Vikings Season One [TV Show Review]

Ragnar Lothbrok Vikings History Channel

Vikings Season One is available on the History channel.  It follows one of the best-known Norse heroes Ragnar Lothbrok, who spearheaded the first daring raids into England with the help of his fellow warriors, brother and shieldmaiden maiden wife.  It’s an entertaining if short series that is action packed, has some mythical or magical hints to it and is historically accurate when it comes to the technology of the times.  

The Good

The Action:  If you’re watching the Vikings, you’re watching it for the bloody action.  Yes, I do enjoy fight scenes.  For the most part I think they’re well done and well choreographed.  

It’s bloody without getting into excessively graphic violence like the movie Braveheart.  You aren’t likely to see heads or arms being chopped off.  You might see that as good or bad depending on what’s your cup of tea. 

There are plenty of slit throats, however.

The World:  The writers and producers do a good job portraying how people lived during the Saxon times.  I do enjoy hearing the myths of the Viking people being retold on the small screen.  They speak of Odin, the Valkyries, Valhalla, how the world is created and Ragnarok.  

I also like how they use Athelstan (the captured English monk) as the excuse to tell those myths.  It’s a common device in fiction.  You get the outsider who knows nothing to ask questions and it gives your characters the chance to talk about the back story, culture, etc.  

In one of the later episodes there’s a giant ash tree that boggles the mind because it’s so huge.  At that point you realize that the show isn’t completely grounded in history but is more historical fiction.

Historical Accuracy:  I’d say the producers of Vikings did a good job sticking to historically accurate facts.  In the pre-Saxon times the best armour the Vikings had would be leather and hide.  The English would only have access to maybe studded leather.  

The English did have better iron forged weapons, which was noted in one of the episodes.  They also used short bows and not long bows.  Longbows didn’t exist at the time.  

The Bad

The Action:  Though the combat scenes are generally well done it felt a bit strained in terms of believability.  You would have the Vikings with their small force and shields facing three times their number and emerging victorious.  

It was written off that the Vikings were so savage, fearsome and fearless that the English were too scared to fight effectively.  Considering the fact the English had better weapons and numbers I found it hard to believe the Vikings didn’t suffer more casualties.  Again it didn’t detract from my enjoyment too much.

Anyway, I’m sure they had to stick within budget limits.

Length of Series:  Season one is only nine episodes long.  It doesn’t feel like it’s long enough to develop the characters and their relationships in full.  Still they deliver the most important parts of the story so it’s not that bad.  

The Language:  The viewer is left to assume when the Vikings are speaking their Nordic language.  You really can’t tell.  In one scene, the main character Ragnar Lothbrok asks Athelstan the English monk how he knows the Nordic language.  

Yet both characters only speak in English so it doesn’t sound like anyone actually spoke a Nordic tongue at all.  

It’s not a major issue for me though it does affect immersion.  It would have been better if the actors spoke Swedish with translations (because no one speaks the ancient Viking dialects today).  Then again viewers typically dislike subtitles in most cases.  


The Verdict

Vikings Season One is a fairly unique blend of history, fiction and myth.  The action scenes, worldly descriptions and historical accuracy are good.  Sometimes the battle scenes and language strain credibility or immersion though overall it’s an entertaining, if short series.  

Note that Vikings Season Two has started and I look forward to reviewing it later on.  

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