Vikings: Ragnarok (S5, E20)
"They are nice women, really. They just know a lot about hangings!" - No Ship Network
(All images from Vikings are the property of History Channel and are used only to illustrate commentary for their show.)
We are the #ShieldGeeks, out to protect the innocent from anachronisms!
Lissa Bryan is a noteworthy author and historian who takes a delight in finding the real truths of history. Check out her website at www.lissabryan.com.
And if you're looking for our recaps on Seasons 1-4, check out my former blog HERE.
Lissa: *ominious voice* And so it has come to this… The finale of the fifth season. It’s been such an incredible journey since we started with Ragnar Loðbrók , the farmer who had dreams of going to sea to raid new lands.
Sandi: And the final arc of this season has carefully reminded us of Ragnar, his goals, and his life and death in every episode. Which is a good play by History Channel and Michael Hirst as Travis Fimmel was a huge draw to the series as Ragnar. It's been quite the ride watching his sons grow into manhood without him.
Lissa: We’ve seen Kattegat grow from a tiny fishing village into a vibrant trading center. We’ve seen his boys grow into men. And now, three of his sons have gone to war with one another, joined by the armies of two kings.
Sandi: Historically, the Ragnarssons didn't war against one another. Brothers generally stuck together. But drama wins in Vikings! And I have to applaud History Channel for how they've grown Kattegat over the decades in which the show has covered. It's quite the place at this juncture.
Lissa: The episode opens with Hvitserk and Olaf on a hill overlooking Kattegat. Olaf still isn’t entirely convinced this invasion was a good idea. As the two men walk away, Hvitserk drops his Buddha figure. I thought some more about this one after the show aired, and since it was never addressed again in the episode, its significance is left open to speculation. Was he renouncing the philosophy he’s acquired, returning to the old gods?
Sandi: If he is doing so, he's not alone as the season closes out. Ubbe has returned to his faith in the gods of his people, and Freydis has lost faith in her "god" - Ivar.
There is more than one dropped plot point in this episode, though. Perhaps this was just a harbinger . . . silent and neglected though it might have been.
Lissa: Ivar is surveying his defenses of Kattegat. They’ve built planed-lumber palisade walls, fastened with iron bolts. Ivar learns that Björn is on his way, but he’s also accompanied by Harald Finehair’s army and Hvitserk with King Olaf.
Sandi: All right, we'll get to the bolts "anon", as Shakespeare (hey, if we're going for full-on anachronisms, let's do it!) would have said. The planed-lumber could have been a thing, in this place and time. The shipwrights of the Northmen were wonderfully talented and they knew how to work wood to their best advantage, as we have historical evidence in their longships. Planing wood was only a part of this craft.
However, having said this, I will also say that a planed-wood fortress is not the most sturdy of creations. Full on log construction would have been more solid and more flame retardant—especially if the logs were reasonably fresh. Such a construction would also have been more time- and labor-friendly.
Lissa: Ivar gives a humorless chuckle and tells Freydis that all of his brothers are now against him. It seems like it’s a bitter pill to swallow. I mean, he only verbally abused his brother the entire time they were together and threatened to burn his lover alive and why, oh why, would Hvitsy do this to him?
Sandi: Ivar's emotional states are . . . legendary. And I also suspect they are purposeful as well as being deliberately manipulative. He is a sociopath . . . but one who has clear ideas on what motivates others in their dealings with him. The actor who portrays him, Alex Høgh Andersen, has tapped all that in his character and it's chillingly good. He's a fantastic villain.
Lissa: Lagertha is on a ship with Torvi, and both women lean over the side as they talk. Torvi asks Lagertha what happened to her, and Lagertha says she almost died, but was reborn. Torvi asks her what she saw when she was there, at the point between life and death. Lagertha says that she discovered life is suffering, and what’s important is how we deal with suffering, how we deal with the truth. Torvi looks over at her boys playing on the deck and asks how she’s supposed to tell her children that life is nothing but suffering. Lagertha gives a small, rueful chuckle and tells her that they’ll learn that on their own.
