By Darren Franich
January 03, 2018 at 11:16 PM EST
Jonathan Hession/History

Bjorn Ironsides returns home to a changed world. His brothers have gone to war. His mother has lost her lover. His own love for Torvi has cooled, frozen, splintered into a hundred pieces. Bjorn is troubled. He worries Ivar will destroy his father’s legacy for all time. “Our father’s legacy lives through us, Bjorn,” says Ubbe. “Or he doesn’t live at all.” This week, Bjorn lives up to Ragnar’s legacy of falling for foreign princesses on first sight. The Sami people have come from afar to buoy Lagertha’s forces, bringing with them Princess Snaefrid. After parting ways with Torvi, Bjorn asks for Snaefrid’s hand in marriage. She is a surprising woman, telling tales of half-castration, tying Bjorn up in knots.

All Viking life is tied up in knots now. In the enemy village, Astrid discovers that she is pregnant. King Harald is very happy to hear this, not realizing that Astrid’s baby might be the product of the horrifying assault she suffered last week. What a tangled romantic web Ragnar’s family weaves! Ubbe kisses Torvi, angering his wife, who continues to insist that Ubbe should betray Lagertha and wait for his brothers to kill their mother’s killer.

Lagertha herself wonders what the future holds. She tells her son that, someday, “I would like to go back to being a farmer. Living the simple life. Watching the sun rise in the morning and set in the evening.” This is a familiar yearning — her long-ago husband Ragnar felt the same way, all the more so as he rose to power and then descended into obscurity. Where does Lagertha fall now? Is she aiming toward a great victory, or falling toward her grave? “It will be Ragnarok,” is how Bjorn describes the upcoming battle. “Ivar will be like the wolf Fenrik. And he will try to tear the sky apart.”

Ivar is making plans. He plays what looks like chess, the same game he once played with young Prince Alfred. He discusses many things with his pet bishop, Heahmund. They talk of the Virgin Mary and of miracles, and of Heahmund’s purpose. Ivar isn’t sure if he can trust his warrior priest, and maybe he doesn’t care. Young Ivar recognizes the value of improvisation. All of his enemies assemble in Kattegat to try to sort out his plans: Will he attack from the water, or from the land? Ubbe advises caution about moving all their troops away from Kattegat; Bjorn reminds everyone that Ivar never does the obvious thing. Lagertha bets on her son’s tactics. It could be the bet of her life.

Alfred himself is searching for his father. He goes to the monastery that Ragnar Lothbrok attacked eons ago, hears the story of the monk who left a Viking slave and returned an apostate. Alfred learned much from his grandfather, who saw great value in all religions and put little stock in the Church’s traditionalism. He advises the abbott to consider delivering church services in English, the language of the people: suggesting the Vatican II reforms a mere millennium early. In the evening, he speaks to his dead father, promising that he cannot be as humble as Athelstan was. He prays the “Our Father” and hears the voice of Athelstan, or perhaps it is just the wind.

The Full Moon rises, promising war in the Viking world. Someday soon, whoever wins this battle will return to England, to the land of Alfred. All action trends toward battle, and death. Is there another way? In the distant land of the gods, Floki leads his people to the place he has declared will be their home. Some fear the geyser of water, but others recognize the blessing of the gods. One young couple makes love in a hot spring, and when the woman is with child, they celebrate the impending birth of the first person born in this new land. Floki himself dreams of a new society, without axes, without kings. But suspicion builds. There are those who think they have come to the land of the devils. And there are those who do not trust Floki. For who can believe a man who doesn’t want to be king?