Vikings (2013 TV series)
Vikings is a historical drama television series created and written by Michael Hirst for the History channel. Filmed in Ireland, it premiered on March 3, 2013, in Canada. In January 2019, it was announced that the 20-episode sixth season, which was ordered on September 12, 2017, ahead of its fifth-season premiere, would be the final season of the series. The sixth season premiered on December 4, 2019. A sequel series, titled Vikings: Valhalla, is in development for Netflix.
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. The show portrays Ragnar as a farmer who rises to fame by successful raids into England, and eventually becomes a Scandinavian King, with the support of his family and fellow warriors. In the later seasons, the series follows the fortunes of his sons and their adventures in England, Scandinavia and the Mediterranean.
PremiseThe series is inspired by the tales of the Norsemen of early medieval Scandinavia. It broadly follows the exploits of the legendary Viking chieftain Ragnar Lothbrok and his crew, family and descendants, 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 the 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 Varangians. The series begins at the start of the Viking Age, marked by the Lindisfarne raid in 793.
- Travis Fimmel as Ragnar Lothbrok
- Katheryn Winnick as Lagertha
- Clive Standen as Rollo
- Jessalyn Gilsig as Siggy
- Gustaf Skarsgård as Floki
- Gabriel Byrne as Earl Haraldson
- George Blagden as Athelstan
- Donal Logue as Horik of Denmark
- Alyssa Sutherland as Aslaug
- Linus Roache as Ecbert of Wessex
- Alexander Ludwig as Bjorn Ironside
- Ben Robson as Kalf
- Kevin Durand as Harbard
- Lothaire Bluteau as Charles of West Francia
- John Kavanagh as The Seer
- Peter Franzén as Harald Finehair
- Jasper Pääkkönen as Halfdan the Black
- Alex Høgh Andersen as Ivar the Boneless
- Marco Ilsø as Hvitserk
- David Lindström as Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye
- Jordan Patrick Smith as Ubbe
- Moe Dunford as Aethelwulf
- Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Bishop Heahmund
- Danila Kozlovsky as Oleg the Prophet
- Eric Johnson as Erik the Red
- Georgia Hirst as Torvi
- Ragga Ragnars as Gunnhild
- Ray Stevenson as Othere
Season 1An 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 was reported as US$40 million.
The series began filming in July 2012 at Ashford Studios, which is a newly built facility in Ireland. This location was chosen for its scenery and tax advantages. On August 16, 2012, longship scenes were filmed at Luggala, as well as on the Poulaphouca Reservoir in the Wicklow Mountains. Seventy 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 included cinematographer John Bartley, costume designer Joan Bergin, production designer Tom Conroy, composer Trevor Morris and Irish choir Crux Vocal Ensemble, directed by Paul McGough.
Season 2On April 5, 2013, History renewed Vikings for a ten-episode second season. Jeff Woolnough and Kari Skogland joined Ken Girotti and Ciaran Donnelly as directors of the second season.
Two new series regulars were announced on June 11, 2013. Alexander Ludwig, portraying the teenage Björn, and Linus Roache, playing King Ecbert of Wessex. The second season undergoes a jump in time, aging the young Björn into an older swordsman portrayed by Ludwig. The older Björn has not seen his father, Ragnar, for "a long period of time". Lagertha remarries to a powerful jarl, a stepfather who provides harsh guidance to Björn. Edvin Endre and Anna Åström signed up for roles in the second season. Endre had the role of Erlendur, one of King Horik's sons.
Season 3Morgan O'Sullivan, Sheila Hockin, Sherry Marsh, Alan Gasmer, James Flynn, John Weber, and Michael Hirst are credited as executive producers.
This season was produced by Steve Wakefield and Keith Thompson. Bill Goddard and Séamus McInerney act as co-producers. The production team for this season includes casting directors Frank and Nuala Moiselle, costume designer Joan Bergin, visual effects supervisors Julian Parry and Dominic Remane, stunt action designers Franklin Henson and Richard Ryan, composer Trevor Morris, production designer Mark Geraghty, editors Aaron Marshall for the first, third, fifth, seventh and ninth episodes, and Tad Seaborn for the second, fourth, sixth, eighth and tenth episodes, and cinematographer PJ Dillon.
Norwegian music group Wardruna provided much of the background music to the series. Wardruna's founder Einar Kvitrafn Selvik also appeared as an actor in the show during the third season as a shaman.
Season 4Michael Hirst announced plans for the fourth season before the third season had begun airing. The fourth season began production around the Dublin and Wicklow area in April 2015.
Finnish actors Peter Franzén and Jasper Pääkkönen, as well as Canadian actress Dianne Doan joined the cast of the fourth season. Franzén played Norwegian King Harald Finehair, a potential rival to Ragnar. Pääkkönen was cast as Halfdan the Black, Finehair's brother. Doan portrays Yidu, a Chinese character who has a major role in the first half of the fourth season.
Toronto Blue Jays player Josh Donaldson is a fan of the Vikings series and in January 2016, it was announced that he would have a guest appearance in the fourth season of the show as "Hoskuld".
