[Warning: In-depth discussion of season 4 episodes]
So on this episode we actually get to understand a little of what Bjorn has been doing in the wild for the whole of two episodes. He's becoming 'a man' and his rite of passage is killing a bear (a gigantic bear, for that matter). He tries to hunt, but fails. He gets drunk and then he wakes up, vomits and decides that he's going to kill a bear. Yup, a typical day in the wild, one might say.
But because of a previous moment we share with Earl Kalf and Erlendur back in Hedeby, when they decide to send a 'berserker' to assassinate Bjorn, I was half-expecting him to bite the dust every other scene. It just created the wrong kind of expectation, since nothing of the sort actually happened this episode (if you discount the bear's killing attempt). A nice sequence though is when Bjorn finally dispatches the bear and Ragnar sees him back at Kattegat, as a boy, walking towards him. Nice touch. ('Hey daddy, I'm all grown up now' kind of nice touch).
In Paris, Rollo joins St. Eulalia's festivities in court and is, once more, laughed upon by princess Gisla (I'm truly starting to hate this one). Even worse than that, she accuses him of wanting to decapitate her - which he has no intention of doing - and throws her drink on his face in front of the court. Bad Gisla! Rollo leaves the room and is joined by his new best friend Odo who, after understanding Rollo's miming indicating he wants to learn the language, promises to find him a tutor. This friendship will definitely be worth paying attention to (all I wanna say is: so long Emperor).
Wessex brings us a lot of love this episode. We get Judith giving herself up to Ecbert - again, but freely this time. And upon his return home with the queen of Mercia in tow, Aethelwulf also surrenders to his desire for her (a lot of surrendering here). Interestingly though, the plot unfolds in a way that Ecbert, the king of Wessex, now has Ragnar's son under his roof (I bet he has many a plan on how to use the boy already).
Now, for the best parts of 'Mercy', we get both kings, Ragnar and Ecbert, having a ghostly encounter with their mutual friend Aethelstan. He appears to both of them, on different manners though (analyse at will here). He finds Ecbert in his painting room and blesses the king, making the sign of the cross ahead of him. As Ecbert mentions to Judith the next day, Aethelstan is quiet though, something quite different from his encounter with Ragnar. In Kattegat, Aethesltan washes Ragnar's feet, much like Christ, and pleads him for forgiveness (one must assume he means for Floki), by saying the episode's title 'Mercy' three times. A truly beautiful scene indeed (bye Aethesltan).
As a result to this, Judith and Ecbert bond even further through their love for Aethelstan and Ragnar heeds his friend's advice, releasing Floki from the cave. Strangely enough, he seems to have done it for Helga, when he tells her she's "suffered enough" (what about Floki stretched up there?).
Mercy was the best episode so far this season, having Ecbert's "We're all sinful, Judith" line being the best one. What will Floki do now he's freed and how will Bjorn escape his berserker attack? First time this season I'm actually curious of what's to come!