think they do it justice with all the different ways they are actually teaching the audience about a culture that is so misunderstood.

What Didn’t Work
 - There were some issues with the time jumps this week, and I heard from a few people, that towards the end of the episode it got a bit confusing. I’m willing to forgive this week because so far this show has dealt with time jumps and pacing issues relatively well, which is not all that easy to do. Still, the end of the episode did get a bit jumbled and could have been done slightly better.

 - In the scene where Athelstan inquires about Ragnarok, Ragnar calls him an “ignorant Christian” and not in the joking way we’ve seen him do in the past. I felt this was a bit of a back track in terms of character development and the relationship of these two characters, and it didn’t sit well with me.

Thus ends another week of our Viking adventures. How do you think the show will do without the Earl around? Even though his story line sometimes dragged I think the show benefited from having around, but I’m confident it can stand on its own without him. The episode got rid of a lot of lose ends but also gave us some new storylines to look forward to and did it very well. Are you looking forward to next week’s episode? Do you think Ragnar’s next raid will be as successful as his last ones? Are you looking forward to Ragnar “Fluffy pants” Lothbrok’s next set of adventures?

And a special shout out this week to the amazing cast of this show, even the minor supporting characters whose hard work and dedication really shows through the screen. Personally I’m enjoying the depth and growth that each and every character has shown this series, and as we hit the final three episodes I’m excited to see where that takes us. And a big congratulation to the cast and crew on a second season!

 

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