A tale of power, war, violence, adventure, & religion in the ice-cold 700’s-A.D. cliff-fringed waters of Scandinavia, Vikings’ central Fimmel-Winnick duo, visceral fight choreography, visuals, & mythic credits sequence make for an epic historical trip. 8.2/10.
Plot Synopsis: Viking Ragnar Lothbrok is a young farmer and family man who is frustrated by the policies of Earl Haraldson, his local chieftain who sends his Viking raiders east to the Baltic states and Russia, whose residents are as poor as the Norsemen. Ragnar wants to head west, across the ocean, to discover new civilizations. With assistance from his friend Floki, Ragnar builds a faster, sleeker fleet of boats to help him make it to the Western world. Through the years Ragnar, who claims to be a direct descendant of the god Odin, continues to struggle with Earl until the two face each other in a final battle for supremacy. Following that, Ragnar goes on a search for new lands to conquer.
*Possible Spoilers Ahead*
Vikings: the legends of Norse raiders-and-traders from Scandinavia in 700’s-1100’s Northern Europe has fascinated pop culture and historians for ages. Greenland, Vinland, and Iceland still wear their heritage/influence proudly – and the cultural and sociological impact they’ve had was due for a cinematic portrayal to translate it to a new generation through TV. In comes the History Channel (who should be the authoritative voice on such a long-ago topic) with Emmy-winner Michael Hirst, and the result is a steel-bladed, Ireland-shot jolt of energy, violence, and erotica that’s enthralling to say the least. A.D. A tale of power, war, brutality, empires, & conquest in the wave-crashed, A.D. cliff-fringed waters of Scandinavia, Vikings’ central Wynnick-Ludwig duo, visceral fight choreography, striking visuals, and mythic credits sequence lead an epic historical trip.
First, the biggest achievement of the TV series: cinematography. From its magnificent opening sequence in the windswept, rain-pattered, blood-soaked, mythology-feeling hills of viking territory c. 793 A.D., I knew this was going to be a special show. The striking visuals of Vikings are some of the most breathtaking cinematography I’ve seen in 21st century television – feeling impossibly high-budget in camera crispness/quality, while shot with technical precision, impressive technique, textbook framing/composition, and most of all: primordial chroma schematics in its jaw-dropping Ireland background. The series truly feels like you’ve been transported back through time to the dawn of civilization/mankind as we know and are witnessing something ancient, yet modernly-thrilling and filled with visual metaphor, supernatural twinges from Odin and his ravens themselves, and visceral fight choreography and war-carnage for a combination that will effectively rattle your pulse and amaze your oculars.
The soundscape in Vikings is just as inspired as its ocular package. From its brilliant opening credits sequence matching the dark-and-ominous stylizations of Fever Ray to the opaque cliff-wave-crashed arctic waters, visions, and rowboats of vikings – one of the Greatest Opening Credits Sequences Of All-Time – it was clear the sound technicians and composer Trevor Morris know the subject matter to surgical precision. The gritty, violent, aggressive aura of its arpeggiated stabs and action sequences are juxtaposed by hypnotic dark tones like in its credits sequence, all the way to inspirational and soaring string quartets and orchestral work making you truly feel the epic scale of its Nordic surroundings. Indeed, the craftsmanship and attention-to-detail sensorily is what make Vikings an absolute must-watch and staple of modern TV/escapist-entertainment by large margins – especially in the context of History’s otherwise-meek/snoozable resumé, but its performances are not bad either.
The cast of Vikings may ~pale in comparison to its previous accolades, but is not bad overall. Travis Fimmel’s Ragnar is a blood-curdling central protagonist when he needs to be, and tender as a family-man/father ambitious to change the decrepit/corrupt society around him too for a dichotomy that evokes range and a lead the entire show can rally behind. Alexander Ludwig’s Bjorn Lothbrok is great too, bringing more of a suave Hollywood demeanor while still packing plenty of intimidation factor. Best of all and the highlight of the cast though is Katheryn Winnick’s Lagerta Lothbrok – one of the most badass female leads on TV. Exuding power and star quality from her first swordfight against misogyny/rapacious acts in Ep. 1, she is a one-of-a-kind presence and tough-as-nails female lead that finds perfect fit in a notoriously-strong tribe’s TV portrayal and it’s incredibly refreshing to see – why I always wanted her as CLC’s dreamcast for Black Canary in the DC Films Universe. Outside of its major 3, the series’ acting is full of shakiness, inexperience, questionable costume design, and weird accents – the latter being the byproduct of a bizarre inconsistency in historical accuracy for the History Channel.
Flaws in Vikings are mainly centered around its historical accuracy and pedigree of actors outside its big 3. The series is not going to win any awards by sociological or anthropological societies for its period/historical authenticity – the show is sometimes not transportive enough and feels like the characters have their phone in the pocket or just came from a luxurious set-trailer instead of being fully-invested in the escapist era-homage. The acting outside its big Fimmel-Winnick-Ludwig trio is pretty splotchy, and even bad at times (looking at youL Gustaf Skarsgard’s Floki, Peter Franzer’s Harald, etc.), but neither of these problems – while vexes) -are deal-breaker proportion.
Overall, Vikings is a phenomenal series that buoys solely on its cinematographical and score alone. It might be one of the visually-striking TV series of the 21st-century – and backs up that with a cinematic score, breathtaking location sets, fine performances, and visceral action scenes. The historical accuracy of the series on a network so-called History Channel is begged into questions at points and the acting outside its major trio subpar, but it overall is a product that amazes and transports across history and time to define its titular group much akin to how 300 did for Sparta. A tale of power, war, brutality, empires, & conquest in the wave-crashed, A.D. cliff-fringed waters of Scandinavia, Vikings’ central Wynnick-Ludwig duo, visceral fight choreography, striking visuals, and mythic credits sequence lead an epic historical trip.
Official CLC Score: 8.2/10