Vikings

8.4 / 10
43 min
Action, Drama, Adventure, History
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" gives "Vikings - Season 1 (Part two)" a 8."
Written by on 30 December 2014.
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Vikings - Season 1 (Part two)

When you think of the American television channel History, you think of documentaries and reality series. That’s why I didn’t realise at first that ‘Vikings’ isn’t a documentary about Vikings, but a drama series, particularly because I’d heard that they speak Old English and Old Norse in the series. Don’t worry, this only happens a few times and most of the time the Vikings stick to modern English, so everyone can follow it. And that’s a good thing, because ‘Vikings’ presents an interesting and intriguing story and the show manages to pull you into the exciting era of the Vikings.

The creators based the series on the sagas about Ragnar Lothbrok, the hero who led the Vikings on their raids on Great Britain and France. There are raids aplenty in the series, and the first scene already makes it more than clear that the Vikings aren’t gentle people. Although there are no more raids on England in the second half of the season, blood continues to flow freely. This happens both during impressive fight scenes and the many blood sacrifices to the gods. In the second half of the season, the focus is more on the power struggles within the Viking community, both between Ragnar and the established authorities and between Ragnar and his brother Rollo. This makes the second half even more intriguing than the first.

Travis Fimmel (‘The Beast’) gives a very convincing portrayal of Ragnar. He portrays an impressive character and leaves a lasting impression, thanks to his piercing blue eyes. You can see Ragnar’s ambition in them and his determination not to let anybody stop him. This becomes especially clear in the second half of the season: now that he has brought back riches from the West, he’ll no longer let anybody in the Viking community stand in his way, especially not Jarl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne). Defeating Haraldson, however, is only the beginning and it becomes clear that Ragnar’s ambitions go a lot further than just that.

It’s not just Fimmel who gives a good performance; all the other actors are also cast extremely well. Katheryn Winnick (‘Bones’) as Ragnar’s wife Lagertha and Jessalyn Gilsig (‘Glee’) as Siggy have created two convincing women who are just as ambitious as their men. Clive Standen (‘Camelot’) convincingly portrays Rollo's internal conflict between his love for his brother and his ambitions. Gustaf Skarsgard (‘Kon-Tiki’) adds some much-needed comic relief as Floki; he’s a weird, but strangely lovable character. The presence of George Blagden (‘Les Miserables’) as the English monk Aethelstan is a smart addition to the show. Just as the audience, he’s an outsider in the Vikings’ community and he shares the audience’s disbelief and occasional horror of some of their customs.

Since History commissioned the series, you might expect it to be 100% historically accurate. This, however, is not the case. Of course, there’s still a lot that isn’t known about the Vikings, so in the defence of the creators you could say that it’s logical they took certain liberties. However, they also changed certain things we do know about that time; for example, the Vikings in the series don’t know about the existence of Great Britain, while there’s evidence that suggests they knew the country was there. Even though there are these historical inaccuracies, the world that’s presented in the series feels authentic, partly due to the Old Norse and Old English, and the series presents a believable image of that era. Especially the role of religion and the gods in the lives of the people is portrayed very convincingly.

People were quick to compare ‘Vikings’ to ‘Game of Thrones’ and that’s understandable. Even though the storyline is much smaller, ‘Vikings’ has the same epic feeling. The series isn’t shy about violence, blood flows freely and the characters all come with impressive libidos (although there isn’t quite as much nudity as there is in ‘Game of Thrones’). The series presents a rough world with its own codes of honour. Although the show isn’t 100% historically accurate, you do feel like you get a good idea of how Vikings lived. So put those history books aside and put on ‘Vikings’; history doesn’t get any more exciting and intriguing than this.
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