Travis Fimmel’s Ragnar Lodbrok makes his return to Kattegat in the mid-season premier of Vikings, and he is very much worn out and seems to be reaching the end of his story. But what would Vikings look like without Ragnar?
The show seems to be giving us the answer by heavily focusing on Ragnar’s now grown sons Ubbe, Hvitserk, Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye and, the most interesting of the bunch, Ivar the Boneless in “The Outsider.” The episode opens with Ragnar challenging his sons to kill him and take his crown, but none of the sons dare make a move except for Ubbe, who embraces him instead.
Ragnar makes it clear from the start that he wants to go back to Wessex to avenge the Viking settlement King Ecbert ordered his men to destroy, after allowing them to settle on his land in season three. I can’t see his journey as anything but a death sentence, especially with the introduction of four new characters to fill his place.
Ragnar’s problem now, though, is that no one wants to go with him. His eldest son Bjorn wants to sail to the Mediterranean and even asks employed ship-builder and Ragnar’s friend Floki to build him an new ship for the voyage. Hvitserk and Floki both plan on traveling with him as well. Ubbe and Sigurd both plan on staying in Kattegat, which has grown into a major trading port, to watch over their mother Princess Aslaug, whom we only saw a glimpse of at the dinner table this episode.
Bjorn meanwhile goes to a seer and learns that Ragnar’s return to Kattegat will bring multiple “calamities.” He tells this to his girlfriend Torvi, who may or may have not been breastfeeding a baby during the scene. It was hard to see, but after a re-watch she is definitely looking down at something she is holding under her dress.
Ivar, though, has no plans and seems to be the only one with faith left in his father.
It’s hard to not feel bad for Ivar, but it’s clear that his disability has turned him into a cruel character. He’s often left out. In one of the earlier scenes when Ragnar and his sons are discussing their travel plans in the forest, Ivar is noticeably missing. When Ubbe and all of his other brothers have sex with the same servant girl, Ivar is always watching at a distance. We learn later on that Ivar has never slept with a woman before, and the brothers arrange the servant/slave girl (it depends on which brother you ask, Ubbe seems to be the only one who thinks they need to ask the girl’s permission first) to have sex with Ivar.
It doesn’t go well. Ivar doesn’t just have no use of his legs but is also impotent, which is a great embarrassment to him, so much so that he starts to strangle the girl saying that he has to kill her so that his brothers don’t find out (oh, and also because Ivar admits that he enjoys killing). The girl ends up saving her own skin by delivering some of the best lines of the night: that it’s easy and common for men to have sex and have children, but it’s hard and rare to be the son of Ragnar Lodbrok.
Getting back to Ragnar, he’s visiting the most important people in his life throughout the episode: Floki and his ex-wife Lagthera. Floki is thrilled to see Ragnar again, and even more thrilled when Ragnar tells him that he loves him for the first time. It was like watching a kid open a present on Christmas morning, but Ragnar is filled with doom and gloom thinking that this might be the last time he sees Floki if he doesn’t make it back from Wessex.
Lagthera on the other hand is confused about her feelings for Ragnar. She’s moved on with Astrid and the interesting haircut. It’s a little painfully awkward when Ragnar and Lagthera reunite because it seems that she has moved on and is planning something with Astrid; from what the trailers reveal, possibly overthrowing Aslaug’s rule over Kattegat.
When Ragnar leaves, the most shocking scene of the episode unfolds. He attempts suicide by hanging himself from a tree on the way back to Kattegat, but Ragnar can’t even kill himself right, because the rope snaps.
The episode ends with Ragnar sitting on his throne, Ivar joins him and tells him that he wants to travel to Wessex with him. The two look at each other, two mirror images that may be foreshadowing a dangerous new ruler in the vikings’s world.