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