Praise the gods! The wait is over! History Channel’s Vikings has returned! As always, please note this recap contains heavy spoilers—continue at your own peril! We’re entering the second half of season four after a brutal mid-season finale long ago in April. Catch up on our previous episodic recaps or check out our guide for a complete refresher. It’s been a while, and time keeps marches on.
Let’s dive back in!
Who wants to be king? Who wants to replace ol’ Ragnar the great, the cunning, and the defeated? There’s no better choice for the job than his and Lagertha’s oldest son, brave Björn Ironside—but that would be far too easy! And with the absence of Ragnar’s older brother, Rollo, in this episode I’m guessing this looming battle for the throne will be a strict next-generation thing.
There are four eligible full-grown descendants of Odin and sons of Ragnar and Queen Aslaug, whom we first met at the end of “The Last Ship” in April: sensible Ubbe the oldest (Jordan Patrick Smith), hot-headed Hvitserk (Marco Ilsø), sensitive Sigurd “snake-in-the-eye” (David Lindström), and little Ivar the Boneless (Alex Høgh Andersen).
And while none of them will be king just yet, tense allegiances are obviously declared between the brothers in this episode. A king will rise out of them sooner or later.
Basically it boils down to, who will follow their father back into the battlefield for revenge and glory? And who will stay and protect the throne and Kattegat? Ivar choosing the former sets in motion the start of the greatest papa Lothbrok vacation ever! (Or the worst?) Either way the best family Lothbrok holiday will always be the rite to the Norse gods, Æsir and Vanir, at the Uppsala temple in season one, episode 8 “Sacrifice” (see below). Such a seemingly loving family. Good times.
Ragnar’s gloomy suicide attempt later on in “The Outsider” is just another reminder that the gods have the final say though—no matter how much regret you’re shouldering, you’re not quite done yet, King Ragnar. As a descendant of Odin, I’m constantly surprised by his lack of assurance in the Norse gods. This isn’t some Tinkerbell moment, where clapping will give you instant results. Patience with the gods is vital in Vikings—and it’s obviously not the best trait for the Lothbrok clan.
Real talk: Ivar is a jerk.
The episode title of “the outsider” comes in the form of the youngest son, who’s definitely dealing with some deep daddy AND mommy issues alongside pent up hostility about his disability and virility. Woof. But that’s no excuse for being a terrible human being–let’s not go down that Joffrey Baratheon path, ok!
The pecking order of male heirs was certainly a brutal part of Viking Age families—see the epic relationship that is Ragnar and Rollo throughout the past seasons—but the sibling rivalry between Ivar and his older brothers is already borderline perverse and deranged. I mean come on, Ivar! Do you really have nothing better to do than crawling around spying on your older brothers getting some?
Ivar’s building rage makes me long for Ragnar and Lagertha’s deceased only daughter from season one, the kind and gentle Gyda. IMO it’s even more apparent in this season that the true light of Ragnar’s life was his only daughter. Sigh.
Meanwhile, Björn is the least tangled in all this mess, having already sailed the seas and tasted his fair share of war and death. His long-held wanderlust for the rest of the world remains steady and the explorer hype builds even more thanks to his completed map of the Mediterranean. Not even his loving wife Torvi and growing children will slow him down. Besides, he’s won the favor of wacky uncle Floki and sweet aunt Helga with their sleek fleet of newly designed Viking longships.
(Sidenote: Ragnar finally said those three little words to Floki, bringing all the bromance feels crashing down. Keep cool, Floki—and don’t you dare ruin this, Ragnar!)
If there’s something that the Lothbrok family has always been weary of it’s Kattegat’s right-hand man to the gods, the Seer. Such an optimistic guy, that Seer. He gives Björn some truthbombs, citing his father’s return as the start of “calamity, disorder, chaos, and death.” Yikes. But we’ve heard worse omens in past seasons, right? It’s not like Ragnar’s return is a curse upon all Vikings. Oh, wait…
Speaking of cursing the name of Ragnar Lothbrok, what’s Lagertha got going on? New badass companion-warrior-lover? Check! New adorable pet owl? Check! Same blind devotion to her ex-husband and current King? Double check! (But, seriously, that barn owl though—I’m in love! Could be a bad omen for her, unfortunately, since owls weren’t typically lucky creatures in Norse mythology… so there’s that.)
Based on the trailers released so far, I’m going to assume her relationship with Queen Aslaug isn’t exactly in the best place. Hey, who says powerful females can’t get along!? Final showdown between our favorite shieldmaiden and mythological nobility? Sadly, all signs point to yes in the coming episodes.
To be fair, Lagertha’s life with Ragnar in Kattegat was steady but exciting, simple but rewarding. Sorta the calm before the storm. Her current independence as Jarl Ingstad—beloved ruler of the Earldom of Hedeby—is totally great too, but it’s not for the faint of heart. (Not that she’s ever been a faint-of-heart kinda lady.) Though the people love her, who can an Earl trust? Who can an Earl love? She’s already had to kill one liar/lover–will Astrid prove to be an honest and true equal who loves her more than her title and her ex? My heart says yes, but my head says nope …especially after the game changing death of the noble Yidu—not even love is safe on Vikings!
The tides of change are upon everyone. Kattegat is a legit trading center, a long way away from the little settlement we first saw in season one. France is growing into a formidable foe in the world and Northumbria is dealing with its current identity crisis. The power struggle for glory is real. We have history to cue us in on a few major events coming up (all aboard the hype train for the Great Heathen Army!), but the real fun of Vikings has always been the intense character sagas woven through these IRL legends.
Hit us up next week for the episode 12 recap, “The Vision.” For now, spill your feels with us about all things Vikings in the comments below.
Images: The History Channel