Oh, that Ragnar Lothbrok. Always getting himself into a pickle. First he abandoned his quaint farmer's life to dabble in politics, with varied results; Then he got himself hooked on some sort of crazy Chinese opiates; And now, he's returned from a lengthy absence to lead the worst viking raid in history towards guaranteed defeat.
Suffice to say, this has to be one of Ragnar's least spectacular plans to date on #Vikings. But the weary old man may have some craftiness left in him yet. After all, he assured Ecbert that his long absence was part of a "larger and bolder strategy".
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The Master Plan
Sure, he may have been mocking his old pal by borrowing from his signature cocky remarks; But if you put together the pieces of the puzzle, it's obvious that King Ragnar still has a few tricks up his sleeve. So what exactly has he been planning?
Where In The World Is Ragnar Lothbrok?
Ragnar has been gone for a long time, and he's now Kattegat's most despised heathen. His last raid was hardly a success, and he was completely overtaken by his drug addiction. Not to mention he hid the death of the Wessex viking settlement from his people. But why did he just leave? And where did he go?
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, show creator Michel Hirst explained his absence, saying that Ragnar had "gone away to lick his wounds and deal with what’s happened to him". It's unsurprising that Ragnar would want to retreat after such a shameful attempt to lead his people to glory. Not to mention the death of Athelstan.
Where he went is unknown, and perhaps unimportant. What is important is how his solitude seems to have changed him: He's calmer, slightly wiser and has a very different perspective on what his priorities are.
His lengthy absence was also the exact right amount of time to plot his revenge on Ecbert, allowing him to formulate the perfect plan.
Figuring Out His Fate
After Ragnar returned to Kattegat, he made his peace with his loved ones— then tried to hang himself. But wait, how does that fit in with his grand plan for revenge?
Ragnar's attempted suicide was a test to see if he was really meant to return to England, or just give up. Hanging from the tree, he found himself suddenly surrounded by ravens, which have been symbols of significant events throughout Vikings. The rope breaks, and he falls to the ground, alive.
Clearly, Ragnar was meant to keep fighting. After all, the Seer prophesized that Ragnar wouldn't die until "the blind man sees"— whatever that means. Clearly the gods had more in store for Ragnar.
A viking cannot reach valhalla by committing suicide— they must die in battle. Which means that if Ragnar wants to die, he could very well be on a suicide mission of a different kind.
Doomed To Fail
Ragnar sure did assemble a pretty lousy raiding party for someone who's led more than a few decent raids in their time. And while beggars certainly can't be choosers, he didn't exactly manage to bribe the bravest warriors in the village with his hoard.
Luckily, Ragnar wasn't after accomplished killers for his raid. He simply needed a team of skilled rowers to get him and Ivar to Wessex. Unfortunately, they were of no use to him once he'd reached the shore.
Turning Ivar Into A Man
Ragnar asked all of his sons to accompany him to Wessex, but they had better things to do. Except, of course, for Ivar. And while this may seem like a bit of a cop-out, that's certainly not how Ragnar sees things.
Ragnar had always encouraged Ivar to participate in things that any normal viking would. He didn't see his son as less just because he was crippled; He wanted all of his sons to become legendary figures in viking history.
Ragnar knows that Ivar seeing his father — who he has always greatly admired — beaten and locked up by the Saxons will make him incredibly angry. Even more so when he finds out that Ecbert has turned him in to Aelle to be executed.
This is where Ivar's guaranteed safe passage home (a promise made by Ecbert) is important. Ivar will return home, filled with rage over the unjust death of his father. He'll tell his brothers, and together they'll fulfil their destinies of taking over England, becoming the great sons of Ragnar Lothbrok. And if the real-life viking sagas are anything to go by, they're going to accomplish some truly terrible things.
As for Ivar, he'll finally be able to put that teenage angst to good use and fight with his brothers. The teasers of Season 4B confirm that he will indeed make it home to Kattegat:
While Ragnar's plan is brilliant, there's one major downside to it: we're going to lose our favorite Vikings character. Or will we?
As much as dying at the hands of King Aelle would guarantee Ragnar's passage to valhalla, he may not be in hot pursuit of death after all. Perhaps he knew Ecbert would trade him off to Aelle, and he still plans to defeat him. His embarrassing collapse on the ground after being released from his cage in Ecbert's castle could very well be an act, and he may just have a bit of fight left in him yet.
It's crucial that Ragnar's sons believe he's been killed in order to return to Wessex and straight up murder those insufferable Saxon kings, but that doesn't necessarily mean he has to actually die. Who knows— Ragnar may just return to Kattegat to rule alongside his old flame Lagertha after all.
Will Ragnar meet his fate on the next episode of Vikings?
(Source: The Hollywood Reporter)