Hey TV.com, Should I Watch the History Channel's Vikings?

By Ryan Sandoval

Mar 02, 2013

Groping its way out of a schedule that was becoming a little reality show/Hitler/alien heavy, the History Channel found success last year with its first ever scripted miniseries, Hatfields & McCoys. So now audiences get to be entertained by Vikings, the nine-part tale of legendary Norse hero Ragnar Lodbrok and his rise to the throne of medieval Scandinavia. That’s all well and good, but will the show send you to the paradise of Valhalla, or pillage your brain and put it on a pike? The wise and powerful Odin revealed to me the pilot episode, and here are my thoughts...

What is Vikings?

History’s first “stab” at serialized drama (there are stabs in this show). Our hero Ragnar’s not like other vikings (for one, he’s portrayed by Travis Fimmel, WB’s Tarzan/one of Australia’s 10 million stud actors); instead of raiding the east like his corrupt lord and ruler Jarl Haraldsan  (Gabriel Byrne from In Treatment) keeps commanding him to, Lodbrok longs to travel west, across the ocean, to discover new civilizations. Along for the adventure is his brother Rollo (Clive Standen from Robin Hood and Camelot), and a gaggle of other asymmetrical haircut-sporting familiars. In the romance department, Ragnar’s wife Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick from Bones and holds a 3rd degree black belt) even gets to kick her share of butt as an equally legendary mythological lady warrior (real-life Xena?). Toss in a Skarsgard (Gustaf, the Clint Howard to Alexander’s Ron), some gorgeous Irish nature, and references to Norse gods, and you’ve got a recipe for good times.

Who created Vikings?

Michael Hirst, the writer and creator of Showtime’s The Tudors and a producer of The Borgias. This guy likes doing historical fiction, so History seems like a natural fit.

When does Vikings premiere?

Tomorrow! Sunday, March 3, at 10pm on the History Channel.

What audience is Vikings even for?

Oh you know, dads, dudes, metal heads, and history buffs. Anyone who likes seeing hunks being grimy, screaming brutes and getting impaled, as well as discussions of “fealty” over mugs of mead.

Huh, well what is the best thing about this show?

Its source material: In an age of repurposed, updated old stories and fairy-tale adaptations, it’s refreshing for a regular Norse saga to get a pretty normal treatment. Also, there's some capable folks on the production side of things, with Breaking Bad's Johan Renck directing the first three episodes, and Swedish electronic musicians Fever Ray offering up the credits song. This isn't just some extended dramatization, there's personality here! Also, Fimmel's a charismatic and relatable lead surrounded with an equally dedicated cast and high production values. With Byrne bringing his A-game, there could be the potential here for a super small scale Game of Thrones, albeit without the fantasy element.

And how about what isn't the best?

Since Vikings airs on the History Channel, you can never quite shake the feeling that tons of actual facts about viking life are being seeded into the dialogue (e.g. decrees about feasts, a court scene that explains laws about how many houses a murderer may pass). While fascinating at first, after a while lines like, "Odin gave his eye to acquire knowledge" pull you out of the drama a tiny bit. Also Ragnar's basic trajectory already seems familiar, without any risks being taken through storytelling or innovative character turns. Not every show has to be Enlightened, but if you don't have the patience for slow, straightforward stories, then maybe this ain't your battle to fight.

So, do I watch this, or eavesdrop on my neighbors and their problems?

Hell yeah watch it! If you’re anything like me, then a successful Sunday means cooking up a nice steak, cracking open a craft beer, and watching some muddy-ass sword fights. Vikings isn’t going to change TV as a medium, but makes a strong case for dramatizing a people that've so often been referenced, yet rarely featured.

Can I see a trailer?

Of course!

What beverage should I pair with my viewing?

Mead. Definitely mead.

Vikings premieres Sunday, March 3 at 10pm on the History Channel.

  • Comments (55)
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  • Llostris Mar 07, 2013

    I really liked the pilot of "Vikings". I hope this show is only going to get better. Fingers crossed.

  • mnemesis Mar 06, 2013

    I found the pilot really good. It is quite dark, the sceneries look like Norway and the characters feel real enough. Some of the elements of Ragnar mythology have been introduced such as his fear that his children overcome him or his future allegance of being Odin's son. I really enjoyed the cast, the only thing I did not quite like was the fact that such a ship could be built by one lunatic man.
    I am looking forward to seeing how he recruits his crew and the rivalry with his lord.

  • Shreela Mar 05, 2013

    I liked it a lot better than the other new show this week.

  • LiseLotteDive Mar 04, 2013

    This was really good and I'm soooo glad the characters don't speak american.

  • fandomgirl Mar 04, 2013

    Oh, yes. That darn American language ruining perfectly good shows. Seriously, who do those Americans think they are? The English? :P

  • WolfgangVonZu Mar 04, 2013

    I don't care if its historically accurate, but Vikings with compasses, cmon. This is the History Channel right?

