You’ve heard of Vikings, right? It’s that little historical Game of Thrones knock-off buried on the History Channel, of all places, that’s somehow eked out a third season despite remaining in relative obscurity. Well, I’m here to sell it to you, and sell it to you hard. You should be watching Vikings right now, and here’s why.
1. The Performances
The lead actor in Vikings is Travis Fimmel. Travis Fimmel is, by trade, an underwear model. And he’s also one of the finest actors working on television today. A sharp, nuanced, and understated performance, his work as Viking noble Ragnar Lothbrook defines just how good the show can be- think Charlie Hunam in Sons of Anarchy meets I, Claudius.
But he’s matched by a stunning main cast- Clive Standen plays ultimate warrior and Ragnar’s brother Rollo; a formidable and defiant Kathryn Winnick stars alongside Fimmel as his shieldmaiden wife Lagertha, and the main four is rounded out by George Blagden as English priest Athelstan who finds himself kidnapped into Viking society- and torn between his faith and this fascinating new world.
A supporting cast includes a breakthrough performance from Alexander Ludwig as Ragnar’s son Bjorn and Gustaf Skarsgard as the dark, mischievous, unpredictable shipbuilder Floki. These are not just actors that you haven’t seen before, these are characters that you won’t see anywhere else on TV, and the cast simply doesn’t have a weak link.
2. The Story lines
You want Vikings rampaging through England? You got it. You want sexual politics and the subversion of gender roles? Have seconds. Politics? Religious conflict? Uneasy partnerships? Drugs? Culture clashes? Everything that you’d expect to find in a modern drama is here, just filtered through the lens of Viking culture.
The series works intelligent, challenging themes-like the conflict between Christianity and Viking culture-through smartly written, fast-moving plots that make for almost exhaustingly packed episodes.
3. The Fight Scenes
Yes, of course there are fight scenes. One of the things that strikes me in these fight scenes is the sheer efficiency of them- these Vikings take a great deal of pride and honour in battle, and because of that are next to unbeatable. I’d throw it out there that Vikings has some of the most brutal, exhilarating, and beautifully shot and created fight scenes on TV at the moment.
Here is the place that true allegiances and trust is forged- in fast, unremitting hand-to-hand combat. Kathryn Winnick, the show’s major female warrior, stands out as a particular pleasure to watch in battle, and Clive Standen is frankly pretty scary.
4. There’s Nothing Else Like It
High-quality historical dramas are thin on the ground at the moment (for the record, Game of Thrones is a fantasy show). Vikings is filling a serious gap in the market- this is sharp, carefully written, boundary-pushing stuff that needs to be watched to keep it on the air.
With just two short series to catch up on, now is the time to get your teeth into this appropriately meaty, bloody, sexy, and brilliant show. Just watch out for the blood eagle*
*Don’t look it up.