"Boneless" is the eighth episode of the second season of Vikings. It is the seventeenth episode of the series overall. It first aired on April 17, 2014. It was written by creator Michael Hirst and directed by Kari Skogland.
Princess Aslaug's latest prophecy comes to fruition as she readies to give birth once more; Ragnar and Horik have very different ideas about the true purpose of their trip to Wessex.
In Kattegat, Princess Aslaug is going through a painful labor, with a concerned Ragnar solemnly looking, but eventually the baby is successfully delivered with no small amount of help from Siggy. The baby's legs, however, are deformed. Observing this, Ragnar, realizes the accuracy of Aslaug's prophecy.
On the shores of the fjord, King Horik urges Lagertha to prepare her ships and forces for the journey to Wessex as quickly as possible. Porunn comes to bring them the news of Ragnar's newborn son. When Lagertha asks Bjorn who Porunn is, he tells she is a slave girl and that he is in love with her, making his mother smile.
Rollo and Bjorn, now as big and powerful as his uncle, spar in preparation of the raid on Wessex. Rollo, noticing Bjorn hesitating to strike, tells his nephew he should always finish off his opponents. "No man ever ran away," Rollo observes, "with his entrails hanging to his knees or his head cut off."
Ragnar tells Aslaug they should put their newborn child out of his misery, as he won't have a chance to survive anyway. Even Siggy, later, advises Aslaug to allow the baby to die, but the princess says she rather die than take the advice.In Wessex, Princess Kwenthrith of Mercia arrives, who killed her brother after King Offa died. Her act of fratricide is apparently well known to the rulers of Wessex.
Ragnar contemplates killing his newborn son, but ultimately hasn't the heart to harm a helpless infant, so he leaves it behind in the woods. Aslaug takes it back home, not being able to kill it either.
In Hedeby, Lagertha, now Earl Ingstad, informs her people that they will go raiding with Earl Ragnar and King Horik. She orders her ships provisioned and her warriors readied. Later, Einar, who beheaded Lagertha's late husband, Earl Sigvard, after she'd stabbed his eye, confronts Lagertha about their presumed deal, she would be Earl and he would marry her. She denies there was any deal or arrangement in place. He was disgusted with Earl Sigvard and wanted to get rid of him, but only acted against the Earl after Lagertha stabbed the Earl. Lagertha also points out that the people of Hedeby had any respect for him they would have made him Earl instead.
In Wessex, at a feast in King Ecbert's hall, Princess Kwenthrith inquires into Athelstan. When Ecbert informs her about Athelstan's time with the Norsemen, she is curious about their ways. When she asks if it is true Norsemen don't give abide by marital fidelity, Athelstan can only say that Viking morality is different then theirs. Kwenthrith remarks that he is boring. King Ecbert quickly changes the subject, expressing his shock at the death of her brother. She tells him he shouldn't worry. The pope, Kwenthrith says sarcastically, declared her brother a saint due to his exemplary life, adding that her sainted brother raped her when she was twelve. In light of the turmoil and struggle for power in Mercia, Kwenthrith delves into the reasons for King Ecbert's invitation, correctly saying the king of Wessex wants to throw his support behind whoever will ultimately prevail. Kwenthrith declares that she will win, but some help would be advantageous. Ecbert suggests his son Aethelwulf will advise her, which she flirtatiously accepts, despite Aethelwulf's recent marriage to the daughter of the King Aelle of Northumbria. King Ecbert suggests the hiring of some Norsemen as mercenaries to help as well. Later, King Ecbert and Princess Kwenthrith are passionately making love, but he finishes quickly, much to her disappointment. Exiting the bedchamber, Ecbert sends in three of his soldiers to attempt to quench Kwenthrith's apparently insatiable sexual appetite. "Good luck," the exhausted king says to one of his warriors.
In Kattegat, the fleet is finally assembled to set sail to Wessex. Princess Aslaug has named the baby Ivar, to which Ragnar adds the nickname "Ivar the Boneless". Floki, who will sail on Horik's ship on this voyage rather than Ragnar's, has drifted further from Ragnar and into King Horik's camp, as the King knows more about the dark gods that haunt him. As the fleet departs for Wessex, the women and children of Kattegat watch from the high bluffs and crags overlooking the fjord as the Viking fleet - the largest that Ragnar has yet assembled - sails away from Kattegat. Out on the open sea, Horik further courts Floki, declaring that a boatbuilder is worth ten earls. The king further sinks his talons into Floki, telling him he needs his ideas, which are worth than any amount of gold and silver as they come from the gods. On Ragnar's ship, meanwhile, Rollo notices Bjorn deep in thought. When Bjorn tells he is thinking about battle, Rollo encourages him, saying he has nothing to be fearful of, adding that he will always be on his side. After a seemingly calm, uneventful crossing, the fleet reaches the shores of Wessex.
