dramatic return of Vikings reminds us why we’ve been missing History’s brutal viking drama so much. It’s simply some of the best character-driven historical drama out there, filled with politics, mysticism, a fantastic cast of characters, and terrible betrayal.
“A Good Treason” shows us the culmination of every wretched, petty jealousy Rollo felt toward his brother, Ragnar. It’s not his first betrayal, but it’s by far his most dire and unforgivable. There’s simply no coming back from this—a slaughter of his own people down to the last child. Even after Ragnar brought Rollo back into the fold time and time again, forgiving him and embracing him, Rollo could never escape his shadow. Until now, with the shadow of the Holy Roman Empire to run and hide beneath instead.
And perhaps we should have seen it coming, but I didn’t. In fact, I saw the reverse happening. I assumed some of Rollo’s men would turn on him, perhaps overthrow him and take him prisoner. Obviously Rollo believed the same to be true, and took matters into his own hands. But was that the vikings’ scheme? Or were they truly just wanting to talk?
What puzzles me the most about Rollo’s plan is that it leaves him essentially powerless. If Charles wanted to wed Rollo to his daughter in order to broker some sort of alliance between the vikings and the French, part of that deal requires Rollo to have either his own men, or some sway with Ragnar and his men. Now Rollo has neither. What good is he anymore to the French, beyond helping with their defensive strategy? That may be valuable in and of itself, but it’s not as valuable as a strategic marriage to the princess.
Treason and betrayal are the driving themes throughout the season premiere. None are quite so huge as Rollo’s, but they’re not small either.
First we have Queen Aslaug asking the Seer if she will take power if and when Ragnar dies. It’s not exactly a betrayal, but it unveils what’s hidden in her heart: A wish for Ragnar’s death, and for her own power. There is no love lost between the two of them, as we see ever so clearly when Ragnar finally drags himself from bed.
Then there is Floki, the once beloved shipbuilder turned traitor and murderer. Bjorn surprises everyone when he has Floki arrested for the murder of Athelstan. Ragnar is unhappy about it when he awakens, chastising Bjorn for being foolish. “Do you not think if I wanted him arrested I would have done so by now?” he snaps. Ragnar had been content letting things lie for the time being with Floki, and now his hand has been forced. In a sense, Ragnar feels betrayed—or at least gravely disappointed—by Bjorn, and Bjorn feels much the same about his father, incapable of making him proud no matter how hard he tries, no matter how fierce his loyalty.
Finally, there is the betrayal of Lagertha’s vassal Einar at the hands of the manipulative Kalf. It’s the one betrayal in the entire premiere that’s satisfying and makes you want to cheer along. Not that I trust Kalf at all, but I do like how viciously he ended the dissent and those looking to unseat Lagertha. What surprised me most was the participation of Erlendur, who I assumed would team up against Lagertha. I guess he’s playing the long game, whatever that may be.