Sandi: Lagertha has portrayed, since her reappearance after the battle in which Heahmund was killed, a lack of maternal warmth for anyone, it would seem. Or at least for those in a younger generation. She is focused on the present and her nearest concerns. No longer a shield maiden but an advisor to those whom she has already deemed worthy, perhaps, of her wisdom. Children? Not so much, maybe.
Lissa: In retrospect, I realize we should have deduced where they were going from the fact they were on a ship. If they’d been heading to Ubbe’s new farmland, they wouldn’t have been aboard a boat.
Sandi: Right. I don't remember the "Let's Go" conversation, though I imagine there was one somewhere. Ubbe seemed content to remain in Wessex and get his people settled. Just, not yet. Because it's a season finale and all the sons of Ragnar need to be in the frame, right?
Lissa: At camp, Olaf sits before the fire and recites the story of Ragnarok as everyone listens. Gunnhild, in particular, seems really enthusiastic about the tale, her eyes almost as bright as the flames. Olaf’s words have the ring of dire prophecy. The war, he intones, will last three winters, and the wolf will clench the sun between his teeth, which is the death of the All-Father.
Sandi: There is perhaps a sense of a return of the Mystic, in this episode. Without the Seer from Kattegat, who can bring for the ominous portents and foreshadow doom and fame? Is Olaf filling this role, now? Or is this just a temporary appointment?
Lissa: Harald pulls them back to the here and now, saying it’s only a story. Olaf says that stories are all we have.
Sandi: Telling inspirational stories before a battle is a good idea. The old bards have been known to have songs to sing before and after a battle to invigorate the spirit and congratulate/commiserate the post-fight psyches of those in their charge. Today, commanders at all levels will try to connect with their warriors, or have someone do so in their stead.
Lissa: The next day, Björn and Harald paint their faces as they prepare for battle and discuss strategy, the possibility of splitting the attack force into two sides. Harald smears his cheek with blue paint and announces it’s for his brother.
Sandi: Face-painting is not a Viking thing, of course. There isn't a discussion, here, as to the manner of the painting, only that it seems they're all doing so. Some blue, some white. Remember, blue was not an easy color to make, so it's kind of a special color, here. White stands out in battle, as well. Did the invaders apply the paint as a means of identification? Possibly. Without a specific identifier, the fighters were more or less homogenous. Their differences were in their allegiances.
And, of course, it makes for a good visual for filming. ;-)
Lissa: Ivar is parting from Freydis. He says he needs to know he has her forgiveness for all of the things he’s done. She says she does, but the “beloved” she tacks on to the end of that sentence sounds almost like an epithet.
Sandi: A discussion rose on twitter around this point, regarding the behaviors of abusive partners in a relationship. Whereas I had little sympathy for Freydis this season, she has been mistreated by her spouse since the birth of her son and his behavior here is text-book for an abusive spouse. (Thank you, @DeeDonuts!)
Lissa: Ivar departs when the horns blow, announcing the attack has begun. He climbs up the fortifications, and those walls were just painful to my sensibilities. Okay, yeah, Ivar has traveled and seen the fortifications in York, but those palisades are elaborate…. And the IRON BOLTS, Sandi! The IRON BOLTS!!
Sandi: Yeah. (Still kinda cringing, over here.) So, the bolts. Told you we'd get back to this, right? There is a long and glorious history regarding construction with and without iron bolts, nails, rivets, and so on. People have written books and treatises on this very topic. I am quite serious, for the discovery of iron fasteners in construction can be instrumental in dating archaeological sites. Nails were made by the Romans in job-lots "as early as 2000 years ago" says the Suffolk Latch Company. They left behind nails in the fortress at Inchtuthil in Perthshire. But this was a time-intensive project, making nails, never mind bolts! The more usual thing was to use wooden pegs in a construction as they were easier to shape and wood didn't require refining or the heat and effort of a blacksmith's forge.
