• Ivar the Boneless casually declaring himself a god. (SBS)Source: SBS
This week’s ‘Vikings’ is all realpolitik and dubious intention. And nobody seems happy.
By
Shane Cubis

13 Dec 2018 - 9:05 PM  UPDATED 13 Dec 2018 - 9:05 PM

We’re three episodes in after the mid-season break, and the themes are becoming as clear as The Seer’s visions… well, maybe a bit clearer than that.

This week it’s all about loyalty, and how fleeting it can be. Outward appearances, justifications for choices made and the knife’s edge upon which allegiance rests – axes up, let’s go! 

Ivar probably isn’t that beloved, really

“You’re stuck with me,” Hvitserk shrugs to his increasingly maniacal brother, after finally showing a bit of emotion in the wake of Margrethe’s untimely slaying. Ivar’s doing his best to get everyone who might be a threat to leave Kattegut, and while Harald’s happy to waltz off for a spot of English raiding, Hvitserk is in no such hurry. He’s made his bed, and plans to sleep in it, even going so far as to tell his bro that murdering him would be a bad PR move.

But Ivar’s got that braided-hair-don’t-care attitude because he’s got an heir on the way, courtesy of the lovely homicidal garotte enthusiast Freydis.

A soft word and a baby can unite a tribe

Meanwhile, in Iceland… A baby can really tie the room together. Of course, it helps if you have Floki there to make a humble, mea culpa-type speech that’s a shade less self-aggrandising than his offer to be a divine sacrifice. Everyone buries their axes with a skol of rain-diluted mead, but there are a few diddley-doo eyes that suggest some of those axes could be easily exhumed.

And obviously the worst thing that can happen when you bring everyone together on a “children are the future” platform is the preggers pilgrim in question going AWOL. Wait – what’s that enigmatic look on Floki’s dial as he sits by the Waterfall of the Gods? Surely not…

Changing your religion might be a zero-sum game

So, you win the hearts and minds of Alfred and his retinue by accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour (and you also neutralise one of the king’s enemies’ complaints), but in the process you dishonour the memory of your father in the eyes of Bjorn Ironside – who is ripe for teaming up with yet another fruit of Ragnar Lothbrok’s active loins. On the other hand, you get a sweet white robe, free cross and eternal life, so…

Of course, there is another option when it comes to the business of the boys upstairs – you declare yourself a living god, set up some sweet altar action with fire and skulls, then make us wait an Odin-damned week to see if you’re sacrificing your brother or not. Thanks a lot, Divine Ivar. Divivar.

Murder is okay if they’re on your team

Heahmund, in custody, clears up that whole “stabbing a fellow cleric in the eyeball in the middle of a cathedral” mix-up by explaining that there’s a churchy conspiracy to overthrow and kill Alfred. The king takes this at face value, which is nice for everyone (yeah, it’s true, but still). Heahmund also tells Lagertha that she’s there to help him fight against the Devil, which really is a lot to unpack. If someone told you that on Tinder, you’d probably delete the app.

Sometimes all it takes is a suffix

The greatest thing about Harald is that he barely even pretends to be loyal to Ivar. The man has zero poker face (or hnefatafl face, I suppose). So, when he bellies up in York, there’s barely any subtext to his discussion with the local jarl about what should happen next – raid Wessex, load up on loot, then return to Kattegut and overthrow The Boneless. But there’s a bit of hemming and hawwing from said jarl, who talks up the legend of the sons of Ragnar Lothbrok and says some guff about how they’re all the sons of Ragnar, in a way.

What convinces our local man to join Harald in his quest for dominance over all he surveys? Being called “Jarl Olafsson”. That’s nominative determinism in action.

 

Vikings airs on Thursdays at 8:30pm on SBS. Missed the first episode? Watch it at SBS On Demand:

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