History’s Vikings: A Brave New World

Vikings tells the story of Ragnar Lothbrok/Lodbrok (Travis Fimmel), the greatest warrior of his age. Season one tells the tale of Ragnar’s band of Viking brothers and his family, as he ascends to rule over all the Viking tribes. In conjunction to being a great warrior, Ragnar embodies the Norse culture and traditions, including being devoted to the gods. Legend says he was a direct descendent of Odin, Lord Of The Gods, God Of War and Warriors. This a story that incorporates: love, politics, history, mythology, religion but most notably, progress.

After the success of The Bible miniseries, the History Channel struck gold again with the “inspired on Norse history” series Vikings. Within its first raid, it captured my soul with its great opening sequence with Rollo (Clive Standen) and Ragnar (Travis Fimmel). The shere simplistic brutality in that one scene was enough to tell me that this is a show that won’t pull any punches. Ragnar plays this very witty and smiley Viking warrior with Rollo being much alike to his brother Ragnar yet very different. Both characters knows there’s a time to smile and there’s a time to stand and fight. Vikings aren’t a heavily explored people on television, unless you count documentaries. This show was more or less my first encounter with the Northmen, other than learning about them in primary school.

Brothers Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) and Rollo (Clive Standen) with their fellow tribesman Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård) (Vikings, History Channel)

Brothers Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) and Rollo (Clive Standen) with their fellow tribesman Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård)
(Vikings, History Channel)

By the end of season one, I felt that I will be a fan of this series for as long as it on television. I’m invested in the characters, with Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) becoming my favourite character. My other favourite character was captured Christian monk Athelstan (George Blagden) who adopted the Norse culture and attire, but never forsook his faith. I liked that most of the characters were very unpredictable, much ado with their faith. They’d leave important decisions down to what Thor or Odin have told them in dreams and whatnot. The future of the tribe was left to the will of the deities above. But at other times, it was down to Ragnar.  He’s the most temperamental out of the lot.

You never know what he’ll do, especially when someone gets killed. Sometimes he starts laughing and other times he will act like grownup by silently objecting.The best arc of season one is between Ragnar and Earl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne). What I love, is the incredibly intriguing power struggle between the two patriarchs. More so, when we witness Ragnar’s lust to explore new lands and new civilizations. The dialogue in Vikings is so simple. Vikings don’t really have a lot to say and they’re not really one to have a conversation to settle disputes. The only real character development throughout the season is with: Floki, Rollo and Lagertha. Most of the other characters loitered around for most of the season with some being axed, in the physical and metaphorical sense.

Shieldmaiden Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) in Vikings (Vikings, History Channel)

Shieldmaiden Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) in Vikings
(Vikings, History Channel)

Rollo was jealous of Ragnar. His acts of disloyalty, treason and subsequently becoming a turncloak added a sense of mystery to the tribe’s framework. Who can you trust, and who can you not? Vikings is well worth a watch. Typically, it’s not completely historically correct, but it’s made by Hollywood and it makes for great entertainment. What’s more important to me are that it has great characters and an excellent narrative, in addition to a well-written script and a hair-raising opening theme song.My favourite parts of the season weren’t the battle scenes nor was it the acting, it was the depiction of Norse culture and its traditions. I very much enjoyed the scenes where it analysed and critiques the culture, traditions and faith.

Furthermore, I liked the introduction of Athelstan; a monk who was open to the concepts of other faiths and traditions. But what really got to me is that there was a monk who admitted that there are parallels between Christianity and Paganism. He befriends Ragnar and his family, learning and studying their lifestyle. In England, the Vikings were called “savages.” They would  kill for money and riches without a care in the world but Athelstan takes them as human beings. He gets to know them and eventually assimilates their ways, but he doesn’t forget where he came from, never forgets his God and he earns Ragnar’s respect.

Ragnar (Fimmel) first meets Athelstan (Blagden) (Vikings, History Channel)

Ragnar (Fimmel) first meets Athelstan (Blagden)
(Vikings, History Channel)

Vikings is violent, brutal, thought-provoking and incredibly educational. For fans of history and mythology, it only spurs you on to find out more about their ways and lifestyle. Filled with excellent performances and engaging plots and a chilling musical score,  Vikings is worth every minute of your time.

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