The History Channel’s flagship series Vikings aired its last episode in December. And though this celebrated work is finally in the history books, its legacy will live on. It isn’t your stereotypical “this is one of the best shows ever” series. It isn’t trying to be anything other than itself. And that’s okay. Vikings is, first and foremost, entertaining. It combines intricate plot mazes with brutal action and cunning twists and spectacular drama and dazzling cinematography (having been filmed in beautiful countries like Norway, Ireland, Canada, and Iceland). Perhaps equally striking is its informative subtleties. Granted, the show does dabble in mysticism and graphic scenes enough to where it doesn’t render a very “academic” disposition, but make no mistake: The writers did their research. It’s impossible to know a lot about 9th-century Viking legends—whose lives were often juggled throughout the course of European literature by nonfictional and fictional tales alike—but the History Channel lived up to its reputation here. The nature, timing, and location of the Viking raids on various places in Europe depicted in the show are accurate. Even the tiny details in the set, costumes, and characters are spot on.
Speaking of characters, lead character Ragnar Lothbrok is one of my favorite characters of all time. At first, he seems ruthless and heartless and able to violently terminate human lives without regret. Yet he has a soft and truly admirable side. He is patient. He is brilliant. He has intellectual curiosity. He cares for his family with not just words but also actions. Still, he can be very cold. You just never know. He is unpredictable, and that’s one of the best traits one seeks as a screenwriter. Props to Travis Fimmel, who nailed the role with remarkable charisma. But even if Ragnar weren’t one of the strongest characters I’ve ever seen, there are plenty of other fascinating personalities in the show. Athelstan, King Ecbert, Rollo, and Floki come to mind. Vikings is like Game of Thrones in the sense that it explores the dynamic adventures of all sorts of people. You can tell it’s well-done because you generally tend to dislike most characters at first, then you slowly build empathy for many of them. The show also synthesizes elements of Viking religion with institutional Christianity. And these spiritual elements come alive through the characters, who are shaped by their idiosyncratic beliefs and experiences.
All in all, Vikings is consummate. It has its flaws. But my personal, subjective experience with it was magical. I’d say it is one of my top five all-time favorite full-length television shows. Then again, I don’t think this show is suitable if you cannot stomach the extreme violence. You will see decapitations, raunchy sex, human sacrifices, violence toward civilians & women, and more. To be fair, it’s because these things really did happen. Human history is often disturbing. And while some shows avoid those elements out of fear of tackling them poorly, Vikings does so with patience, adherance to the facts, and an ability to cancel out the gory side with bits of humanity. In short, you will not like Vikings if you hate violence—or when main characters are killed off. You will like it if you approach it without preconceived notions, if you overlook its ruggedness and appreciate the historical aspects. The first few episodes are slow, but after that you’ll be immersed in the world of these vicious—yet surprisingly egalitarian—people. And once you hit seasons two and three, you’ll be mesmerized. So check Vikings out on Prime Video!
*Note: I couldn’t find the original trailer on Youtube, but this fan trailer is pretty great.*