This Vikings review contains spoilers.
Vikings Season 4 Episode 7
After several weeks of more introspective episodes, Vikings returns to its roots as the Northmen return to Frankia despite Ragnar’s loss of enthusiasm, and we finally receive the battle scenes that drive the show. Unfortunately, Ragnar grossly underestimates Rollo’s military acumen, and the initial attack takes us back to the first time they attempted to lay waste to Charles’ kingdom.
For the first twenty minutes of “The Profit and the Loss,” all hell breaks loose as Rollo apparently anticipates each of his brother’s tactics, leaving Ragnar looking helpless and confused as the second battle for Paris begins. In a reversal of fortune Rollo now proudly peers over the burning forward ships of the Norse fleet, but there’s something about the look on his face that makes us wonder how long he can watch his brother, his friends, and his former compatriots suffer. Does his resentment run that deep?
What stands out loud and clear is that Ragnar has lost his mojo, whether through injury, illness, or Yidu’s medicine really doesn’t matter, but his leadership role is rife for the taking. Will it be Bjorn who’s about the same age Ragnar was when he began his ascension to power? Will Harald swoop in and sway the troops with his rhetoric and bold behavior? Or is Lagertha perhaps the wild card in this moment of disarray?
Regardless, something must be done, and it must be done quickly or Rollo and the Franks will achieve their day of reckoning. Bjorn sternly confronts his father because it’s been three days since the attack and no plans have been made, but Ragnar is clearly losing it. Though she initially rebuffs Ragnar’s request for more of the medicine, Yidu eventually gives in to his demands. At first it seemed he was using to gain introspection, but now his desire for the medicine appears to be to dull the emotional pain of defeat at his brother’s hands and avoid making the difficult decisions every leader faces. Does Yidu have an ulterior motive? Does she continue to give Ragnar these drugs with a purpose?
As Bjorn organizes the reversal of the fleet which includes rescuing those in the water, Ragnar shouts to his self-satisfied brother, “When everyone wanted you dead, I kept you alive. This is how you repay my love.” The delusions of a madman?
At the same time the wanderer Harbard has returned to Kattegat and initiates contact with Aslaug, and even though she tells him that Ragnar is punishing her for the last time he stopped in the village, she gives in anyway. However, the ever watchful Sigrud observes them, and we can only wonder what tales he will tell when the men return.
While belief in the gods has always played a role in daily life, we’re shown more and more scenes that cannot be easily explained. Most puzzling of all is the sex scene with Floki and Aslaug. On the one hand we might consider that Floki is dealing with the fact that Ragnar saved his life by pulling him out of the water during the attack. Though gratitude might be the expected response, this is Floki we’re talking about, so having sex with the wife of your sworn enemy doesn’t seem out of the question. But then Floki morphs into Harbard with Aslaug. Through whose eyes are we seeing this and for what purpose?
Called to a meeting in a remote cave, Ecbert meets with Prince Wistan of Mercia who offers him a deal by which Essex’s king will be given the kingdom of Mercia if he sides with Wistan in overthrowing the council. Acknowledging that the Mercian royal family is unfit to rule, Wistan plans a pilgrimage to Rome as a beggar. He especially thinks Kwenthrith unfit, and though he’s sworn to return Kwenthrith to her seat of power, this will give Ecbert a strong enough kingdom to fight off the Northmen and any other threats. And for all his religious meanderings, Ecbert is as ruthless as they come. Will this tip the scales in his favor?
Because we’ve invested so much in these characters, it’s easy to forget that for the most part they are brutal warriors with only their own self-interests in mind. We understand Rollo, the quintessential overshadowed brother, and his quest to gain recognition on his own. As the Duke of Normandy it seems he may have achieved his goal but at what cost? At first, it appeared that Lagertha’s telling Kalf she is pregnant might be a ruse to keep him off guard, but now even Ragnar recognizes that his ex-wife is with child and worries for her safety. Does she hope to lose the child in battle? That seems out of character even for her.
And what of Aslaug who we know schemes to replace her husband though it seems highly unlikely she’d garner the village’s support. Has she learned nothing from her previous encounter with Harbard? Does she even care who knows about her dalliance with the man who holds the women of Kattegat in the palm of his hand?
A sense of urgency now hangs over the heads of the Norsemen, and while the initial thrust fails, we’ve been here before, and Ragnar has been anything if not relentless. But this is a new Ragnar, a Ragnar that has seemingly lost his zest not only for battle but for life itself. Bjorn is ready to take over, but will he be able to manage the upheaval Harald and Halfdan are likely to generate? What makes more sense though is for mother and son to unite, take control and give Bjorn an opportunity to do what he seems destined to do, kill his uncle. How long can Ragnar hold on, but more to the point, how long does he want to hold on?
When his father tells him that he plans to fall back, it’s doubtful this is the order Bjorn expects to hear. Then, in the enigmatic scene to close the episode, Ragnar speaks to a severed head on the floor of his tent. “Yes. Tomorrow we retreat,” And with this simple phrase, the great leader may be sealing his fate.
The episode rewards us in a number of ways. Ragnar and Lagertha have a moment, and even though it doesn’t turn out the way many of us hoped, at least it happens. We finally get to see the long awaited showdown between Ragnar and Rollo, and the confrontation does not disappoint. And since it’s unlikely that Harald and Halfdan will agree to a retreat, Ragnar’s political life is on the line. Who will come forward to save him since it’s obvious he can’t save himself?