King Ecbert informs Athelstan of the arrival of the Viking fleet, noting that Ragnar's black raven banner was seen among the ships. He expresses his willingness to negotiate with Ragnar, but states that he'll fight him if necessary, as he has already sent word to King Aelle to send warriors.
In the camp of the Norsemen, King Horik notices Torstein riding away. Questioned, Ragnar tells him he's sent word to King Ecbert of their arrival, saying he wants to talk to him. Infuriated by Ragnar's failure - or refusal - to consult with him first, Horik says Ecbert will most likely send an envoy to trick them or an army to annihilate them. Horik, clearly, fails to grasp Ragnar's vision of Viking colonization of England, a land of greater fertility that bears great potential in the mind of the farmer-turned-earl. Heavy on Horik's mind is their last foray into Wessex, when Ecbert's forces drove Horik out after Ragnar divided their forces to return to Kattegat in response to Jarl Borg's invasion. Later, Aethelwulf and a small retinue including half-a-dozen soldiers, arrives to talk. As the party from Wessex approaches, King Horik's son, Erlendur, drifts very discreetly out of sight. Aethelwulf greets Ragnar, relaying his father's desire to talk. As a token of his father's good will, he returns to Ragnar the armring he'd given to Athelstan, confirming to Ragnar that Athelstan lived. Ragnar accepts an invitation, that they will all come to Ecbert's villa. As Aethelwulf departs, King Horik gazes expectantly into the dense forest surrounding the Vikings' camp. On his way back to his father, Aethelwulf and his retinue are ambushed in the forest by Erlendur and a contingent of Horik's warriors. All are slaughtered, save Aethelwulf. The crown prince, it seems, was intentionally spared. Erlendur looks on as the injured Aethelwulf flees into the woods.
- Travis Fimmel as Earl Ragnar
- Katheryn Winnick as Lagertha/Earl Ingstad
- Clive Standen as Rollo
- Jessalyn Gilsig as Siggy
- Gustaf Skarsgård as Floki
- George Blagden as Athelstan
- Alexander Ludwig as Bjorn
- Alyssa Sutherland as Princess Aslaug
- Donal Logue as King Horik
- Linus Roache as King Ecbert
Additional Cast (in order of appearance)
- Barbara Griffin as Sorceress
- Edvin Endre as Prince Erlendur
- Moe Dunford as Prince Aethelwulf
- Sarah Greene as Princess Judith
- Philip O'Sullivan as Bishop Edmund
- Cathál Ó'Hallin as Hvitserk
- Cormac Melia as Ubbe
- Steve Wall as Einar
- Maude Hirst as Helga
- Jefferson Hall as Torstein
- Unknown Baby Actor as Ivar
- The title of the episode "Boneless" is a reference to Ivar the Boneless, one of the sons of Ragnar and Aslaug, the child to whom Aslaug gives birth in this episode.
- The reason behind Ivar's sobriquet "boneless" is uncertain to this day. It has been speculated to mean impotency (bone being slang for penis), lameness, or perhaps seemingly supernatural flexibility. There is also some speculation that Ivar suffered from osteogenesis imperfecta, "brittle bone disease". This was first proposed by Danish scholar Knud Seedorf.
- Ivar became king of the Viking city of Dublin in Ireland, where he is also believed to be the founder of the Ui Imair (House of Ivar) dynasty which ruled over parts of Ireland, the Hebrides and even Northumbria at one time between the 9th and 10th centuries. Ivar was also reported to have avenged his father's death by giving King Aelle the Blood Eagle. Historical accounts indicate that Ragnar's life ended in Aelle's infamous "snake pit," after the Viking hero was shipwrecked on the Northumbrian coast and captured by Aelle. "How the little pigs would grunt," Ragnar is reported to have said, "if they knew how the old boar suffers!" The "little pigs," Ragnar's term of endearment for his sons, did more than grunt. Word of their father's death galvanized them into action. They launched the fourteen-year long invasion of England by the "Great Heathen Army," from 865 to 878, during which Aelle reportedly fell under the knife and axe of Ivar.
- The song that plays when the Nordic fleet assembles to set sail for Wessex is "Helvegen" (The Way to Hell) composed by Wardruna.