Recap: ' Vikings Kill The Queen (Tv Episode 2016), Kill The Queen

Betrayal, daring rescues, bad haircuts: This week”sVikingshad it all, further assuring us that the fourth season of History”s brutal viking drama will live up to expectations.

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Gone are the days of a simple viking village and the small, petty, and deadly politics that saw to Ragnar”s rise in status and power. Now we have not only the vikings to contend with, we have various English factions to keep track of, and the intrigue of the French court, which goes well beyond Rollo”s recent betrayal. By and large,Vikingsis handling all this fairly deftly, with some minor exceptions.


Thecourt of Emperor Charles is certainly full of intrigue. Count Odo despises his liege as a coward, and is urged to reveal his latent treachery by his mistress, Therese, whereupon their BDSM thing takes a very brutal turn. The show must be trying very hard to paint Odo as a ruthless creep at this point. Last season the sex-dungeon thing seemed to point toward Odo being monstrous somehow, though I didn”t really buy it (Therese was into it, too, it seemed.)

This time, however, we see her back when her true lover, Roland, is tending to what look like pretty nasty wounds. A bridge too far, in other words, going well beyond S&M into some pretty twisted territory. (Though, to be honest, I think Odo and Kwenthrith would make an amazing power couple.) Roland and Therese are actually working against the Count, we discover, though we have too little information or investment to really care at this point. I am curious to see what happens in Charles” court, especially now that Rollo is part of it, but right now there”s almost too much going on.

Speaking of Rollo, he proves a capable military adviser to Count Odo, helping to instruct the French on how best to construct viking-proof defenses. But his best, and most horrible, moment of the night was when he did this:

Oh I felt for him, even as I laughed right alongside Gisla. Don”t cut your hair, Rollo! Don”t make a Samson of yourself, when all Delilah will do is laugh! Truly a tragic and hilarious moment. Poor Rollo, trying so hard to win the princess”s affection. It”s amazing we still care after last week”s betrayal, but somehow the conflicted, faithless Rollo is still one of the most human, relatable characters in this show. I”m still rooting for him, even though his actions last week were so unforgivable.

On a more serious note, this is the first time Rollo has altered his hair. His brother, Ragnar, has changed his hair many times—pretty much every time he gained status, going from warrior and farmer to Earl to King and so forth. It”s not insignificant that when Rollo finally cut his hair it was also a moment where his status was elevated. But instead of that moment being itself a victory, he was laughed at and mocked. No matter how high Rollo rises, it seems, he will always fall in the long, wide shadow of his brother.


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In England, we have some greater emotional investment as an audience, if only because we”ve spent so much time there over the course of the last few seasons. We”ve come to admire King Ecbert”s political acumen, even as he revealed his true colors last season when he secretly arranged the slaughter of viking settlers and the arrest of his least faithful nobles, all in one fell swoop. The entire thing was done with the help of his son Aethelwulf, who is nowhere near the politician his father is, and who has actually become something of an admirable character recently. It”s an odd reversal of roles, as Ecbert becomes more and more hideous and Aethelwulf has moments of bravery and moral grit.

Things in Mercia have gone sideways and Queen Kwenthrith has been arrested by rebel nobles there, mucking up Ecbert”s plans for uniting England under his rule. He sends Aethelwulf to rescue the Queen from a tower where she”s being held, with her son, by the rogue nobles. While Aethelwulf is away, his wife Judith tries to break free of her role as mistress to Ecbert, whereupon he offers her a larger cage and calls it “freedom.” He brings a monk in to tutor her in painting holy texts, something the religious man is none to keen about. But Ecbert and his bishop toady work their magic and soon enough Judith is painting, and presumably still firmly under Ecbert”s slimy thumb. How scummy do you have to be to have an affair with your son”s wife?

