|Created by||Michael Hirst|
|Opening theme||"If I Had a Heart" by Fever Ray|
|Country of origin||Canada and Ireland|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||19 (List of episodes)|
|Location(s)||Ashford Studios, County Wicklow, Ireland|
|Running time||45 min.|
|Production company(s)||Shaw Media
Take 5 Productions
|Original channel||History (CA)
|Original run||3 March 2013– present|
Vikings is a Canadian-Irish historical drama television series written and created by Michael Hirst for the television channel History. It premiered on 3 March 2013 in Canada and the United States.
Filmed in Ireland, Vikings is inspired by the sagas about the Viking Ragnar Lothbrok, one of the best-known mythological Norse heroes and notorious as the scourge of England and France. It portrays Ragnar as a former farmer who rises to fame by successful raids into England with the support of his family and fellow warriors: his brother Rollo, his son Bjorn, and his wives—the shieldmaiden Lagertha and the princess Aslaug.
On 5 April 2013, History renewed Vikings for a ten-episode second season, which premiered on 27 February 2014. On 25 March 2014, History renewed Vikings for a ten-episode third season, which is scheduled to air in 2015.
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.
Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) is a young, Viking farmer who longs to fulfil an ambitious destiny he is compellingly drawn towards. He yearns to discover civilizations across the seas; westward, in direct conflict with his governing earl, Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne)—a conservative ruler with a timid vision—who insists there is no land to the west and that they pillage to the familiar east. Ragnar, driven by a wayward instinct and ambition, possesses a revolutionary yet unproven navigation tool that holds much promise. In defiance of his earl, Ragnar recruits a crew of loyal warriors to accompany his westward journey. Loyal friend and gifted craftsman Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård), builds Ragnar an innovative Viking longship. Among Ragnar's crew of loyal followers is his brother Rollo (Clive Standen), who is an imposing figure and proven warrior. Rollo covets Ragnar's wife, the shieldmaiden Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick), and betrays a deeper envy he has harboured towards his older brother; an envy that, in his jealous mind, challenges his manhood and sows the seeds of resentment as his brother Ragnar unwaveringly pursues his ambitions.
Ragnar's primitive navigation tool proves to be a powerful asset as it sets the Viking raiders on the coast of the English kingdom of Northumbria. An English monastery is effortlessly overtaken, albeit with relentless brutality, emblematic of all Viking raids. The "Northmen" leave with a plunder of riches and slaves that include monk Athelstan (George Blagden), whose enigmatic disposition and devotion to his Christian faith, becomes a curiosity to Ragnar that escalates when he chooses to take the monk as his slave when his greedy earl claims ownership over the majority of Ragnar's bounty.
This not only earns him the enmity of King Aelle (Ivan Kaye), but triggers a series of increasingly violent confrontations at home with the autocratic earl, ending with Ragnar killing and succeeding him.
During an annual trip to the Temple of Uppsala where many Viking clans congregate in worship to the gods, Ragnar pledges fealty to King Horik (Donal Logue). Ragnar then represents Horik in negotiations about a land dispute with Jarl Borg, a Geat from Götaland (Thorbjorn Harr), in the course of which he is seduced by the Princess Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland). Back in Ragnar's homeland a mysterious plague ravages his village, killing a portion of his people including his young daughter. During this time, envious and ambitious brother Rollo is manipulated by Jarl Borg to side with him against his brother and King Horik in order to forge his own glory.
King Horik is now at war with Jarl Borg, who is accompanied by Rollo. Rollo, now bitter and enraged, rampages through battle, killing and wounding many of his kin, but cannot fight his brother when faced and surrenders to him. In a stalemate, Ragnar, Horik and Jarl Borg come to an agreement and decide to raid as a single force. Rollo, now ostracized by his kin for his betrayal, awaits death by trial but is spared by a judge who has been bribed by Ragnar. Princess Aslaug makes her way to Ragnar's kingdom, now pregnant with Ragnar's child. Humiliated, Lagertha leaves Ragnar, taking with her their remaining son Bjorn.
Four years pass: Aslaug is now ruling with Ragnar and raising their sons. Rollo has faded away into obscurity and self-destruction because of shame, but is forgiven by Ragnar, although excluded from the raid. Horik has now decided to exclude Jarl Borg from the raid for personal reasons. Ragnar tells Jarl Borg of the decision, and he leaves angry and slighted. A storm throws the raid off course and lands the Viking horde in Wessex, which is ruled by the ruthless King Ecbert (Linus Roache). The Vikings begin to plunder the countryside and Athelstan, who has now been integrated into the Vikings and has joined them on the raid, finds it hard to fully embrace Viking brutality and is deeply troubled.
Lagertha has since remarried to a powerful but abusive Earl of whom now-teenage Bjorn disapproves. Jarl Borg seeks vengeance against Ragnar for his slight and begins an invasion of his homeland. Rollo, who had been left behind, stages a defense of Kattegat, but is defeated and forced to retreat from the village. Rollo takes the survivors, including earl Haraldson's widow Siggy (Jessalyn Gilsig), Aslaug, and her children, and flees to a remote farming settlement. While Ragnar and King Ecbert negotiate, Jarl Borg declares himself ruler of Ragnar's lands. Word reaches Ragnar of Jarl Borg's treachery, and he abandons the campaign. Athelstan stays behind with King Horik and after being captured by Wessex's soldiers, he is condemned to death as an apostate, but spared by the mercy of King Ecbert. Ragnar locates Rollo, who is short on warriors to strike back at Jarl Borg. Ragnar finds unexpected assistance from Lagertha and Bjorn, who arrive with a detachment of warriors to aid in taking back Kattegat.
