Vikings: “Promised” Review

Paris prepares for the Viking hoard while Ragnar, Lagertha, and Bjorn engage their enemies.

This Vikings review contains spoilers.

Vikings Season 4 Episode 5

And that’s why we love Lagertha. Though she’s been noticeably absent through much of the season, Earl Instad issues a powerful statement during the conclusion of last night’s episode of Vikings. After weeks of percolating plot points, things begin coming into sharper focus as the kingdoms wrestle with approaching storms, both internal and external.

Ambition continues to drive the story, and the arrival of King Harald and his brother Halfdan put Ragnar and Bjorn on alert. Bjorn’s confrontation of the man who openly admits he plans to rule all of Norway underscores what we’ve come to realize, Ragnar’s son embodies all of the necessary qualities of a leader. He’s bold, decisive, and above all, wary. But when we learn that Torvi is spying for Kalf and Erlendur, whether or not Bjorn’s blinded by passion becomes paramount. If Harald thinks Bjorn vulnerable, the usurper may be in for a rude awakening.

We’ve known for weeks that war looms on the horizon, but preparations have been ramped up on all sides with Paris sitting in the crosshairs of Ragnar and the Norsemen. Meanwhile, Kwenthrith convinces Wessex and Northumbria to attack Mercia and restore her to the throne, and while it’s obvious both Ecbert and Aelle are reluctant to provide arms for a woman they both deem unstable, they’ve been painted into a corner and left with little choice but to help her. The underlying relationships continue to shift, further adding to the emotional impact of these scenes as Judith rebuffs Aethelwulf, and the two engage in an angry exchange. Has Judith set her sights on the crown as Ecbert’s second wife, moving from Aethelwulf’s wife to his step-mother? Or does Ecbert’s son’s stoic behavior mask his true purpose to unite the kingdoms of Wessex and Mercia under his eventual rule? Is he that cunning?

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Rollo and Gisla appear poised to rule the Franks, but it’s their romantic bliss that continues to both puzzle and please. Rollo knows it’s only a matter of time before his brother returns to Paris, and with Odo, he proceeds with a plan to fortify the city. However, Gisla has ideas of her own, and when we later see Charles come across as an emotional cripple, her suggestion to kill Odo during the battle clears a path for the two of them to assume rule. And in addition, poor Odo must also contend with his mistress going behind his back to Charles with tales of Odo’s duplicity. 

Perhaps the most intriguing storylines occur in Kattegat where Ragnar finally readies his men for a return to Paris though he does admit to Yidu that he feels old. “I have lost the desire.” His inquisitiveness about her background at first simply appears to be innocent curiosity, but when she admits that her father is the Chinese emperor, he’s intrigued. As the two watch from a nearby rooftop, the main hall houses a dinner that includes Harald and his men. How Floki will assimilate back into society and whether or not his shipbuilding skills speed up the process are finally addressed when the crowd quiets as he and Helga enter. Sensing an opportunity, Harald invites them to sit with his group. When asked the source or his ostracization, Floki tells Harald “I killed his pet Christian,” opening the possibility that he’ll side with him in Harald’s plot to bring down Ragnar. 

While ambition sits at the heart of this tightly crafted episode, the tale reaches its apex when in rapid succession we witness Ragnar sensually bathing Yidu, Floki taking Ivar into the street to play with the other children, and Lagertha readying herself to wed Kalf. What is Ragnar after with Yidu? When he places his knife’s blade against her throat, it’s unclear whether it’s more sex play or he’s letting her know she’s being watched. As the children play keep-away in the street, the ball lands in Ivar’s cart, and he and another boy struggle for possession. Suddenly, Ivar aka Boneless, produces a knife from his cloak and kills the boy leaving a horrified Floki to wonder what just happened.

And finally, in perhaps the most visually stunning scene of the series, we gaze upon Lagertha, stunningly beautiful in her wedding dress, as she prepares to meet Kalf. Though she didn’t tell him no when he proposes marriage upon learning she’s pregnant, she didn’t seem that enthused either. At the least, this scene catches us off guard until we remember to never, under any circumstance, underestimate Lagertha. Kalf enters her tent, embraces and kisses her just as she too produces a hidden knife and murders her groom. But that’s only the half of it. She exits the tent in her blood stained dress and is immediately surrounded by her shieldmaidens who engage the crowd in chants of “Long live Earl Ingstad” leaving Erlendur cowering nearby.

Things now become clearer as it seems both Lagertha and Ragnar plan to attack Rollo’s Paris, and though it doesn’t appear that Ragnar knows anything about her plan to eliminate Kalf and by extension Erlendur, we can’t discount that possibility. Against his better judgement Ecbert readies to attack Mercia, the result of which could leave his son in an enviable position. But it’s King Harald who remains the wild card in all of this as we wait to see whether Bjorn and Ragnar are prepared to deal with the threat within their walls? 

It doesn’t get much better than this. The accelerated exposition places everyone on notice that the stakes have risen, no one is safe, and the Lothroks should not be dismissed.

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4.5 out of 5