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Vikings Review: Choose Life

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I'd say the title pretty much gave the game away this week, as the opening scene of Vikings Season 2 Episode 8 featured Aslaug suffering through the birth of Ivar the Boneless.

History tells us that Ragnar's son goes on to become the future Viking ruler of modern-day Denmark and Sweden. Not bad for a kid with brittle bones whose father almost killed him.

Elsewhere, King Ecbert welcomed Princess Cwenthryth of Mercia, one of the largest and richest neighboring kingdoms. She took a liking to both Ecbert and Athelstan.

I realize many fans disliked Aslaug from the start but she is certainly not the villain of this story. Tonight, we understood just how strong Aslaug is as she not only suffered through an exhausting childbirth and survived, but fought bravely to keep her disabled child alive.

Siggy's words of encouragement as Aslaug weakened from the childbirth were rough "let it rip you but push out... choose life." At that moment, I realized Aslaug would indeed give her life for her children, she chose Ivar's life over her own. What more do you guys want?

The scene with Ragnar holding his axe over the baby was chilling. Good thing Ragnar's a good guy, he can't kill his own son. Aslaug appears soon after and cradles their tiny baby in her arms. If that doesn't make you warm up to her, nothing will. I'm sold though, now #TeamAslaug as well as #TeamLagertha.

Alyssa Sutherland was fantastic in this episode. I don't think she gets enough credit for her portrayal of Aslaug because fans are too busy bashing her character. She pulls off her scene's in "Boneless" brilliantly and I'm telling you, Alyssa is one actress to watch. She's going to do great things.

There was a point this season where I felt I'd had enough of Jarl Borg and was ready for the character to go. Tonight, I'm feeling that way about King Horik. From pressuring Lagertha to hurrying back with her troops, to scolding Ragnar and especially that final attack on Aethelwulf. He's not only a lousy leader but an impatient, self-serving man with no real interest in what's best for his people. Get 'em Raggy!

As always, it was great to see Bjorn defend his mother when Horik asks Lagertha how much time she needs. "Just enough time, no more no less" Bjorn shoots back. That was awesome, wasn't it? He certainly put that old King in his place.

When Porunn approaches with the news that Ragnar has another son, I had a feeling Lagertha would wonder who this girl was. Bjorn quickly informs his mother Porunn is a servant and he loves her. Lagertha's smile assured us she approved of the relationship. Yeah Lagertha Rocks!

Was anyone else surprised how deeply Rollo cut Bjorn during their training session? That first slash to the kid's belly gave me the impression his insides were going to spill out. Take it easy uncle Rollo, sheesh. Still, I have no doubt his training with Rollo helped Bjorn survive the battles ahead.

My father, you and I, we are all descended from Odin or is that not true uncle?

Bjorn

In Wessex, King Ecbert welcomes Princess Cwenthryth, the daughter of the King of Mercia. The King recently died and we learn - through some brilliant exposition between Aethelwulf and Athelstan - that she killed her brother in an attempt to take over the throne. The kingdom is upset by family squabbling and King Ecbert finds them vulnerable. He plans to wine and dine the young princess, become her ally by providing assistance as well as hiring Northmen as mercenaries. I imagine, King Ecbert will turn on Cwenthryth at some point and take over Mercia.

During the feast, Cwenthryth takes an interest in Athelstan. She's even more interested when King Ecbert tells her the monk was captured by the Northmen and knows their Pagan ways well. She questions Athelstan about the Vikings and is very turned on by all this. The woman is something else isn't she? She even flirts with Aethelwulf in front of his wife.

That said, she's no dummy either, Cwenthryth knows exactly why she's in Wessex. Is it possible she expects King Ecbert will betray her after all is said and done? I suspect she does, but in the meantime is carefully positioning herself on the board.

I particularly enjoyed Cwenthryth wearing King Ecbert out during sex and him sending in a bunch of warriors to tend to her needs. What a woman!

Meanwhile, Lagertha has returned to her territories in Scandinavia. It was great to see how different her main hall is to Ragnar's right? Plenty of food and celebration, her people love her. Some a bit more than others actually, as her second in command (I'll call him Peeping Tom) watches her bathe. I appreciated that we were finally told why this guy killed Earl Sigvard. Not only was the Earl going mad, but Peeping Tom thought Lagertha would marry him and they would rule together. I don't think so, she makes absolutely clear. The guy is a coward, not man enough for her. 

