Mar 302017
 
The Vikings

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
The fearsome Viking Ragnar Lothbrok kills the king of Northumbria and rapes his queen, who gives birth to a son, who is sent away because he threatens the rule of the current king, but the child is enslaved by Ragnar. The young slave’s life changes when an exiled Northumbrian noble realizes he is the rightful heir to the throne. Stunning scenery does not distract from gaping plot holes. Did someone spill coffee on the only copy of the script, it feels like parts are missing. Aside from the many enjoyable scenes of drinking and tests of strength, it is not a great movie. Read More…

Nov 172016
 
The Last Kingdom-Season One

Based on the historical novel series The Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell, the series examines the Danish conquest of England from the perspective of Uhtred Ragnarson, a Saxon raised by Danes, who finds himself fighting for King Alfred of Wessex against the Great Heathen Army, a massive Danish army, which invaded England in 866 AD. The show’s greatest weakness is its portrayal of the Viking invaders as moderately bright thugs, rather than ruthless but skilled political operators. Still, it is an interesting examination of the time before there was an England, presenting a nation-building process that was bloody and not guaranteed. Read More…

Mar 242016
 
Vikings Season Three

Showrunner Michael Hirst seems to have taken all of the names of historical figures from a couple of centuries and thrown them into a hat. Every season, he draws several names and writes a plot around them. It is entertaining, but we left accuracy town a long time ago. However, Vikings is a brilliant case study of a family of psychotic conquerors, and Season Three has enough betrayals to satisfy even the most discerning connoisseur. Read More…

Oct 082015
 
The Last Kingdom Trailer

Yet another historical series starts this week. Although the two shows are on different networks, The Last Kingdom is a kind of sequel to Vikings, which presents the adventures of Ragnar Lodbrok, since Ragnar’s sons lead the initial invasion that conquers all of England, except for Wessex. Alfred, king of Wessex and a devoted Christian, is determined to drive the pagan Vikings out of England and unify the kingdoms into a single English nation. Despite his fierce faith, Alfred has a frail body, so he reluctantly relies on Uhtred Ragnarson, a Saxon who was raised by Danes, to lead his armies. Mistrusted by most Saxons because he openly worships the Norse gods, Uhtred struggles as much with his own loyalties as with his many enemies. Read More…

Aug 272015
 
Vikings Season Two

Swiftly resolving the conflict between Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) and his brother Rollo (Clive Standen), the second season explores England as Ragnar comes into contact with Wessex, the most powerful English kingdom. At the same time, he also has to deal with repeated betrayals from his allies. Coming into his stride, Travis Fimmel creates a spellbinding if unlikeable alpha male. While Ragnar is fascinating to watch, it seems like showrunner Michael Hirst is just settling for a crowd-pleasing version of the Sopranos with boats and beards. Read More…

Feb 272014
 
Vikings Season Two Trailer

In the first season, Ragnar Lodbruk (Travis Fimmel) became the first Viking to reach England, finding a wonderful place where the locals conveniently store their gold in houses of worship guarded by unarmed men who pray to a dead god. After defeating his rival, Earl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne), Ragnar should have been satisfied, but while performing a mission for King Horik (Donal Logue), he was seduced by Princess Aslaug, and his ambitious brother Rollo (Clive Standen) was seduced by Horik’s rival. It appears that this season will deal with two issues: the brothers will resolve their differences, presumably with sharp objects, and Ragnar will have to reconcile two families. While squabbling Vikings expressing their feelings by trying to kill each other will undoubtedly be entertaining, I am looking forward to Ragnar’s new English opponent, King Egbert of Wessex, the most powerful of the English kingdoms. Read More…

 Posted by at 3:00 pm  Tagged with:
Jun 272013
 
Vikings Season One

The History Channel’s new show Vikings presents the exploits of Ragnar Lodbrok (Travis Fimmel), who was the first Viking to raid England, discovering a wonderful place where the inhabitants conveniently store their silver and gold in remote buildings protected by unarmed men who pray to a dead god. One would think that Ragnar would return to a hero’s welcome, but Earl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne) resents a rival and schemes against him. Haraldson is needed as a villain since without him, Ragnar would be a brave explorer who goes to other countries that never did him any wrong, and kills their soldiers, steals their valuables, and takes people away as slaves. While the series whitewashes the thuggish side of the Vikings, it does pay tribute to the bravery of men who sailed in unknown waters to find a new land, not knowing if there actually was a land to the west. The Vikings are contemptuous of the Christians because their God seems unable to protect them. The religious aspect is critical, since otherwise it is just another cable show about tough men who live by their own moral code but are essentially bandits, stealing from those too weak to defend themselves. While the cast, especially Fimmel, are sufficiently charismatic, showrunner Michael Hirst’s writing slips in the second half of the season, as he appears to recycle themes from his previous show The Tudors. Read More…

Mar 142013
 
Vikings

History Channel’s new series Vikings has just started, and it looks good so far. To be honest, it is worth watching just for the introduction of early navigation and shipbuilding techniques. The second episode shows the terror of being lost in the mist in the middle of the ocean with no idea of which direction is land, or if there even is land nearby. The lead character, Ragnar Lothbrok, is a famous Norse hero, and Travis Fimmel plays him as a visionary driven to find new lands and kill and loot their inhabitants. I have only seen two episodes but Gabriel Byrne’s Earl Haraldson is a deliciously paranoid and small-minded villain.
Following the surprisingly good Hatfields and McCoys miniseries in 2012, this is History’s first scripted series, making it a player in a crowded field that includes HBO, Starz, AMC, Showtime and the BBC. Nice to see some actual history on the History Channel, instead of the usual Pawn Stars, Ice Truckers and American Pickers.
Read More…