The raid on the tower is the first big battle scene of the season (not counting the two massacres last week which hardly count as battles.) It was quite good, actually—a tense, violent brawl that ended with Kwenthrith and Aethelwulf victorious. Kwenthrith went full mama bear protecting her kid against two female guards in a seriously brutal, touch-and-go fight. Aethelwulf showed up just in the nick of time, too, after his own pretty serious brawl down below. That this was an all-Enlish battle tells us a lot about the direction ofVikings.This is no longer a show strictly about the Norsemen invaders, but about the English and the French as well.

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Whatever else there is to say about Ecbert, he”s a smart and ruthless leader. His call for a standing army is especially wise given the viking threat. The Mercians certainly messed with the wrong king.

The Vikings

Back in Kattegat, King Ragnar rules with both an iron fist and a softer touch. He is not merciful to Floki, though he wants him to be. He wants him to admit that what he”s done he”s done out of selfishness, and not for the gods, but Floki won”t relent. He manages a brief escape, but Ragnar”s sons track him down.

At the same time, Ragnar is kind to Helga, who needs kindness. Her tragedy doesn”t end with Floki. A sickness takes her daughter as well, in spite of Ragnar”s offer to help. Pretty much the worst possible tragedy strikes at the poor woman all at once. A good-as-dead husband and the loss of her daughter…I”m not sure how she”ll cope. Regardless, Ragnar is right: What Floki does he does for himself alone, though perhaps Ragnar is not always so different. This whole thread is so sad. I feel bad for everyone involved, including Floki.

Hispunishment is a type of crucifixion almost, tied precariously standing on a rock in a cave, his arms spread wide. Perhaps fitting given his crime, but still. It”s hard to see. I was such a big fan of Floki early on, back when he was one of Ragnar”s only (and most faithful) supporters.

When Aslaug defends Floki, the weight of Ragnar”s spite toward her comes crashing down. “What did he do that was wrong?” she asks. “All he did was kill a Christian, why should he be punished just for that?”

He hits her twice, hard, knocking her to the floor. “This is not about Christians or faith, it”s about loyalty and trust!” he shouts as he hits her. “Something you can”t understand.” The episode was titled “Kill the Queen” because that”s what the Mercians try to do to Kwenthrith, but at this moment I think Ragnar wanted to kill his own queen. I”d be afraid if I were Aslaug.

Ragnar is a hypocrite, of course. Aslaug was unfaithful, but so was he. Indeed, the very reason he and Aslaug even got together in the first place was thanks to his breaking Lagertha”s trust. If she was still his wife, this scene would never have played out this way, no matter how angry Ragnar was. She”d never allow it.

Actually, you can pretty easily trace the descent of Ragnar from a happier, more trustworthy leader to the miserable, wretched man he”s become, by going back to when he andLagertha parted ways. That was his biggestmistake by far, though Aslaug did give him many sons. Either way, I hopewe get to see more Lagertha soon, because so far Season 4 has been pretty short on her story and I know I”m not alone in wanting more Lagertha all the time.

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This was another very good episode ofVikings, but I do think the show is trying to tell too many stories at once with the time it”s allotted. UnlikeGame of Thrones, with its numerous plots and subplots,Vikings only has about 42 minutes a week to tell its story. Eighteen fewer minutes means you can”t pack in quite so much. (And evenGame of Thrones at times feels like it should be 90 minutes per week.)

Nonetheless, this was a powerful episode, filled with tragedy, betrayal, a great battle sequence, and at least one very funny haircut. I”m excited to see what happens next week. Here”s the promo, which looks bloody intense:


Erik Kain writes a widely read and respected blog about video games, entertainment and culture at He is a Shorty Award-nominated journalist and critic whose work

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Erik Kain writes a widely read and respected blog about video games, entertainment and culture at He is a Shorty Award-nominated journalist and critic whose work has appearedin The Atlantic, The National Review, Mother Jones, True/Slant and elsewhere. Kain co-founded the political commentary blog The League Of Ordinary Gentlemen, whose members have gone on to write at multiple major publications including The New York Times and Slate. He lives in Arizona with his family.


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