Lissa: The battle begins. Ivar sees Björn leading the army and orders his archers to fire. Gunnhild shouts for a shield wall as they drive forward, firing arrows of their own. A battering ram is brought toward the gates and Ivar’s people rain arrows on them.
Sandi: Both sides are comprised of seasoned campaigners, at this juncture. Or at least, they're led by tried warriors. We the audience were not treated to a great deal of pre-battle strategizing this time; the show moved us quickly to the fight.
Lissa: Only later is a framed cover brought forward to shield them, which seems… odd. Why wouldn’t they carry that forward at the same time as the ram?
Sandi: I am honestly not sure, unless they were waiting for Ivar's people to show their own response before they brought in the cover. What kind of defense was poised against them, etc... Also, of course, remember this is entertainment. **wry smile**
Lissa: Magnus reaches the wall and collapses down in a protected spot behind a wagon, terrified and praying. He starts reciting scripture.
Sandi: Magnus's role in this season is and will remain, alas, a mystery. How he grew up, where he grew up, where he came to know and abide by the Christian faith, why he sought out Björn and Co., all huge gaps in the character. On the No Ship Network's podcast from the last episode, it was posited that Magnus was introduced so that another Ragnarsson would be slain at the end of the season. If so, it seems to me to be a lame reason for a character's presence!
Lissa: Ladders and grappling hooks are thrown up against the wall. Ivar pours that magical Instantly Flammable Oil of Demise down on the men and lights it.
Sandi: I have dubbed the Mystery Fluid IFOoD. iFood? Ivar's IFOoD? In any event, the dispensation of Insta-Flame is not uncommon in any kind of defense of a fortification.
Lissa: Olaf, seated on a sedan-chair throne, starts ranting about the death of humanity. “Come, come,” he cries, imploring his audience to come watch the young tear out one another’s throats with their teeth, the world’s most bizarre carnival barker. And he just sits there, amid the battle -- weaponless, shieldless – calling for an invisible audience to come and witness the blood and guts.
Sandi: As you are sadly aware, Lissa, I am ignorant of the poetic eddas of the Viking cultures, be they Norse, Danish, or Icelandic. I had to look this one up.
The Völuspá is an Icelandic poem—with sixty-five short stanzas, as I learned on Britannica.com—that waxes on about Norse gods, world history, and the ending of the world in Ragnarok. It is dated to about A.D. 1000. It is a poem of warning, and so suitable here in this episode.
Lissa: Hvitserk and Harald end up sharing cover under a wagon. Harald says they can’t retreat now. What if Björn has already made it through the gate on the other side?
Sandi: War makes strange bedfellows, no? Harald seems to venerate and resent the Ragnarssons by turns.
Lissa: Björn actually has made it through with a few men, but Ivar traps them inside and cuts them off from the rest of the army. His own troops surround Björn and he orders the archers to kill them. Gunnhild, though, is fighting through them atop the wall, and the casualties aren’t as bad as they might have been. Björn orders a retreat and they scramble up the wall to escape.
Sandi: It was a good call, strategically. They found out what Ivar had on his side and could then pull back to regroup. Retreat is not a bad thing.
Lissa: Outside, Magnus finally finds a measure of courage, telling himself he’s Ragnar’s son. He stands up and tries to climb a ladder, only to be jerked right back down by Harald, who leads him a few paces away under his shield. He tells Magnus that he once thought he was a spy. Magnus hotly denies it. He says he only just now, in this instant, understood who he was. Harald starts to tell him that he believes him now, but Magnus is pierced with an arrow and collapses to the ground, dead.
Sandi: Sorry, History Channel. I still don't get it. But I do applaud @RidgeDean for his portrayal of a character that came kind of out of nowhere for this season.
Lissa: At the wall, Ivar is using… and I’m struggling to type these words… a flame-thrower. Yes, he’s using a bellows to spray out fire, presumably using the Instantly Flammable Oil of Demise, and I am now dead myself, slain by anachronismitis.
