Season 3 Episode 1: Mercenary
Synopsis: Ragnar and Lagertha’s fleets depart Kattegat once more for Wessex but this time they bring settlers. King Ecbert hosts the Vikings and proposes a deal. Despite the misgivings of some of the other leaders, Ragnar leads his forces into battle once more, but this time as allies of Wessex.
Right from the start, the third season of History’s Vikings throws us into the complex lives of its characters and their intertwining relationships. (Just in case you need to catch up, check out this awesome infographic that summarizes Season Two.) Can Ragnar find a way to accept his handicapped son Ivar? Does he still love his second wife, Princess Aslaug? Will Lagertha hold her earldom after she sails to Wessex? What does the seers prophecy mean for her? Is everything the Vikings have gained going to crumble in England? Before the first commercial break, the audience is thrown into more problems than we or the Vikings can count.
Fast-paced as always, episode one sails for England before any of these problems can be explored further. As we’ve been promised in the weeks and months leading up to the premiere, there’s a overhanging, ominous feeling that one wrong move could cost everything. As soon as Ragnar, Lagertha and the rest land in Wessex, it’s even more apparent things aren’t going to go according to plan.
Where is the glory in farming?
King Ecbert throws another condition to his promise of land and the Vikings are back on the raid again, this time to reclaim the kingdom of Mercia for Princess Kwenthrith. All except Lagertha, that is, who stays behind to help begin the settlement of the 5,000 acres they’ve been promised. Ragnar, who at first seemed eager to throw in his lot as a mercenary in the coming battle, shows some reluctance as they prepare to leave. “Are you happy about doing this, brother?” Rollo asks him. Ragnar’s reply shows how far he’s come from farmer to king: “Since when does any of this have to do with my happiness?”
There was a great contrast at the end of the episode between Lagertha, who upon arriving at their “promised land” has this look peaceful, content look and Ragnar, who, upon winning a pretty one-sided battle against King Brihtwulf appears troubled, almost as if he’s regretted his decision to go to war again. It will be interesting to see how Ragnar’s remorse plays alongside Lagertha’s satisfaction. I sensed Ragnar has come to the realization that achieving your dreams doesn’t always turn out the way we hope.
The battle itself lived up to the usual Vikings standard, but I found the setup to be a bit of a stretch. If it was based on a a historical account (I didn’t look this up, so I can’t say), then I suppose there was a good reason for the Mercian forces to separate themselves on either side of an impassable river (no boats or bridge to cross). If not, it was a really cheap gimmick by the show’s writers as the Vikings overwhelmed King Brihtwulf’s forces while his nephew/Princess Kwenthrith’s brother, could only watch in helpless, frustrated horror on the far bank, where even is archers were out of range. Again, I don’t know if this was written in or based on history, but it cheapened the victory for me.
The thing I love about Vikings is that there are always several subplots and undercurrents going on. It will be interesting to see how the foreshadowed fling between King Ecbert and Lagertha works out (I hope she’s not that dumb) and also how Athelstan handles being back amongst his native people. It looks like everything is going to go to hell, but for now, let’s just be happy History’s Vikings is back!
What are you most looking forward to this season? Leave a comment below and let me know!