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Vikings - S3E5 - The Usurper

Previously on Vikings, ‘Scarred’

On the boat home to Kattegat, Ragnar begs Athelstan to tell him about Paris, eagerly listening to his tale of marble churches and beautiful women while Floki eyes them with jealousy from another boat. Ragnar says Athelstan is lucky to have never been married, because he’d never come back if it wasn’t for his kids. “At least you have children,” Athelstan says. Isn’t this the part where I yell, “FORESHADOWING!” every week?

They make port in a driving rainstorm and unload the wounded onto the beach. Lagertha gives Torstein’s still-pregnant lovers the bad news and they sadly walk away together. Aslaug approaches Ragnar alone and waits for Rollo to tell them both how Siggy died. Rollo blames himself for treating her so poorly and retreats into a full sulk like only Rollo can. Ragnar wonders why Siggy was watching their children, but Aslaug breaks away to visit Porunn and is shocked by her broken face. Note: Porunn should actually be “Thorunn”—the “P” is really a symbol that looks like a P and is pronounced “th.” The actors are using more heavily “Thorunn” this season, but the show still spells her name “Porunn” in the credits. 


Rollo gets stinking drunk ASAP, offending the other men who also lost loved ones. They pick a fight, which Rollo is prepared to take entirely too seriously and get himself killed, but Bjorn intervenes, offering himself as a target. Rollo has to get it out of his system after all, and, equally in need of an outlet, Bjorn holds his own in the brawl. No real harm done.

Ragnar presses Aslaug for an explanation again, so she tries Distraction by Seduction to no effect. Helga, on the other hand, not so secretive. You know she’s just been DYING for Floki to come home and talk Hippie to her. She totally spills her guts about Harbard, which he recognizes as another name for Odin. He gleefully decides it’s his business to tell Ragnar because a visit from a god must be celebrated, even if it leads to death, because death leads to life, if you know what I’m saying, and I think you do.

A rider tells Lagertha that she’s been usurped, so she demands that Ragnar help get her land back. He’d rather not lose more people in a conflict, but what’s hers is hers, dammit. “There is never much use in arguing with you, Lagertha,” he agrees, affectionate and exasperated, but also cagey because he’s always got something up his sleeve.

Again Ragnar questions Aslaug about who Harbard is. She says wistfully that the Wanderer took Ivar’s pain, when Ragnar only abandoned him. Ragnar picks up Ivar to show he has NOT been a crap father, but Ivar immediately starts crying because kids are traitors and they will bust you every time.

Ragnar consults the Seer regarding Paris. Verdict: “Not the living but the dead will conquer Paris, and the bear will be crowned by a princess.” After that injection of WTF, Ragnar announces to the great hall that Paris is indeed their next target. Rollo has a Who’s Deanna Moment (tm Abraham, The Walking Dead) when he growls “WHAT IS PARIS?!” Ragnar leaps onto the table, patting Floki who practically purrs until he points out Athelstan as the source of his idea, along with the wanderer that originally told him about England. They all throw their drinks into the air. He tries to escape through the Shower O’ Beer, but Lagertha intercepts. About that errand…


Clad in red, Lagertha blows through the door and demands her earldom back pronto. Ragnar, however, requests a private audience as king. He’s perfectly condescending, then “invites” Kalf to assist in their raid of Frankia or lose his earldom. Lagertha interrupts to protest but Ragnar just bows out. So basically, he just wanted to make sure he had the ships and manpower for Paris, regardless of Hedeby’s ownership. Kalf admits usurping her was a long term goal, but that he also desired her. This child cannot be serious if he thinks Lagertha is going to step down, sleep with him, and accept Horik/Borg 2.0. Can we just skip to the part where Ragnar eats his liver?

