Blood Eagle, the title of this week’s episode of the History Channel’s show Vikings, teems with brutality and pain. A method of simultaneous torture and execution, this is what Ragnar promises to inflict on Jarl Borg at the end of the previous episode. This week, we see King Horik plead with Ragnar to stay the execution until a new ally can be found in their plotted revenge on King Ecbert. Shortly thereafter, King Horik speaks with Jarl Borg and brings Jarl Borg his preciously creepy “first wife” (i.e. her skull). The two discuss Ragnar, and Jarl Borg puts the idea in King Horik’s head that Ragnar has ambitions for the throne, and encourages King Horik to arrange Jarl Borg’s escape and Ragnar’s murder.
Meanwhile, Floki finds out he is to be a father, and marries his love, Helga. While he is, as Helga states, “complicated, Floki accepts his impending fatherhood and the wedding ceremony is joyous and raucous. Though a happy occasion, Floki does not include Ragnar in the wedding ceremony, nor does he ask his blessing in the marriage. The reasoning behind this is unclear, but the disrespect to Ragnar’s leadership is apparent. Simultaneous to the wedding between Helga and Floki, is the wedding of alliance between the children of King Ecbert and King Aelle. This represents a strengthening of Wessex in preparation for an attack by Ragnar and his allies. We fans sense a grand battle brewing, and we can’t wait for some epic Viking bloodshed!
Following the wedding, King Horik returns to Jarl Borg’s cell, agreeing to an alliance against Ragnar. Ragnar on the other hand finds a new ally in a surprising place, an unknown leader know as Earl Engstad. Mysterious and unknown the Earl insists upon meeting Ragnar in the woods. As it turns out, Earl Engstad is none other than Lagertha. The alliance is formed and Ragnar feels the gods are playing a joke on him as the women in his life are once again by his side, one as wife, one as his equal and his ally in battle.
Bjorn in an act of seeming kindness pays a visit to Jarl Borg, bringing him a morsel of food. The final scene of the episode is the most brutal and most difficult to watch. In spite of King Horik’s assurance of an escape, and Bjorn’s kind act, Jarl Borg is executed Viking-style. The brutal blood eagle, the episode’s namesake, is disturbing (more so that this was a technique actually used in human history).
If you haven’t heard of it, the person is placed (kneeling) with their arms out in a position oddly similar to a cruxifiction. Then the executioner cuts into the prisoner’s back separating the ribs from the spine. The ribs are pulled outward from where they attached to the spine forming the “eagle’s wings,” the lungs fall out through the incision no longer supported by the rib cage, filling the open “wings” thus creating the blood eagle. The victim eventually dies from blood loss but not before excruciating pain. And this is how this week’s episode ended. Pain. Some in the crowd passed out, others cried and cringed and some like Floki and Lagertha stood unflinching and strong. Ragnar walks away leaving Jarl Borg strung up and dead. And thus ends another episode of Vikings. Tune in next week, April 17th, 2014 on the History Channel for more Viking Love and Hate.