Siggy asks Aslaug what exactly is wrong with Ivar, and tells her she can't keep him hidden forever. Aslaug then shows her his tiny deformed legs. From what I've read, Ivar had a form of brittle bone disease. A quick Google search tells me that his legs were as soft as cartilage and he was carried around on a shield. I'm very curious to see how the show deals with Ivar next season, that should be pretty interesting. 

Ragnar: Our child should have a name. Now that the Gods have saved him.
Aslaug: His name is Ivar.
Ragnar: Ivar the Boneless.

Although there wasn't much in the way of Floki tonight, he did tell Helga he's crazy and something's wrong with him. This is partially why he's traveling with King Horik to Wessex and having issues with Ragnar. Apparently Horik understands the Gods better that Ragnar but Helga doesn't buy it. King Horik later tells Floki if he builds ships for him, he'll be treated like a King. Anyone other than Floki seriously believe this?

Once our Viking warriors set sail for Wessex, Ragnar breaks the news that Athelstan is alive. The Seer had told him as much. Horik, on the other hand, claimed Athelstan had betrayed him and died. Ragnar doesn't trust King Horik anymore, do you blame him?

I enjoyed the quick call back to last season, when we see Rollo using the sundial and sunstone to navigate. Very cool!

Back in Wessex, King Ecbert informs Athelstan that his friends have returned. It's great to hear Ecbert say that he found Ragnar to be "different." Athelstan promises the King that Ragnar will listen to reason. The King assures him he has no intention of being defeated.

In the Vikings camp, King Horik is upset that Ragnar sent a rider ahead to make contact with the King. They are not equals, Horik reminds Ragnar. The look on Travis Fimmel's face said it all... not yet, but I'll be wearing your crown soon enough foolish old King.

A small group of Saxon's ride up and Aethelwulf places his sword on the ground and walks up to Ragnar. His father, the King, wants to talk and sent along Athelstan's armband as a token of his good will. Once he realizes Athelstan is alive and well, Ragnar's eyes light up.

Athelstan is waiting for you at my father's villa. You have his guarantee of safe passage, as well as my father's.

Aethelwulf

Though excited that Athelstan is alive and almost embraces Aethelwulf, Ragnar stops himself and says they will need to exchange hostages. Any idea who Ecbert's hostage will be? Once that's out of the way, they agree that all three Viking leaders will go to King Ecbert's villa. Aethelwulf nods and makes his way back home.

Was anyone else as surprised as I was that King Horik ordered his son to ambush Aethelwulf and his men? Once again, Horik has demonstrated his ego is more important than the loss of lives. Everyone chose life in tonight's episode, from Aslaug, to Ragnar sparing the baby, to Ecbert sending his son to talk peacefully with the Northman. All but King Horik, and that reminds me of the old Sesame Street song "which of these things just doesn't belong here?" That's right, Horik's got to go.

What did you think of tonight's episode "Boneless?" Feel any differently about Aslaug now? Still lovin' Lagertha? How about King Horik, do you think he made the right decisions or was he driven by ego and revenge? There's only a couple of episodes left. Want to catch tonight's installment again or any other's you've missed?

Watch Vikings online right here at TV Fanatic!

Will Athelstan stay in England or return to Kattegat with Ragnar next week?

 

Review

Editor Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.1 / 5.0 (23 Votes)

Henry A. Otero is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.

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I SOOOOOO WANT Lagertha AND RAGNAR TO GET BACK TOGETHER......I DON'T CARE ABOUT ANYTHING ELSE...UGH...I CANT STOP THINKING OF ITT!!!!!!!!!

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I know this is late in the week but.... I think the sifting that Ecbert was doing as the vikings were landing, comes from the New Testament (without getting to deep) it refers to satan sifting the wheat. Basically knowing your friends may not act like friends(Ecbert seeing the attack coming). Also, when Rollo and Bjorn were sparring and it looked like Bjorn was wounded, I think it was the directors way of showing that he is " Ironsides" not going to be hurt in battle, where his name comes from.

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Athelstan is Ragnar's best weapon to conquer the west. Things have kinda went off the rails since he went missing. Plus, at the end of the series, I see him writing down the tales of Ragnar Lothbrok, cementing myth into history. I think there is more conflict and story to gain if Lagertha maintains her current role throughout the series. If her and Ragnar got back together as husband and wife, there is no doubt he would absorb her people and she would always play second fiddle. She needs to be Earl Ingstad, not Mrs. Lothbrok. The only way she can have a more powerful role than now is if she became a king, and I don't see that much historical licensing taking place. I think Floki is conflicted because he feels he has great things to accomplish, but Ragar's legacy is holding him back. I see his coming through for Ragnar one more time, then going away to do his own thing with honor and respect.

