So it happened.
Ever since Michael Hirst (creator of Vikings) said that there were going to be some huge losses this season, I expected them to do away with Athelstan, my favorite character :´-(
My suspicions were somewhat quelled when they killed off Siggy. I thought maybe that would be the only major death this season, and I could live with that. But no, it happened.
Athelstan converted back to Christianity after he momentarily lost his sight and then regained it, baptized himself in the river, and threw away the silver armband that is a symbol of his affiliation with the rest of the Vikings. Floki saw it all and became deeply conflicted.
Then, Floki had a vision of blood spilling over the wooden face of one of the northern gods he was carving (Frey, most likely) and took it as a sign to kill off the priest whom he never really felt belonged among them in the first place.
I don’t feel so bad for Athelstan. He died a martyr, and died bravely after he reconciled with his one true god. I am not even angry at Floki for killing him, either. We all know he has issues, and that he considers himself a follower of ‘the dark side’ of the gods. He hated Athelstan since the beginning and it’s only natural for someone like him, who has an undiagnosed mental illness and who feels so passionately about his faith, to have acted the way he did.
But I am pissed at Ragnar.
Sure, he just lost his BFF, and I feel for the guy. It was touching that he dug the grave himself and gave a few, honest words as farewell, as well as the fact that he shaved his head and started wearing a cross in remembrance of his friend. But it’s his fault Athelstan’s dead in the first place.
Athelstan told Ragnar that he could no longer acknowledge the northern gods and that he better leave Kattegat, for his own safety. Ragnar, who has always told him he has the power to do what he wishes, stops him this time and tells him that he must stay, for his sake. So it’s Ragnar’s selfishness, his desire to keep his pal at his side, which ultimately causes his death.
But there are others to blame, too. Bjorn, who was practically raised by the Priest, doesn’t lose a second in turning around and talking smack about Athelstan behind his back. We know Bjorn’s loyalty lies with his own people and he’s not obsessed with gaining knowledge about the world and other cultures as much as his father is, but it was still a very shady move, and it makes Bjorn look bad.
This episode, more than any other this season, feels like the beginning of the end. Ragnar killed an innocent man, one of his own, to hide the truth about the settlement… A decision that is of course morally wrong and protects no one but himself. He didn’t let his friend leave when he wanted to, and now he’s dead and Ragnar lost the one person he felt he could trust. Last episode he turned his back on Lagertha, which was a stupid move because she’s so loyal to him.
It’s decisions like these that will prove to be the undoing of Ragnar as a ruler.
Vikings season 3 episode 7 airs this Thursday on HBO. Stay tuned for the next review.