Bernard Walsh / History

Ragnar's Bolder Vikings Strategy Seems Really Painful And Depressing

Because there are a few days left of 2016, of course THIS had to happen.


Yes, Ragnar had become increasingly whiny. He looked tired, and his beard had become so ratty he looked like one of those guys in ZZ Top. He broke Lagertha's heart, which we don't have to forgive ever. There's all this stupid history that pretty much dictates the guy can't die of old age. But this episode was depressing as hell, and it didn't help to have King Aelle's smug face looming over the whole ugly business.



I mean, look at that mug. He's just punchable, isn't he? In truth, Ragnar's death wasn't as bad as I thought it might be, though. Ragnar being Ragnar, he never screamed like a little girl or seemed particularly disturbed that dumb soldiers were setting his feet on fire and beating him up. Even King Aelle seemed a little freaked out that Ragnar didn't do much more than grunt while being stabbed with a hot poker. Ragnar even had the capacity to rattle off a fine speech about Valhalla and Valkyries and how happy he was to die. Talk about badass, right? But we knew, when Ragnar's time came, it would be thus -- he'd go down fighting, and in this case, fighting meant chess and chess meant a big, bold move that would set a whole lot of warfare in motion a long time in the future, which made perfect sense back in the days when people didn't watch TV and have microwaves and Amazon Prime.

Ragnar's big move isn't so great, is it?

In theory, Ragnar had no choice but to sacrifice himself in the hopes that his kids would avenge his death, but there must be bets with better odds that don't involve untimely death by vipers. I'm not entirely convinced the kids are going to rush off to England to avenge his death given that they wouldn't even join their dad when he was alive to pillage the place, and I'd imagine gold is slightly more compelling as a reward than vengeance. Let's face it, Ubbe and '80s Hair Band Guy seem to be frightened by spiders, shadows, leaves, and possibly food, so I'll be interested to see what motivates them to pick up a sword.

Also, are vipers really that big?

I know mythology claims Ragnar really did die in a viper pit courtesy of King Aelle (I'm not making that up), and vipers are on every land mass except Antarctica, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, and Madagascar (thanks, Google!). So, logically, Ragnar really could have been tossed in a pit of vipers. But I swear one of those snake handlers had a python. Those critters like warm weather, I think, and I'm pretty sure a heat lamp during that period was just fire on a stick.

If Ivar loses at chess, is he really Ragnar's best bet?

I am sure Ragnar was on to something when he said that Ivar is unpredictable and crazy angry, which are good things in psychopaths, Viking leaders and hedge fund managers. However, Ivar seems to be less interested in avenging Ragnar's death than avenging Aslaug's death, which is generally not the best military strategy (killing Ecbert's people good, killing fellow Vikings and your dad's ex-wife, not so good). Unpredictability is fine, until you do something that's only unexpected because it's stupid.

Jonathan Hession / History

Jonathan Hession / History

When did Ecbert get all mushy about killing someone?

As charming as it was to watch Ecbert and Ragnar talk about God and leadership and have their own version of My Dinner With Andre with shackles, I still think Ecbert is a charming sociopath who needs to shut up when he's prattled on too long. So, Ecbert is feeling tortured and children, but what, he likes Ragnar too much? He wanted to keep him around for long conversations about preferred weaponry and whether or not it's a good idea to cut off your daughter-in-law's ear? While there was something oddly moving and ironic about watching him show up to watch Ragnar's execution in a monk's outfit, it was really Ecbert making someone else's tragedy all about Ecbert. Asshole.

Why even bother to have a blind guy drive the prisoner wagon?

The horses know where to go, but come on. Was no one else available? What about when someone tries to free a prisoner or steal the wagon following a horrific slaughtering of all the soldiers riding alongside it? It could happen. Driverless Google cars are a long ways away, and even those have locks.

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