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@ part time Viking

I completely disagree that Lagertha would always play second fiddle. Its not so much that their people and territories would be absorbed but they would be united. They'd be more powerful together as a unit than they would be apart. I did rewatch 2.08, and I liked the episode much better on the 2nd viewing, but in becoming Earl Ingstad, Lagertha has lost some of what I, and I think many other viewers loved about her - in that she did have it all. She was a warrior, a leader, a mother, a wife, a lover, a friend. I think my pal wrote that the "softer side of Lagertha is still there,"...and thats true. It is, but its subjugated and I don't like it. I want the Lagertha that is "all of the above" to return and I don't think it will unless she and Ragnar are reunited. I I completely disagree that there is more story if she and Ragnar remain apart. I think there is way more story with them together, united. As both allies and as husband and wife. I would agree with you about Athelstan - last season. If Athelstan stayed in Wessex/England and became sort of a spy for Ragnar, then I could see him being key or being helpful to Ragnar's adventures to the west. But otherwise? I'm not convinced. I like the idea of him being the one to write down Ragnar's story.

Cmilano

I swear I thought that Auslag wasn't going to make it through this childbirth and that Ivar would be spared because of her dying wish or some prophecy, oh well, i guess she's doing a great job as a annoying, spoiled princess.

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Part 2.... Anyhoooooooo......now that I've addressed some of the Aslaug hate, I'll move on to my actual thoughts on Henry's review and 2.08: I am going to watch again, because I have a pal that writes about Vikings as well that has sorta made me question my initial reactions to the episode. She and I are likethis when it comes to thoughts about Vikings generally, so I trust her opinion. This wasn't my favorite episode and for the first time in Season 2, I was at least initially disappointed. I don't know if I care for how they're boxing Lagertha into being "Earl Lagertha" and not the Lagertha I've fallen in love with up to this point - the one that is/was the warrior, protective mother, wife, lover, friend, and leader. Lagertha was all of the above. I think its why so many females love the character - because she DID have it all. And now she doesn't. Now she doesn't really have to be that mother anymore because Bjorn is grown and the show decided to make her unable to have more kids AND kill her daughter. They decided to put her in a loveless, abusive second marriage. I understand that she wants to be treated as Ragnar's equal - but Ragnar ALWAYS has treated her as an equal. He's always treated her with love and respect and kindness and passion., but for one act. And now Lagertha is questioning Ragnar in front Horik? She deserved that snarky little "Earl Ingstad" from Ragnar. Ragnar said when he agreed to accept Lagertha as an ally that he'd do it if she were the "Lagertha he remembered." The one that knew him...the one that knew he has/had a reason for doing everything. I wish they had spent more time on Bjorn/Porunn. I like that little sly smile Lagertha gave when Bjorn told Lagertha he was in love with Porunn. I also enjoyed the Rollo/Bjorn fighting scenes. Rollo is nothing if not a fierce warrior, probably one of the best, so I like that he's training Bjorn. I don't think Rollo put Bjorn on the ground to be mean, I just think he was doing it to teach him lessons about battle and how to think about it and what to do in certain situations. The happenings in Wessex - I liked Cwenthryth. A lot. She reminds me a bit of Lagertha. I liked her flirting with Athelstan and sleeping with the King. She's playing the power game and she's playing it well. And I'm gonna say something that might be unpopular amongst SOME segments of Vikings fandom, but I really do not care what happens to Athelstan. I really don't. I think he added to the show in Season 1 when he was teaching Ragnar about England and Christianity and the Saxon language and what not. But Ragnar doesn't need him anymore. I think Ragnar thinks of him as the family dog that ran away. I don't know really what Athelstan adds to the show anymore. Season 1, yes, I got it, totally understood it. Now? Uh.....As for the teeny tiny segment of the Vikings fandom that thinks Ragnar "loves" Athelstan? No more than he "loves" Floki or Torsten or Rollo or any of his other FRIENDS. Speaking of Floki, like others have posted, I am not convinced Floki isn't "undercover" for Ragnar with Horik. I know there was that scene with Helga before they left for Wessex, but I would be CRUSHED if Floki really is betraying Ragnar. Ragnar sees everything though. He's smart. I think he knows if Floki really were unhappy with him. And it was just WIERD that Ragnar has said nothing about not being invited to Floki's wedding, no? Aslaug
As a stand alone episode, if I forgot the entire rest of the series, I really felt for Aslaug this episode. I thoughth Alyssa Sutherland gave a fantastic performance. I always try to seperate my dislike of a character from the actor, because it isn't the actor's fault. They just play their character, they don't write the show. I think Alyssa really is wonderful and she seems to be hillarious on Twitter/Instagram. I am a mom too, I can only imagine suffering through what seemed to be a hard pregnancy and a super hard labor and finding out your son has some sort of deformity/disability. I loved how protective she was over Ivar after both Ragnar and Siggy were telling her that Ivar had to be put out in the woods/killed. I could understand where Siggy and Ragnar were coming from. Its hard to raise a disabled child NOW let alone in the 9th century. When resources were/are scarce, a boy who cannot walk, farm, fight, etc, probably would be a liability. So I like that Aslaug fought for Ivar and would love him anyway. I think Ragnar really struggled. He was struggling between his love for his children, even Ivar, and the realization that Ivar isn't going to be able to ever walk, etc. I knew he'd never be able to actual kill him. Ragnar may have a lot of faults, but he's a good father and he LOVES his children. Many of his stupider decisions have been because of that love. One final thought - for a king, Horik is a really crappy strategist.

