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Moment of Goodness

Five Ragnar and Athelstan Moments of Goodness from Vikings “The Choice” 

Photo Credit: Jonathan Hession/HISTORY
Photo Credit: Jonathan Hession/HISTORY

In last night’s episode, Athelstan had a choice to make: stay with King Ecbert or return home with Ragnar and the rest of the Vikings. Before we talk about his decision, let’s break down all the Ragnar and Athelstan Moments of Goodness that happened in “The Choice”:

1. Athelstan defends Ragnar to King Ecbert

After last week’s Horik-mandated ambush, things are in a precarious position. But Athelstan shows that he knows Ragnar and his needs. 

King Ecbert: “We must do battle with Ragnar Lothbrok and his allies.”

Athelstan: “I cannot believe that Ragnar does not want to negotiate. I know him too well. He is looking for land, farming land for his people.”

King Ecbert: “His men killed all of my envoys sparing only my son. By which they sent me a clear but simple message.”

Athelstan: “Why not send me to speak to him?”

King Ecbert: “You are already too dear to me. And too important. Which is why I think they would kill you.”

I do like how Ecbert has come to rely on Athelstan. Our favorite monk finds himself in a warp and twisted Catch-22. Does he stay with the people who crucified him to a cross? Or go with the ones who kidnapped him from his home years ago? I try not to think too much about this because I really want Athelstan to go back with Ragnar.

2. Athelstan questions his faith

Athelstan is worried. He wants to know when Ecbert is going to attack. I kind of love what Ecbert says after he explains the battle will commence after King Aelle gets back with his warriors:

King Ecbert: “I’m sure you would prefer that Earl Ragnar and I would make peace. Perhaps then you could be at peace with yourself.”

And he’s right. Athelstan is in a place where he’s questioning his faith, his identity, his place in life. 

Athelstan (in prayer): “Help me, Lord. Who are these gods who haunt my nights and wreck my peace? Odin, Thor, Freyr…you have taught us not worship false gods but I have seen them. I have seen Thor in the sky. I have seen sparks from his anvil. I felt the sea heave with his anger. Why is this false? Things that I’ve seen with my own eyes. Things that Ragnar believes. Whatever happens, do not let Ragnar die. Nor yet King Ecbert.”

Photo Credit: Jonathan Hession/HISTORY
Photo Credit: Jonathan Hession/HISTORY

Athelstan is so conflicted. His loyalties seem split. Something has to give sooner rather than later. And after the big battle scene, we see him searching through the carnage. I assume he’s looking for evidence of whether Ragnar is alive or dead. Instead, he comes upon a seriously injured Rollo, who wasn’t happy to see Athelstan once he was conscious. Boo.

3. Athelstan and Ragnar finally meet again

Kings Ecbert and Aelle send Athelstan to relay the message that they would like to meet with the Northmen.

He tells them Rollo is wounded but alive. After Lagertha takes the lead and agrees to this meeting and hostage-taking, Athelstan starts to leave. That’s when Ragnar says he will accompany him part of the way. He doesn’t do this just to be able to reconnect with his friend, he does this to protect Athelstan because as he suspected there’s someone in the shadows waiting to kill him. Ragnar puts his arm around Athelstan to make the target impossible to kill.

Ragnar: “It is good to see you. I feared that you were dead.”

Athelstan: “There are times that I wish I had been. I gave into despair.”

Ragnar: “So have you returned to your faith, renounced ours?”

Athelstan: “I wish it was so simple. In the gentle fall of rain from heaven, I hear my God. But in the thunder, I still hear Thor. That is my agony.”

Ragnar: “I hope that someday our gods can become friends. I have something to return to you. (he gives him the bracelet) You are safe to go now. But I will see you very soon.”

Athelstan: “Thank you, friend.”

I really dig the beauty of this conversation. It’s a long time coming since the two have been separated since episode four. Who knows how many years this actually turns out to be. With this show I always know that a lot of time passes but that’s about it. They never get too specific. Sometimes this is maddening.

