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Vikings really has a problem with the whole being a lot less than the sum of its parts. Only this show could have an episode made out of mostly good elements and manage to butcher them into a disjointed mess. I get that most of our characters are spread around the world, but would it really have killed the writers to just focus on one set of them per episode rather than teasing out (mostly good) bits for each one? Every time we get the boring faff out of the way and hint at something more interesting, we get yanked to another part where some more people are faffing about. Hopefully this episode will get the faffing out of the way and we'll actually get something good next week.
Apart from the fact that this episode consisted of nothing but faffing about, my main story-focused gripe was the entirely uninteresting battle within Wessex. It is really saying something that a battle between what is supposed to be a main character to free another main character had me yawning in utter disinterest. I don't like Athelwulf and Kwintreth is batshit insane. I don't know why I am supposed to be interested in either of them. Wessex was interesting when Ragnar and Ecbert were matching wits, but it is really dumb to follow it now that the Vikings are not there. This just seems to be reminding us that Wessex exists so that when Ragnar comes back we remember. Yet, anyone who watched Series 3 is already aware of the potential for conflict within Wessex and frankly Ragnar has bigger and better things to deal with first. Watching a character that I don't care about fight is not interesting and their attempt to make me care about baby Magnus because he might be Ragnar's son (and frankly given how crazy Kwentrith says, I am not sure he even is) fell flat on its face.
That's not to say the episode was all bad, even some of the Wessex plots were interesting and I look forward to seeing how they develop. The main one was the introduction of Judith's new teacher, who is a massive stick in the mud. Poor Judith, here she was hoping that it would be a cool monk like Athelstan and instead it was this uptight French guy. Anyway, I look forward to seeing whether Judith is going to end up seducing him as well. Furthermore, I wonder whether her learning illumination will bring her happiness, as I am sure being forced to bang her father in law isn't her idea of a great day. It is also interesting to see Ecbert's intentions towards her. At first I thought he just lusted after her, but the fact that he seems to be nice to her and is actually helping her out makes me wonder what it is. Maybe he sees a bit of Athelstan in her. Anyway, this is a plot I look forward to developing.
I also enjoyed the capture and torture of Floki (which seemed to happen at the same time as a months long training regimen, though that seemed to take days. Again, quite disjointed). Floki has always been Ragnar's best friend, supporting him over all others and even killing the former king on Ragnar's orders. Yet, now Ragnar is very upset at him for killing Athelstan. He feels that Floki was jealous and wanted to safeguard his place, rather than trusting in him. Ragnar has always been a great leader but he does not always understand those who work under him, feeling that they will blindly follow and put away petty squabbles simply because he asks them to. For Floki, Athelstan was always an insult, as he was part of a religion considered anathema to him. When Athelstan finally denounced the Norse ways, it was a bridge too far. Floki did not do what he did out of jealousy, but out of piety. However, now he is in a cave experiencing water torture, will he admit what Ragnar wants to hear or not? I wonder if that will be the show's chance to show us something religious, because there is no way he is staying in that cave forever.
I also really enjoyed the Paris scenes. It turns out that Therese actually has a plan and is working against Odo. It looks like he will get double-crossed and may end up in a world of pain. I wonder though whether she is truly loyal to the Emperor (who is very weak) or whether she is helping that other noble guy who she clearly actually loves. Maybe it is a bit of both, but certainly Paris is setting us up for some intense intrigue and I am quite happy to see how that goes.
Finally, I did enjoy the moves Ecbert is making to become the High King of England. He is trying to build a standing army and clearly intends to take over Wessex (and probably Northumbria at some point). Given that the son of Alfred and Judith is probably Alfred the Great, he won't succeed just yet (also Alle needs to kill Ragnar at some point). However, Wessex is clearly on the rise and I don't think Kwentrith is long for this world at all and I look forward to seeing how that plays out.