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@ LBrookieF

I promised not to bring up the whole "why I don't like Aslaug"thing again, so I won't. But I just read your comment and I just have to say..WOW you brought up some of the same points I was trying to make. I totally agree with you on everything you said about her. I would also add that Lagertha, if given time one way or another would have got Ragnar his sons. Even if it meant swallowing some pride and hiring 15 slave girls. You just know she would have made it happen.
I do have one minor disagreement about Ragnar. He met with King Ecbert, in fact these two saw a lot of each other:) they both got a sense of what the other was like. On the way to England Ragner and Lagertha were on the same ship. Plenty of time to talk privately about strategy. Not a word to her about what his plan was on landing. She has a lot of ships money, lives,riding on this raiding,at least if not more than Ragnar. I thought it was disrespectful to not fill her in and just expect her to blindly follow along. Then all his posturing and damn I'm good smiles when Ecbert's son says he wants to negotiate. Ugh, he wasn't going out on much of a limb, he pretty much knew he would go into talks.
Bjorn marries a princess, sooo maybe the slave girl will give Lagertha a grandchild to raise?

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I think some others have touched upon the reasons for the Aslaug hate and have valid points. My thing is this. I think everyone, Lagertha included, would have been able to get past Ragnar cheating if Aslaug hadn't shown up completely uninvited in Kattegat. It wasn't the act of cheating that people can't get past necessarily, its everything else. Remember in 2.01 when Ragnar asked Lagertha what he needed to do to make Lagertha let the whole thing go? Lagertha said "never see her again." and almost before Lagertha was done speaking, Ragnar said "Done." Why do I not blame Ragnar as much as Aslaug? I blame Ragnar for the act of the initial affair. But both he and Lagertha were ready to move on from it, as described above. Aslaug showed up uninvited. Aslaug assumed she would be welcomed to stay. Aslaug was the one that assumed that she would be put in a position above Lagertha, had Lagertha accepted the dual marriages arrangement. It was Asalug, in showing up there, that NO CONSIDERATION TO THE WIFE, SON AND FAMILY THAT RAGNAR ALREADY HAD. And then she has to act all "princessy" and superior and make snide comments about farmers? When Ragnar has been one until a few years prior to that? Yes, Ragnar was the married one, but that does not excuse Aslaug. She wanted to sleep with Ragnar because SHE felt it was HER destiny. Again, its the selfishness. I have read Alyssa Sutherland explaining Aslaug as wanting her children to know their father and take responsibility, but what about the family/wife Ragnar already had? Aslaug gave zero consideration to that. She was selfish. She wasn't considering her sons, she was considering "I didn't know my parents and *I* felt bad so *I* don't want that and me me me me me me me me." That selfishness was on full display for most of the season until 2.08. When they had to go on the run when Jarl Borg attacked Kattegat? She complained about the house being dirty and about being uncomfortable. She didn't want Ubbe and Hvitserk watching an animal being butchered. They're little Viking boys. Boys even now like dirty and gross stuff. Their father was a farmer. It was, again, a matter of HER being uncomfortable. Then after they were back in Kattegat and she starts questioning Ragnar about Lagertha staying. Not about anyone else but HER needs/wants. Ragnar admiring Lagertha fighting? There appears Aslaug. Or her trying to guilt Ragnar into going after Jarl Borg by saying "my father would get revenge" and "what about meeeeeeeeeeee and how I suffered?" Its the exact opposite of Lagertha who isn't like that. The audience came to ADORE Lagertha in season 1 and adore her marriage to and love with Ragnar. Adore them as a couple. And here comes this bitch as an interloper, basically steals everything that was Lagertha's and we're supposed to like and forgive her because she's a good mother? Its very apparent that Ragnar still loves Lagertha in a way that he never will love Aslaug. He sees her as a "babymaker" and he loves that she is able to give him sons. He doesn't love "her". He kisses her on the forehead all the time like its a duty. Its why I don't quite understand how or why the show can't/wont get Lagertha and Ragnar back together. (and before anyone pulls out the "but the sagas/stories say...." ....I KNOW what they say. The show has taken so many artistic liberties with the sagas/stories, fudged dates, timelines and people, and its unknown whether Ragnar ever really was a real person. This is historical fiction, not a documentary or a historical drama like The Tudors where they had more actual written down history - Michael Hirst can write whatever the hell he pleases.) I understand that giving Ragnar sons was/is Aslaug's role. Now she's done that, no reason not to reunite Lagertha and Ragnar. (I had to divide my thoughts into two posts cause it got too long - what can I say, I'm wordy. ;)

