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Vikings Season Premiere Review

History Channel Steps Into a Different World

by James Chantrill

It appears as though the History Channel is trying to achieve something it hasn’t done for quite a while:  produce a show that is actually worth watching.  Though I may be crucified for this blasphemy by the thousands of fans of Pawn Stars, Ancient Aliens or any of the other run-of-the-mill shows that the History channel thinks we need to see rehashed time and time again.  Vikings is a breath of fresh air from a channel that I had almost given up on.

From the opening scene to the closing scene of the series premiere, the new unique drama brought engaging dialogue and breathtaking imagery to History Channel’s deflated show lineup.  At the start of the episode, we can really see what writer Michael Hirst is giving us: an uncompromising look into the Viking culture.  The battle scene that opens up this episode shows us the direction of combat and violence Vikings is taking. Instead of the slow-motion violence from the series Spartacus, we get what is more of a grounded true-to-life combat. Nothing is over-the-top and it is what one could expect combat to actually have looked like during those times. 

Not only does Vikings bring us realistic combat, but Hirst also lets us know that the Viking mythology is the heart of the show.  During the opening scene, we are given a glimpse of the valkyries taking the glorious dead to Valhalla.  While we get to hear about the gods of the Vikings in this episode, Micheal Hirst also gives us a detailed look into the Viking culture and society.  During one of the sweeping views of the city where the Earl lives, we see street merchants selling their wares and slaves being brought in from a port. 

Vikings gives us a look at how crimes were punished and what a few of the laws were as we watch Earl Haraldson sit in judgment in his mead hall.  Earl Haraldson sits in judgment on two people, one for theft and one for murder. This shows us how a petty crime and a serious crime are punished in this Viking world.  Earl Haraldson not only punishes the guilty, but also welcomes two young boys into Viking manhood, having them swear loyalty to him during a ceremony.

Vikings follows Ragnar Lothbrok, a Viking farmer with dreams of raiding in the west (instead of the usual summer raids in the east).  With Ragnar’s ambitions of greater glory and riches for himself, it inevitably brings him to clash with Earl Haraldson (played by the talented Gabriel Byrne).  In Ragnar’s quest for raiding to the western world, he will have his trusted Viking brother Rolo help him carry out his mission.

Throughout the rest of the episode, we see how Ragnar is secretly trying to have his plan of going west accomplished. Ragnar goes to an oracle of sorts (wow, did he look creepy) to see what the gods have planned for him and what he can do to have them influence his wishes.  Ragnar is not only looking to the gods for help, but has hired the ship builder, Floki, to build him a ship that can go on long-distance voyages. Ragnar has started his risky plan  (he is going against the wishes of the Earl and taking a smaller ship across the ocean) and yearns to see it accomplished at any cost.

Vikings is a show that seems to be starting off with a bang with its attention to detail (amazing sets, authentic apparel), but also with the stellar writing from Michael Hirst. I don’t want to jinx it, but this show seems to be heading for greatness.  I was really struck with the production value; numerous times throughout the episode, I had to remind myself that this was on the History Channel.  Michael Hirst has given us a show that can compete with the likes of Game of Thrones, The Borgias and other big name historical-based shows. Hopefully, the rest of the season continues what this premiere episode has started.

Keywords: vikings, vikings review, history channel vikings, vikings history channel
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