'Pretty Little Liars' Perplexes, While 'Vikings' Simmers

Pretty Little Liars might as well have taken place in an alternate universe for this episode. For the first time in the history of the show, Hanna was the least likable Liar, Toby was more likable than Caleb and Ezria was tolerable to the point of this die-hard detractor supporting a reunion between the long broken-up couple.

Hanna was almost unrecognizable in “Burn This”; she was rude to her mom and a complete jerk to Mona. All Miss Marin was trying to do was throw her daughter a wedding shower and Hanna behaved dismissively antagonistic and downright nasty about the whole soiree.

Most frustrating was there was nothing plot wise to explain her change of heart concerning her pending marriage, after last week's episode ended with her gleefully setting a wedding date. Perhaps it was Spaleb. The thing lost on Hanna is that Caleb has not given their relationship or lack thereof a second thought. He seems completely devoted to Spencer, as annoying as that is.

The episode’s biggest emotional wallop came in Mona’s heartbreaking storyline wherein she tried to reconnect with Hanna. Mona has done nothing except try to prove herself to her former BFF and the Liars as a whole, ever since her stint as A. Apparently they can only give forgiveness to Ali. Mona was a victim of Charlotte too and during the Liars and her captivity in the Dollhouse all she did was try to help them, even when it meant she ended up cold and alone in a hole.

It’s beyond frustrating to still see her having to beg for their affection. They're not worth it and she needs to have more self-respect than to continue groveling for those who kick dirt in her face. Hanna's flippant attitude towards her was especially grating. At least Emily showed some compassion and by episode's end was trying to learn some answers instead of making condemnatory assumptions.

Janel Parrish deserves major kudos for yet another fabulous performance as Mona. The hurt she displayed with one sweeping expression said more than any dialog ever could, though her wistful delivery of the line “it seems whatever I do ends up this way: good intentions that look like trash" only enhanced an already terrific turn.
Vikings slowed things down a few notches for "Mercy". The major plot points were as follows: Rags told a hard-to-follow tale to his children. Rollo was disrespected for the zillionth time by his gruesome bride Gisla, which fueled his desire to learn his new wife’s language. Bjorn went "Revenant" on a bear and Athelstan appeared to Ragnar and King Ecbert in a set of bizarre visions. In Ragnar's apparition Athelstan asked for "mercy" which Rags presumed to be in reference to Floki's punishment. Ecbert’s dream helped him realize that Athelstan was dead due to the symbology of his old pal rustling some papers and disappearing before Ecbert could touch him.

What is the deal with Ecbert's obsession with Athelstan, by the way? The extent of his fixation on him is hard to understand. He even went so far as to arrange for Judith to seduce Athelstan so they’d produce a child. His motives for that remain shrouded in mystery. Why Athelstan, who should've been perceived as an ordinary priest by Ecbert, drew such a reaction from him is confounding. In contrast, Ragnar's affection for Athelstan makes a lot more sense. Ragnar was curious about Christianity, impressed by Athelstan’s knowledge of the non-Viking world and each was fascinated with the other's cultures. 

The least surprising development of the hour was Floki being set free by Rags and getting away with murder in the process. If one was feeling sympathetic towards Floki following the death of his daughter that emotion quickly evaporated, when he made a devoted Helga hold a bowl over his head to keep water from dripping on him so he wouldn't go mad. When the poor women fell asleep exhausted from her ordeal with her crazy husband and the loss of her daughter, she was quickly awoken by a selfish Floki demanding she continue bowl duty.

If there was any doubt as to what a low life he is that pretty much summed it up. It’s been rather obvious that Ragnar’s been looking for a way to avoid executing him and Athelstan’s “message” was an easy excuse not to. It is not the first time he's showed mercy to a traitor. He once spared Rollo by using a trick coin to decide his fate and look how that's turned out.

The strangest thing about the episode was how diminished the Vikings storyline was in general and has been over the last two episodes. Despite being the namesakes of the show, events in Wessex seem to be dominating the series now more than ever. It's not that those characters aren't interesting (they could easily carry their own spin-off) it's just that a show called Vikings isn't necessarily the best place to showcase them. So far this season Judith has had more airtime than Lagertha, who has barely been on-screen at all since season 4 began.

She was completely missing from the previous episode and in “Mercy” she had one scene but no speaking lines. She is one of the most popular characters on the show so her absence is startling. All of this and there is major hinting that Ragnar's death is imminent. Should that prove to be the case, the series is headed down a very uncertain path. As frustrating and distressing as Ragnar can be, there really is no "Vikings" without him.