A major change in leadership occurs in “A New Reik”, and a daring, large-scale plan begins to develop that might cost the Romans everything.
This recap of Barbarians season 1, episode 4, “A New Reik”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
The creepy-looking shaman woman Thusnelda met in the woods in the previous episode turns out not to have been in her head after all, at least not according to “A New Reik”, which opens with a frantically-edited sequence of Ansgar finger-painting prognostications of a coming battle on the wall in blood. That battle is clearly the moment that the season is building towards.
Speaking of Thusnelda, she runs into Ari and Folkwin in the woods, and she’s not exactly impressed that Ari has switched sides yet again. Folkwin reckons he should fight with them, but Ari claims just to have been clearing a debt; he clearly knows the might of Rome, and how unlikely it is that the Germanic tribes, even aligned, could topple the empire. But Thusnelda thinks that him burying Folkwin’s family shows where he really belongs. Ari insists his life, though, is in Rome, and he takes a replacement head from one of the slain barbarians to show to Varus, “proof” that Folkwin has been killed.
Speaking of Varus, we see him entertaining Segimer in Barbarians season 1, episode 4, who can’t provide adequate tribute and is unwilling to provide slaves to make up the shortfall. But Varus has another idea: He wants Segimer to promote Arminius to the tribe’s Reik, which would, from Varus’s perspective, give him a loyal soldier within the Germanic ranks. The problem with that, at least as far as Segimer is concerned, is that a son doesn’t succeed his father until his father isn’t around anymore. There are very few circumstances in which Segimer survives this season.
Folkwin’s next bright idea is to return to the Bructeri despite their betrayal and fool them using their superstition, playing on their belief that Thusnelda is a seer. Ari, meanwhile, delivers the severed head to Varus, who falls for the ruse, but is told he won’t be returning to Rome, much to his dismay. Varus reminds him he was born a barbarian and can best serve Rome in Germania, as the Reik of the Cherusci. Ari is crushed, having believed Varus raised him to be his son, even when he claims that Segimer agrees with him: “Old wolves know when to leave the pack.” We see Segimer do just that, spiking his sword into the ground and wading into a dank lake until he is completely submerged.
As if Ari didn’t take all this hard enough anyway, his tantrum is interrupted by a fellow soldier who informs him that one of his men survived and is in the infirmary. He heads there immediately, drawing the curtains and killing the injured soldier, but the act is witnessed by Talio, who is there too with an infected back, courtesy of Ari’s whipping in an earlier episode. This is an interesting turn of events; is Talio, the Germanic mercenary leader, a friend or foe to Ari?
Folkwin finally makes it back to the Bructeri with Thusnelda in tow, explaining that he returned for revenge — but on the Romans, not on the Bructeri. Kunolf, the Bructeri Reik, wants to know why he shouldn’t just take all the weapons and armor Folkwin seized and cash in the bounty on his head. Folkwin reminds him that Rome kidnapped their Reik and killed him — this is the execution we saw Ari carry out in the first episode — but Kunolf doesn’t seem particularly interested; until that is, Thusnelda identifies herself and threatens him with the wrath of the gods. It all kicks off and Folkwin sewers Kunolf, which Thusnelda claims is the gods at work, penance for their betrayal, and the murder of Berulf. She cuts out Kunolf’s heart as a sacrifice, properly getting into the part.
In the aftermath of this, with the Bructeri thoroughly convinced, Ari is dressed up like a barbarian, ready to become Reik. He speaks with Talio again, who has remained quiet thus far and seems content to remain so for a while, and is warmly greeted by Varus, who is happy he has come around to the idea. Back at the village, Segestes agrees on the need for a new Reik, but he obviously has different ideas about who it should be — he raises Segimer’s sword from the ground and raises it aloft himself, telling Irmina he will win over their hearts. If you say so!
On the way back to the village, Ari speaks with Talio, asking why he and his men are willing to slay their own kind for a third of a Roman’s wage. He reminds him that all the empire cares about his dominance, not-so-subtly suggesting he should lead a revolt. Ari clearly has the long game in mind here.
He might have another problem, though, in the form of Hadgan, who arrives and starts slaughtering people in search of his bride. Irmina is next on the chopping block, but Ari and the Romans arrive just in time, announcing that the village is under his protection now. He turfs Hadgan out and tells Segestes to gather the villagers. Segestes isn’t looking too thrilled when Ari announces he’ll be the new Reik now.
Ari’s plan, which he explains to Folkwin and Thusnelda, is to unite all the Germanic tribes and decimate all three Roman legions. To do that, though, he’ll need Thusnelda, and not just by his side — he’ll need her as his wife. “A New Reik” ends with Folkwin taking a swing at him for the mere suggestion.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.