Vikings Season 1: a Review

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I bought The Vikings the complete first season DVD box set at Costco as a blind buy some weeks ago. I really knew nothing about the series, other than it was the History Network’s first foray into scripted drama. Multiple visits to the Norway pavillion at Disney’s Epcot center, watching the first Thor movie and The Almighty Johnsons TV series is the summation of my knowledgfe of all things Norse prior to watching this series, so I cannot judge the authenticity of the production. I liked it well enough to consider buying season 2 when it is released on DVD, but not enough to watch it during its broadcast run starting Feb 2014.

As far as historical dramas go, this one was relatively humourless and lacked memorable dialogue. Much of the dialogue was expository and redundant to the attentive viewer. Regardless, it was generally well acted, beautifuly filmed and offered an interesting look into an ancient culture that I have little knowledge about. It was only 9, 45min episodes, so that was a bonus. The content is adult oriented with violence and sexuality. However it is not as graphic as premium cable fare such as Spartacus, Rome or Game of Thrones.

The cast is largely unknown, save for Gabriel Byrne (Earl Haraldson) and Donal Logue (King Horik) in supporting roles. The show followed Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel), a fierce and cunning warrior with wanderlust. In defiance of his Earl (Gabriel Byrne) he built a boat and sailed west into the unknown. When he landed on English soil, enslaved an Anglo-Saxon monk and returned with riches, a power struggle emerged. There were glimpses at his home life with his shieldmaiden/warrior wife Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) and children. There was a late season love triangle plot that didn’t seem earned. Ragnar’s confounding relationship with his brother Rollo (Clive Standen) fluctuated between fierce loyalty and seething jealousy and offered the most promise for future plot and character development. Because the main subject matter involved a group of people who lived to raid, conquer, rape and pillage, I couldn’t identify closely with anyone, except perhaps the enslaved monk Athelstan (George Blagden). Yet little screen time was paid to him. To be fair, at only 9 episodes, the first season didn’t have much time to spend with some of the more interesting characters, particularily scene stealing Floki (Gustav Skarsgard).

Was it too much to ask the TV-Powers-That-Be that this period drama would worm its way into my heart the way Spartacus did? Alas, it was. I guess I should have known what I was in for after learning that Michael Hirst (not to be confused with Michael Hurst) was a main producer/writer. I watched his The Tudors series mostly for the eye candy (Henry Cavill) and found it hard to recommend as great TV. When The Vikings first season concluded, my response was “Well that was interesting. I wonder if it was renewed?” I was hoping for “Wow, I can’t wait to set my PVR for season 2.” So depending on how busy I get, I may revisit this saga when season 2 is available on DVD. As long as nothing better comes along.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Black Sails: a Review of the 1st 2 Seasons | What is Ann Watching?

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