Amazon Prime Instant Video TV review: Vikings Season 2, Episode 5 (Answers in Blood)
Ivan Radford | On 31, Mar 2014
One of the things that Michael Hirst’s Vikings does best is subvert the stereotypes about the Vikings. Nowhere is that better demonstrated that in Lagertha, Ragnar’s wife and shield maiden. Such a role, you might assume, would be a secondary, submissive role in a barbaric society. But Vikings the TV show reveals the Norsemen to be civilised – and the women to be their equals.
In Wessex, King Ecbert is surprised to hear from Athelstan – who has been kept alive as prisoner following last week’s cross-based punishment – that a woman pleading for help after her husband assaulted her would be given the support of the crown in Norway. And so the monk’s newly found pagan values begin to influence England’s legal system.
It’s not a smooth transition; converted to Viking faith from his Christian ways, Athelstan’s reintroduction to mass sends him off into a sea of nightmarish hallucinations. George Blagden’s wide-eyed innocence remains engaging, a fascinating insight into truth, revisionist history and beliefs.
Meanwhile, Ragnar and Bjorn team up to lead an invasion of their old home of Kattegat, which has been seized in their absence by Jarl Borg. A bloody battle ensues, as the History channel steps up the gore once again to keep the series’ bone-crunching physicality feeling fresh – and uncomfortably raw. “Well done,” encourages Clive Standen’s proud, masculine Rollo to his nephew, despite him spending part of the battle on the floor. Travis Fimmel comments: “You have much to learn.” Alexander Ludwig is a great addition to the male triangle, bringing a warmth to every hug that he and his newly reunited dad share.
But for all the blood and fatherly bonding, Answers in Blood’s real star is Lagertha. Kathryn Winnick remains as bad-ass and ass-kicking as ever, reminding Ragnar why he still loves her. But he is now with Princess Aslaug, who can bear him children – something Lagertha can not do. Unable to choose between the women, you might expect Vikings to have both continue their shaky truce in the shadow of Ragnar. But Vikings isn’t like that. Instead, Lagertha makes the choice for him.
It’s a simple act, but one that sets Hirst’s show apart as a showcase for women. Here, they dictate the plot – and, in Winnick’s case, take down a lot of blokes while doing it. Lagertha and Ragnar have great chemistry, one that Ludwig continues emotionally. But Winnick is so good that, in fact, Aslaug struggles to elicit the same level of sympathy from us; she may be the de facto Viking queen, but part of you wishes she wasn’t.
The suggestion this week, then, that Lagertha may never return is a great disappointment. Judging by Hirst’s script so far, though, the likelihood of being left without a strong female (in all senses of the phrase) for long is very slim. Amid the broad battle strokes, it’s these small character developments that make Vikings Season 2 an enjoyable spectacle. King Ecbert has a lot to learn from Vikings. So do many other modern TV shows.
Want more Vikings? Read our interview with creator Michael Hirst.
Vikings is available to stream exclusively on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription – or, if you would also like unlimited UK delivery and 350,000 eBooks available to borrow, as part of a £79 annual Amazon Prime membership.