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Oh, Ivar, you precious little monster. I would knit you a pair of blue booties, but don't think you would have much use for them. Remember that time your Dad bit off your umbilical cord? Classic. That should be Travis Fimmel's 2014 Emmy clip. I think the cuts on Bjorn from Rollo weren't actually real, but I don't DVR. Did anyone else watch it a second time? Those were life threatening injuries, but then they just sat down and talked after training. The Floki and Horik storylines are getting a bit complicated, but I have no doubt the writers will tie everything up nicely. The writing and directing on this show is so tight and precise. This season could have easily been watered down into 16 episodes, but I think 10 is perfect. Mr. Otero, any inside information on the direction heading into season 3, or opinions? I think the actors who play Athelstan, Lagertha and Ragnar are imperative throughout the run. Hopefully, Ragnar will die at the end of season 5, and it will all end with bloody revenge a few episodes later. This series has the potential to be in the top 5 tv dramas of all time, if they can maintain focus and not get greedy.

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Just a quick observation: LOVE the strength shown in the Viking woman world. We've seen the shield maidens in battle, but now with Lagertha an Earl, we seem to be learning more of the female power play.....Lagertha , heading out to her ship surrounded by her personal shield maiden guards, Lagertha riding in the forest led by, and followed by, her shield maidens, her "girls" never leave her side!! And they look intimidating, not to be messed with! Her strength will surely be enticing to Ragnar. What a tender moment when Lagertha saw Bjorn upon her return to Kattegut...in many ways Ragnar, Lagertha, and Bjorn are still so much a family. I do think that Lagertha will realize that Horik's methods for seeking revenge will endanger too many, and eventually will side with Ragnar in dealing with Ecbert.

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Ha! No one has mentioned randy Princess Cwenthryth. She rode Ecbert until he cried "uncle!" And then she welcomed the three warriors to her boudoir. I wonder if Ragnar will find himself tangoing with her and will he be able to stay the course?
Aethelwulf's life was spared in the ambush. Deliberately, it would seem. Horik's son gave him a look as if to say, "now go back and tell your daddy about that!" I didn't get the significance of Ecbert pouring the sand, or whatever it was, through his hand. Any ideas?
Looked like Lagertha was siding with Horik when Ragnar said he wanted to talk to Ecbert. She through her hands down in a gesture that said, I don't understand you, before stomping off in the direction of Horik's tent. And Floki has definitely drank the Koolaid! Oh my, Ragnar seems to be losing his friends. Will he side with Ecbert against Horik and Lagertha I wonder.

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I would not mind any licences they take with actual history just to see Ragnar run Horic side to side with a spear I hate that guy!

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@ luis

According to Wikipedia, "in 845, following Ragnar's mysterious death, he (King Horik) had Ragnar's followers massacred."

Hanko9
@ luis

I'm totally with you Luis... His 15 minutes are up haha

Vikings Season 2 Episode 8 Quotes

My father, you and I, we are all descended from Odin or is that not true uncle?

Bjorn

Ragnar: Our child should have a name. Now that the Gods have saved him.
Aslaug: His name is Ivar.
Ragnar: Ivar the Boneless.

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