TV Rundown: Feb 21 | A Manhunt on 'Vikings', Secret Keeping on 'The Blacklist' - Plus, 'Pretty Little Liars'

Vikings didn't let up on the pulsating action in its second outing of the season. What made this chapter especially interesting was how the subplots of the series' less central characters (Judith, Queen Kwenthrith) managed to take center stage and prove so worthy of the attention. Were it of any lesser quality, "Vikings" would have been accused of one of TV’s worst sins: producing filler. Now to the major story points...

With an escaped Floki on the loose, a massive manhunt was launched to find him and leading the charge was one of Ragnar's younger sons, who would ultimately be the one to find him. Rags sent Floki to a cave to await his death and the confrontation between them spilled over into a violent marital row with Aslaug. Rags' hypocrisy at indicting Floki and his wife for their lack of loyalty and treachery was laughable, considering what he did to Lagertha and their family.

His capacity for cruelty was really showcased here and then as always, he did something by episode's end that showed his equal capacity for compassion. Digging the grave for Helga and Floki's daughter despite his physical condition and helping Helga lay her to rest without saying much at all, spoke volumes on a complex character that always keeps you guessing. It's those kind of moments that writer Michael Hurst so masterfully weaves into the Ragnar mythos that allows him enough humanity to teeter towards redemption and enough savagery to remind viewers why it will always allude him.

Over in Wessex, King Ecbert colluded to free Queen Kwenthrith and her son (who is supposedly Ragnar’s) from their imprisonment and Judith from a life of scholastic ignorance. Clearly, Ecbert did neither out of the goodness of his heart. His motivations for helping Judith are obviously meant to make her open to his seduction. Why he wants Kwenthrith and her son is less obvious. Perhaps he wants possession of Ragnar’s son for future leverage?

In Paris, Rollo continued working towards assimilating as a Frank, including sheering off his long locks. Gisla’s cruel reaction of laughter cut Rolls deeply as his falling face demonstrated. Once again, “Vikings” brilliantly toyed with viewer sentiments towards one of its main characters. At the end of last week’s season opener, Rollo’s behavior did not leave room for anyone to expect feeling any sympathy for him ever again and then with one expression, he earned it the very next episode.

You have to respect a show that constantly challenges its audience’s attitudes towards its characters. Of course, the ability to do that would not be possible without the talent of its cast. It’s unusual for a series to have one actor in its stable who has the ability to play an enigmatic figure with ethical complexity and “Vikings” has 3; Travis Fimmel, Clive Standen and Linus Roache - a triple threat of casting, if ever there was one.

Other storyline tidbits worth noting include:  The reveal of Rollo’s translator as a traitor, a total lack of Lagertha and Bjorn’s life hanging by a thread. The fight scene between Aethelwulf and his opponent was one of the series’ best; capturing the raw brutality and waning vigor of its warriors to terrific effect. In summation, “Kill the Queen” was another episode of “Vikings” that did not disappoint.
The Blacklist explored how secrets don’t stay buried forever and how their specter will eventually come back to haunt in “The Caretaker (No. 78)”. Red did his usual, using the week’s Blacklister to gather information for his larger agenda. There was heavy hinting about the big secret he is keeping from Liz and despite another heartfelt plea from Dembe to come clean; Red continued to keep her in the dark. This episode was a surprisingly happy one for Liz. She and Tom continued making plans for the future which include getting remarried. The proposal gave viewers another heartfelt scene between the couple, very much on par with last week’s episode ending one.

Cheerful moments are hard to come by on “The Blacklist” and the show has generously given fans’ two consecutive weeks of them. Unfortunately Tom and Liz’s happiness will be short-lived because this is a TV show and couples can never stay happy on them for very long. Hopefully the Keens will find a way to endure. Not boding very well for that outcome was Tom’s possibly fatal decision to make a peace pact with his backstabbing associate/ex-girlfriend Gina. Whenever a character in a perilous position gives another their back, there are consequences.

The Caretaker was another one of those Blacklisters who did the wrong things for all the right reasons, making him a tough to consider as a full blown villain. By episode’s end one couldn’t really find as much fault with him as his daughter. One angle of the show that’s sort of frustrating is when there’s a Blacklister that is not a clear cut villain, there’s no follow-up on what happens to them. Do they end up in prison? Does Red recruit them for his private task force? It’s unclear. All in all, it was another satisfying episode that benefited from the comedic highlight of Aram forcing an apology out of Ressler. Aram vs. Ressler never gets old.

Pretty Little Liars rebounded from last week’s incoherent episode with “We’ve All Got Baggage”. Spencer confronted her mom about her health and divulged the rival campaign’s knowledge of her prognosis. That said, Mrs. Hastings’ diagnosis remained arcane to viewers. Hanna helped Aria’s mom with her wedding and contemplated whether you can reunite with your first love. Aria remarried her parents and dealt with the aftermath of her new boyfriend Liam learning about all of her deceptions, including that Fitz is her ex-boyfriend. Interestingly, he didn’t probe about the legalities of that before reconciling with her.

New ‘A’ continued taunting Emily with the claim they have her eggs. There was still no explanation given as to how they simultaneously destroyed and stole them. Ali showed up at Aria’s doorstep by episode’s end wanting to marry Charlotte’s shrink and yet again, Aria looked as if she was going to be sick. What was all that horrifying about Ali’s request? Who knows? She had a similar expression when she was asked to preside over her parents’ nuptials. 

The central storylines started to pick up in this episode. Unfortunately Emily is still getting the brunt of new ‘A’s wrath. If what new ‘A’ says is true, they have her eggs and are planning to use them to create a child. That might be the worst thing any Liar has had to suffer on the show. All of this and she was terrorized in a parking lot by a truck trying to run her over and then set-up to take the fall for Charlotte’s murder. Why is Emily always ‘A’s number 1 target? It’s perplexing. The other bad news for this episode: no Mona.

Photo Credit: "Vikings" Promo Poster/History Channel, "The Blacklist"/NBC

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