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 5, “Promise.”
This week in Ragnar sass
Ragnar’s sass is at full speed this week, from crazy eyes to sneaky whispers. An honorable mention must go to his comments about eunuchs — “I don’t like it” — but peak sass occurs on the docks, when Harald and his Mike Tyson-faced brother attempt to engage him by bonding over killing Christians. “You’ll have an opportunity to kill a great many once we reach Paris,” he whisper-sneers with crazy eyes while throwing a knife. It’s the combination of all three elements — the whisper-sneer, the eyes, and the motion — that affirms once again how great Travis Fimmel is at keeping it weird.
This week in ass-kicking
Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) shows that like Ragnar, she too is capable of playing the long game. Step 1: Warn your lover you’ll eventually kill him before you sleep with him. Step 2: Continue sleeping with him and convince him to kill your enemies. Step 3: Keep your promise and stab him at your wedding. Damn, Lagertha.
This week’s most interesting choice
Having Lagertha kill Kalf (Ben Robson) is unexpected, and its execution finally gets at that morally grey area Vikings has strived for, but failed at in the past. Kalf has walked a fine line as a character: He’s usurped Lagertha and tried to kill Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig), but he also genuinely loves her, is good to her, is willing to share his leadership, and is psyched about their impending (possibly fake?) child.
Murdering him nicely puts Lagertha in a morally grey place, because — aside from conspiring to kill Bjron — he’s been good to her. And as we can see, this is not a decision Lagertha takes lightly. Her kiss of death, so to speak, and the way she tenderly cradles his dying body says volumes about her feelings for him.
It’s a great scene because it’s surprising and it doesn’t simplify a complex issue. That might not sound difficult, but it’s something Vikings has struggled with in the past. Let’s hope future episodes nail it as well as this one does.
Worst person of the week
Erlendur (Edvin Endre) has always been despicable, but casually threatening to pull a male-Medea and smite his own kid — just to spite his wife — is a new low, even for him.
This week in “oh no”
Michael Hirst’s inability to stay away from pulpy and non-intriguing court intrigue rears its head in this episode. Nobody in the audience finds the inner workings of the French court as interesting as he does, and yet his inability to see it creates a fundamental disconnect between audience and show. To add insult to injury, the writing is getting quite lazy. The conspiring French lovers are revealed to be brother and sister? Recycle ideas from shows that navigate them in a far more nuanced way is never an auspicious move.
- Kwenthrith: “I doubt you for one reason: You and I are somewhat alike.” Ecbert: “Then do not judge yourself too harshly.”
- Rollo is really, really into this whole “dancing naked on the sand” thing.
- At last Ragnar finally mentions that English settlement! I was beginning to think that had fallen down the Well of Abandoned Plots.
- Ivar is developing into the cutest little sociopath the world has ever seen.
- Yidu being the daughter of an emperor is an interesting turn. Could a trip to China be in Vikings future?