Finally I made it: I watched the pilot for Vikings. And after seeing it, I’ll give the Canadian-Irish TV series a chance. We’re actually well into it, with Season 3 scheduled to air on the History television channel in 2015, but better late than never, given the fact that I’ve always been fascinated by Norse mythology and folklore (and not just for the sightseeing of alleged monsters swimming in Icelandic lakes).
So my problem now is to avoid spoilers while I catch up with the saga of Ragnar Lothbrok adapted for the screen by Michael Hirst, whom I still thank for The Tudors (by now I suppose you spot my weakness for historical fiction). Season 3 has recently been presented at San Diego Comic-Con and I’ll need to pay extra attention to avoid stumbling upon news and updates that will screw up the vision of the previous ones. But if you, unlike me, are already approaching Season 2, this infographic courtesy of History.com and Column Five shows pretty much all you have to know before you start watching Episode 2×1.
Over the past few years we have seen a revival of Viking-age and Norse-inspired stories adapted for the big screen: Robert Zemeckis’ motion capture fantasy Beowulf (2007), Marcus Nispel’s bloody action movie Pathfinder (2007), Howard McCain’s science fiction film Outlander (2008) and Nicolas Winding Refn’s gloomy drama Valhalla Rising (2009), just to name a few. Also, the British Museum recently organised the exhibition Vikings: Life and Legend, to shed light on the period between 8th to early 11th century.
Being a TV series, the main advantage of Vikings is of course the space given to develop the dynamics between the characters, instead of offering one-dimensional portraits (see for example how the Viking marauders are depicted in Pathfinder).
In terms of look and feel, it delivers blood and gore when needed, but doesn’t constantly rely on sex, slow-motion violence and guitar tracks like series such as Spartacus do (not that I’m against it, eh). It might be indebted to today’s aesthetics of cameras floating in the air and flying crows (see the pilot’s opening sequence), but it seems to be more character-driven while paying attention to drama and acting, within a story arc that gives space to religion, human impulses, go-West ambitions and thirst for knowledge.
As for the rest, I’ll take my time in order to judge the whole series.