  • Paladax Mar 14, 2013

    And how do you think the Vikings made it all the way to the America's then? On a wing an a prayer?
    All these fancy gadgets like compasses had to come and start from somewhere.

  • withoutcanseco Mar 04, 2013

    What about The Bible?

  • melodyselden5 Aug 29, 2013

    WHY is it...we Wonder, that "someone" always has to bring the Bible into play? I mean, truly, IF you are a Christian, you normally ignore things such as Dinosaurs, etc, and things such as History. Anything you cannot twist into your own explaination, is therefore usually ignored. WHY, and (yes, I have wondered this for a long dam time)...does someone always have to bring up the Bible?

    Here is a little TRUTH for ya: while I am not a Christian, the Bible does have it's finer points, but the thing about the Bible is this: the Bible is a great fictional work, and it was designed to make us think about the way we are leading our lives, but the real reason the bible was created was to make us think before making choices/ to make us have a set of tenant, to try to govern our lives by. IE: Learning right from wrong.

    SO: The HISTORY Channel has given us an amazing series to enjoy. And they did their very Best to make it as accurate as possible. WHY then, can't we just acknowledge that it is a great show? Back then, JUST LIKE TODAY...we are many people, with even MORE types of faith.

    The HISTORY channel has done an awful lot of research here, to show the way that real Vikings were, how they lived, what they did etc. And we can appreciate that.

    If, for some Crazy Reason, some jerk has decided that we No Longer HAVE a right to whatever faith we choose, ,then THEY don't have to watch this show, IF they don't WANT TO. I, however, remember that there is a Constitution that says I can worship as I Please. SO to all you, (and your numbers keep getting fewer)...who would complain about this series, You are NOT in a Court of Law, NOR or You in school, trying to tell MY CHILDREN what to believe.....so Leave my darn television shows alone.

    **************IF you don't LIKE the Show, then DON'T WATCH THE SHOW....but quit trying to MESS with everyone ELSE. It's a SHOW...It's NOT REAL LIFE...or did you just NOT get the memo. Keep your religion where it belongs: in the Church.

  • melodyselden5 Aug 29, 2013

    As to your Comment: "What about the Bible?" now, THAT would be an interesting series. a little too much murder, mayhem, and blood for my taste, but still...would be an interesting series.

  • withoutcanseco Aug 29, 2013


  • aknu Mar 04, 2013

    Hope they get the geographical/regional viking info right ! People often seem to think swedes were the main vikings, while they were very active ofc, the main raiding ones were from norway and denmark ! Swedes mainly went to russia, while the norwegians took iceland greenland and some of canada and the danes took england, ireland, normandy, the baltics and some of portugal and italy.
    Nerdy viking rant over, gonna give it a go

  • lorddraknohlv Apr 01, 2013

    I don't believe most people think the swedes were in any way the main vikings. I believe most people think that all of scandinavia were the main vikings.
    The vikings in Sweden were just as much vikings as the ones in Denmark and Norway. I mean c'mon the Varangians came from sweden! those were the most skilled viking warriors of all. They went all the way down to Greece where they got recruited by the emperor of Byzantium (The biggest & greatest empire in the world at the time) as his personal guards because of they're skill in combat, and if that doesn't make them vikings well then i guess being a viking is something you woudn't be so verry proud of to begin with. And since most viking runestones are being found in Sweden your claim that Sweden were being less radiant as a viking nation than the others nordic countries makes even less sense than before.

  • Watashii Mar 04, 2013

    I used to like History Channel but nowadays its full of reruns of American/Canadian Pickers and other junk finder shows (at least in Canada). I honestly thought this show was made by some other network, then I found out it was from History Channel. As someone who uselessly spent his college years learning about history, its hard to pass on a show like this. I just hope that its not one of those half documentary, half dramatization program but to be honest, I kind of like those type of shows. I don't specialize in Viking history, but I do hope they don't veer too much from actual history.

  • Inigo_Montoya Mar 04, 2013

    Watchin' it. Irish heritage. Also I need more reasons to drink mead. =D

  • LiseLotteDive Mar 03, 2013

    Heck yes! I need to see what my relatives were up too back in the day. Wishes from a Sweden who never seems to thaw out of the ice age 2013 called winter.

  • Inigo_Montoya Mar 04, 2013

    Hahahahaha!! I'm kinda Irish too, but we moved 'cause of the potatoes. (BTW the best potato line on TV ever was Sam explaining to Gollum what potatoes were. 'Boil 'em. Mash 'em. Stick 'em in a stew.') #LovePotatoes

    PS Got totally sidetracked here . . . Oh well. Definitely going to watch the show anyway. Sounds good and my Sundays are boring currently. Also ancestry. Totally that. Yup.

  • Inigo_Montoya Mar 05, 2013

    I just read this and got really sad because Game of Thrones used to be on Sundays . . . I will watch this AT LEAST until the 31st.

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