Sandi: You know me. I have to research everything. So I looked up bellows and their history in a quick dash about the internet this morning. You can actually see them being used in a 9th Century manuscript pictured at Werksansicht. I found the link on the blog My Medieval Foundry.
(Image credit: The Stuttgart Psalter, images from Werksansicht Cod.bibl.fol.23)
Bellows have been around a long time, but I am still kind of eyeing them used in this battle as an anachronism. Flame-throwers? Really?
The problem here is that howEVer Ivar was using the bellows in any proximity to the IFOoD he was employing to great effect, the bellows would have been vulnerable. Clearly even the clothing of the warriors was not flame-retardant and there is no reason to suppose that the bellows employed in this episode had achieved this status. Generally, yes, bellows were used by blacksmiths, but they were used as a distance from live fire—generally nearer the coals but in no way near open flame.
The bellows should have been on fire, burning the hands that fed them, as it were.
Flame throwers using any kind of liquid usually have to be sprayed through a flame-retardant hose of some sort. It's not pretty. (But I do like having found the psalter images!)
Lissa: Outside the walls, Björn shouts back at Ivar’s troops, reminding them that he’s Ragnar’s son. Ivar has been a tyrant to them, ruling them with cruelty. As he shouts, his voice goes hoarse, and suddenly, I’m reminded of Ragnar’s last words, and how his voice strained as if he was trying to reach the ears of his sons and the gods alike.
Sandi: That kind of sound is bred in exertion and passion and the desperate need to be understood. I think that was communicated well, here. Alexander Ludwig has inhabited his character for years and he knows Björn well.
Lissa: Ivar orders his men to shoot him, but none of them move. He grabs a bow fires an arrow at him, but Björn blocks it easily with his shield. He shouts “YOU KNOW ME!” at the people, and they stand silent. Ivar looks awed himself as Björn drops the shield contemptuously and strides away, not looking back.
Sandi: Nice play by Björn. Yes they know him, but he knows them—at least well enough to trust his back to them when they didn't fire at him.
Lissa: Björn, Harald, Olaf, and Hvitserk regroup in a tent, discussing the battle. Harald says wearily that there’s no use trying to attack the gates again. They’ll never get through. Rain lashes down wildly as Olaf says in dire tones that many great warriors died this day and the crows are probably already feasting on their livers. If it was up to him, they’d leave and abandon this idea of attacking Kattegat. Hvitserk declares that he and Björn are sons of Ragnar and they don’t give up – apparently, even if it’s a bad idea.
Sandi: Cheery fellow, Olaf . . . But then, he is not invested in this place, in the people, or even in the history. Olaf might see the benefit in renown, possible spoils, but his is not the heart-bond that the others have. Harald might not claim Kattegat as his own—yet—but he wants it. Badly.
Lissa: Back in Kattegat, Ivar is chastising his people, fury in his tone. He says when he tells his archers to kill someone, they have to do it. If he doesn’t have their absolute loyalty, they will all die together. As he shouts, the camera pans back to reveal about half a dozen hanging bodies – presumably the archers who failed to kill on his command.
Sandi: That was brutal, but effective, one supposes. All of this has to make Ivar's people wonder, though, if it wouldn't be a much better idea to go with Björn & Co., than to continue to suffer the tyrant.
Lissa: Björn is back in his own quarters with Gunnhild. She’s talking about wanting her freedom. She wants to fight. She doesn’t want to be told what to do. She wants to ride wild horses. She pushes Björn back onto the bed and climbs on top of him. She says she might die tomorrow. So she wants him to impregnate her.
Sandi: I am unclear as to the purpose of the mid-battle sex romp, here, in terms of plot. The relationship is established, Gunnhild's character is established, and we don't even have to mention Björn's, right? So I'm thinking this was the "mandatory heated sex scene" or something for the episode. Because really, if Gunnhild does indeed get pregnant here, and we see a child later, it won't be a big mystery as to who the father is. Or at least, it shouldn't be!
