Vikings – Episode 9: All Change
Vikings Episode 9 wraps up the first season of History Channel’s first scripted series. The episode kicks off with Ragnar and a few of his men on their way to pay Jarl Borg a visit to discuss the disputed land. To Ragnar’s surprise, Jarl Borg tells him that he has heard of his journey to the west. It appears that all the Vikings have knowledge of Ragnar’s great accomplishments. Jarl Borg has no intentions of selling the land that he has announced his claim for. Instead, he requests Ragnar to ask King Horik to negotiate with him directly. From there, Ragnar is asked to leave one of his men behind so that Jarl Borg can trust that they will return.
While Ragnar and his men wait for Floki to relay the message to King Horik, they decide to explore the local area. During this exploration, two of Ragnar’s men stumble upon a beautiful woman bathing. As their punishment for spying on the naked woman, they are told to retrieve their leader Ragnar to apologize on their behalf. Ragnar is taken aback by the woman’s wits and decides to present her with a riddle. She answers all three parts cleverly and begins to socialize with Ragnar. That night they sleep together, which upsets Ragnar’s son Bjorn. The next morning, Bjorn expresses his disdain for his father’s adulterous act, and makes Ragnar promise that he will never be unfaithful to Lagertha again. That night the same woman makes an advance at Ragnar, but he pushes her away, and she leaves to Bjorn’s delight.
Meanwhile, Borg asks Rollo about the status of his relationship with his brother. Rollo claims that it is good and that Ragnar would never betray him. Borg tells Rollo that he never believed Ragnar would do such a thing, but he wasn’t so sure about Rollo. Borg shares a story about how his own brother betrayed him by poisoning all the men who had voted for him to be the next Earl of his land. Borg only survived because his wife drank his cup. From there, Borg’s love for his brother turned into hatred, and he murdered his brother.
Back home, Lagertha is caring for most of the village after a plague sweeps through. Both Lagertha’s daughter Gyda and Athelstan fall extremely ill, as do Siggy and her daughter. In the end, Lagertha makes a sacrifice to the gods, but the damage is done and both daughters pass away.
Floki returns with the message that King Horik refuses to negotiate, which forces Borg to declare war on King Horik and (by association) on Ragnar and his men. Afterwards in a private conversation, Jarl Borg asks Rollo if he will fight along his side for fame and glory. After a long pause, Rollo responds with, ”I will fight with you, I will fight with you against my brother.” Once again Rollo chooses his own personal glory over his relationship with his brother.
The show ends with Ragnar learning that his new mistress is pregnant. Ragnar seems to have an internal struggle while he sneaks around with a knife looking for her at night, but he decides not to kill her and instead lays his head on her stomach.
This was a very difficult episode to follow. For the first time since the show’s inception, I felt that the writers were fragmenting the story lines too much. As a result, the episode had way too much character and story development crammed into a 1-hour time slot. Quantity over quality is never a good thing.
With that being said, the major revelation I got out of episode 9 is that Rollo has finally turned on Ragnar. We have all seen it coming for a while, but the conclusion of this week’s episode made it official. Furthermore, it looks like Ragnar is really struggling with his desire for more sons and whether that requires him to be faithful or not. I guess it’s all moot since his mistress is pregnant.
One observation I have regarding the deadly plague that hit the village back home — it can’t be an illness that originated from England if it got Athelstan sick too, right? In any case, having the disease take the lives of the two main daughters in the show is heartbreaking. The show is going towards a more somber direction, replacing the kick-ass excitement that the first few episodes grabbed me with. I hope this changes next season.
Disappointed! This finale was an awful ending to what has been an amazing first season of Vikings. There was no fighting in the last two episodes – I don’t know who made that decision, but it was a mistake. This show is about Vikings, and there should always be two things in each episode: a battle scene and Vikings on a Viking ship.
Vikings episode 9 was the result of History Channel renewing the show for a second season. There was no conclusion, just more character building and conversations to set up next season. Because of the weak ending, my expectations for next season are even higher. Hopefully this is all building up to an epic Viking on Viking battle and maybe even a classic brother vs. brother showdown between Rollo and Ragnar.
I am sad that Gyda had to pass away as she was just starting to develop as a character. I also wonder about Lagertha’s relationship with Ragnar as they have now lost another child. Will he be angry with her, or will she be angry with him after the truth of his new mistress eventually surfaces?
Lastly, I look forward to Athelstan’s influence on Ragnar and the role of religion and Christianity in the future seasons. Although this season ended poorly, the rest of the season one episodes were strong enough to keep me watching in 2014.