A warning before reading this post. It is long, I ramble a lot, and I’ve tried to keep spoilers to a bare minimum. My life has been consumed by this show for the past couple of month, and while I still have a series to go before catching up, I thought now would be the perfect moment to highlight the best moments of what I’ve seen so far.
As is the case with most TV shows, it takes a certain degree of patience when starting a new show. In the opening episodes, I couldn’t understand the hype surrounding this show, but somewhere along the way, I found that I couldn’t stop watching and with the end of every episode I was itching for more. The first series serves as a great introduction to the world, the characters, and the future conflicts that will be explored further down the line. We see Ragnar start his journey from being a simple farmer to a reluctant leader. At first glance, his motivation to raid west is stemmed by the opportunity to find more riches and prosperity. However, Ragnar’s charismatic nature and leadership abilities make him a threat to the current political order in Kattegat, bringing about the first of many leadership conflicts on the show. Overall, the main service of this series is to introduce us to our characters and the developing dynamics between them. From the jealous brother, Rollo, to his loyal, eccentric friend, Floki, his wife, Lagertha, and finally, Aethelstan, the priest taken in captivity on their first raid who’s role in Raganr’s life becomes a great source of conflict with his fellow Norsemen, there are many layers to these characters. Series 1 serves as a catalyst for the challenges that lay ahead for them.
The second series expands on the world of the Norsemen, and with a slew of new friends and foes, betrayals and budding friendships, the second series dives straight into the heart of the action. The biggest threat to Ragnar’s leadership comes in the presence of two rivaling Vikings, King Horik and Jarl Borg. Ragnar serves as the middleman in the conflict between these two men and for that he is caught in the crossfire of their wrath and desire for vengeance. All three men have their own agenda’s and it is an intricate game of chess when it comes to exploring their political motivations. The culmination of these conflicts features a brutal execution and incredible cinematography that captures the tortuous, but intimate ritualized act of violence. ‘Blood Eagle’ was one of the strongest episodes of the series when it came to highlighting the numerous conflicts awaiting to unfold. Its use of animal symbolism and Ragnar’s silent observations during a communal feast highlights the way Ragnar sees and understand a lot more than people think he does.
We can’t forget the presence of the Englishmen in this series as we are introduced to the enigmatic King Ecbert, who could easily rival Ragnar for his charming cunningness. The dynamic between these two men is fascinating and brilliant. These two men are so alike in many ways and their interactions with one another were a joy to witness.
When it comes to Ragnar’s personal life a lot has changed. Following Ragnar’s infidelity, Lagertha follows her own journey in this series as she takes the brunt of the brutality of her male counterparts and manipulates them to her own advantage, rising to become equal to Ragnar in all aspects. We also meet a grown-up Bjorn, who is keen to reconnect with his father after choosing to follow his mother after Ragnar betrayal. Like many sons, Bjorn is keen to earn his father’s respect as a man and while Ragnar undoubtedly loves his son, he is also harsh in his criticisms of his son.
Series 2 sees the development of Ragnar’s status within society and in legend. He is not without his faults, but series 2 demonstrates Ragnar’s strategic intelligence. His observations of those around him and ability to manipulate them emphasises his brilliance. He may be a reluctant hero, but Ragnar has ambitions and if it means he must become the leader they wish him to be then he must make that sacrifice.
The third series takes a different narrative tone than the first two. While they saw the rise of Ragnar’s leadership series 3 hints at his subsequent downfall. Many of the brewing conflicts explode in this series, and the consequences are both shocking and heartbreaking.
This series sees the exit of two staple characters in the show, as new characters and relationships develop in place. It’s hard not to spoil these exits, so instead of focusing on the event themselves, I’ll focus on the characters. Siggy was never really placed in the forefront of all the actions, but her character is a brilliant emphasis on the strength of women on this show. Having lost her position of power in the first series, Siggy is faced with the realities of serving those who took away her livelihood. She’s a woman of ambition, but the sense of sisterhood on this show always came from her willingness to stand by her female rivals by developing a lasting friendship with each of them. Her exit was unexpected, but the consequences of her exit were imminent, especially when it came to the relationship between Aslaug and Ragnar.
Athelstan is the most inherently good character on the show. His hopeful enthusiasm made it easy to support him. However, while Athelstan was loved by the leaders of the show, his presence was often a source of resentment and controversy. Athelstan’s character arc made a full circle as the question of faith became his definitive struggle. The issue of conversion was a prevalent topic in this period, one which is embodied by Athelstan’s torment between his Christian and Pagan beliefs. His relationship with Ragnar has always been a highlight of the show and this series truly emphasises the depths of their friendship. Ragnar is a curious man, so Athelstan’s religion has never affected his judgment of Athelstan as a man. However, the blossoming friendship between the priest and Ragnar fuelled a sense of resentment and jealousy from the most unpredictable character of the show, Floki. It was just a matter of time before these two came to blows and the consequence of that moment was devastating.
The third series of Vikings took us through a whirlpool of emotions, forcing us to choose between our favourite characters whilst questioning their motives. The exit of longstanding characters was shocking, but as fractured friendships shatter and Ragnar’s leadership comes into question, we see this once impassioned man succumb to the burdens of his ambitions.
This series focuses on passing the torch on to the next generation of leaders. Ragnar’s sons have all grown up and with that, we get to explore the dynamic between these brothers and the conflicts that arise between them. However, there is one definitive moment in this series and it shakes the very foundations of the show. There’s a lot to be said about this 20 episode series, but the shining moment has to be in Travis Fimmel’s final stand as the legendary Ragnar Lothbrok. Travis Fimmel has carried this show. His portrayal of Ragnar Lothbrok has been driven by subtle movements and impassioned actions. Ragnar has never been a perfect character, and his rise in power was only a consequence of the potential Ragnar saw in creating a better life for his people. He never wanted to be a leader and in his last stand, we see his exhaustion with the part he has to play. This is highlighted in the final exchange between Ragnar and Ecbert, two men that share this burden of leadership whilst facing the inevitable conclusion of this long-standing conflict. The moment takes place in “In The Uncertain Hour Before The Morning,” where Travis Fimmel and Linus Roache deliver the most moving performance in the simple act of a conversation. These two men have relished in their shared curiosity of the world, and this moment between them is filled with philosophical debates and a sorrowful understand of the inevitable end. They share a kindred spirit and for all of their differences, their love for Athelstan has always been a unifying factor. Here, we face the loss, the burden of leadership, and the haunting realisation that someone has to perish. It is a loaded scene, but one that defines what has been so great about the Vikings.
My apologies for such a long winded post, but it’s been a long time since a show has well and truly sunk its claws into me. The character dynamics are layered and complex as we explore the conflicts of political ambition with personal desires. I would highly recommend this show to anyone that has an interest in historical drama, complex characters, and epic battle sequences.
Who’s your favourite character on the show?
Do you have a favourite series?