Vikings Review: Taking Sides

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Let me start by saying that this week's installment is my favorite of Vikings Season 2. Of course, that could change next week, but I seriously doubt it.

Two standout moments for me tonight were:

  1. Ragnar and Athelstan's big reunion.
  2. Aslaug granting slave girl Porunn her freedom. Who says she doesn't have a heart?

There were many more fantastic moments in Vikings Season 2 Episode 9, of course, so let's jump right in...

We pick up with Athelstan reading Roman military techniques to King Ecbert. Since the Northmen attacked his envoy last week, the King is prepared to battle Ragnar and his allies. Athelstan tells the King he can't imagine Ragnar not wanting to negotiate. In reality, he only wants land to farm.

Athelstan wants to go speak to Ragnar but Ecbert claims he's too important to him. The attack will come once King Aelle returns with his troops.

In the Viking camp, Ragnar tells King Horik that his behavior has made it difficult to negotiate peace. Of course, we know that was never Horik's intention. He simply wants revenge and to kill King Ecbert. Remember, Horik lost a son in that first raid, so his thinking makes sense.

Ragnar wants to go speak with King Ecbert but Horik reminds him who's boss. Does anyone doubt the outcome of the Season Finale is Ragnar taking that crown for himself? He might not want it, but Horik has left him no choice with his poor tactical decisions.

The conversation that followed with a nervous Bjorn talking to his father about what it's like to die was important. Ragnar informs him the Seer prophesized that Bjorn would either marry a princess or sail along the sea with no tides. Since History tells us Bjorn Ironside sailed and raided along the Mediterranean, we know he's safe for now.

Still, a follow up conversation between King Horik and Floki was quite disturbing. While we know historically Bjorn doesn't die just yet, there's nothing that says Michael Hirst can't wound him terribly right? Either way, Horik's got his eye on Bjorn now and that can't be a good thing.

Is Floki so far gone that he'd allow Bjorn to be hurt? Why would he smile at the mention of killing Bjorn? I'm betting he won't go along with this plan in the end, but we'll have to wait a whole week to find out.

Ragnar leads his allies to an open field where a large force of King Ecbert's men await. Horik's impatience leads to a massive slaughter. This is the first battle - as far as I can remember - where the Northmen retreat, is that correct?

I've said this throughout the season, but again the battles are so much more intense this year, with what appears to be hundreds of extras. Unlike say, Game of Thrones, where CGI might be used to increase an army's numbers, in Vikings the extras are real human beings.

Once King Aelle and his troops enter the battle, the Northmen are definitely overwhelmed. Get out of there!

Interesting that the English Kings watch from afar right? With all his faults, it's nice to see King Horik getting down and dirty in the battle. He's just as valuable to his people as the English Kings, but the Vikings lead by example. Besides they're not afraid to die in battle, that's an honor.

Watching Rollo get trampled by that horse reminded me of Horik's plan to kill Bjorn. We also know Rollo goes on to become a famous Viking in his own right, but he can definitely be wounded in battle. Ouch!

Ragnar realizing they've lost this one, calls for their men to retreat. Bjorn fought well but they spot Rollo and have no time to reach him. Besides he appears to be dead.

Luckily Athelstan later spots Rollo's broken body, and King Aelle recognizes him as Ragnar's brother. King Ecbert understanding this is an important man to his rivals asks his people to try to save him. I didn't expect Rollo to be too happy to see Athelstan looking all Monk-ly again.

Good thing he was weak, otherwise he might have choked the life out of our tiny Viking. Man that Clive Standen is a big guy isn't he? Did you notice the size of his hand on Athelstan's throat?

Stubborn old King Horik tells Ragnar what happened was fated. Ragnar disagrees and as an audience we understand that under Ragnar's leadership things would have gone down very differently. Who's ready to see Raggy become King? I know I am.

Since no axe, spear or blade could touch my son today, he will now be known as Bjorn Ironside.

Ragnar

By the way, I loved Ragnar's mocking tone toward King Horik... "what are we fated to do King?" Nicely played by Travis Fimmel.

While the English celebrate their victory over the Northmen, I found the contrast between the celebration and the Viking funeral quite profound. Which side values life more do you think? Ragnar's upset at the wasteful loss of lives though, doubt he's going to be listening to Horik much longer.

Once again, King Ecbert makes the wiser choice and decides they need to talk to the Northmen. He did promise Princess Cwenthryth some Northmen mercenaries to help her win the crown right? There's also no doubt now he plans to take over Mercia, that's his endgame. Anyone else slightly grossed out to see Ecbert playing with the bathwater? Taking it in his mouth and spitting it out was so wrong. Maybe it's just me.

Aethelwulf recommends sending Athelstan to talk to the Northmen. Though King Ecbert isn't thrilled with the idea, I think he understood that might be a good option.

