Athelstan returns to Vikings

I’ve missed Athelstan, so it was great to see Ragnar’s Christian buddy show up in Thursday’s new episode. Yes, after being teased for weeks, Bjorn finally had his bloody showdown with the grizzly bear, but that bloody battle actually took a back seat (for me at least) to Athelstan’s guest appearance.

The episode’s title, “Mercy,” was the singular word Athelstan spoke to Ragnar, who took it as a sign he should release Floki from his cave trussing. The late monk appeared to King Ecbert too, in the chamber where Judith’s teachings have taken place. Both Ragnar and Ecbert pleaded for Athelstan to stay with them, but he quickly disappeared. The thing I love about Vikings is Michael Hirst’s ability to successfully interweave scenes of intense emotion with those of chaotic battle or violence. Athelstan’s visit came on the heels of Bjorn’s triumph over the bear, an awful affair that included claws, knives and a well-timed axe.

Bjorn, after skinning the beast, dove into the frigid lake water and emerged, screaming. The symbolism couldn’t have been more obvious: Bjorn plunged into the water a boy and emerged a man. (Did anyone else feel badly for the bear? I know it didn’t really die, but still…) Bjorn’s triumph over the bear should prepare him for his next challenge: surviving an assassination attempt by the berserker Kalf and Erlendur have hired.

Aethelwulf, meanwhile, was proving his own worth. He successfully delivered Kwenthrith and Magnus to the safe haven of Wessex and was rewarded for his troubles by a roll in the hay with Kwenthrith. Little does Aethelwulf know his father is sleeping with his wife. That’s going to make family meals an awkward affair, no?

As for Rollo, he’s still trying to figure out where he fits in in Paris. As he was in Season 1, Rollo is pretty much a laughingstock in France, unable to communicate and unable to win over Gisla. Pair her divorce demand with that priest calling him a savage, and Rollo’s having a pretty crap time in the City of Light. The thing is, you can never count the big man out. (And seeing as history documents a viking dude named Rollo being part of the Paris upper class, we know things are going to work out eventually.)

What did you think of Thursday’s new episode? How will Floki react when Ragnar tells him he’s free because of Athelstan? Let me know in the comments or via Twitter.

Vikings airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on History.

Greg David
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Greg David

Prior to becoming a television critic and partner at TV, Eh?, Greg David was a critic for TV Guide Canada, the country's most trusted source for TV news. He has interviewed television actors, actresses and behind-the-scenes folks from hundreds of television series from Canada, the U.S. and internationally. He is a podcaster, public speaker, weekly radio guest and educator, and past member of the Television Critics Association.
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