Vikings (TV series)
|Created by||Michael Hirst|
|Opening theme||"If I Had a Heart"
by Fever Ray
|Country of origin||Canada and Ireland|
|No. of seasons||3|
|No. of episodes||29 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||45 minutes|
|Original release||3 March 2013– present|
Vikings is an Irish-Canadian historical drama television series written and created by Michael Hirst for the television channel History. It premiered on 3 March 2013 in the United States and Canada. Filmed in Ireland, it is an Ireland/Canada co-production.
Vikings is inspired by the sagas of Viking Ragnar Lothbrok, one of the best-known legendary Norse heroes and notorious as the scourge of England and France. It portrays Ragnar as a former farmer who rises to fame by successful raids into England, and eventually becomes King, with the support of his family and fellow warriors: his brother Rollo, his son Bjorn Ironside, and his wives—the shieldmaiden Lagertha and the princess Aslaug.
The third season of Vikings premiered on 19 February 2015, and was renewed for a fourth season on 26 March 2015.
The series is inspired by the tales of the raiding, trading, and exploring Norsemen of early medieval Scandinavia. It follows the exploits of the legendary Viking chieftain Ragnar Lothbrok and his crew and family, as notably laid down in the 13th century sagas Ragnars saga Loðbrókar and Ragnarssona þáttr, as well as in Saxo Grammaticus's 12th century work Gesta Danorum. Norse legendary sagas were partially fictional tales based in Norse oral tradition, written down about 200 to 400 years after the events they describe. Further inspiration is taken from historical sources of the period, such as records of the Viking raid on Lindisfarne depicted in the second episode, or Ahmad ibn Fadlan's 10th-century account of the Volga Vikings. The series is set at the beginning of the Viking Age, marked by the Lindisfarne raid in 793.
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (March 2015)|
- Travis Fimmel as legendary Viking Ragnar Lothbrok. Originally a farmer, Ragnar claims to be a descendant of the god Odin, and during the show's run he manages to rise to become a respected Earl of his home settlement Kattegat, as well as a feared warrior, a famed raider of undiscovered lands, and, finally, the King of Denmark.
- Katheryn Winnick as Lagertha, Ragnar's first wife; a shieldmaiden. Following the separation of her and Ragnar, Lagertha rises to become Earl of Hedeby in her own right, going by the name Earl Ingstad.
- Clive Standen as Rollo, Ragnar's brother. Although a ruthless and skilled warrior, having spent his life in the shadow of his brother makes Rollo's feelings towards Ragnar constantly changing from loyal love and admiration, to hateful jealousy. The character is based on the great-great-great-grandfather of William the Conqueror.
- Jessalyn Gilsig as Siggy, Earl Haraldson's wife, and later love-interest of Rollo. She possesses a strategic mind and a tireless urge to retain (or regain) her power and influence. (Seasons 1-3).
- Gustaf Skarsgård as Floki, a gifted, albeit eccentric, shipbuilder and friend of Ragnar. Acknowledging his peculiar character traits, Floki considers himself a descendant of the trickster god Loki.
- George Blagden as Athelstan, an Anglo-Saxon monk originally serving at the monastery of Lindisfarne in Northumbria. Captured by Ragnar on his first raid in England, Athelstan is torn between the customs of the Christian England and the pagan ways of Scandinavia. (Seasons 1-3).
- Alexander Ludwig as Bjorn Ironside, Ragnar and Lagertha's son, given his epithet by his father, following his first battle with the Saxons (Seasons 2 and 3).
- Nathan O'Toole as young Bjorn. (Seasons 1 and 2, recurring).
- Alyssa Sutherland as Queen Aslaug, Ragnar's second wife, claiming to be the daughter of the valkyrie Brynhildr and the dragonslayer Sigurd.
- Gabriel Byrne as Earl Haraldson, Ragnar's predecessor as Earl of Kattegat (Season 1).
- Donal Logue as King Horik of Denmark (Seasons 1 and 2).
