“The Message” began right where “The Prisoner” ended by revealing Bjorn and Halfdan’s fate, which was definitely a relief. While I assumed that Vikings wouldn’t kill Bjorn off so soon, after Ragnar’s death last season it certainly wouldn’t be completely improbable for them to do so.
Trigger Warning: “The Message” contained some triggering content; namely, sexual assault. While I do not go into detail regarding said content, please note that it is briefly mentioned in this review.
That said, while we saw Bjorn and friends fight their way out of their troublesome situation, after that the rest of “The Message” focused on, well, every other character in the series. The bulk of the episode was spent in Harald Finehair’s kingdom, as Ivar, Hvitserk, and the other vikings who had remained in England arrived to forge an alliance against Lagertha (and, consequently, Ubbe). While the politics of this whole discussion were both amusing and interesting, a lot of the other goings-on tended more toward maddening.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. As I said, the politics were great – from Hvitserk blowing Ivar’s cover regarding who would rule Kattegat, to the back-and-forth between Ivar and Harald, to the later conversation between the brothers in which Hvitserk outright asked why they bothered pretending there was an arrangement and Ivar shrugged and said, “I don’t know. It suits everyone…for the moment.”
If only they hadn’t all been making such a big deal about Bishop Heahmund. (Who I might start referring to as Bishop Crazy-Eyes…) Harald mentioned that he’d heard about Ivar’s prisoner…how? And even if there’s a good answer to ‘how’, I still don’t understand why Harald cared so much about Heahmund. For Ivar’s part, Heahmund is his prisoner and Ivar respects the fact that he’s a great warrior. I’m not sure I believe that Ivar is actually jealous of Heahmund (if this was something he’d kept to himself I’d believe it, but the Ivar we’ve seen so far would never admit such a thing – though I suppose if he truly does feel that way, his admission is likely just another step toward making their relationship more like that of Ragnar and Athelstan.)
And while it did make sense for Ivar to use Heahmund’s hatred of ‘heathens’ as a way to get the bishop to fight with them, personally I’m still not seeing why Heahmund is really necessary. Sure, they can force him and Ivar into a similar relationship to the one Ragnar and Athelstan had, and/or they can have Heahmund end up being the person who kills an important enemy of Ivar’s, but both scenarios seem very ham-fisted to me.
One somewhat positive thing that came of all the time “The Message” spent in Harald’s kingdom was Astrid using her power as queen to send the titular message to Lagertha – that message of course being that Harald would soon attack Kattegat. I just wish the writers hadn’t felt the need to have Astrid raped in order to get her message sent; at the very least they could have not shown it, or not also escalated it to a gang-rape situation. Listen, I get it, bad things happened back then – that doesn’t mean that shows today should keep using stuff like this as a plot device.
While Lagertha did in fact receive “The Message” in Kattegat (and so has time to prepare for Harald’s attack, as well as knowing that Ivar and Hvitserk are with him), her receiving this news was a mere drop in the bucket compared to everything else going on with her. I was surprised that she caught Floki so soon, and even more surprised that despite forbidding him from gathering people to follow him to his ‘land of the gods’, Lagertha let him and anyone else who wanted to go leave anyway. She did say some things that sounded like attempts to undermine him, including calling him a trickster, but her planting these seeds didn’t stop anyone from sailing away.
Don’t get me wrong, I was glad that Lagertha didn’t capture or kill Floki, and that fact, combined with her words about him being a trickster, will hopefully cause some of those who followed him to eventually return to Kattegat. I just hope it won’t be too late when they finally do, because between the travel time to this ‘land of the gods’ and however much time they actually spend there, at this point Vikings would really have to mess with some timelines to have them arrive back in Kattegat soon enough to be part of the fight against Harald and Ivar’s army. (Of course, we did see Floki and his people arrive in the ‘land of the gods’ and right away they weren’t pleased with their situation – I suppose it depends on how long Floki can keep them reined in.)
Not everyone was pleased with Lagertha’s decision to let Floki go, and by ‘not everyone’ I mean Margrethe. She is seriously The Worst, and even Ubbe seemed exasperated with her in “The Message”. Sure, it was nice to have the juxtaposition of the young woman who left with Floki explaining that yes, Lagertha let them leave because she is a woman, but not because she is weak – because she is patient, which is its own kind of strength…but I was still a bit gleeful when Lagertha called Margrethe out yet again and threatened to cut out her tongue if she spoke against her one more time. Am I maybe hoping Margrethe makes the mistake of doing so and has her tongue removed? Yes, yes I am, partly because it would prove to Margrethe that Lagertha is not weak and is a woman of her word, and partly because, I’ll admit, I’ve never liked Margrethe as a character.
As you can probably tell, “The Message” was a packed episode, and that wasn’t even everything that happened. For instance, back in England Alfred is about to go on a pilgrimage to learn more about his father Athelstan, and if I’m not mistaken, Aethelpup (Aethelwulf‘s son whose actual name probably doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, hence, ‘Aethelpup‘) is very likely being set up to die. And soon. I mean, why else would Alfred be praying about all the good he would do if he were made king, while Aethelwulf is praising Aethelpup and claiming he has ‘the makings of a great king’?
What do you think the odds are on Aethelpup dying very soon? And why do you think Bjorn apparently sailed directly back to Kattegat after his escape? Let us know in the comments!
Author: Tara Lynne
Tara Lynne is an author, fandom and geek culture expert, and public speaker. She founded Ice & Fire Con, the first ever Game of Thrones convention in the US, and now runs its parent company Saga Event Planning.
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