A recap of 'The Most Terrible Thing', episode 17 of season 5 of 'Vikings'.
Shane Cubis

11 Jan 2019 - 10:48 AM  UPDATED 11 Jan 2019 - 10:48 AM

This show has never wanted for strong female characters, but this week it’s like they’ve all decided it’s time to step up to the plate and tell the men how to be in charge. Has writer Michael Hirst been listening to lots of Spice Girls in the lead-up to their reunion tour? Because this is an episode with more girl power than Spice and Spice World combined.

Judith tells Alfred to be a man for once

You kill one son for the sake of another son, and he throws a toddler-level tantrum. Judith confesses that she poisoned Aethelred because she’s seen the first few seasons of this show and knows how brothers get… and next minute, Alfred’s overturning the good dining table and sooking about it.

That’s when the home truths start – which is the last thing you want from your mum when you’re trying to work through some hormonal feels. “A king cannot be like a normal person,” she lectures. Fat chance of that happening after you’ve just told him about murdering his bro and sending his sister-in-law packing with barely a tear.

Freydis gives Ivar pretty much the opposite advice to that

Different advice for different monarchs. Makes sense, especially when your ruler-in-care has started sticking up proto-Nazi banners, whipping up mobs against their neighbours in search of sedition and idly musing that murdering his brother could be the biggest power move possible. Freydis casually suggests that it’s probably better for a ruler to be loved than feared. “I don’t know,” he says in reply. “I’m not sure.” NEVER ADMIT YOUR LACK OF CERTAINTY IVAR!

Torvi tells it how it is

As for Alfred, it seems like every woman in England is serving it up to him. Even Torvi, who’s been averaging around three words and a meaningful look per episode, sinks the slipper.

The English king, having heard 300 ships’ worth of Danes are cruising over from Dublin to Cornwall, declares he’ll lead the army against them. “The Danes won’t be frightened to see you at the head of the army, believe me,” Torvi says – and, when challenged on why she’d say such a thing, adds, “I have a terrible habit of telling the truth.”

Thora isn’t scared of Ivar

“We’re in love!” That’s what Thora tells the Boneless One when he sneaks in to awaken Big-Spoon Hvitserk at midnight with a very important diplomatic mission that’s mainly about getting him out of Kattegat so Ivar doesn’t have to think too hard about whether he wants to be popular or feared. And she doesn’t even seem that fazed when Ivar casually threatens to burn her alive. Possibly because her man immediately has a big knife to his brother’s throat. Later, Hvitserk pashes Thora goodbye. We hope he at least left her a big fork to defend herself. (Too much cutlery humour?)

Gunnhild speaks almost entirely in questions

And not, like, in a vocal fry sense? This shieldmaiden’s manner of speaking is more of a rhetorical technique to draw out the men around her and find out what they’re thinking. After asking Harald why he’s sneaking around in the shadows when he’s a king, she slides over to Bjorn, feeds him a morsel of meat from a blade then spills the beans on H-Man’s plans for the collective thrones of Scandinavia. This is all actual dialogue from Gunnhild, from that scene. Isn’t it great?

“Who knows our fate? You?”

“You are not in love with me?”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“You are one of the most famous men in the world and you are afraid of me?”

“You know something?”

Aud goes out on her own terms

Demonstrating the greatest physical prowess this episode, Kjetill beheads three people with an axe so small it couldn’t possibly do more than 1d4+1 damage without his strength bonus. But it’s Aud, his daughter, who proves the strongest… and not just because we first see her chopping wood with a similar axe.

Naturally Helgi cries his way to his morn-lit execution, but it’s nice to see someone else shedding tears over him for a change. Then, accused by Floki of having never actually seen the gods in the waterfall, she goes out in the horrific weather and leaps to her death. While Floki, once again, stands weak witness.

(Side note: every episode of this series must have Iceland’s tourism industry slapping their foreheads and going, “Ahh, for f-”.)


Vikings airs on Thursday nights at 9.30pm on SBS. Watch 'The Most Terrible Thing' at SBS On Demand:

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