The Video Glutton’s Guide to VIKINGS, Season 1March 26, 2014

The Video Glutton’s Guide to VIKINGS, Season 1

Vikings (History Channel)

On Demand Weekly provides new reviews of hot movies and shows on demand from the POV of watching from the comfort of your home. Today’s review: “VIKINGS.”

I had never paid too much attention to VIKINGS. I don’t watch much on the History Channel, so it was never really on my radar. Then I went to an exhibit at Time Warner Studios to see the GAME OF THRONES exhibit. Time Warner Cable is smart. They made attendees go through a whole slew of other show’s exhibits before we got to the one we were actually there for. Their scheme worked! In the VIKINGS exhibit, one could see the attention to detail and historical accuracy lavished on the show, and it drew me in. So I decided to binge Season 1 of Vikings to get ready for Season 2.

The show begins with a battle. There is no indication of who is fighting or why, but two men are obviously the heroes of the fight. We discover they are Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) and his brother Rollo (Clive Standen). They are obviously fierce, strong and determined. Ragnar sees a vision of the god Odin, so he must be special. Next we are introduced to Ragnar’s family.

His wife Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) is pretty fierce and determined herself, which she proves when a couple of intruders come in to pillage and rape in her home and she single-handedly smashes them both. Next we meeting the big boss of the ‘hood: Earl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne rocking a serious mullet!). We know he is the bad guy, because he doesn’t want to take a chance on sailing west. He only wants to go east, where they always go. Ragnar wants to try going west. Since he is so daring, we know we are supposed to root for him.

Behind the Earl’s back, Ragnar’s buddy Floki (Gustaf Skarsgard in heavy goth eye makeup) is making a new and bigger boat that can carry the gang west across the sea to Northumbria. The adventure is a success. They find an island with a monastery on it, and the pathetic little priests barely make a squeak in response, so they must deserve to be slaughtered and have all their fancy churchy stuff like candleholders and goblets and crosses go to the Vikings. Ragnar does save one priest, Athelstan (George Bladgen, of the “Les Miserables” movie). Got to give Ragnar points for that. 

 

When the rogue Vikings return triumphant, evil Earl Haraldson has to confiscate their loot, just to show them who is boss. It comes as no surprise when eventually, Ragnar, although wounded, challenges the Earl to single combat, and wins, taking over the Earldom. What is surprising is how Ragnar treats the Earl in death, giving him a great and honorable funeral with full pomp and glory. He is not so respectful of the Earl’s wife Siggy (played with intensity by GLEE’s Jessalyn Gilsig), but Lagertha will make sure she is not mistreated.

The morality in VIKINGS seems to be that pillaging and killing are ok, because that is just part of Viking culture, but rape is crossing the line. I’m glad there is something that is considered immoral! This is the age of the anti-hero, but I find rooting for any of these Vikings a little difficult. It’s difficult to love Ragnar, as played by Travis Fimmel with a constant sneery-smile. He gives the impression of being slightly stoned all the time, with his propensity to laugh and smile inappropriately. I think it’s supposed to be charming, but I find it off-putting. Other characters are a little more compelling, such as Katheryn Winnick’s feisty Lagertha and soulful priest Athelstan, although both of them seen to absolutely adore Ragnar, which, again, I find unlikely.

However, excellent production values and fantastic music keep VIKINGS eminently watchable. Creator Michael Hirst (Tudors) knows how to create a universe and dive right into it. The Irish locations are stunning, the boats and incredible, and the weapons amazing. The costumes and makeup are interesting, as well. The 8th episode’s trip to Uppsala to make offerings to the gods is especially moving. As the beautiful music soars, the camera lovingly focuses on the blood being spilled from both the unwilling and the willing sacrifices.

As there are only 9 episodes, which when watched On Demand are 45 minutes each, VIKINGS is an easy binge. For an incredible violent premise, the gore and sex is pretty mild since it is on a family friendly cable channel, and not HBO.

Now I’m looking forward to Season 2 (now airing).

 

DEMAND IT

 

 

- Jean Tait

 

Jean
Jean Tait is a contributing writer to On Demand Weekly. Currently the Director of Programming for the Connecticut Film Festival, Jean has programmed for the Jacksonville Film Festival and Sundance Channel.
 

 

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