The Choice is the ninth episode of the second season of Vikings and also the second last episode of the season. It is an important episode politically within the viking raiders who now have two leaders. Both Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) and Horik (Donal Logue) want to lead and Horik in particular is increasingly undermining Ragnar.
Warning spoilers in the episode discussion
This is one of the great action based episodes of the season so far. There is a massive battle in this episode between the forces of not only King Ecbert(King Ecbert), but also King Aelle (Ivan Kaye) against that of the Vikings. I quite liked how the battle scenes were shot in this episode. I also liked how the beginning of the episode set the context for battle straight away with King Ecbert and Athelstan (George Blagden) reading the history of Caesar. It was made again clear that King Ecbert is a very prepared and wise King and this has been a theme for his character since introduction. It was also quite good that the battlefield matched what the dialogue of the beginning of the episode was:
King Ecbert: “Always thinking, always using the terrain, go on…. “
Athelstan: “At the same time the Roman cavalry and light armed troops seemingly appeared from nowhere “
King Ecbert: “Ahh but he knew where, they were in here (points to his mind)”
Athelstan: “As the situation was critical Caesar moved to the front of the line, addressed each centurion by name and shouted encouragement to them”.
The dialogue of this battle sets up for the action that we got later in the episode. King Ecbert is trying to replicate one of Caesar’s victories. Although I’m not familiar with which of the battles Athelstan is reading. I did find some information about the tribes known as the Atrebates which were mentioned as the enemies, but couldn’t find similar details. I imagine it was changed a bit for the show, but if you’re interested you can read about the Atrebates right here.
The battle of course was well filmed and choreographed. I also thought that the terrain was befitting to the story and set up. I don’t know if it’s my favourite battle of the series, I did feel much more interested in the season opener with Rollo (Clive Standen) Vs Ragnar. But that’s just me. In this episode things were of a much greater scale and it was great to see the horses added into the scene. Vikings to me has a good set style for its battles and as I admired the show for the choices in season 1, I think they are still good here. I like that the battles are styled to be more realistic and at times gritty, rather than exaggerated like in Spartacus (although I don’t mind those either).
King Horik risks a lot in this episode and it seems that most of what he is doing works as he is in charge of most of the decision making. However his performance during battle seems to have highlighted he doesn’t really have what it takes, he lost men and was caught out of position. By the end of the episode you see Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) start to side with Ragnar with the decision to go to the peace talks. Which probably was the right path, if it were not for Horik’s undermining and killing the messaging party in the last episode the whole battle and events of this episode probably wouldn’t have taken place. I don’t really see Horik being able to regain his influence as a leader unless Ragnar is out of the picture. I think this is why Horik tries to get Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård) on his side in the final parts of the episode, he doesn’t really have any other alternatives left.
Speaking of Floki it’s interesting always to hear the conversations he has about the Norse religion. I always thought one of the biggest strengths of the Vikings series was that they take the time to tell the some stories here and there and use them to sort of suggest where the plot might be going or how characters will be acting. Most of the time it’s the Seer (John Kavanagh) who does these but, occasionally Floki has his own conversations. Speaking of which I don’t think I’ve ever seen Floki visit the Seer before, I wonder why?? Anyway in this episode we get this story told by Horik and discussed with Floki:
King Horik: “Bjorn reminds me of Odin’s favourite son Baldur, you know the story?”
Floki: “The Gods made everyone swear an Oath that he would be safe, nothing could injure Odin’s favourite son”
King Horik: “The Gods even tested the Oaths, they threw, stones at him, darts, struck him with axes and slashed at him with swords, but it seems nothing could harm Baldur”
Floki: “Everyone rejoiced that it was impossible to harm Baldur. All except Loki, the sly one watched with distaste and impatience and it sickened him to see how Baldur was immune from all sorts of attacks”.
King Horik: “Yes, the sly one knew he had to find a way to kill him”
In the story you can see that Floki knows his Gods and Horik is trying to exploit Floki through them by suggesting a story that may make him think to kill poor Bjorn. In the last episode it was seen that Floki is interested in this side of King Horik, “he knows about the darker Gods” was what he said towards the end to Helga before deciding to join Horik. I think this is an interesting path for his character and in this episode you can see that even Ragnar notices that Floki is drifting by questioning his trust and loyalty. It’s certainly going to be a very interesting finale to see what Floki ends up doing. I”m hoping he doesn’t get himself killed though, I find him to be one of the more interesting characters.
Overall this was a really great episode of Vikings. I enjoyed that large battles which added a lot of action and tension into the episode. I also enjoyed the mixture of both religion and some historical context for what was happening on screen. There are two main plots developing between Ragnar/Horik/Floki and also Bjorn/Porunn and with only one episode left, I expect there to be a lot of drama. I just can’t wait!