Enemies confront each other and a major death occurs in this episode, entitled “In the Uncertain Hour Before the Morning”. It didn’t have too much action to the episode (besides Bjorn’s storyline), but it didn’t need to have battles and violence, presenting a very dramatic and emotional episode that was just as powerful as a battlefield with Viking warriors with swords, shields, and axes in hand.
Continuing from last week (and perhaps the biggest shock) was the confrontation in Kattegat between Lagertha (Kathryn Winnick) and Queen Aslaug. In truth, the conversation between the two wives of Ragnar Lothbrok was rather brief, but still effective. Knowing that she probably couldn’t win a duel against Lagertha, Aslaug, believing that she fulfilled destiny of giving Ragnar many sons, renounced her title as Queen of Kattegat and would gladly handover over the kingdom to Lagertha., save only that Lagertha would allow her safe passage out of harm’s way (and take her wherever the gods choose).
For a brief moment, it worked as Aslaug started to leave before being shot with an arrow in her back by Lagertha. I have to admit that I was pretty shocked to see that. I kind of new that she was going to be killed off by Lagertha as a result of this confrontation (or at least imprisoned), but I guess her death would have been more meaningful and impactful on the series. Sutherland will be missed as, even though she was always a more “secondary character” in Vikings, Aslaug was still an important and imposing figure to many characters.
So now with Aslaug dead, Kattegat is now under Lagertha’s control and she finally has her home back. Unfortunately, Aslaug’s two children, Ubbe and Sigurd don’t fully welcome Lagertha’s ascension in Kattegat, having learned that their mother was killed by Lagertha. Of the two, Ubbe seemed the most upset over the news (battling his way through the throne room and many men to reach Lagertha, but failed to do so). Sigurd, on the other hand, seems to have mixed feelings about Aslaug’s death, believing that she only truly loved Ivar and her romantic affair with the mysterious wanderer Harbard. So now, we’ll have to wait to see if Ivar will avenge his mother’s death and seek vengeance against Lagertha.
Over in England (Wessex), Ragnar Lothbrok and Ivar were taken prisoners by King Ecbert son Aethelwulf before Ecbert himself arrived and where the episode truly shined. While I do like many characters on Vikings (Ragnar, Bjorn, Lagertha, Floki, etc), perhaps the most interesting and most complex character is King Ecbert. As a viewer, we never really his true depths, making the character very multi-faceted.
Vikings (the show) is known for its violence and battles, which is what they excel at, but it’s really not known for its deep character conversations, with the exception of King Ecbert (and by extension Roache’s performance). Both Ragnar and Ecbert start the conversation with more of a somewhat hostile approach with Ragnar in a small prison cage and Ecbert musing over his power and regaling him about how he ordered the deaths of a viking settlement in Wessex. From there, however, the tone of the conversation began to change as the two powerful and corrupt rulers seem to reconnect with each other, bonding over booze and sort of rediscover their “frenemies” relationship with one other. Interestingly, both discussed the priest Athelston and how much they loved him (nothing romantic, but more of a kindred spirit kind of thing), with each one exclaiming who cared more for the young priest.
In addition, Ragnar also had the chance to meet his new “son” Magnus (the alleged child offspring of him and Queen Kwenthrith), who King Ecbert was (presumably) going to use as leverage against Ragnar if he ever returned to Wessex. However, Ragnar quickly disavowed that knowledge saying she (Kwenthrith) never had sex with him, making Magnus not his son. This caused Ecbert (via his son Aethelwulf) to discard Magnus and exiling him from hearth and home. Pretty messed up! This then causes Ecbert to turn his attention (his love and admiration) towards Athelston’s boy, Alfred.
The final scene in the episode uncovers Ragnar’s ultimate endgame plan, with Ecbert (having not wanted to kill Ragnar himself) believe that justice must come down on the Viking king. Ragnar states that Ecbert should give him (Ragnar) over to King Aelle (Ivan Kaye) to be killed off with Ivar being sent home to Kattegat to tell his brothers what happened, which will ignite violence as Ragnar’s sons will seek vengeance against King Aelle and (for King Ecbert) will kill two birds with one stone
All in all, “In the Uncertain Hour Before the Morning” was a very poignant episode this second half. We saw the “changing of the guard” in Kattegat with the death of Queen Aslaug and the deep yet ambiguous relationship between Ragnar and Ecbert. It will be very interesting to see where the next episode will go as the fate of Ragnar will soon be decided where I’m sure will carry a ripple effect for many characters.
Score: 8.5 / 10
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