See Ragnar Lothbrok, the great King and the wandering ghost. Once he was a young Earl, and he sat on the shores of Kattegat, and spoke words of sorrow to his dead daughter. Now he is an old man — old in experience, old in beard length, old in the measure of friends still alive against friends long dead — and he stands on the water’s edge.
What awaits him, this revenant soul, returned now after long years spent away? His sons do not kill him; that counts as a blessing, I suppose. “I came back because I wanted to see what has become of my sons,” he tells them, the fruit of his loins. One thing that has happened: “It would appear you have another son.” Across the sea in Wessex, there is a boy named Magnus, the product of a coupling with Queen Kwenthrith. Magnus is in Wessex, and surely Ragnar’s destiny lies there, also.
Times have changed. “Kattegat has changed since you went away,” says Ragnar’s son, Ubbe. “It is a major trading center in the region.” His sons have made plans. Bjorn wants to sail for the Mediterranean; Hvitserk wants to sail with him. (They will be joined by King Harald, whose fame seems to have only increased since the failed raid on Paris. Harald arrives in Kattegat with his brother, and it’s clear their ambition has not dimmed with the passing of years.
The sons of Ragnar Lothbrok share ambitions. That’s not all they share. An attractive slave girl serves them dinner before serving them in another way. One after another they seduce her: Ubbe and Hvitserk and Sigurd. Though she is a slave, the brothers clearly view this intercourse as mutually beneficial and consensual: “She’s a human being,” says Ubbe. “We have to ask her.” Young Ivar the Boneless wants to share the girl, too; they ask her.
And meanwhile, Ragnar Lothbrok is asking. He is asking for men to travel with him. He is asking his old friends to… well, forgiveness is a strong word. He goes to visit Floki, his oldest friend still remaining, the man who built him the ship that brought him such fame. Will Floki come with him on his new journey? “I have a feeling if you don’t come with me, I will never see you again,” Ragnar says.
Floki is fervent in his belief, as always. “We’re sure to meet again in Valhalla,” he says. “All the old friends we shall meet again, and fight with in true fellowship! You and I, we shall sit among the gods!” Floki believes in the old teachings and has never deviated from them; he killed the monk Athelstan because the gods told him to. That action could have irrevocably sundered him from Ragnar. And perhaps it did: It was the death of Athelstan that led Ragnar to seek baptism, to become a Christian in the eyes of the Church, so he could see his friend again in heaven.
Recall, at the start of season 4, how we saw Ragnar dreaming through his illness. He saw the doors of Valhalla close to him. Surely he is self-aware enough to know a Christian heaven will be closed to him, too. (He has sinned, and he doesn’t appear to be seeking confession.) “I don’t know if I shall see you in Valhalla,” Ragnar tells Floki. And he says: “I love you.”
It is the moment Floki has been waiting for his whole life. “I love you too, Ragnar Lothbrok!” he says. “I love you too, Ragnar!” The old friends part; whether they shall meet again, only the gods know.
NEXT: Old loves