- Linus Roache as King Ecbert of Wessex (Seasons 2 and 3).
- Ben Robson as Kalf, a prominent and clever Hedeby villager (Season 3).
- Kevin Durand as Harbard, a charismatic wanderer and storyteller arriving in Kattegat (Season 3).
- Lothaire Bluteau as Emperor Charles of West Francia (Season 3).
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||9||March 3, 2013||April 28, 2013|
|2||10||February 27, 2014||May 1, 2014|
|3||10||February 19, 2015||April 23, 2015|
An Irish-Canadian co-production, Vikings was developed and produced by Octagon Films and Take 5 Productions. Michael Hirst, Morgan O'Sullivan, John Weber, Sherry Marsh, Alan Gasmer, James Flynn and Sheila Hockin are credited as executive producers. The first season's budget has been reported as $40 million USD.
The series began filming in July 2012 at Ashford Studios, a newly built studio facility in Ireland, chosen as a location for its tax advantages. On 16 August 2012, longship scenes were filmed at Luggala, as well as on the Poulaphouca Reservoir, in the heart of the Wicklow Mountains. 70 percent of the first season was filmed outdoors. Some additional background shots were done in western Norway.
Johan Renck, Ciarán Donnelly and Ken Girotti each directed three episodes. The production team includes cinematographer John Bartley, costume designer Joan Bergin, production designer Tom Conroy, composer Trevor Morris and Irish choir Crux Vocal Ensemble, directed by Paul McGough.
According to actor Clive Standen (Rollo), future seasons may feature characters such as Alfred the Great, Leif Ericson, and Ivar the Boneless, as well as travels to Iceland, Russia, France, and across the Atlantic.
On 5 April 2013, History renewed Vikings for a ten-episode second season.
Two new series regulars were announced on 11 June 2013. Alexander Ludwig, portraying the teenage Björn, and Linus Roache, playing King Ecbert of Wessex. Season 2 will undergo a jump in time, aging the young Bjorn (Nathan O’Toole) into an older swordsman portrayed by Ludwig. According to reports, the older Bjorn will not have seen his father, Ragnar, for "a long period of time." Lagertha will have remarried to a powerful Jarl, a stepfather who provides harsh guidance to Bjorn.
Several Swedish media sources reported that actors Edvin Endre, son of renowned Swedish actress Lena Endre  of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Wallander fame and Anna Åström, who recently co-starred with Gustaf Skarsgård  in controversial Swedish language film Vi, had signed up for roles in season two.
Finnish actors Peter Franzén (The Gunman) and Jasper Pääkkönen (Frozen Land, Secret Lives) as well as Canadian actress Dianne Doan (Once Upon a Time) will have recurring roles in season 4. Franzén will play Norwegian King Harald Finehair, a potential rival to Ragnar. Pääkkönen is set to play Halfdan the Black, Finehair's younger brother. Doan will portray Yidu, a Chinese character who will have a major role in the new season.
In the UK, Vikings premiered on 24 May 2013 where it is exclusively available on the streaming video-on-demand service LoveFilm. The second season premiered on 24 March 2015. The third season began airing on 20 February 2015 on Amazon Instant Video.
In Australia, the series premiered on 8 August 2013 on SBS One. It was later moved to FX, which debuted the second season on 4 February 2015. Season 3 of Vikings began broadcasting in Australia on SBS One on 19 March 2015.