Season 5At the same time that the series was renewed for a fifth season, it was announced that Irish actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers would be joining the cast, as Heahmund, a "warrior bishop". Vikings creator Michael Hirst, explained: "I was looking at the history books, and I came across these warrior bishops. The antecedents of the Knights Templar: these are people who were absolutely religious, yet they put on armor and they fought. Don't let their priestly status fool you, either. 'They were crazy! They believed totally in Christianity and the message, and yet, on the battlefield, they were totally berserk.'"
Former WWE star Adam Copeland was cast in a recurring role for the fifth season as Kjetill Flatnose, a violent and bold warrior. He is chosen by Floki to lead an expedition to Iceland to set up a colony. Irish actor Darren Cahill plays the role of Aethelred in the fifth season. Nigerian actor Stanley Aguzie told local media he had landed a small role in the fifth season. The fifth season also features Irish actor, musician and real-life police detective, Kieran O'Reilly, who plays the role of "White Hair". In April 2017 it was announced that Danish actor Erik Madsen would join the cast for the fifth season, as King Hemmig. He spent several months of 2016 on the set of The Last Kingdom, portraying a Viking.
Season 6Russian actor Danila Kozlovsky joined the series for the sixth season, as Oleg of Novgorod, the 10th century Varangian ruler of the Rus people. Katheryn Winnick, who portrays Lagertha in the series, directed an episode of the season. Music for the series was contributed by Scandinavian artists with strong Nordic folk influences, including Wardruna and Danheim.
BroadcastVikings premiered on March 3, 2013, in Canada and the United States. Vikings was renewed for a fourth season in March 2015 with an extended order of 20 episodes, which premiered on February 18, 2016. On March 17, 2016, History renewed Vikings for a fifth season of 20 episodes, which premiered on November 29, 2017. On September 12, 2017, ahead of its fifth-season premiere, the series was renewed for a sixth season of 20 episodes. On January 4, 2019, it was announced that the sixth season would be the series' final season. The sixth season premiered on December 4, 2019.
In the UK, Vikings premiered on May 24, 2013, where it was exclusively available on the streaming video-on-demand service LoveFilm. The second season premiered on March 24, 2015. The third season began airing on February 20, 2015, on Amazon Video.
In Australia, the series premiered on August 8, 2013, on SBS One. It was later moved to FX, which debuted the second season on February 4, 2015. Season three of Vikings began broadcasting in Australia on SBS One on March 19, 2015. Season four of Vikings began broadcasting in Australia on SBS One on February 24, 2016.
CensorshipThe sex scene between Lagertha and Astrid in the fourth-season episode "The Outsider" was edited for United States audiences, and only showed when they kissed before the extended scene.
ReviewsThe first episode received favourable reviews, with an average rating of 71% according to Metacritic. Alan Sepinwall of HitFix praised the 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 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, said that the "compelling and robust new drama series... delivers all the expected gore and blood spatter", but that it successfully adapted the skills of cable television drama, with the care taken in acting, writing and sense of scope reminiscent of 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 favorably contrasted 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 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 performances, but considered Vikings to be "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 that it had "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's "glacial pace" and lack of action as well as 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 twelve professional critic reviews.
RatingsAccording to Nielsen, the series premiere drew six million viewers in the US, topping all broadcast networks among viewers aged 18 to 49. An earlier claim of over eighteen million viewers was later retracted by the channel with an apology.
In Canada, the premiere had 1.1 million viewers. The first season averaged 942,000 viewers.
Historical inaccuraciesSome critics have pointed out historical inaccuracies in the depiction of Viking society. Lars Walker, in the magazine The American Spectator, criticized its portrayal of early Viking Age government as autocratic rather than essentially democratic. Joel Robert Thompson criticized depiction of the Scandinavians' supposed ignorance of the existence of Britain and Ireland and of the death penalty rather than outlawry as their most serious punishment.
Monty Dobson, a historian at Central Michigan University, criticised the depiction of Viking clothing but went on to say 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 characteristic of later Christian architecture. The temple in the series has similarities with reconstructions of the Uppåkra hof.
Many characters are based on real people from history or legend and the events portrayed are broadly drawn from history. The history of more than a century has been condensed; people who could never have met are shown as of similar age, with the history amended for dramatic effect. Season one leads up to the attack on Lindisfarne Abbey of 793. In season three the same characters at roughly the same ages participate in the Siege of Paris of 845. Ecbert was dead and King Alfred the Great was already on the throne, yet he is portrayed as a child in season four. Rollo is shown having his followers killed and fighting his fellow Vikings, whereas in history they were granted what became Normandy and continued to co-operate with their Norse kinsmen.
Little is known about Viking religious practice and its depiction is largely fictitious. 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". The showrunner Michael Hirst said, "I especially had to take liberties with Vikings because no one knows for sure what happened in the Dark Ages... 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".
The depiction of Christianity in the show is also somewhat controversial. In the fourth episode of the second season, the bishop of Wessex is shown inflicting crucifixion as punishment for apostasy, while it had been outlawed more than 4 centuries earlier by Emperor Constantine the Great, and it would have been blasphemous for the Christian population.
Athelstan is portrayed being heroic but an unfavorable attitude towards Christianity is implied from the narrative choices in the depiction of figures venerated as Saints by the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, such as Heahmund the Bishop of Sherborne and the Missionary Ansgar, the Patron of Scandinavia.