|Created by||Michael Hirst|
|Opening theme||"If I Had a Heart"
by Fever Ray
|Country of origin||Canada and Ireland|
|No. of seasons||4|
|No. of episodes||39 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||45 minutes|
|Original release||3 March 2013– present|
Vikings is an Irish-Canadian historical drama television series written and created by Michael Hirst for the television channel History. Filmed in Ireland, it premiered on 3 March 2013 in Canada and the United States.
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 former farmer who rises to fame by successful raids into England, and eventually becomes king of Norway, with the support of his family and fellow warriors: his brother Rollo, his son Bjorn Ironside, and his wives—the shieldmaiden Lagertha and the princess Aslaug.
Vikings was renewed for a fourth season in March 2015 with an extended order of 20 episodes, which premiered on 18 February 2016. On 17 March 2016, History renewed Vikings for a fifth season of 20 episodes.
The series is inspired by the tales of the raiding, trading, and exploring Norsemen of early medieval Scandinavia. It follows the exploits of the legendary Viking chieftain Ragnar Lothbrok and his crew and family, 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 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 Volga Vikings. The series is set at the beginning of the Viking Age, marked by the Lindisfarne raid in 793.
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||9||March 3, 2013||April 28, 2013|
|2||10||February 27, 2014||May 1, 2014|
|3||10||February 19, 2015||April 23, 2015|
|4||20||10||February 18, 2016||April 21, 2016|
An 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 has been reported as $40 million USD.
The series began filming in July 2012 at Ashford Studios, a newly built studio facility in Ireland, chosen as a location for its tax advantages. On 16 August 2012, longship scenes were filmed at Luggala, as well as on the Poulaphouca Reservoir, in the heart of the Wicklow Mountains. 70 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 includes cinematographer John Bartley, costume designer Joan Bergin, production designer Tom Conroy, composer Trevor Morris and Irish choir Crux Vocal Ensemble, directed by Paul McGough.
According to actor Clive Standen (Rollo), future seasons may feature characters such as Alfred the Great, Leif Ericson, and Ivar the Boneless, as well as travels to Iceland, Russia, France, and across the Atlantic.
On 5 April 2013, History renewed Vikings for a ten-episode second season.
Two new series regulars were announced on 11 June 2013. Alexander Ludwig, portraying the teenage Björn, and Linus Roache, playing King Ecbert of Wessex. Season 2 will undergo a jump in time, aging the young Bjorn (Nathan O’Toole) into an older swordsman portrayed by Ludwig. According to reports, the older Bjorn will not have seen his father, Ragnar, for "a long period of time." Lagertha will have remarried to a powerful Jarl, a stepfather who provides harsh guidance to Bjorn.
Several Swedish media sources reported that actors Edvin Endre, son of Swedish actress Lena Endre, and Anna Åström had signed up for roles in season two. It was confirmed that Endre had obtained the role of Erlendur, one of King Horik's sons.
Finnish actors Peter Franzén and Jasper Pääkkönen, as well as Canadian actress Dianne Doan joined the cast of season 4. Franzén obtained the role of 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. At 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 for that season.
In the UK, Vikings premiered on 24 May 2013 where it is exclusively available on the streaming video-on-demand service LoveFilm. The second season premiered on 24 March 2015. The third season began airing on 20 February 2015 on Amazon Video.
In Australia, the series premiered on 8 August 2013 on SBS One. It was later moved to FX, which debuted the second season on 4 February 2015. Season 3 of Vikings began broadcasting in Australia on SBS One on 19 March 2015. Season 4 of Vikings began broadcasting in Australia on SBS One on February 24, 2016.
The series received very favourable ratings by critics after the first episode had aired, with an average rating of 71% according to Metacritic. Alan Sepinwall of HitFix praised the series' 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 (unlike, e.g., Spartacus) 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, found that the "compelling and robust new drama series (...) delivers all the expected gore and blood spatter". But he also wrote that it successfully adapted the skills of cable television drama, with the care taken in acting, writing and sense of scope reminiscent of such series as 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 favourably compared 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 series like 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 cast's performance, but considered Vikings "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 it to achieve "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' "glacial pace" and lack of action as well as by 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 12 professional critic reviews.
According to Nielsen, the series premiere drew 6 million viewers in the U.S., topping all broadcast networks for viewership amount in the 18- to 49-year-old range. An earlier claim of over 18 million viewers was later retracted by the channel with an apology.
In Canada, the premiere was watched by 1.1 million viewers. The first season has averaged 942,000 viewers.
Some critics have pointed out historical inaccuracies in the series' depiction of Viking society. Lars Walker, in the magazine The American Spectator, criticized its portrayal of Viking Age government (in the person of Earl Haraldson) as autocratic rather than essentially democratic. Joel Robert Thompson criticized the show's depiction of the Norse peoples' supposed ignorance of the existence of Britain and Ireland, and the use of the death penalty instead of outlawry (skoggangr) as a punishment for heinous crimes.
Monty Dobson, a historian at Central Michigan University, criticised the show's depictions of Viking Age clothing, but went on to state 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 a hallmark of later Christian architecture in Scandinavia. On the other hand, the temple as depicted in the show does have similarities with the reconstructions of the Uppåkra hof. The show also portrays a crucifixion of a prominent character instigated by a Christian bishop near Wessex, apparently as a standard punishment for apostasy, an event that may or may not have a basis in historical fact, as Emperor Constantine officially outlawed crucifixion in the 4th century.
Regarding the historical accuracy of the show, showrunner Michael Hirst comments that "I especially had to take liberties with ‘Vikings’ because no one knows for sure what happened in the Dark Ages" and that "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." 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".
Zenescope partnered with the History Channel to create a free Vikings comic book based on the series. It was first distributed at Comic-Con 2013 and by comiXology in February 2014. The comic was written by Michael Hirst, features interior artwork by Dennis Calero (X-Men Noir), and is set before the events of season 1. In addition to featuring Ragnar and Rollo battling alongside their father, the comic depicts the brothers’ first encounter with Lagertha.
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