Sunday, March 17, 2013

Vikings "Dispossessed" Review

Athelstan's been dispossessed of his life, his monastery, and his land. Ragnar's been dispossessed of the silver and gold they took from the English monastery. Ragnar, though, has his life, his family, and the mind to convince Haldarson to sail the seas to plunder more lands and return with even more treasures. Athelstan wants Ragnar to stab him in the neck. A monk vows to a live a life of obedience, of celibacy, of holiness. Two brother monks hang in the open of the kingdom. Athelstan passes in horror the first time and refuses to follow Ragnar on the second, going to his knees, looking to sky. "Come what may," he seems to say to the heavens. Ragnar frees him, though. Athelstan unwittingly provided information about the other kingdoms of England Ragnar wishes to raid and plunder. Thus, Athelstan seemingly forfeits his life, for penance. Of course, Ragnar told his priest, earlier in the episode, that God did not save his life; he, Ragnar, did. The Vikings embrace autonomy whereas monks are obedient to Words and the ways and the works of the Lord; however, Athelstan won't obey, but, of course, Ragnar sees him as a responsible man--responsible enough to be free, and to watch his children when he and his wife sail to England for more.

Obedience is a prevailing theme not only in "Dispossessed" but in the three episodes aired. Obedience isn't prominent in the first two. Sure, there exists a juxtaposition of earthly obedience versus godly obedience such as in "Rites of Passage" when Ragnar disobeys the Earl and beseeches the gods to guide him in his dream to sail west. Ragnar pays for his disobedience. The Earl takes the treasures from the monastery for himself and allows Ragnar one thing (Ragnar chose Athelstan). Haldarson was completely spiteful and out to make him look like a fool lest he look like a fool. After all, lands exist beyond their land; Ragnar didn't die, and even returned with treasures more valuable than the throne.

Haldarson's an odd character. I can't get a good read of the character, until he orders a thirteen year old boy dead that is, though I'm not clear on the specifics. I assume the boy was a sacrifice to the god Odin in exchange for the safe keeping of the treasures here and beyond. Haldarson, though, has an intimate scene with his wife, which abruptly stops. Siggy is quiet. Haldarson stares ahead. They embrace. As the boy and his right-hand man dig a hole in the ground for the silver and gold, Haldarson laments the death of his young son. Indeed, the character's more layered than previous episodes suggested. He's a man in mourning, feels threatened, and has a wife whom Lady Macbeth would get along with swimmingly. Gabriel Byrne portrays him with solemn gravity--he's far more interesting than I initially thought.

Rollo's the character who most hates obedience. Treasures soften Haldarson's frown, but Rollo's just pissed off about Ragnar receiving the accolades for the journey. Rollo's bad mood is expressed through a few rotten looks, but he doesn't cut loose until the Vikings land on another English shore. He still stares at Ragnar's wife like she's a piece of fruit. Rollo's moment to overshadow his brother occurs in the last scene. I'm not sure whether or not the scene was meant to be tense. The Vikings meet the soldiers, and Ragnar tries to negotiate peace while Rollo tries to incite his fellow men into killing, suggesting the soldiers mean them harm. The soldiers try to negotiate peacefully, but soon the blood of men runs into the ocean.

Ragnar looks annoyed by his brother's conduct, though he promised him equality. Ragnar didn't raise issue with the monastery slaughter, but his brother's assertiveness on the beach partly usurps his command. His wife is standing behind him, shield and sword in hand, so maybe that bugs him. Who knows, though. The series continues to move at a rapid pace. Several weeks must pass in a single episode, considering the Vikings go home and return to England within the same episode. As such, the writers hang certain characters on small beats. Rollo's not much more than a brute with a permanent scowl. The other Viking men are faces in the crowd. At least Ragnar continues to be a strong lead, well-defined, and a relatable hero.

I wonder whether or not the series will continue to explore Ragnar-as-outcast. He's been an outcast since "Rites of Passage." Men needed to be convinced to join him on the mission. The Earl forbade him. Ragnar promised democracy; but he's still an outcast. The series seems to possess depth, but I can't quite put my finger on its depth. Change is a major element of the show. Ragnar wants to change the ideas and truths of his people, and Athelstan represents change, someone completely different; however, Ragnar cuts down Christianity, and he doesn't actively try to stop the slaughter on the shore. Perhaps the arc of Ragnar is as simple and direct as this: he's a hero who doesn't know he's a hero, i.e. he's on a hero's journey, and hero's journeys end in change.

Other Thoughts:

-Athelstan turns down an opportunity to join Ragnar and Lagertha in bed. Athelstan glanced at the couple having sex as he read the Bible. Haldarson offered his wife to another man and killed him for accepting. Ragnar doesn't seem like he'd behave similarly. Who knows, though. Athelstan took a vow of celibacy.

-History did indeed put "Dispossessed" On Demand for a first look. I assume this will continue for until the ninth episode. I'm not sure whether or not I'll write about each episode since I'm sort of watching way too many TV shows. We shall see. I'm sure anyone reading is on the edge of his or her seat in anticipation of future Vikings reviews.

-The Northern European setting is still gorgeous. The water looks immaculate, like dark glass; or what I imagine Dragon-Glass to look like in A Song of Ice and Fire.

-Michael Hirst wrote the episode. Johan Renck directed the episode.


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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.