'Vikings' Season 2 Episode 6: The Guardians
The best scene in Vikings 2.6 for me - the one which had the greatest historical resonance - was Ecbert and Athelstan looking at and discussing the ancient Roman art work and scrolls, an apex of human accomplishment at the time, that the Romans left behind in Britain. In a world before printing, the handwritten manuscript was the tenuous ambassador from the past, easily lost if not deliberately destroyed. This is what made that scene so significant, and what motivated me to write Unburning Alexandria. Rooms such as the one that contained Ecbert and Athelstan and the Roman works saved enough of our earlier civilizations that we can know them today. The Vikings, as Athelstan explains, did not have such written ambassadors. Their greatest exploits were consigned to oral sagas, which is why all we have of them now are wispy legends. This is why Columbus's voyage across the Atlantic, memorialized in one of the first products of the printing press, had so much more impact on our world than the earlier Viking voyages to America, spoken word of which was diffused in the Norse winds.
But over in Scandinavia, events were not so lofty or the stuff of legend is this episode. Although there has been little to like about King Horik, he was completely right about the necessity and value of Jarl Borg joining the raid and eventual settlement plans in England. And I thought Rollo made good and profound sense when he told Borg that, although he and Borg and most other men might be most motivated by revenge, Ragnar operated on a highly level - responding to what we might say today are cosmic callings. So, when Ragnar surprises us at the end by attacking Borg, after Borg has pledged his loyalty, it is a good twist in the story but a bad move as far as the ultimate success of the Vikings in the West. I admire Ragnar's putting his family first, but regret that he may have done at this at the expense of his destiny.
Meanwhile, there is nothing ambiguous about what Lagertha did to her husband, one of the most despicable characters in the series. It will be interesting to see what happens with her now. Will she take this as a sign that she belongs with Ragnar, as awkward as that might be? One thing is clear: Ragnar, now more than ever before, will need all the help he can get if and when he returns to England.