Vikings, the current pride of the History Channel, has shocked and entertained for nearly two years while only releasing 19 episodes total . This is one of the first times that the channel has ever released a non-reality based television program. Naturally, like many others, I was somewhat hesitant at first. When the History Channel tries to stretch beyond its means, their sloppy work and minimal budget tend to create something that misses the mark. However, a great trailer and intro song made me give their new series a chance. The show’s co-sponsorship with MGM has created a visual masterpiece that loosely follows the Norse epic poems about Ragnar Lothbrok, played by Travis Fimmel. Although it is an excellent show overall, History Channel only releases ten episodes per year. The show then disappears until the following February. The show recently released a detailed trailer that gives some great insight into the exciting premiere of the third season on Thursday the 19th.
The show begins with Ragnar as a farmer and fisherman in a small village. His ability to navigate and take the Vikings across the sea to England distinguishes him from the others. The show follows his stead rise to power and his struggles against his enemies. By the end of the second season Ragnar battles his way through enough fast-paced struggles with his ruler, who tries to kill him and his family, to become Ragnar the King. The end of the 2nd season, nearly a year ago, left viewers at this point.
The show thrives off of its ability to enchant through the most disturbing of concepts. Both seasons involved scenes of slow, graphic human sacrifice. The characters killed were also in important supporting roles; therefore, their deaths were even more shocking. The season three trailer depicts one of the protagonists friends mid-crucifixion. This scene immediately cuts to Ragnar sailing in with severed heads hanging from the front of his ship.
These disturbing images are so intriguing because they remind viewers of the true nature of the characters on screen. Ragnar may be wise and compassionate, but he has no qualms with torture for sport or the killing of innocents. The show provides enough brutal, realistic, historic insight to the Viking way of life to turn Travis Fimmel’s character into a true antihero. Surrounding him are characters that possess different levels of disturbing savagery, and the intrigue comes from conflicts between the different degrees of morality in their interactions. War and greed are the main goals of all the characters, but the way they go about doing so creates conflict between them.
Characters seem to embody archetypes throughout the show. Aslaug is a regal character and removes herself from the violence while willing to reap the benefits of war and fighting, Floki is a mysterious character who, although loyal, appears to be constantly deceiving with his almost serpentine appearance, and the list can go on. Reflecting on this new trailer with knowledge of seasons one and two, the viewer can see that the characters are steadily developing. The finale of season two revealed where true loyalties lay; now Ragnar and those around him are forced to finally address the new challenges ahead of them. Ragnar is now the ruler, and this requires new attitudes that viewers have never seen before.
Although the show is still young, I see the next few seasons of Vikings as works worthy of critical acclaim. Although not quite primetime television at the moment, it will work its way there with time. Granted that ten episodes per calendar year truly hurts their culture relevance, I admire their desire for quality over quantity.