TV Tuesday: Vikings S03E09, “Breaking Point”

Battles! Sneakiness! Ragnar gets the shits!

A cameo appearance from everyone's favourite Jorvik Viking Centre character!
A cameo appearance from everyone’s favourite Jorvik Viking Centre character!

Sorry for the lack of posts lately; it’s been a busy week with the Easter holidays ending and exam season approaching. I hope to have more posts, including a reader-questions post (or posts) soon, just bear with me.

Anyway, we are here to talk about another attempt to take Paris, plus a few reminders that shit is still going on back in Kattegat (which is a body of water, not a town, and a late-medieval term anyway, but whatever) and in Wessex. But my favourite thing about this episode is:

Either from his wounds or from the river water, Ragnar gets the galloping shits and spends the entire episode sweating, writhing and tripping balls. 

Now, viewed from a rational perspective, this raises more questions than it answers. Like, does this now mean we’re living in a more-or-less realistic universe, where people in the early middle ages get sick and post-injury care is a dicey proposition? Or are we in the universe where Bjorn can kill like a hundred dudes, then get shot twice with a crossbow and left in a pile of bodies and be not only well on the way to recovery but actually in better shape than his wheezing, ranting dad?

But I can’t help it — I like it.

Some other points:

  • Once again, anything that could possibly be construed as a music video in this show is pretty good. In this case, Ragnar’s visions while hallucinating are nicely atmospheric. It’s the dialogue, as a rule, that lets the series down.
  • The different members of Ragnar’s old crew are being nicely differentiated as commanders — here we see Lagertha and her shieldmaidens (I have expressed my mixed feelings about this idea previously) acting as some kind of commando squad. So we’ve got scouts (Lagertha), engineers (Floki) and an assault squad (Rollo). Technically I believe that means we need some mortars or maybe an anti-tank rocket next.
  • Charles is a weenie, in a clear parallel to the origins of his royal house, who were tough officials who took over from weenie kings. Or something.
  • Count Odo unleashes a great big spiked barrel, which Rollo takes out with some harpoons. I don’t … I just … the end of the passageway is a barricade swarming with crossbowmen, Odo. Don’t roll a big piece of cover at your attackers, just keep shooting them. It would also help if anyone in this show had a spear; you could totally jab them as they approached.
  • That said, it is nice to see the Vikings just sometimes getting their butts kicked in a stand-up fight; they were weirdly invincible in some previous episodes.
  • Do I have to say “what in the merry hell is everyone wearing” again? No? OK, good.
  • Cynric! Hey, everybody, it’s Cynric! I have legit no idea who that guy is. I think maybe he hung out with Aslaug in Season 2, but that’s it. It’s all vanished like smoke.
  • Oh, Earl Siegfried got captured. I’d feel very different about that if I cared who he was. He has stood around being tall in group shots, but other than that I don’t think he’s done much. Anyway, he gets the beheading bit which is from King Harald’s Saga, I believe? Certainly it is from a saga of some kind; I could be wrong about which one.
  • Saint Ansgar shows up and gets pretty summarily disposed of. Honestly, if it wasn’t for Ragnar’s seeming fixation with Christianity, I would be beginning to suspect this show of full-blown Cornwellism. I do like the idea that Ragnar’s going to come home and find that Aslaug has martyred a dude — a worthwhile reminder that way back in the day she was set up as being pretty magic-y.
  • Also, that hot iron ordeal thing is a custom from Anglo-Saxon England, although the specifics of it were a little different than the show portrays. The accused had to carry the hot iron bar a certain distance. At the end of the process his burns were bandaged; if after three days they had healed, he was innocent. The word for “infected” or “dirty” could also mean “guilty” in Old English — Anglo-Saxon culture was pretty obsessed with cleanliness. I assume that the priests administering the ordeal would either heat the bar to as hot as they wanted it to be or just look blithely at the wound and pronounce whatever result they preferred, but I’m a cynic.

Inga Endures the Ordeal of the Hot Iron

  • This sub-Game of Thrones stuff going on back in Wessex is pretty boring. I realise they’e just marking time until our heroes get back there, but oy.
  • Yay for bribery! Yay for the show’s totally impressionistic approach to who is speaking what language that actually makes it sound cool but is still easy to follow! Yay for Odo not being at all impressed by Sweaty McStaggers, which I hope hope hope explains why the Franks are going to continue to view Rollo as Top Viking.


Speaking of Game of Thrones, one of the cool things about the show these days is how disconnected from the books it is now. If you’ve already read them, it’s nice to feel like you don’t know what’s happening next (especially as the wait-for-interesting-stuff : interesting-stuff ratio in the books is high). But somehow in Vikings I keep wanting historical stuff to happen already, god damn it. For some reason I am really attached to the idea of Rollo’s impending heel (or is it face?) turn and I am impatient about seeing it happen. I’m not really sure why.

Anyway, thanks for reading! Next week we’ll be back with yet another episode of people shouting at Ragnar and not realising that if they don’t want to get betrayed they need to stab him. STAB. HIM. 

In the meantime, if you’ve read this far and you like Vikings, may I suggest that you might enjoy my short and inexpensive ebook, The Barest Branch? It is a story of Lovecraftian horror set in a somewhat impressionistic Viking age. You can buy it on Amazon (UK) (US), or from the good folks at DriveThru.

TV Tuesday: Vikings S03E09, “Breaking Point”