Lissa: In the dark, a rider approaches the camp. It’s Freydis. She’s brought into the strategy tent where everyone is present and says that she’s come because she has something to say to them. She first tells Hvitserk that Thora is dead. He’s saddened… briefly. She says that Ivar killed her baby and calls him a monster. She goes on to say there’s a secret way into the city, one that was put in place by Ivar, so he could escape. She will unlock it tomorrow morning and let them in. She departs with the statement that she wants to see Ivar strung up in a tree.
Sandi: Honestly, I had hoped for more emotional investment on Hvitserk's part, here. But the woman's name was Thora . . . the Name of Doom for this series, so perhaps it is not to be wondered at?
Freydis's betrayal is timely. There had to be a way to defeat Ivar and reclaim Kattegat and his war machine (such as it was, in this time and place) was nigh on impregnable. So, enter the betrayer and make it happen!
Lissa: The boys discuss her after she leaves. Can they trust her? They decide they don’t have any other choice.
Sandi: Looking a gift horse in the mouth is not a bad idea if the horse is possibly Trojan in origin, but time is short and . . . they run on their guts.
Lissa: Freydis returns home and tries to slide into bed without waking Ivar, but he isn’t asleep. She tells him that they’re attacking the walls, and Ivar says he doesn’t think he needs to get out of bed for that.
Sandi: The direction for his was, as always, well done. The dramatic pause Freydis makes before entering The Lair of Her Abusive Husband. The way the camera catches the width of their shared bed so you can see Ivar's still, tense features as he maybe is pretending to sleep while she re-enters the bed. The light catching Freydis's face as she offers him her cover story for being away. All of it works for the eventual outcome between the two of them.
Lissa: When Ivar goes outside the next morning, Kattegat is filled with soldiers. Björn shouts at Ivar’s troops that they don’t need to fight. They can stay in their homes. All they want is Ivar. Most of the troops seem willing to stand down, but a few do fight the invaders. While they’re occupied, Ivar turns and strides back into the hall. The point of his iron crutch digs into the wood as he stomps his way through the room. He calls for Freydis and tells her he needs her. She comes forward.
Sandi: I confess to being a bit surprised that Ivar doesn't surface (at least publicly) until the next morning. Has he a spy of his own, trained upon Freydis? So that Ivar is fully cognizant of her movements already? It is entirely possible. Much of his behind-the-scenes in this section are shrouded in mystery.
But not his intent upon his wife, not once he does that little turn-around. The scene is set for the end of their mutual story and they both have their eyes wide and calmly open.
Lissa: He tells her the soldiers in the town could only be there if someone let them in. She agrees. He asks her, almost in a pleasant tone, if she’s not going to even deny it. She says no, she’ll admit that she let them in. On the body of their dead son, she’ll admit it.
Sandi: Her intent and lack of fear are entirely clear and singular. There is no sense of fatalism in her face; she appears to be having a meeting of some import, but nothing more. It struck me as odd, but she has been plotting for the entire season, for one purpose or another.
Lissa: Ivar drops his crutch to the floor with a clang. He touches Freydis’s face, and then spins her around in his arms so her back is to him. He kisses her neck and tells her he loves her. She’s the most beautiful thing that’s ever happened to him. Then he whips out a cord and encircles her neck with it. He must have had it with him already, which is chilling, if you think about it. He falls back with her to the ground, where he’s more powerful, and pulls the cord taut against her throat. He tells her he loves her as he chokes the life from her, that he’ll weep for her later.
Sandi: I had to hand it to Ivar for the way in which he orchestrated her demise. Step by step, including of using his own disability in his favor, he had this planned to a fine line. Bravo, again, to the History Channel for how this went down. [Is it weird to applaud a murder of this sort? Probably, but . . . yeah.]
Lissa: Freydis had her lover strangled after he secretly impregnated her, and now she meets death the same way.