The series received very favourable ratings by critics after the first episode had aired, with an average rating of 71% according to Metacritic. Alan Sepinwall of HitFix praised the series' casting, notably of Fimmel as Ragnar, and observed that Vikings "isn't complicated. It (...) relies on the inherent appeal of the era and these characters to drive the story." Nancy DeWolf Smith of The Wall Street Journal noted the "natural and authentic" setting and costumes, and appreciated that Vikings was (unlike, e.g., Spartacus) not a celebration of sex and violence, but "a study of character, stamina, power and (...) of social, emotional and even intellectual awakening". Hank Stuever, writing for the Washington Post, found that the "compelling and robust new drama series (...) delivers all the expected gore and blood spatter". But he also wrote that it successfully adapted the skills of cable television drama, with the care taken in acting, writing and sense of scope reminiscent of such series as Rome, Sons of Anarchy and Game of Thrones. He also suggested that the way the series emphasized "a core pride and nobility in this tribe of thugs" reflected "just another iteration of Tony Soprano". Neil Genzlinger, in The New York Times, praised the "arresting" cinematography and the actors' performances, notably Fimmel's, and favourably compared Vikings to Game of Thrones and Spartacus for the absence of gratuitous nudity.
In TIME, James Poniewozik noted that the relatively simple generational conflict underlying Vikings "doesn't nearly have the narrative ambition of a Game of Thrones or the political subtleties of a Rome", nor these series' skill with dialogue, but that it held up pretty well compared to the "tabloid history" of series like The Tudors and The Borgias. He concluded that "Vikings' larger story arc is really more about historical forces" than about its not very complex characters. Clark Collis of Entertainment Weekly appreciated the cast's performance, but considered Vikings "kind of a mess", lacking the intrigue of The Tudors and Game of Thrones. Brian Lowry criticized the series in Variety as an "unrelenting cheese-fest" and as a "more simpleminded version of 'Game of Thrones'", but considered it to achieve "a level of atmosphere and momentum that makes it work as a mild diversion". In the San Francisco Chronicle, David Wiegand was disappointed by the series' "glacial pace" and lack of action as well as by the "flabby direction and a gassy script", while appreciating the performances and characters.
The second season received a Metacritic rating of 77% and a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 92% based on 12 professional critic reviews.
According to Nielsen, the series premiere drew 6 million viewers in the U.S., topping all broadcast networks among 18-to-49 year olds. An earlier claim of over 18 million viewers was later retracted by the channel with an apology.
In Canada, the premiere was watched by 1.1 million viewers. The first season has averaged 942,000 viewers.
Some critics have pointed out historical inaccuracies in the series' depiction of Viking society. Lars Walker, in the magazine The American Spectator, criticized its portrayal of Viking Age government (in the person of Earl Haraldson) as autocratic rather than essentially democratic. Joel Robert Thompson criticized the show's depiction of the Norse peoples' supposed ignorance of the existence of Britain and Ireland, and the use of the death penalty instead of outlawry (skoggangr) as a punishment for heinous crimes.
Monty Dobson, a historian at Central Michigan University, criticised the show's depictions of Viking Age clothing, but went on to state that fictional shows like Vikings could still be a useful teaching tool. The Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten reported that the series incorrectly depicted the temple at Uppsala as a stave church in the mountains, whereas the historical temple was situated on flat land and stave churches were a hallmark of later Christian architecture in Scandinavia. On the other hand, the temple as depicted in the show does have similarities with the reconstructions of the Uppåkra hof. The show also portrays a crucifixion of a prominent character instigated by a Christian bishop near Wessex, apparently as a standard punishment for apostasy - an event that may or may not have a basis in historical fact, as Emperor Constantine officially outlawed crucifixion in the 4th century.
Regarding the historical accuracy of the show, showrunner Michael Hirst comments that "I especially had to take liberties with ‘Vikings’ because no one knows for sure what happened in the Dark Ages" and that "we want people to watch it. A historical account of the Vikings would reach hundreds, occasionally thousands, of people. Here we’ve got to reach millions." When Katheryn Winnick was asked why she licked the seer's hand she answered "It wasn’t originally in the script and we just wanted to come up with something unique and different".
Zenescope partnered with the History Channel to create a free Vikings comic book based on the series. It was first distributed at Comic-Con 2013 and by comiXology in February 2014. The comic was written by Michael Hirst, features interior artwork by Dennis Calero (X-Men Noir), and is set before the events of season 1. In addition to featuring Ragnar and Rollo battling alongside their father, the comic depicts the brothers’ first encounter with Lagertha.
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