Note: I have noticed in browsing through other reviews and recaps of this early episode, Season 1- episode 3, that it does not get as much attention as I think it should? While it may not seem as event worthy as some other episodes, it sets the scene and the tone for the rest of the season and for the future. We see the depths of Earl Haraldson’s depravity, cruelty and madness beginning. We also see the shaky beginnings of some fragile form of friendship between Ragnar and Athelstan. This episode is where Ragnar shows the beginnings of his leadership qualities as well as his ability to see the world in broader terms than just raiding. In other scenes we can glimpse the lack of control in both Floki and Rollo, and we see how the behaviors of these men will be trials to Ragnar in the future. It’s interesting to look back at this episode and see in retrospect how all of these events play into the future.
I fear it will be some time before I can safely get my messages out of this village. Earl Haraldson is becoming more and more paranoid as each day goes by. He is angered beyond control at the return of Ragnar and his raiding party even though they brought back such treasures of great wealth. Ragnar’s success has put Haraldson in an worse light to the people. He has lost face with them and can not bring himself to change his ways of thinking. On their return, he confiscated all of the treasure and the boat, saying it was all his to begin with as he was the Chieftain here, everything belongs to him and we should all be wise to remember that fact. He did relent somewhat and offered Ragnar a portion of the treasure. Ragnar chose not treasure but asked to keep the slave, Athelstan.
Everyone was much surprised and many thought Ragnar a fool for this choice but he was insistent that this slave would be worth more to him than any small bit of treasure Earl Haraldson was willing to part with right now. The rest of the raiders were disheartened at not receiving their share of treasure after making the perilous voyage to earn it. It was a somber group afterwards and everyone departed with much grumbling to themselves about how this voyage had turned out and about Earl Haraldson’s treatment of them.
Ragnar brought Athelstan home and introduced him to his family… they were not overly impressed by this addition to their household!
As some time went by, Athelstan struggled to adjust to this new life… and he began to realize just what a precarious situation he was in. He had nothing left but his faith and remnants of it’s symbolism to hold on to- such as his shaved head that marked him as one of God’s men, but that mark was disappearing and he feared his faith would as well?
Not that he was treated all that badly, because he was not. Ragnar and Lagertha tried to treat him as well as possible given the circumstances. He was indeed a strange one to all of them and they did not understand his odd ways at all! When he was not helping them with the farm work, he spent most of his time with his treasured book. Late into the night, he would attempt to lose himself, or find himself within the pages of that book. Often times, he would try hard to focus on the book and not the sounds around him at night…
As I said, Ragnar and Lagertha made every attempt to treat him as they would treat other guests in their home? They even went so far as to offer to share their bed with him!
Athelstan was dumbfounded and much uncomfortable with this offer.
They did not understand his hesitancy and continued to tease and tempt him.
He explained to them that he had taken a vow of celibacy, could not partake of such actions… he could not look at or touch a woman in such a way.
They did finally give up and left him alone to seek comfort from his book!
While the Lodroks and Athelstan were adjusting to their new life situation at the farmstead, other not so pleasant things were happening in the village. The first thing was the disappearance of a young boy? No one is really sure what happened to him but we are all certain that Earl Haraldson had something to do with it! The boy had mentioned earlier that Earl Haraldson’s man offered him a small payment if he would help him with a chore later that evening? The boy was never seen again and naturally when Haraldson and his man were questioned, they said they had no idea what the boy could have been talking about? Most likely he ran off on his own adventure?
What really happened that night made it evident that Earl Haraldson is crossing the lines and boundaries of any acceptable behavior. He decided to bury the treasure in a separate secret cairn or hoard. Now, it would have been acceptable for him to set the treasure aside to buried with him upon his death to take to Valhalla with him when he crossed the river… that would have been appropriate, understood and accepted. But, this separate burial in such a way as he did made it very clear that he was going by his own personal and skewed rationale rather than acceptable beliefs! It also proves just how vicious and cruel he was becoming!
While he has the young boy dig a pit for him, he has a friendly conversation with the boy, encouraging him and putting him at ease. He asks the boy how old he is? When the boy responds with thirteen, Earl Haraldson mentions that is the same age as his son would have been?
He goes on to talk about the need to bury his treasure so it can accompany him on his death… and then mentions how the hoard need protecting now and in the next life.
The Earl’s truest motive and intent suddenly becomes quite clear even in the dark. The boy is slaughtered as a some sort of sacrifice or vengeance and left with the treasure, buried and secret!
Needless to say, the boy’s disappearance has set the village even more on edge than it was previously! There was a witness to this horrific event, that is how we come to know of it now, but that young one is too frightened to come forth. I do not blame this person, we all live in great fear of Earl Haraldson now. I believe his wife Siggy is as fearful as the rest of us but puts up a good front and face of it in order to keep herself on his good side. She is one who will do what ever it takes to survive and hold on to some semblance of her self worth.