Sandi: Poetic justice? Maybe? The unnamed father of her baby didn't seem to meet his end with the same sangfroid, however.
Lissa: Ivar’s increasing violence toward Freydis seemed to make this an inevitable conclusion to the story, and the fact she was willing to admit what she’d done to may indicate she knew he was going to kill her. She could have escaped, but she waited for him there and admitted to betraying him, knowing what he did to others he felt had wronged him. For whatever reason, she walked into death’s hands willingly.
Maybe she felt the people of Kattegat would never forgive her for her role in encouraging Ivar’s megalomaniac tendencies. Once was a king, their power dynamic shifted dramatically. Her life was always in his hands, and so was her child’s. His increasing cruelty toward her was chilling. We knew he wasn’t really capable of love—the affection he professed was always hollow. He’s never had love, as he told her, but it’s because he’s incapable of feeling it.
Sandi: The most honest emotion I think we saw from him was when he was contemplating the life of the unborn child that he subsequently exposed to die. There was hope there, and he might have loved that hope, but that was about it.
Lissa: But she took Ivar’s kingdom from him, as he took the life of her son from her. She had revenge, but won’t live to see it.
Sandi: It is a selfless way to enact revenge, as I think about it. I have to believe she was also avenging her dead son. That kind of motivation would have been enough to prompt her actions and to ensure she followed through, no matter what.
Lissa: Outside, Björn, Hvitsy, and Harald are still fighting the remnants of Ivar’s men. Björn falls and has an ax blade at his throat when Harald and Gunnhild spot him. Harald smiles, just a bit, and Gunnhild glances over at him. After just a tiny bit of a pause, Harald springs into action and saves Björn.
Sandi: We kind of riffed off that on twitter, saying that Gunnhild had said she'd marry a king, but not which one... and here she'd gone and had Björn give her a child (as she indicated) but what if Harald became her husband...? Anyway..yeah. Harald did give the matter a tiny bit of thought but decided to do the right thing. He does grow on one, doesn't he?
Lissa: He’s injured in the process, but Björn stops to check on him. They share a quick moment of bro-ness.
Sandi: They are an interesting pair of war-bros. There is mutual respect and wariness that serves them well in this circumstance.
Lissa: Björn and Hvitsy head into the hall, shouting for Ivar and demanding he surrender. He’s not there, but Freydis is. She’s laid out on the bed, and the bones of her son are laid out next to her. Björn drops his head in a moment of sorrow.
Sandi: First, the demand that Ivar surrender made me shake my head. Ivar surrender? Who do they think they are, modern law enforcement? "Stop, Police!" rarely produces instant accommodation. And it doesn't work here, either.
Second, I cringed to see the bones of the baby. Very carefully presented, as was Freydis's body. What a view for Björn and Hvitserk to encounter.
Lissa: Where did the bones come from? Apparently, when Freydis told Ivar that the hunters had found “what was left” of their baby, they’d brought the body back to her, though I don’t remember that detail being mentioned. I’m assuming they must have had the bones… cleaned? And then Ivar kept them instead of burying them? And now he has them neatly laid out in their own display case beside the corpse of the baby’s dead mother?
Sandi: If the bones were brought back to her, then she'd likely have had them kept for whatever reason, perhaps for later burial, perhaps as a token of the mess she'd made for herself in terms of her relationship with Ivar. IF Ivar had confiscated them instead, then he was likely keeping them for some kind of nefarious purpose or future emotional torment of his wife. He knew where they were, regardless, and he knew how to make a scene with them.
Lissa: They head outside looking for Ivar, but he’s not there. He has escaped. But the battle is won and Kattegat is theirs.
Sandi: After a building of tension that's spanned several episodes, it was a bit of a let-down. However, it wasn't a let-down for too long.