Off Athelstan goes but the reunion we've been waiting for all season is slightly delayed, as Ragnar hangs back while Athelstan talks. Bjorn's welcome was a pleasant one, he's awesome isn't he?

Athelstan announces that Rollo is alive and while many are excited by this news, Floki is certainly not. Floki mocking Athelstan's clothes and hair was amusing, but it occurred to me how little I like Floki now. Which is surprising, because he was definitely one of my favorite characters going into this season. I'm not sure if he can be redeemed at this point. What do you think?

Lagertha asks if King Ecbert is prepared to exchange hostages. Were you as surprised as I was that King Ecbert decided on King Aelle as their hostage? Even more surprising was the fact the Aelle actually went along with it. There's tension there for sure, bit of a pissing contest I'd say.

This time it's Lagertha that steps up and agrees to meet the English King. Naturally, Horik protests seeing as he is King and all but Lagertha tells him he doesn't need to go. It's moments like these when it's clear why fans love Lagertha. The woman is such a badass!

Ragnar finally steps forward and accompanies Athelstan away from the camp. Isn't is crazy that a hidden archer was targeting Athelstan? What's Horik thinking?

The reunion was powerful, there's so much love there between Ragnar and Athelstan. What a journey these two characters have been on together. And what extraordinary performances by Travis Fimmel and George Blagden, they really sell that relationship don't they?

Ragnar: So have you returned to your faith, renounced ours?
Athelstan: I wish it was so simple. In the gentle fall of rain from Heaven I hear my God. But in the thunder I still hear Thor. That is my agony.
Ragnar: I hope that some day our Gods can become friends.

The hostage exchange takes place and we finally hear Floki express his anger toward Ragnar. I had a feeling his resentment had been building up since Vikings Season 2 Episode 1 when Rollo tried to kill him. It's jealousy plain and simple. Ragnar will always choose Rollo and Athelstan over Floki, and he knows this. Loved the exchange of looks when trust is mentioned. Ragnar's aware of Floki and Horik's new friendship and he doesn't like it.

It was amusing listening to King Ecbert attempt to speak Old Norse. It's all Greek to me, but I understood Athelstan teaching him a few words was a sign of respect toward the Northmen. Their meeting is a friendly and important one. Did anyone catch Princess Cwenthryth lick her lips? She's something else that one.

Athelstan details all the terms of a peace treaty, including not only treasures but land for farming. I think Ragnar was sold at the word farming and accepts the offer, as does Lagertha. King Horik, however, remains silent. He's still out for blood and I think that will lead to his demise in the finale.

A very banged up Rollo, along with the promised treasure arrives at the Viking camp and King Aelle is released. Athelstan asks for mercenaries and several Northmen step forward.

Ragnar telling Athelstan he is heading home with Rollo and wants him to come back as well was touching. I wondered throughout the season where Athelstan would end up but after tonight's episode, "The Choice" was clear. King Ecbert seemed rather disappointed didn't he? I imagine he thought he and Athelstan had formed a bond. Will he attempt to hurt Athelstan in the future?

It didn't surprise me that Porunn was training to be a shieldmaiden, Lagertha being her idol and all. What did surprise me was the conversation with Aslaug leading to her being released from servitude. Many fans have said again and again that Aslaug is selfish and doesn't have a kind bone in her body. How do you guys feel about her now? With Porunn a free woman, will she and Bjorn marry? Since she's a fictional character, it could go either way I guess.

King Ecbert introduces Princess Cwenthryth to her new mercenaries. She just could not help but cop a feel, could she? "I should like to breed with them" she says. Is this the start of the Vikings being assimilated into the English culture?

I was glad to see Athelstan finally back home in Kattegat. So much has happened in just nine episodes right? Aslaug welcomes Lagertha and asks her to please stay then informs Bjorn that she's made Porunn a free woman. I can't wait to see where the young lovers storyline goes from here.

Rollo is patched up and his leg is snapped back into place. He'll be raiding again in no time, though probably not in next week's episode.

So what did you guys think of "The Choice?" Did Athelstan's choice to leave England surprise you? What about Aslaug's choice to free slave girl Porunn? Floki has a difficult choice to make as well, will he help King Horik kill Ragnar? Take this week's poll below.

There's just one episode left, are you ready for the finale? In the meantime, why not go back and catch all of Season 2 again? Remember you can watch Vikings online right here at TV Fanatic!

Will Floki attempt to kill Ragnar next week?

Review

Editor Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.2 / 5.0 (33 Votes)

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

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Vikings Season 2 Episode 9 Quotes

Ragnar: So have you returned to your faith, renounced ours?
Athelstan: I wish it was so simple. In the gentle fall of rain from Heaven I hear my God. But in the thunder I still hear Thor. That is my agony.
Ragnar: I hope that some day our Gods can become friends.

Since no axe, spear or blade could touch my son today, he will now be known as Bjorn Ironside.

Ragnar