4. Ragnar asks Athelstan to come home with him

After Rollo is returned and before Athelstan goes back to Wessex and King Ecbert, Ragnar asks Athelstan a question:

Ragnar: I am taking my brother home. Will you come back with us or will you stay here with your people? I want you to come back. 

I thought it was great how Ragnar finally acknowledged that Athelstan was with his people. This is the land he was taken from all those years ago. And I loved the way Travis Fimmel laced the words “I want you to come back” with such vulnerability. Vulnerability I didn’t think Ragnar had in him. It’s easy to see why he wants Athelstan to come back with him. They are friends. He truly came to rely on him. But also he trusts him. And he needs someone who will be completely loyal to him. Because we all know what’s going on with Floki (more on that later).

5. Athelstan makes his choice

First, we see King Ecbert finds the cross Athelstan left behind. And back in Kattegat, the Vikings arrive with the monk (no longer in monk’s clothing) in tow. Ragnar and Athelstan’s friendship is back on track. They are reunited and (for me) it feels so good. A big shout out to Fimmel and George Blagden for keeping me interested in this friendship.

Princess Aslaug: “And you, you came back.”

Athelstan: “I did. I came back because you and Ragnar, all of you, are my family.”

Torstein: “Drink, priest!”

Yay! I’m sorry but Athelstan returning with Ragnar is probably my favorite moment of season two (so far). I mean, I can’t say for sure. The finale is just a week away.

Other Thoughts

Photo Credit: Jonathan Hession/HISTORY
Photo Credit: Jonathan Hession/HISTORY

-The big battle scene: I didn’t know how the Vikings were going to survive. They needed more men and there was no way that was going to happen. Kings Ecbert and Aelle knew what they had to do. The Vikings were on their turf. All they had to do was send everything they had at them. And it worked. The Northmen were forced to retreat. The battle seemed to go on endlessly…not in a bad way. But in a “OMG the Vikings are being outplayed” kind of way. It was difficult to see them lose. And it was difficult to see Rollo injured.

Stupid King Horik put them in an impossible situation. He should have listened to Ragnar from the very beginning. Something tells me he won’t ever admit Ragnar was right. In fact, he chalked this defeat up to being fated by the gods. Nice way of validating one’s own idiocy, King.

-I can’t believe I’m saying this but I think I actually like Princess Aslaug now. I loved that she freed Porunn. I never saw that coming. And how great is it that Porunn wants to be just like Lagertha? Not a bad role model to have, right? Now she and Bjorn can be free to love without anything holding them back.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Hession/HISTORY
Photo Credit: Jonathan Hession/HISTORY

-I hate to say this but it really seems like Floki’s turning out to be one of this season’s villains. It seems like his alliance with King Horik is a very real one. And I can’t believe he told Ragnar he’s a man that can be trusted. Right now, he’s not. At least he isn’t to Ragnar. And I’m glad Ragnar finally addressed it. It felt like he’s stayed quiet on the fact he wasn’t invited to Floki’s wedding. And that Floki has stayed close to Horik this entire time. I wish there had been even more to that conversation but I’m thankful for the little we got.

-I love the brief Ragnar-Bjorn scene where Ragnar completely enveloped himself in a blanket. Like it was a shield that protected him from the world. Do you think Team Florik (Floki and Horik) are going to go after Bjorn Ironside? Just a thought (and the preview for the finale seems to back my suspicion up).

-Queen Kwenthrith continues to be hilarious. Of course she wants to breed with the Vikings.

I was so engrossed in everything that was happening in England that it was almost an intrusion when the action cut to Kattegat for the first time with only ten minutes left in the episode. I did, however, enjoy what went on in those scenes. But, it was still a bit jarring.

The season two finale for HISTORY’s Vikings airs Thursday May 1 @ 10/9c.

A video recap of “The Choice”

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