Seer visit #2

Returning to his old ways, Rollo vents his jealousy of Ragnar to the Seer. “Nothing good can ever come of my life now,” he cries, and the Seer laughs. If only he knew what the gods had in store, he’d be dancing naked on the beach. Rollo is really more of a “stupid drunk in the pig trough” kind of guy, but I wouldn’t mind seeing the other. The Seer also notes he’ll be going to that bear/princess marriage ceremony as well. Glad we cleared that up.

Lagertha Leaves in a Huff, part deux

Furious with Ragnar’s lack of action against Kalf, she prepares to go take care of it herself. Bjorn tries to stop her, again, this time way taller than last, but she tells him to go man up. Poor Bjorn, everybody keeps telling him to go away.

Floki finally corners Ragnar on the mast of a boat, spinning the worst, most inflated version of Harbard’s visit. According to him, Aslaug totally banged Harbard so often that she smelled like fish, but, hey, buddy: the good news is that Harbard was actually Odin. That’s so awesome, amirite? Buddy? Ragnar? Ragnar proceeds to give him the most epic eye roll of all time: he slides dramatically down the mast, then backflips off with no hands while eye rolling, leaving Floki to do his WHERE IS YOUR BELEEEF hand gestures to the air. As a habitual eye roller, I am ashamed at my failure to match Ragnar’s enthusiasm for the art form.



Judith pricks her finger while embroidering a cross and licks off the blood like a loon. Aethelwulf asks what’s wrong with her, and she admits defiantly that she’s pregnant. I don’t know how Judith pictured this revelation going over, but the consequences for adulteresses, even princesses, were pretty hefty back then. For someone so inexperienced with sin, Athelstan certainly stirs up a heap of trouble with every mistake.

Aethelwulf hides his resulting tantrum from Ecbert, then follows to help mediate a conflict. A messenger has brought word that violent trouble is already bubbling between the Norse settlers and the other local farmers, so Ecbert sends Aethelwulf to “stop these conflicts” along with the grumpy lords from the sacrifice episode.

Stop them he does: Aethelwulf and his crew descend on the settlers, wiping them out entirely, even the tiny children. By sunset, bodies litter the land and the farmhouse is aflame, a giant cross blazing in the field as the English kneel in the bloody muck reciting the Lord’s Prayer. The Frig sacrifice music throbs ominously in the background, plainly declaring this “ceremony” even more profane than the last.

Upon their return, Ecbert is thoroughly apoplectic, screaming at his nobles that his word is no longer good. He has them all arrested for treason. And those pasty white jerks who were talking behind his back? They were EXTRA treasonous. Lastly he wheels on Aethelwulf and shoos them all out to punish him alone. The guard over Aethelwulf’s left shoulder totally runway walks out, capping off some major overacting in this scene, although not in a bad way.

So back to that punishment. Turns out? Not so much. Ecbert laughs and thanks him for playing the part so well. WHUT THE WHUT! The whole thing was a ruse to rid the nobility of traitors and demoralize the Vikings in one fell swoop. They sit shoulder to shoulder, just like Ecbert and Ragnar last episode, and Ecbert pets Aethelwulf’s hair like the vicious doggie he is.

Score | 7/10In Summary

The repetition in some of this week’s scenes—Ragnar questioning Aslaug, Floki hissing at Athelstan, Lagertha coming and going—and the lack of resolution in others made this week’s episode not quite as enjoyable as the last. It seems irresponsible for the Vikings not to have left some warriors worth their salt behind to defend the farm, although perhaps they’re all tapped out after the war with Mercia. The attack on the settlement was stunningly devastating, and while the reveal of Ecbert’s treachery allowed for some relief, it leaves major unease in its wake as we contemplate what additional aftershocks will come next week. Lastly, it was interesting that Ragnar mentioned his own experience with a wanderer. Overall, a well-executed transition episode, but not a ton of substance.

About Sarah de Poer (199 Articles)
Eminently sensible by day, by night, she can be found watching questionable scifi, pinning all the things, rewriting lists, pantry snacking, and not sleeping. She was once banned over an argument about Starbuck and Apollo, and she has to go right now because someone is wrong on the Internet.

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