Vikings Review

Posted 9 years ago by myetvmedia

My dad shared the original 1958 movie The Vikings  starring Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis with me and that’s when it all began. I’m speaking of my fascination with the indomitable sea faring raiders of the early middle ages. Perhaps that’s not what The Vikings communicated in terms of historical or cultural accuracy, but it can’t be faulted for providing a sense of attitude that pop culture has come to connect with: the warriors of old Scandinavia. Tony Curtis and Kirk Douglas embodied the resolute Viking will and therein lay its accuracy. The Vikings were a people unconquered and seasoned in war. They were one of the last peoples of Europe to abandon their ancient gods for Christianity. They built their society on the concept of great men, men (and women) of strength.

Photo courtesy of History(r) Channel

VIKINGS (2013) is the first dramatic series by the History Channel and taking a note from other startups in the field, they have devoted massive resources to what looks sure to become an enduring and successful hit. Micheal Hirst best known for the Emmy Award winning series The Tudors and the films Elizabeth (1998), Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007); and as producer of The Borgias Series for Showtime, is the director and creator of VIKINGS. With Hirst at the helm, it will be an historical drama done right. It centers upon the true to life Viking hero and later legend Ragnar Lothbrok. Picking a character so steeped in legend is a boon for the History Channel. It will maintain signature accuracy while allowing the show runners to infuse a level of interpretation provided by the characters’ legendary nature with the fuzziness that is early medieval history.

Photo courtesy of History(r) Channel

Vikings is not chained to History Channel’s documentary series. This is a drama first and foremost. The show hints at a sort of spiritual and psychological environment that the peoples of the Viking era lived in. The director doesn’t stray from showing things that history cannot account, but set in this context it all seems relevant and believable. Vikings manages to inspire that sense of ‘indomitable will’ that goes hand in hand with the true Viking ideal. Were I a man living in such a time with such an understanding of the forces of the world, I might believe I had seen Odin drawing the souls of the dead from a battlefield. But historical accuracy only makes up for a tiny fraction of people who care about that sort of thing; chances are you just want an engaging story. Vikings doesn’t disappoint in that respect. The story follows Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) from his origins as a farmer and warrior under local chieftain Earl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne).  Ragnar lives the Viking life of a raider, spending summers raiding east of Scandinavia but he believes there to be a land of great opportunity to the west, much to the displeasure of Heraldson who sees Ragnar as a threat. It is apparent early on that Ragnar is ambitious and that he might stop at nothing to appease his wanderlust. He is partnered with Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) the mother of his two children and a fearsome warrior herself and his friend Floki (Gustaf Skarsgard) a boat builder.

Photo courtesy of History(r) Channel

The pilot for the series revolves around Ragnar bringing his son into the Viking fort for a ceremony that will mark him as a man. It sets the stage to introduce the main cast, get a sense of Viking life and customs and meet the main characters and the relationships between them. It marks a strong series debut when a pilot can keep from presenting an inciting incident until the conclusion, all the while holding our attention. Action doesn’t take a backseat to politics or pandering as it did with other historical dramas like the Tudors. Vikings very much presents the battle and adventure of its time and it does so without dipping into the ridiculousness of the type of ultra violence indulged with Spartacus: Blood and Sand. The show’s pace and presentation reminded me of Hell on Wheels, another favorite and contender in the great histo-drama department.

Photo courtesy of History(r) Channel

Characterization doesn’t fall short and while Earl Haraldson (Gabriele Byrne) features in only a few scenes his talent comes through. We are sure to see much more of this great chieftain in the next eight episodes. Travis Fimmel is physically the quintessential Viking; blue eyed with a blonde mane cut warrior style, but it is his captivating performance that brings Ragnar to life. Ragnar believes he is destined for greatness and declares: “Odin gave his eye for knowledge. I would give much more” and we believe him. 

Photo courtesy of History(r) Channel

Lagertha, Ragnar’s wife and shield-maiden played by Katheryn Winnick takes the cake for me. She provides a believable mother and lover to Ragnar  while presenting a true warrior. In an early scene two men intending to rape Lagertha threaten her. Not for one second does she show any fear and while it seems counter intuitive for any person, her statement and action that follows show us why. I am excited to see where Lagertha’s arc goes as her husband challenges the Jarl placing their family in a perilous situation. Rollo (Clive Standen) friend to Ragnar and possibly his pseudo-brother rounds out the main cast of Vikings. Rollo’s intentions may not be what they seem, adding another dramatic string that will surely be pulled. Vikings comes across as an epic in the making following in the footsteps of other great histo-dramas with all the hungry potential to carve a path of its own.

-Max Romano

  

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