The price for “Vengeance” is paid in blood, as the barbarians are made to answer for their insult to the Romans.
This recap of Barbarians season 1, episode 2, “Vengeance”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Barbarians episode 2 opens with some context to the wolf’s teeth we saw Ari collect in the Roman camp in the previous episode — they were collected by him, Thusnelda, and Folkwin as children, right before Ari was poached by the legion. They were childhood friends and these teeth represent their shared near-death experience. The last Ari saw of the village he was being dragged away as a pledge to keep the peace.
Now, Ari stands before his father again only to be told his mother died from a fever six winters prior. He shows Segimer a sand timer as evidence of Rome’s splendor and explains that he knows they have the eagle. If it’s returned, Varus will never know it was them. He’s insistent that his name is no longer Ari — he’s a prefect in the Roman Legion now, and his name is Arminius.
Elsewhere, we see Segestes tell Varus that he knows where the eagle is (the Romans describe his efforts to speak the language as being akin to “a toothless w***e trying to recite poetry.”) This, of course, isn’t the first time in history that an occupying force believing themselves to be superior and more civilized has run roughshod over native peoples, and it certainly won’t be the last, but it’s always aggravating to see.
Thusnelda and Folkwin are pleased to see Ari, but he quickly reveals to them that he found the wolf’s tooth that proves it was them who stole the standard. He tries to explain to them that their only means of survival is peace with Rome, but Thusnelda refuses to make peace with the empire who crippled her brother. This isn’t exactly a happy reunion.
Back at the Roman camp, it becomes obvious that Segestes is trying to negotiate with Varus to become the tribe’s Reik — he insists the Governor will need people like him to maintain peace in Germania, which is a fair point, but he’s selling out his people to make it. That kind of thing doesn’t go down well among the barbarians, as we see when Ari is surrounded and called out about the execution he carried out in the previous episode (told you that would come back to bite him!). He fights with Berulf and ultimately wins, but not without effort. When he turns his back, though, Berulf attacks him from behind, and Folkwin is forced to intervene. It’s clear that the Romans might be better equipped and organized, but the barbarians are better, more bloodthirsty fighters.
Case in point: When Berulf recovers, the first thing he does is set out to beat up on Ari some more. He demands that Segimer sends him outside. The old man provides a distraction while Ari escapes with the eagle, much to Folkwin’s dismay. He gives chase on foot and is somehow able to keep pace with Ari’s horse. They argue a little, but Ari is insistent that returning the eagle is the only way to save them. Folkwin makes one last effort to stop him, but Ari clubs him around the head with the standard, leaving him face-down in the forest.
The Legion, meanwhile, is being led back to the village by Segestes, who tries to finesse a way to not be seen with them. Varus, though, isn’t having that, insisting that Segestes rides in right alongside him. Varus thanks Segimer for his sons, but he wants the standard and he wants Folkwin. Segimer won’t betray his people, though, so Varus turns to Segestes to point out his house. Thusnelda tries to warn the family, but the father ends up shanked, and Segestes prevents his daughter from intervening further. The Romans demand Folkwin be delivered to them, and if not the consequences will be dire.
Thus, while Folkwin staggers through the woods and a borderline delirious Ari drops the standard in a lake, Folkwin’s family are crucified. Naturally, everyone turns on Segestes, who argues that it wasn’t him who betrayed the peace, but Folkwin, and this is merely the price that must be paid for peace. It’s a hefty one.
When Folkwin eventually returns to the village, Thusnelda advises that he go no further, but he does anyway and finds his family still suspended from the crosses. She tells him he has to leave, but Berulf and the men arrive and tell him they’ll follow him. Folkwin is insistent that he has to take the crosses down, but Berulf, at Thusnelda’s urging, knocks him out and carries him away. If he survives this, Folkwin is definitely at risk of CTE from all these concussions.
Ari returns to the camp and requests that Varus send him back to Rome or to another province where he can be made use of. Varus says he has already recommended him for a knighthood, but he has one more task for him to complete: Bring him the head of Folkwin Wolfspeer.
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