'Vikings' Shows Mercy as Bjorn Channels 'The Revenant'

The episode "Mercy" has 'Vikings' shaping up.

Vikings is a show filled with epic battles, sly Ragnar moments, quiet character beats, and copious ass-kicking. Each week, we’ll break down the epic, the weird, and the unintentionally goofy. Let’s dive into Season 4, Episode 3, “Mercy.”

This week in Ragnar sass

Ragnar’s sass isn’t quite up to eye roll backflip levels this week, but he still gets some nice jabs at Aslag in. When his son asks if he’s met Harbard, he says, “Not I. Perhaps your mother has.” Taking a bite of his food and spitting it out while coldly giving her unblinking crazy-eyes is truly inspired.

This week in ass-kicking

Bjorn goes full Revenant this week, thankfully faring better than Leo as he nonchalantly bests the bear and whoops in victory. It’s unclear how his quest to “be a man” is going — and why he doesn’t think he’s man enough after he wins a fight with a bear — but aimless or not, this is the most watchable he’s been in ages. Good riddance to his love triangle plot lines of last season.

This week’s most interesting choice

Ragnar’s sadism in his treatment of Floki finally gets at the nuanced area where last week’s episode failed (Alsag deserved that slap, therefore watching him beat his wife wasn’t an interesting moral conundrum). Sure, Floki committed a horrible act, but should Ragnar be relishing the opportunity to tell him his daughter is dead? Does the punishment really fit the crime?

The episode ultimately answers that question with a resounding “no” in the form of Ragnar’s mystical vision of Athelstan, and his subsequent decision to free Floki. It’s essentially a get out of jail free card; God forbid the show let him shake a situation that makes him look bad on his own. And so, once again, Vikings almost sets up a nuanced scenario in which we question our support for Ragnar, but fails to follow through. It’s still an improvement from last week. Maybe one of these days, the show will be as complex as it thinks it is.

Worst person of the week

Damn it, Kalf. You had one job .


We knew it was too soon to like Kalf. No sooner does he profess his love to Lagertha — lying his ass off when he says, “I thought it was power I wanted but it’s not true, all I ever wanted was you” — than he turns around and hires a hit-berserker to kill her son behind her back. What the hell, Kalf? Now, in his possible defense, this sudden desire to kill Bjorn may come from desire to have a child of his own with Lagertha: We saw from her ex-husband that it’s not uncommon for a man to feel threatened by the guy who once gave his woman a child. But, he pulled the curtain back and revealed that Good Guy Kalf is only good insofar as it gets him into Lagertha’s skirts. After that, all bets are off.

This week in “oh no”

After a mistake-ridden episode last week, this one thankfully recovered with far less to “oh no” about. Time spent in Wessex is much less brutal when we’re with Ecbert instead of Aethelwulf and Kwenthrith — and even milquetoast Judith develops some spine. There was still time wasted on a sex scene or two between characters nobody cares about — the French couple; Aethelwulf and Kwenthrith — and Rollo’s buffoonery remains a concerning plot turn. But overall, the writing shaped up this week.

Stray loot

  • Rollo’s “BAAAAHHHH!!!” to all the French nobleman.
  • Ecbert on Ragnar’s scheme last season: “Pretending to be dead. You cannot fault our Ragnar.”
  • This was generally a great episode for Ecbert sass. He sounds hilariously insincere when he tells Kwenthrith, “Thank God you are free.”