We have seen the golden gates of Valhalla and they are glorious. So stunning that they look like they could be out of a dream. And that’s exactly what they are … a vision of King Ragnar’s (Travis Fimmel) in the Season 4 premiere of “Vikings.”
But Ragnar’s fantasy quickly turns into a nightmare when the gateway to his Nordic paradise closes in his face. That’s how the first episode of the History Channel series kicks off, with Ragnar questioning whether he’s fit to enter the grand hall of Asgard. Between battling against Rollo (Clive Standen) and assaulting his wife (Alyssa Sutherland), Ragnar subconsciously fears that Odin will reject him from utopia.
And Ragnar should be scared because according to the Seer (John Kavanagh), his death is imminent. While the King lays sick in his bed, plagued with troubling hallucinations, Queen Aslaug tracks down the all-knowing oracle to ask a question about her fate.
“I want to know if a woman will succeed to the kingdom of Kattegat,” Queen Aslaug inquires.
“You mean after the death of Ragnar?” he asks, adding that it is unwise to imagine the death of a king. “Yes, I have seen it,” he answers. “A woman will one day rule Kattegat.” But the only question remains — will it be Queen Aslaug?
And that’s not the only unanswered question of the episode. Queen Aslaug is unable to answer Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig) about where Porunn (Gaia Weiss) has mysteriously vanished to.
“Nobody knows [where she is]. She just disappeared one night. It seems a long time ago now,” Queen Aslaug says, revealing that the shieldmaiden left behind Bjorn’s daughter. But Bjorn can hardly stand the sight of his child, which is a surprise considering Ragnar’s eldest son was raised to make family a priority.
Bjorn’s mood changes significantly when warriors start loading Parisian riches into their camp.
“So Paris was everything Athelstan (George Blagden) said it would be?” she questions.
“Yes and everything Ragnar dreamed,” he adds.
But the ill King is unable to enjoy the goods brought back from Frankia or take charge for that matter. So, Bjorn steps up to the plate, taking on his father’s leadership role. He riles up the crowd with a speech about how unstoppable the Vikings are before ordering the arrest of Floki for the murder of Athelstan.
While shackled up in the middle of Kattegat, Helga (Maude Hirst) reveals to her husband that Ragnar has woken from his sleep.
“Helga, my beautiful, faithful wife — mother of my child — Helga, please help me escape,” he says, fearful that Ragnar will kill him. But Ragnar had no intentions of killing Floki or even arresting his long-time friend. But because his ill-advised son publicly aired out Floki’s wrongdoing, Ragnar will now have to confront Floki and their problem.
But that isn’t the only thing worrying the King. He’s also not pleased to hear his brother has been left behind in Paris and questions whose “stupid idea” that was. Looks like Bjorn isn’t quite ready to be king after all. And to prove to his father that he can survive on his own, Bjorn makes the bold decision to go off into the wilderness.
In Frankia, "Vikings" fans watch as Rollo marries Princess Gisla (Morgane Polanski) against her will. She is disgusted at the thought of becoming the wife of a pagan monster and cries throughout the entire ceremony as well as their consummation night. But Rollo can’t stand to see his bride in such distress and orders everybody swarming their bed chambers out.
“You are my wife. No need to be afraid,” he says to her. But she pulls out a knife and threatens to cut his throat. Unamused, Rollo falls asleep.
Meanwhile in Hedeby, Kalf (Ben Robson) announces that he and Lagertha will share earlship despite being unmarried — a declaration that comes unwelcomed by Einar (Steve Wall).
“Your arrangement to share the earldom with Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) is unacceptable,” Einar says, claiming that it was his family who made Kalf Earl and them who can easily take his position away. “It was not part of the agreement. You stated your desire to overthrow all the Lothbrok dynasty and we believed you.”
So, Kalf tells everyone disapproving of the shared earldom to carve a mark into the post, which will allow them to decide the fate of Lagertha. Einar is the first to slice into the wood before encouraging his followers to do so.
“There, Kalf. You have your answer,” Einar says.
“And here is mine,” Kalf responds, ordering his warriors to attack with their new Frankish weapons.
An arrow is shot into Einar’s throat, which allows Lagertha to have a moment to shine. She takes out her knife and dismembers him.
“I should have done this a long time ago, Einar,” she says to the traitor.
Betrayal plays a large theme in the Season 4 premiere. A Northman reveals to Rollo that several men back at their camp are hesitant to follow the lead of a Christian and Frankish noble. They do not want to fight against Ragnar. Rollo agrees to come back to the camp to put their minds at ease but instead he arrives with a Frankish army behind him, slaughtering the entire campsite. A Viking cries out with his last breath that Ragnar will return to avenge their wrongful deaths.
But first, Ragnar has to deal with his own conspirator. He walks up to Floki in the middle of the square to confront his friend.
“You betrayed me. You betrayed my trust and my love for you,” Ragnar says as a crowd grows around them. “You killed Athelstan out of jealousy. That is the truth.”
But Floki insists he did it because the “Gods willed him.” He then questions if Ragnar will execute him for his actions — another question that goes unanswered in the Season 4 premiere of “Vikings.”
"Vikings" airs Thursday nights at 10 p.m. EST on the History Channel.