Vikings Review – Spoiler Free
So I decided to check out one of the shows I missed out completely on during 2013, which was Vikings. Did I know what I was in for with this show? Nope, Was I expecting to get hooked on it? No way! But then I did. I’m so glad I did check out this show, not only is it a great historical TV series but it has some of the strongest moments and great characterisation I’ve seen on television.
Vikings follows the story of Ragnar Lothbrok who basically starts out as a farmer but rises in position throughout the course of the season as a great Viking leader. There’s not much you really need to know about Vikings to get into the story, in fact what you already know about Viking culture should be enough. Basically they are Vikings and they go on raids. But you would be foolish to think that’s all there is to this show. It’s full of political intrigue, religious customs and cultural themes with enough provocative dramatic scenes to keep many people talking for days.
What’s interesting about the Vikings TV show and something that I think is it’s greatest asset is the amount of detail placed on characterizing so many of its lead characters. From the hair, to the costumes to the weapons and boats, nothing is left amiss in this series. These Vikings seem to me to be complete barbarians at times, yet it’s mainly because their customs are not what I understand. Ragnar at times seems to be the one of the most intelligent people in history, yet in other times he is this menacing Viking warrior that’s almost savage like in his behaviour. It’s very interesting how they balanced this character and the actor who plays Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) has the stare of a madman ready to devour any enemy standing in his path. There’s this gaze that Ragnar has that really makes the show, it’s like he’s always calculating his next move which could be anything, barbaric acts are not below Ragnar’s thoughts either.
In Vikings there is also an interesting religious element and theme throughout the season. Vikings at the time of Ragnar are not Christians, they are Pagan, well Norse folk. All the characters firmly believe in the Gods which include Odin, Thor, Loki, Sif and many more. We hear many of the tales and its interesting to see people believe in the teachings of Norse mythology so much. There are other historical shows that do touch on the religious aspects such as Spartacus or Rome, but in those shows they are just a passing mention, never thrust upon the center of the show. In Vikings the Norse religion is very interestingly portrayed and being such a different beast to what most are used to, some would be shocked at what goes on in the first season. The sacrifices and acts of the Norse believers seem like almost a whole different world to what we’re used to. Back then, it was a different world.
Some of the initial raids see our good or bad Norsemen (depending on how you look at it) visit England which at the time was fully Christian. These Norsemen then go on to decimate and ruin quite a lot of Christian symbols and idols. This is something I’ve never seen on television as I’m sure most of the time it’s censored or shyed away from, you know because it is something that’s shocking for quite a lot of people. But it’s also something that happened in real life, so I did enjoy that it was put into the show. I found that because of the religious themes and differences and the clash of the culture in this show, first with us being fully exposed to the Norse customs, then seeing these Norse believers encounter Christians really placed a lot of context into the series. I found that I learnt quite a lot about humanity from this cultural clash in watching this show, even though it was super violent. It was a perfect placement of context for the world these characters lived in and showing the Christian world contrasted against the Norse one was the best way to do it, even though I do believe many will be shocked at the smashing of the cross symbols and statues.
Another thing that is really great about the series is that some of the lead actors were very convincing with their roles. One of the standout characters for me was Earl Haraldson who was played to perfection by Gabriel Byrne in the show as the aging Earl. Katheryn Winnick who played Lagertha was excellent at portraying the strong female wife of Ragnar and really stood out on screen. Of course, Ragnar, our lead is also very well acted by Travis Fimmel. Other actors and characters do stand out as well such as Gustaf Skarsgård who played the madman Floki very well and also the villainess Siggy played by Jessalyn Gilsig was very entertaining to watch develop over the course of the season. It’s a very well cast show and a lot of care was done in choosing actors that really can pull off the Viking look and do it well.
The filming and style of the show is also something I like. It has a very realistic feel to it, much more realistic than something like 300: Rise Of An Empire or Spartacus which many of these historical entertainment pieces seem to draw upon lately (Zack Snyder’s 300) which is the slow motion slasher. That seems to be for the most part gone in this series and I welcome it. Vikings does have a very realistic feel to it and the violence in the show is more for theatrical appearances as a necessary thing for survival. It’s very real and at times very shocking. The scenery of Sweden and the way the boats go through water is also great to see at times. I also quite enjoy that the show is not completely focused on violence and war, there are many episodes devoted to the cultural and daily lives and struggles of the Vikings which are far more interesting to watch than some brutes swinging axes and shields at each other, although that’s good as well.
My only gripe with how the show is presented is the way it is edited in between scenes. I find it very noticeable when one scene ends and another one begins, it just sort of cuts to the next one. There isn’t a fully smooth transition between scenes and I noticed it a lot when I was viewing the first season. It just seemed to break the atmosphere a lot for me. But other than this one issue I have, the rest of the show is great on screen and I love watching and listening to the opening theme song each time it plays. It has a almost chilling feel to it that gets me ready to go into the world of the Vikings each and every time.
Overall Vikings was a show that I was completely hooked on and couldn’t stop watching. It’s not often that when I start watching a new TV series that I completely binge on the whole season and finish it within 2 days but with this one I did. Usually when I get a new series I like watching 1 or 2 episodes a day so I can spread it out, but with this, I just could not stop. I highly recommend checking out this TV show. It is at times a very strong program and some of the elements will shock many people either through the violent scenes or the religious ones. But if you can survive those scenes then you are in for a great experience and a show with some incredibly well acted characters. It’s shows like this that also encourage people to look into the historical setting to learn more about it, because the show is well done I’m sure there will be a large in increase in people wanting to learn about the history of Ragnar Lothbrok and his Viking kingdom, I know I sure will be.