“How the little piglets would grunt if they knew how the old boar suffered.” When Ned Stark was executed on Game of Thrones viewers were in denial. At least Vikings gave us four episodes of preparation and made it obvious before they cut the cord on Travis Fimmel’s Ragnar Lothbrok in last night’s “All His Angels.”
But Ragnar’s sons will be different than the Stark children, they’ll have their revenge swift and merciless because it’s their show now, and it’s up to the writers to make Ivar, Ubbe, Sigurd and Hvitserk just as captivating as Fimmel’s driven and complex Ragnar.
The episode was all about Ragnar, his final moments at the hands of King Aelle and the beginning of the end for King Ecbert as he faces a future with Ragnar’s vengeful sons on the horizon. We start where we last left off with Ragnar in Ecbert’s dungeon awaiting the day that he will be given to Aelle after the agreement made during last week’s episode. The mood is dark and grim, there’s very little light to be found surrounding Ragnar during his final hours.
His one request is to see his son Ivar before he is shipped back to Kattegat. Their meeting in the cell will set in motion a chain of events that is looking to be catastrophic for England, Ecbert in particular which bums me out because over the past two episodes he’s grown to be one of the most likable characters in the series. Ragnar needs to be avenged though, even if you disliked his character, his death hits you hard and fast starting with his emotional goodbye to Ivar.
Before that though, we get an interesting scene of Ivar and Alfred playing chess. With Ecbert’s demise on the horizon, it’s interesting to see the possible next two big players interacting so early on playing the game of war. When Ivar is pulled away from his game, he is in the light while Ragnar is in the shadows as they have their final conversation: that Ivar must stay alive because he is the most important to the future of the Viking people. He is unpredictable and one day the whole world will fear Ivar the Boneless.
Ragnar also tells him that he must take revenge on Ecbert, not Aelle for his death.
Ecbert meanwhile is trying to move on from Ragnar, which is proving difficult because of how guilty he feels. Like he says he has to destroy someone truly great and commit a friend to death, little does he know that his “friend” is committing him to the same fate.
Once Ragnar gives his cross to Alfred and is carted away in a cage the end truly sinks in. He meets the the blind man sitting on the edge of the cart as Ragnar is being delivered to Aelle, who is the man from the seer’s vision; that Ragnar will die when the blind man sees him. It’s a chilling moment when the blind man says that he sees Ragnar for who he is because it confirms what we already know but also what might be possible—the existence of the gods. This scares Ragnar because at this point he is an atheist. He confronts the blind man when he see’s him transform into the seer and tells him that it wasn’t the gods who decided this fate for him, it was his decision to die and his alone.
Once Ragnar gets into the hands of Aelle things take a violent turn, which makes me all the more frustrated at Ragnar’s decision to tell his sons to take their vengeance out on Ecbert. While Ragnar in his cage was hoisted up into the trees and poked with spears, burned with fire, cut across the head and branded in the side with a sword at the hands of Aelle, Ecbert was taking a pilgrimage of sorts pretending to be a monk to see his friend one last time and his death first hand.
I always found irony in comparing the “good” Christians with the “savage” vikings, especially when it’s the Christians torturing others all in the name of god. For Aelle’s soldiers, Ragnar’s drawn out death and eventual fall into the snake pit shows that the “good” people may not be all that good at all.
The most striking part of Ragnar’s death wasn’t the spectacle though, it was the final moments between Ragnar and Ecbert that left the most emotional impact. Ragnar sees Ecbert looking at him in awe and desperation right before he makes his last speech about going to Valhalla and feasting with the gods. It makes it an even more powerful moment when Ecbert is the last to leave once Ragnar is officially declared dead and the snake pit is closed. Thus closing a chapter and opening a new one with a vengeful Ivar ready to dole out justice on those who aided in his father’s fall, crushing that chess piece until his hand bleeds.
Episode Rating: 10/10