The tide turns.
What They Say:
Episode 16. “History of Beasts”
Askeladd and his men are attacked by the English army in the village where they had planned to camp during the winter. Askeladd captures their captain and interrogates him to find out how the English knew where they were, and discovers that Thorkell is fast approaching. The news of Thorkell’s arrival sends waves of shock among Askeladd’s followers.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Thorkell is on the move.
He has the location of Prince Canute and rallies his men. They take to the snow-covered fields, marching in a steady and well-rested pace toward their quarry. Thorkell is a simple man who wants for one thing, bloodshed. He doesn’t even know who Askeladd is, but there are two among his numbers he forbids his men from killing. One is the Prince, and the other is Thorfinn.
Askeladd’s men delight in torturing the Englishman that they captured. They want to know how they found them, who they told, and how far away the enemy forces are. The man resists all attempts to coerce the information from him. Physical torture isn’t actually a good means of getting information from people, but Askeladd is pressed for time. He doesn’t have time to get into the head of some random soldier. A pair of sheers is a quicker route to getting what he wants.
Yet the information still doesn’t come. Instead, Thorkell’s men do. They aren’t far away now and it’s time to move.
Yet moving the Prince is easier said than done. Canute has a hard time accepting Ragnar’s death. The suddenness of his demise shocks him, the idea that he won’t be given Christian burial rites chaffs him. Canute throws a fit and has to be carried off to the sled. Thorfinn is still assigned to look after the Prince, much to his annoyance. Bjorn actually shows the most sense of anyone in the troop. He can see Askeladd is under pressure but stands by his leader even after he realizes that Askeladd might be about to cut and run.
Askeladd suspects his men might turn on him even before they begin to desert. The first few question Askeladd’s changing luck. Whispers spread around the camp as the men are forced to flee. Some of his men confront Askeladd and tell him they will not run and instead will go to Thorkell. Askeladd lets them leave, rather than waste his energy fighting them. Askeladd knows what Thorkell is, even if they don’t. They are not welcomed in Thorkell’s troop. They are meat awaiting Thorkell’s twin axes.
At the shallow river, the rest of Askeladd’s men start to see through his flimsy logic. Destroying the bridge is a poor tactic that isn’t likely to slow down Thorkell’s men. They obey the command to take the bridge apart as Askeladd prepares to have Bjorn escape with the Prince. As Thorkell’s men crest the ridge Askeladd’s men finally turn. Askeladd’s luck has finally run out, and whatever effort he put into building this fighting force is about to be dashed in pursuit of his dream.
The ramping tension of the last several episodes is about to pay off in a big way. The cascading effect of mutiny among Askeladd’s men is reasonable from their position. Askeladd’s desperate gamble to gain power over the Danes is about to come crashing down around him. There are precious few among his men who will follow him, and one of those people is a boy who wants to kill him. Thorkell is a hound on the hunt for sport, and Askeladd is the fox.
Episode Grade: B
Streamed by: Amazon