Vikings is a series I returned to after being disappointed watching the first episode. Being very interested in early clan and nomadic folk from an early age, I thought a series from The History Channel would be compelling and have some historical accuracy. However, I think The History Channel was probably trying to emulate the success of series like Spartacus, Rome, The Tudors and the other loosely-based historically-set series which, just like super hero films, fill our flickering screens.
The series focuses on the central figure from Nordic legendary history known as Ragnar Lodbrok (or Lothbrok) and his rise to power. Just as with King Arthur, the real identity of this “hero” is still disputed. The series has a fascinating background to the first Viking voyagers to the West, and puts our protagonist at odds with the current Earl (Haraldson), played by the stalwart Irish actor Garbriel Byrne. Just like the similarly big name at the beginning of Game Of Thrones, Sean Bean, his appearance is fleeting and confined to the first few episodes.
You will develop an affinity for the leading man and lady. Travis Fimmel, whom you may know from the 2010 film The Experiment, is both adventurous and inquisitive, which you would expect from a clan warrior on the rise, but also
paternal, and shows a camaraderie for his clansmen, if not a loyalty to the blinkered leadership of the Earl. Canadian actress Katheryn Winnick plays Lothbrok’s fierce and fair shield-maiden wife well, with one notable misdirection. Another likeable character is the crazy ship builder Floki, who probably is cast as a human form of Loki with a dash of the mischievous Shakespearean Puck about him.
The opening scene is a battle that Lothbrok and his brother win, but there is little background to the story other than as a viewer, you’re thrown directly into the action. A lot of this action through the series seems to mix fighting styles and is laden with almost martial arts-like style choreography, as well as kick-ass ninja moves from the shield-maiden Lagertha that would not be out of place when from a female super or action hero.
The scenery is amazing and there is enough historical setting and story to keep you sated, as long as you can ignore the hollywoodisation of history, and the flaws that place image and action above accuracy. From few of the Vikings wearing the typical horned helmets to the unbelievably abject stupidity of the Northumbrians. It may not have the obvious titillation of the aforementioned Spartacus, but it certainly is going in that direction. If you can switch off your need for authenticity, as I didn’t with my first attempt, it is an enjoyable and entertaining, slightly historically-based, almost swash-buckling, savage romp.