One of the best shows on TV last year was Vikings on the History Channel. (In my humble opinion, it was second only to Season 3 of Game of Thrones.) Season 2 of Vikings begins tomorrow, but before it starts I thought I’d re-cap 5 things about last season that have me looking forward to this one.
|Ragnar and his Vikings were pretty badass!*|
1. Ragnar Lothbrok!
I thought it was a brilliant move for the show’s writers to center Vikings around one of the most legendary Norsemen who ever lived. Historically, Ragnar Lothbrok (also known as “Ragnar Hairy Breeches”) was a hero of Old Norse poems at the dawn of the Viking Age. His sons, who included Ivar the Boneless and Ubba Ragnarson, would go on to become quite famous too. Anyone familiar with Bernard Cornell’s The Last Kingdom about the Dane’s efforts to conquer Britain in the Ninth Century will know these boys well!
Ragnar, who is played by Travis Fimmel, has everything you’d want in a protagonist. He’s brave and likeable, fierce yet merciful, nobly ambitious, and bit conflicted. Even though Gabriel Byrne (as Jarl Haraldson) was the show’s most famous actor when it premiered, Fimmel’s Ragnar makes the series as great as it is. Short of Jon Snow and Arya Stark, there’s no one on TV I like to root for more.
|Men learn not to mess with Lagertha!|
2. Ragnar’s Wife Lagertha is Very Cool Too!
The legendary Lagertha was a fierce shieldmadien whose courage was equal to the bravest man. In the show, she is perfectly portrayed by the beautiful Katheryn Winnick. Last season, she showed her mettle as a warrior and her wisdom as a queen while ruling in Ragnar’s stead. Last season ended tragically for her, and I fear it will only get worse. But she’s still one of my favorite characters on the show.
3. Brother Athelstan and the Christian/Pagan Tension
Being a fan of medieval monks, I was happy the writers turned Brother Athelstan into a regular character. In episode 2, Ragnar enslaved Athelstan after the famous sacking of the Anglo-Saxon monastery at Lindisfarne (you can watch a more amusing portrayal of that even here). The Vikings attack on Lindisfarne in 793 is considered by many historians to mark the beginning of the Viking Age. And while it’s unlikely that Ragnar Lothbrok was actually there, it was appropriate for a show about the early Vikings to include this event.
|Monasteries weren't the safest places in the Viking Age!|
Now back to Athelstan. He’s the character who lets the viewer observe the Danes and their culture from more of an Anglo-Saxon Christian point-of-view. He’s also an enduring character who earns Ragnar’s trust and a high place in his home. In the episode late last season in the Temple at Uppsala, his character created a stark contrast between his Christian faith and the Norse religion with its disturbing human sacrifice. The tension between Christianity and pagan beliefs would be a big deal for much of the Viking Age, and I’m glad the writers incorporated that element through Athelstan.
4. The Brothers’ War
Ragnar’s brother, Rollo, stayed loyal for a while, but ever since he’s fallen in with Siggy, the late Jarl Haraldson’s widow, he’s been dreaming of Ragnar’s throne. Now Rollo has secretly betrayed Ragnar, setting up a war between brothers that should provide a major source of conflict in Season 2 (in fact, the first episode is called “Brother’s War”).
|This princess turns Ragnar's world upside down!|
5. The Mysterious Princess Auslag
I didn’t realize she was an actual historical princess until after watching Season 1, but her appearance at the season’s end threw me for a curve. Ragnar first sees her bathing, and she’s so mysterious and ethereally beautiful that I half-expected the show to suggest she was a maiden of the Fae. (In fact, in the show she’s the daughter of Brynhildr, who in Norse mythology is one of the Fae-like Valkyrie!) In any event, Auslag seduces Ragnar—and in the big twist—now carries his son. This revelation has turned Ragnar’s life upside down, and if real history is any guide, she will be playing a much larger role in Season 2. And I suspect Lagertha will be none too happy about it either!
Let me know if you have something you liked about Season 1 of Vikings or are looking forward to in Season 2. Or just send me a comment after tomorrow’s show!
* Photo Credits: Jonathan Hession at History.com