If you had to pick a role in the social order of this show, what would it be? A giggly religious fanatic like Floki? A slave from a far-off land like Yidu? A societally shackled princess like Judith? A kidnapped, bewildered monk like Athelstan? Nah, you’d be a king for sure! Not convinced? Read on...
1. You can make everyone listen to whatever you want to talk about
This episode opens with Ragnar sitting in a bathtub, telling his Chinese slave, Yidu, that they’re both “slaves” to duty. Of course, he’s lazily enjoying the hot water while she lugs a bucket for him, but sure, Ragnar.
2. You get to sit at the big kids’ table
Across the sea, King Ecbert, King Aelle and Queen Kwenthrith sit around a meeting table talking about the need for an alliance between Wessex and Northumbria to take back Mercia. Aelle says he’d vowed before God to kill Ragnar for his unprovoked attack on his kingdom. Kwenthrith, referring to her son, Magnus, says, “And would you kill his bastard son as well?” Cue uncomfortable drink-sipping all around the table.
3. You can criticise your wife’s parenting skills and she has to cop it
During the exciting burning log ceremony, which resembles the “feats of strength” from Seinfeld’s Festivus (but with more idiots setting themselves on fire), Ragnar tells Aslaug she babies their young son too much, and he’ll end up feeling like a cripple his whole life if she doesn’t let him be a man. She snatches the kid away and says she cares about him even if no one else does, and Ragnar pretends he cares about him, too. King’s prerogative.
4. You can woo babes with a few choice words
OK, Rollo’s not a king, but dukedom isn’t too bad either. Down in Frankia, his wife, Gisla, is about to have their marriage annulled by a Catholic priest because (a) they haven’t consummated it, and (b) she hates his stupid Viking guts. Rollo takes charge, dropping a few French words he’s picked up to announce he cares for her and will fight for Frankia as much as she will. Next minute, we’re watching a full-on Mills & Boon slow-motion love scene, and the priest heads home disappointed. Later, they excuse themselves to continue the vigorous antics while the entire court listens to it echoing through the dinner hall.
5. You can free slaves and be rewarded with hallucinogenic “medicine”
After getting a hall pass from Aslaug to “spend time with” Yidu, Ragnar takes her off pig-pen duty for a chat about her life. He almost seems interested in her tale, before escorting her to his secret lakeside hut and giving her freedom. “I am king, all things are possible,” he says, in the most bad-ass pick-up line ever. As a thank you, Yidu whips up a herbal concoction and they spend the rest of the episode intimately tripping out together, fire twirling and face-painting.
6. You have awesome stories to tell your kids
King-in-waiting Bjorn gets chased by a berserker, and ends up not only killing the guy with a MacGyver-style combo of fish hooks and rope, but also gutting him like a fish and pulling out his entrails in the snow. In the future, Bjorn’s sons and daughters will love hearing that revolting story before bedtime.
7. You can speak your mind (but princesses can speak their minds back)
Northumbria’s King Aelle gives his daughter, Judith, a verbal smackdown about her recent behaviour, saying he would have let her husband Aethelwulf beat her into submission, that she is the worst of women, a bad mum, a bad wife, shouldn’t be having sex with her father-in-law, etc etc… She takes it on the chin, then delivers this mic-drop: “Though encumbered everywhere, I am free.”
"I’m Every Woman" blares as she storms out (no, it doesn’t).
8. You can turn up out of nowhere and make pronouncements
King Harald Finehair shows up in Kattegat dramatically via boat. Aslaug allows him into the court and feeds him and his men. He plays a game of hnefatafl with Ragnar’s boys, and they beat him by capturing his king. Harald tells Aslaug he would love to be king of all Norway, and she replies, “The only way to do that is to overthrow my husband.”
9. … actually, it depends which king you are
At the end of the episode, Ragnar walks toward Finehair, who is sitting in his hearth with Aslaug. “And you are?” he asks. Next week looks bloody for one of these monarchs!
The new series of Vikings continues Wednesdays at 9:30pm (AEDT) on SBS. Every episode will be on SBS On Demand after it airs.
Missed episode 4 - Yol? Watch it right here: