If you would have told me earlier this year that I was going to fall in love with a television series about Vikings, I would never have believed you. Then… Then I saw Vikings, the first original scripted series on History Channel. I was hooked immediately. I have said this before, but Vikings is really a less dense versions of Game of Thrones.
Creator Michael Hirst (Elizabeth) has done something marvelous with this series. He has taken the history of a Scandinavian culture that was mostly passed on orally and not committed to written history and made a wonderful hybrid action/drama/historical epic. The amazing thing is you start to root for these people who go into foreign lands and plunder them for the taking.
Ragnar Lothbrook (Travis Fimmel) is a young warrior who has dreams beyond his simple farm. He and his wife Lagertha (Katherine Winnick) are raising a family while also sparring on the battlefield in foreign lands. Ragnar’s brother, Rollo (Clive Standen) is a hunter without a wife and family but he’s secretly in love with Lagertha.
Talk about a love triangle. The brother’s relationship is at the heart of the series and both are at odds, with Ragnar being the more charismatic and Rollo always being forced out of the spotlight.
Ragnar and Rollo follow the direction of Earl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne) who instructs his people on where they will set sail next. He instructs everyone to go east but Ragnar has the radical notion of going west. When he is shot down by the Earl, Ragnar plots to change everything he and his family has known. He teams up with Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård) and they build a boat which will handle the waters to the west. Ragnar gets a crew and they go out in defiance of Earl.
After braving the journey, Ragnar’s crew come upon a monastery that they pillage and then devastate all the monks who reside there. However, Ragnar saves a young monk names Athelstan (George Blagden) who speaks Ragnar’s language.
When the crew come home with their pillage the Earl is more than upset and tells Ragnar that he and his crew can choose one piece of treasure to keep. The rest is his. What Earl recognizes is Ragnar’s defiance and now a challenge to his rule.
Athelstan, a monk who is taken as a slave by Ragnar quickly becomes one of the most interesting characters of the series. He is a Christian forced to be in this Nordic world. He is at once our eyes into this foreign Viking world and also the Christian alternative to the Norse Gods. He struggles to maintain his love of God while also assimilating into the fierce an violent world of the Vikings.
The nine episode series is a treat and an amazing introduction to what I’m hoping is a long run for this Viking world. By the end, everything introduced to us, is turned on it’s head and in the capable hands of Michael Hirst, I’m confidant it will even become more compelling as the years go on.
As Ragnar Lothbrook, Travis Fimmel is a revelation. There’s nothing in his previous work that even indicates he would be capable of pulling off such a complex and intriguing character like Ragnar. He’s sly, adventurous, a good father, yet impetuous and acts without thinking. We as the viewer are immediately sucked in to the series in no small part due to his portrayal. It’s the subtle things that Fimmel does that make the character so interesting, an arc of an eyebrow, a glint in his eye, a side sarcastic comment.
Katherine Winnick and George Blagden are also amazing in their roles. Winnick in particular allows Lagertha to be hard and a warrior but also feminine. It’s not particularly easy to do i such a male dominated series. Blagden also uses the complexity of Athelstan to his advantage. His journey is probably the most accessible to audiences and he allows himself to be our eyes into this world.
Vikings Season One arrives on blu-ray in the same muted picture quality that is reserved for historical epics. A lot of colors have been emphasized including Ragnar’s blue eyes and some of the green landscapes. They are well suited to blu-ray.
The packaging of Vikings season one is also worth mentioning. It comes in a cool collector set with front flap enclosure. The discs are housed inside clam shell packaging.
The extras a plentiful on this set and I love it when television series take advantage of the special features of blu-ray. There are extended versions of each episode (the extended versions seem like they are the European versions which have slightly more nudity and violence), there are commentary tracks on two episodes (keep an ear out for some season 2 hints), a few deleted scenes, and three featurettes.
The best featurette is A Warrior Society: Viking Culture and Law which features Michael Hirst giving us an overview and recap of the Viking way of life and world. He is so knowledgeable and the amount of research he has done for this series is most impressive.
Overall, I can’t tell you what a huge fan of this show I am. Check out some of the interviews I’ve done with the cast. Seriously, if you had any doubts about picking this series up, stop and just do it. It’s an amazing series that combines the best in historical epics with just the right amount of action and adventure.
Vikings season one is out now on blu-ray!
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