Ragnar is most unaware of this disturbance as he has been at his home trying to gain the trust and friendship of Athelstan… He asks Athelstan about the importance of his book, of his God, and of England. Athelstan tries to explain all of it.
Athelstan does not realize yet how cleverly Ragnar’s mind works? He shares all of his information about England with Ragnar only to have it used against him later.
This is what else the Earl has been up to in the village… it is the sight that greets Athelstan as Ragnar brings him into the village to a meeting with the Earl.
With this sight fresh on his mind, Athelstan kneels in fear as Ragnar forces him to while he meets with Earl Haraldson. Ragnar asks for permission to go on another raid to this England and uses the information that Athelstan shared with him to convince Haraldson. Athelstan is appalled at Ragnar’s action and tries to deny it’s truth. Haraldson does not believe Athalstan’s denials but agrees to Ragnar’s proposal only on one condition.
He tells Ragnar that he can go only if Haraldson’s half brother Knut goes with them. Knut was the spy who betrayed them and did not show up to go on the first voyage. Ragnar appears unconcerned about this and agrees to the terms.
Later that evening, they pass the dead monks again.
Athelstan stops and kneels in front of them, refusing to go on… he most likely is feeling the guilt of betraying his country and causing future slaughter to all there.
There is a feeling that Athelstan would welcome his own death along with that of the other monks, but Ragnar does not kill him. In fact, he cuts him free and tells him to run if he so chooses?
Athelstan stands for a moment watching Ragnar walk away… What are his choices? He has seen what happened to the others, he would most likely not get very far before meeting the same fate. Does he really want to die with them? He has nothing, no where else to go so he chooses to follow Ragnar.
That night, Ragnar surprises Lagertha with the suggestion that she go with them on this raid?
Lagertha thinks he is meanly teasing her, “What about the farm? And the children?”
Ragnar tells them that Athelstan can help with the farm and mind the children. Bjorn is not amused… in fact he is disgusted and insulted that a slave should be put over him, the heir of the household!
Ragnar asks sweet Gyda what she thinks? “I don’t mind, I like the priest!”
Ragnar’s response, “There, it’s settled then!” Lagertha had a slightly different response?
This voyage would prove to be trouble from the very start! Beginning with the arrival of Knut on the boat.
Rollo’s short temper flares already… he does not trust Knut- to Rollo’s credit, he is well justified in that feeling?
Rollo’s warning to Knut… A war band lives and fights together. If you can’t trust the men to either side of you, behind you or in front of
you, you are already a dead man.
The rest of the voyage is uneventful this time, until they reach their destination?
This time they are met by a band of warriors not a group of pathetic priests.
A careful and cautious greeting from the English leader.
Athelstan’s English lessons have paid off and Ragnar is initially able to keep the peace and greet the English.
He is making some headway in the conversation but having difficulty controlling a few of his men? One of those men would be his brother Rollo!
Another one is the easily agitated floki!
Rollo will not be deterred, or silenced in his doubt? He continues to insist that it is a trap!
The other men start to get edgy and doubtful as well…
The English Leader grows concerned and wary, asking what is wrong with that man, pointing to Rollo.
The English leader attempts to offer a gesture of good faith and peace…
Would the peace offering work? Would Rollo calm down and be appeased for a time?
Well, it might have worked had it not been for Floki losing what little control he maintains over himself?
Floki went over the edge, lost his control and turned berserker at the sight of a cross?
Floki ripped the cross off from the young man…
which sent both sides into a rage of panic!
There was a comment made of, “What are you doing? I thought we were trying to be friends…”
Rollo loses his control and slays the one who was trying to keep the peace!
Now Ragnar is in the middle of a battle he tried to avoid, and because of his men who lost their self control, he must win this battle!
A lone survivor escapes and rides away before he can be slaughtered with the rest of his group…
What remains on the shore, a slain English Nobleman warrior and a path of blood stretching out to the sea.
My thoughts on this event? Had two men, Floki and Rollo, been in more control of their thinking on this day- the outcome and the future may have taken a much different path? Floki is a wild card and one can never be certain exactly where his thoughts will lead his actions? As for Rollo… he is a loose cannon, as yet ruled by only his warrior mind and his inner resentments of his brother’s successes. He often acts without thinking ahead of future consequences. As Lagertha wisely put it to him directly on one occasion,”you’re too great a warrior but perhaps not so great a man?” I think there is a worth and greatness within Rollo but he needs to believe this too. Before Rollo can achieve that greatness, he must learn that there is more to being a great man than just being a mighty and great warrior? Perhaps he should look upon one such as Earl Haraldson to see where only being a great warrior can lead one to?