HISTORY’s first expedition into scripted television is Vikings, and the result is an exceedingly compelling series well worth your bingeing attention before it returns for a third season on Thursday, Feb. 19, at 10 pm. So grab your shield and find out if plundering Vikings is your destiny!
What’s the premise? Based on the legends of Viking Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel), Vikings focuses on his rise from farmer to warrior to raider of England and France to King of the Vikings.
What’s it like? It features the same gorgeous trappings of other lush history pieces, such as The Tudors and Rome, but as a HISTORY production, Vikings feels much more realistic, leaving you with the impression that you now have historic insight into Viking culture and how they might have lived. It has aspects of a family drama, as Ragnar holds his family very dear but struggles with the relationship between his first wife Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) and his second wife, Princess Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland). There is also political intrigue and warfare as Ragnar fights against kings, earls, and his conflicted brother, Rollo (Clive Standen).
How long will it take? Seasons one and two make for a total of 19 episodes, which means you could finish the entire horde in time for season three, bingeing one season per weekend over the next two weeks.
What do the critics think? The first season of Vikings is Certified Fresh at 81 percent, and season two is Fresh at 92 percent. In the first season, Todd VanDerWerff of the AV Club noted that “If Vikings is not particularly deep, it’s at least endlessly entertaining, and the world it evokes ends up being one of the most instantly compelling on television.” And Tim Goodman of the Hollywood Reporter accurately predicted it to be “a winning combination of action and historical drama that should attract a robust audience.” Brian Lowry of Variety said of season two that the show continued to improve: “Parlaying its success into a deeper cast, and thrusting ahead in its storytelling with the lusty abandon of a Scandinavian raider, the scripted drama takes big chances… and most pay off.”
Why should I watch this? Let’s not be shy about saying that this show is beautiful. It’s filmed in Ireland and the scenery is breathtaking, but the actors are stunning, too — Travis Fimmel was a model prior to venturing into acting — so the entire production is gorgeous to look at. Though Ragnar Lothbrok is a figure of legend, the world built around him in Vikings feels real and grounded, thanks to its compelling storylines, but the series doesn’t lack for action either; these are Vikings, after all, and raiding is their way of life. It’s also fascinating to see the contrast in cultures — especially religion — when the Vikings venture west to invade England. Vikings also features very strong female characters, since women could hold great positions and fight alongside men in the Viking world. Ragnar’s wife Lagertha, for example, was a shieldmaiden before marrying, and Katheryn Winnick’s portrayal of both the woman and the warrior is excellent.
What’s my next step? Since the series is pretty unique, it depends on what aspect of the show you’d like to explore further. Game of Thrones, Spartacus, and Rome will meet your needs for the historic and fantastical. Black Sails offers insight into the politics behind plundering, and for more legendary fighting, try Troy. For more powerful women, check out The White Queen or Xena: Warrior Princess . For some fun Viking movie romps, watch The Vikings with Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis, How to Train Your Dragon (and its sequel), or Beowulf (if you can handle the distracting mo-cap.) And there’s always Thor if you really want to play fast and loose with your Norse mythology.
Are you ready to catch up on Vikings? Tell us why!