Wolf and Eagle
In the Teutoburg Forest back in 9AD, Roman legions advance toward Germania. Dubbed the world’s great military force, episode 1 of Barbarians charts the epic battle between the romans and the formidable tribal warriors known as the barbarians. This battle changes the face of Roman history forever.
Before we get to the bloodshed though, we begin with a young Ansgar running through the village until his older sister Thusnelda arrives. She’s put to work by her Father who stops them in their tracks from playing.
Hadgan negotiates with Thusnelda’s father to sell off his daughter in exchange for 5 horses. He comments on her appearance and looks set to make his decision. Only, before they do they’re interrupted by Romans arriving.
There’s a new Senator that’s been appointed, Varus, and he requests a tribute. It’s tense – to say the least – and they’re given 3 days to come up with an answer.
That answer comes in the form of a Folkmoot used to gather the tribes and figure out what to do. With the Reiks together, lit by torchlight, they discuss whether to fight back against the Romans or not. Folkwin lends his voice but it’s drowned out by Segimer settling on keeping the peace. This certainly doesn’t please everyone.
Folkwin notices Thusnelda from afar and follows her out, cornering the girl where the duo wind up making love. Not long after she breaks the news to Folkwin that she’s due to be sold off. He tells her to run away and agrees to go with her. She refuses though, telling him to be strong.
The Romans return to camp, with a strong presence set-up in Germania. Varus is there too, and he greets his son as he rides into camp.
In the morning, Folkwin reluctantly heads out to pay tribute for the Senator. Tensions are high around the village, as everyone silently gathers up their livestock. As horns blow, the Romans return with numerous soldiers who comment on their lacklustre offering.
Not satisfied, the men to march around town and bleed them dry. Even worse, the Segimer is humiliated and forced to kiss the golden eagle on the end of the Roman spear.
Thusnelda refuses to see this take place, and for her trouble is made an example of. Young Hadgan is stabbed and lies bleeding out as the Romans march. “Rome victorious!” They boom before disappearing into the night.
In the wake of this, Thusnelda is blamed for Hadgan’s injury. Tears tinging her eyes, she heads to the lake and pays tribute, begging the Gods for strength to avenge her Brother.
Back at the Roman camp we see what happens when someone defies the Romans. After spitting on the golden eagle, Varus commands his foster son Arminius to kill the Germanian. Berulf watches from afar, shocked, as the headless corpse is dragged away.
On the back of this, Thusnelda and Folkwin decide to scheme against the Romans and teach them a lesson. They intend to take that same golden eagle that’s caused them so much trouble before. With the plan in place, Thusnelda and Folkwin serve as the distraction needed for their comrades to sneak in the back and through the water.
Arminius senses something is up though, especially when he notices clothing and blood spatters on the ground. Drawing his sword, he heads in and calls out for the Romans to secure the camp.
Fire engulfs a tent and while the Romans are busy dealing with that, they fail to notice Thusnelda and Folkwin walk out. Only, Thusnelda leaves her necklace behind. Arminius notices it and happens to hold one of his own in his tent. What does this mean?
Arminius asks Varus for soldiers in the aftermath of the robbery. He promises to get the eagle back but, in need of back-up, Arminius visits a fighting pit on the outskirts of camp. There he finds Commander Talio.
This man is a Germanian and working with the Romans. Trying to be smart, he rallies his troops but badmouths Rome in the process. It turns out Arminius can speak their language, which instantly sees the man’s face drop, and numerous lashes to the back for his troubles.
Folkwin and Thusnelda return to the village heroes and to rapturous applause as they put the eagle up on a mantle and dance around it. Not everyone is enthused by this – namely Segestes – but Segimer is satisfied with Folkwin’s plan. He also knows that blood will be spilled on the back of this.
That vengeance comes swiftly as Arminius rides for the village alone. Hiding the golden eagle inside, the Germanians await their fate. Segimer notices Arminius and immediately tells them to open the gate. “Hello, Father.” He utters, as the village watches on.
The Episode Review
Anyone who knows Roman history will know that this battle isn’t going to go well for one of these sides – I won’t spoil who that is here of course! However, the show is doing a good job building up the Romans as an oppressive, unstoppable empire while these villagers do their best to survive.
The idea of stealing such a simple artefact being the catalyst that begins all of this is good, and it leaves the door wide open for more drama to follow.
There’s an air of Rome and Vikings both interwoven into this series but it’ll be intriguing to see whether this can match that up with some ferocious, blood-soaked fighting to come.
The end reveal is intriguing though and that light cliffhanger leaves things wide open for the next episode.