Lissa: Olaf hands Björn one of Ivar’s flags and says it’s a new year for Kattegat. To Björn’s surprise, Ubbe comes up and draws Björn into a hug. Behind him, Lagertha walks up. Björn is amazed to see her alive. She holds up Ragnar’s sword, the one he won from King Horik and says it’s the sword of kings. She shouts “All hail King Björn!” The crowd begins to chant it.
Sandi: In other battles, Lagertha has been front and center, but not in this one. She's been out of sight, from even her own son. Her appearance was an obvious show of stagecraft, but she's an able leader and knows well how to create a moment, you know?
Lissa: I need to pause here a moment and wonder about where the sword was all this time. I imagine it wasn’t used as a battle sword, because of its precious significance. (Remember Horik showing it to his son?) But how would Lagertha have gotten it after her divorce from Ragnar? Did he hide it somewhere in Kattegat before he went off on his little decade-long sabbatical? I can’t remember Lagertha ever holding it when she was queen of Kattegat, and even if she did, she lost everything before her return.
Sandi: The sword. Okay. So in Old Norse culture, the father's sword (or other major weapon) was often buried with him and then exhumed upon the occasion of his eldest son's wedding to present to that son as a token of his manhood or ascent to Head of Family—it was ceremonial. I am not sure at all, though, what happened with Ragnar's sword before his death; clearly he didn't have it with him before he met his doom. The idea of him having a place for it that Lagertha would have known and kept utterly secret is not outside the realm of comprehension, even after all that has gone on in the intervening span of time.
Lissa: Björn holds the sword aloft and behind him we see the carnage of battle, bodies strewn over the ground, and the blade drenched in blood. His eyes look up to the heavens, and droplets of blood stream down his forehead, like a crown of crimson. The scene fades and then he’s seated on a cliff, overlooking Kattegat. His shoulders are draped in furs and he has the sword propped against one shoulder. His father once sat in the same spot, in the same pose.
Sandi: Again, History Channel does the Remember Ragnar montage to good effect. Twitter was all atwitter (sorry, I had to) with tweets about the sword moment!
Lissa: And now Björn hears his voice, asking him what it is to have power, power that tricks and corrupts.
Sandi: It is suitable that Björn, as his father did before him, retires to a quiet place on the heights upon his ascension to the kingship of this place. That he contemplates the responsibilities and pitfalls of kingship.
“Canst thou, O partial sleep, give thy repose To the wet sea-boy in an hour so rude, And in the calmest and most stillest night, With all appliances and means to boot, Deny it to a king? Then happy low, lie down! Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”
- King Henry, Act III, Scene 1, Lines 26-31
I can't help but think that Björn would have totally understood this.
Lissa: The Seer’s voice then overcomes Ragnar’s and says that it’s come to pass. The future foretold by the dark raven. Björn asks what will become of him, and the Seer tells him the name of Björn Ironside will never be forgotten and will surpass the fame of Ragnar Loðbrók. But the war is not yet over. The Seer smiles and puts a finger to his lips. Björn asks if any of this is real, but the Seer is gone.
Sandi: Was Björn questioning his circumstances? His musings? His memory? Or was he just reaching out with incredulity, overwhelmed. When a goal long-sought is attained, it can be disorienting. Still, well-played. And appropriate, I think, as there is still another season before us.
Lissa: The last image we see is of Ivar seated on the back of a wagon, being drawn away in what appears to be a group of traders. He takes a knife from a small pouch on his belt, and his piercing eyes look up, furious and filled with hatred.
Sandi: I was relieved that we got to see Ivar and his trusted factotum, stepping anonymously out of Kattegat, it is presumed. Björn is alone in his triumph as we leave him and Ivar is all but alone in his anger as he leaves us.
Poetic, isn't it? I am very eager for Season Six. The tales of the Ragnarssons aren't over yet. Look for us, the #ShieldGeeks, on twitter when we go back to Kattegat next season!
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Heill þú farir, heill þú aftr komir, heill þú á sinnum sér!
Hale go forth, hale return, hale on your ways!
– Vafþrúðnismál 4