After the grand battle in last week's Vikings episode, it doesn't come as much of a surprise that Showrunner Michael Hirst takes it down a notch for this week's A Simple Story. Although I'm just as anxious as any of you to see how this Civil War between the sons of Ragnar will develop I guess we should spend some time in Wessex and Iceland because they will surely get pushed to the side next week.
On the "Island of Floki" the tension between these pioneers is not getting any better, in fact, things seem to be spiraling off in the worst way. Eyvind (Kris Holden-Ried) has been the biggest problem in camp so far, and now it seems he is gaining followers who share his frustration about being led to this new land. As most of the people are working on building a temple in tribute to the god Thor, Eyvind's group sits back and says they refuse to help in its construction. That would not be nearly much of an issue if a few people want to be lazy but upon its completion, a ceremony is held in honor of Thor and one named Bul (James Craze) would feel the need to disrupt it. He would throw the sacrificial blood at one of the others and this would finally cause Floki (Gustaf Skarsgard) to become enraged at what he felt was desecrating the god. He would draw his weapon to strike Bul before the crowd's response would calm him down.
Unfortunately, the spilling of blood would be an indication of how things would continue to escalate as later on the temple would be set afire and burn to the ground. All of those who put their hard work into it would watch as it came crashing down in fiery embers. Thorgrim (Rob Malone), who had a scuffle with Bul earlier accused him of setting the blaze which was enough of an excuse for them to fight and this time would be the last as Bul would be fatally stabbed by a knife. Floki would look on in disbelief as his dream for a land of peace and rebirth shattered before his eyes. History will tell us that this island would become an inhabitant of the Viking people but I'm sure wondering how that's going to happen at this point. All it takes is one bad apple to ruin the entire barrel.
Over in Wessex, my least favorite part of every episode lately, King Aethelwulf (Moe Dunford) calls his witan to address the threat of the Northmen and their great heathen army. He gives a big speech on how they are threatening their lands and that they need to take action. It was a grand idea to want to get on the offensive but Aethelwulf would never even get the chance to put a plan in motion. As he begins to do some reading he is stung by a bee that made its way into his chambers. Apparently, the king is quite allergic because this would cause his eyes and face to swell up like a horror version of the Michelin Man. The ironic thing in all of this is he mentioned in his speech how the Vikings were "stinging' them with their attacks. While on his deathbed, he would tell his two sons "Love one and other," and "Do what is best for Wessex and nothing more." He would then succumb to this infection and pass away. I wouldn't say Aethelwulf was a pivotal character in the series but I am disappointed that he went out in such an uninspiring way. R.I.P. King.
With the death of the king that means someone has to be appointed the new ruler and the assumption would be Aethelred (Darren Cahill) since his father had been training him this whole time to take over the role one day. But his mother Judith (Jennie Jacques) has a different idea and that is for his younger brother Albert (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) to wear the crown instead. When Aethelred questions her judgment, she tells him that their grandfather King Ecbert had seen something special in Alfred, that's why he sent him on a quest to Rome. This journey gave him the teachings and knowledge to be more equipped to be a better ruler than him. So in spite of his own desires, Aethelred would turn down the crown when he is nominated by the witan and instead recommends Alfred. With the support of his brother behind him, Alfred is unanimously accepted as the new king and he is shortly given a ceremony to make it official. While all of those in the crowd chant "Long live the King!" after he is given his ceremonial scepter, Aethelred stands silently with a look of disapproval. I understand why Judith thinks that Alfred might be the right one to take over but in regard to dealing with the threat of the Vikings, I think he is totally out of his element. I don't see how his book smarts are going to be the better solution to stopping the violent and unmerciful great heathen army. The look on Alfred's face as he stands in front of the throne is about as much of a sign that he is overwhelmed with this new responsibility.
In the Darkland (aka King Harald's town) Ivar (Alex Hogh), Hvitserk (Marco Ilso), and King Harald (Peter Franzen) are licking their wounds after being sent packing by Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) and Co. on the battlefield. With Harald scolding Ivar for his bad strategic plan, Hvitserk remembers how their uncle Rolo had told them if they ever needed support to let him know. So with Ivar's approval, he would visit Rolo in France and come back with a large army of soldiers. Rolo could not make the trip (since he's busy over on NBC's Taken) but he sends a message back that they are to spare Bjorn's (Alexander Ludwig) life. The sours look on Ivar and Harald's faces has now been replaced with smiles of optimism. I don't really understand why Rolo would blindly just give them a bunch of soldiers to fight against Lagertha with. Does he have no regard for his former home of Kattegat? I know he went to war against Ragnar previously but surely he has received word of his demise and shouldn't still hold so much ill will. This seems like a big plot point that is only being skipped since the scene needed can't actually be shot.
Lagertha's scouts report back to her about the French army arriving and they are just as puzzled by Rolo's involvement. Bjorn thinks the only solution is to go over and visit King Harald to try and reach a negotiation. Because that worked so well the last time? In any event, he does make the trip over and it comes as no surprise that Ivar is just as cocky as ever and doesn't care about going to war-again. He still brings up how he must avenge his mother's murder blah blah. The twist on this time is that he tries to have his men attack Bjorn right there but Harald stops it immediately. "This is not our way," he orders. Ivar abides by this and has his men stand down. What cowardice by Ivar to not just face Bjorn on the battlefield.
So what happened to Bishop Heahmund (Jonathan Rhys-Myers) after he was saved? He has a couple of talks with Lagertha and is very fascinated with her (as we all are) and decides he will fight with them. He seems to think that fate has brought them together for a reason and the fact that she saved his life is all the reason he needs. His inner struggle doesn't seem to be nearly as bad this time as it was when he chose to fight for Ivar. I feel Hirst knows more of the true reason why he is changing sides then he is giving us and it seems all too simple how Heahmund has no problem switching his allegiance.
Meanwhile, Ubbe (Jordan Patrick Smith) finally realizes that his wife Margrethe (Ida Marie Nielsen) is crazy with ambition and not the woman for him. So in what seems to be the Viking way he shacks up with Torvi (Georgia Hirst) to move on. Back in Kattegat, Margrethe keeps her evil ways going by telling Torvi's children that their mother is dead and never coming back. While I realize she is angry because of Ubbe cheating on her with Torvi, maybe she should do some self-realization as to why he did it! Growing up a slave must be terrible but spreading such dark negativity everywhere she goes is bound to lead to nothing but unhappiness.
We're almost at the breaking point for this part of the story! The big question is who do you think will fall in the great battle? And what will be the repercussions if Ivar actually does win?! It stands to be one glorious and action-packed episode!