Ragnar plots against Jarl Borg and decides to destroy Kattegat's winter stock of food in order to draw Jarl Borg out of Kattegat. Jarl Borg seeks to find who has destroyed the stock and is led into a trap forcing him into open battle with Ragnar and Lagertha's forces. Athelstan, now once again living among his Saxon people, is divided about his faith and deeply troubled. Back in Kattegat, Jarl Borg is defeated and is forced to retreat. Ragnar realizes he is still in love with Lagertha; however, she declines his offer to stay and leaves him once again, but allows Bjorn to stay behind. Ragnar forces Aslaug into a sexual intercourse, ignoring Aslaug's attempt to dispurse him by claiming it would result in the conception of "a monster".
King Horik returns to Kattegat, driven out of Wessex by King Ecbert, and has lost most of his forces. Seeking revenge, Horik asks Ragnar for help but wants Jarl Borg to return to the alliance. Rollo is sent as emissary to Götaland to negotiate with Jarl Borg. Athelstan becomes a valued confidant of King Ecbert. Lagertha returns home to a displeased, unpopular husband who humiliates her until she takes her revenge, resulting in her husband's death. Lagertha is hailed as the new ruler of Hedeby. Jarl Borg returns to Kattegat, where his forces are burnt alive in revenge and Jarl Borg is taken prisoner to await execution by blood eagle. Ragnar postpones the execution of Jarl Borg at the request of King Horik in order to find alternative allies first. King Ecbert forges an alliance with an old enemy of Ragnar's, King Aelle of Northumbria. Jarl Borg attempts to stir up rebellion against Ragnar, who is starting to become suspicious of people around him. Ragnar receives support and ships from an unknown earl who turns out to be Lagertha. With Ragnar having obtained the needed assistance, Jarl Borg, tricked into believing he is being allowed to escape, is instead brought to an altar and executed by Ragnar. Aslaug's prophecy appears to be correct when she gives birth to a crippled son after a difficult pregnancy. Ragnar attempts to commit infanticide by exposure, but Aslaug saves her baby and names him Ivar.
Tension builds between Ragnar and King Horik upon returning to Wessex. The Viking horde is drawn into open battle against a massive English army assembled by King Ecbert and King Aelle. Rollo is badly wounded in battle, captured and traded back to the Vikings for mercenaries in service to the kingdom of Mercia. Athelstan decides to return with the Vikings to Kattegat at the request of Ragnar. Tensions worsen as King Horik plots to murder Ragnar and his entire family. Horik is led to believe that Floki and Siggy are supporting his conspiracy against Ragnar, but when he mounts his attack upon Ragnar, he learns that his plot was known and prepared for. Ragnar kills Horik and much of his family, and he (along with Bjorn) obtains Horik's sword, thereby making himself King.
On 25 March 2014, History renewed Vikings for a ten-episode third season. When asked what viewers could expect from the next season, Michael Hirst explained: "Yeah, we’re gonna attack Paris. Paris was the most extraordinary city. It was still a Roman city, and it was like nothing else on earth. We’re just building that, at the moment, on the backlot. It will also be CGI. Ragnar attacked Paris with one hundred ships."
In an interview with The Huffington Post Hirst hinted at several plots for the new season. He mentioned King Horik's son Erlendur. "Anyway, Erlendur has been impressed by the idea of going to farm in England. And in his pocket he has a handful of mud, earth from England. When Ragnar sees him with this handful of dirt, he knows that he’s thinking along the same lines, that they’re connected in some way. So he spares him. But, of course, that turns out to be a terrible decision in the end." King Ecbert and Princess Kwenthrith of Mercia will also be back for season 3.
Several actors are joining Season 3. English actors Jennie Jacques will portray Judith, who according to the official press release is the daughter of King Aelle, and the mother of notable historical figure Alfred the Great and Ben Robson will play Kalf, Lagertha's trusted second in command. Lagertha leaves Kalf in charge when she goes to raid with Ragnar. But she may have underestimated Kalf, who will quickly make himself a major player.
Canadian actor Lothaire Bluteau will portray Emperor Charles of France, and Kevin Durand takes on the role of the Wanderer, a stranger who is not what he seems. French actress Morgane Polanski (daughter of Roman Polanski) will be Princess Gisla, the Emperor's daughter and his main advisor.
An Irish 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, and composer Trevor Morris.
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 Two 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 are reporting that actors Edvin Endre, son of renowned Swedish actress Lena Endre  of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Wallander fame and Anna Åström, who recently co-starred with Gustaf "Floki" Skarsgård  in controversial Swedish language film Vi, have signed up for roles in season two.
|Season premiere||Season finale|
|1||9||March 3, 2013||April 28, 2013|
|2||10||February 27, 2014||May 1, 2014|
In the UK, Vikings premiered on 24 May 2013 where it is exclusively available on the streaming video-on-demand service LoveFilm.
|Australia||SBS One||8 August 2013|
|Belgium||2BE||31 August 2014|
|Canada||History Canada||3 March 2013|
|France||Canal+||10 June 2013|
|German||ProSieben||25 April 2014|
|India||History TV18||31 March 2014|
|Ireland||RTÉ Two||26 January 2014|
|Italy||Rai 4||28 May 2014|
|Norway||TV2 Zebra||September 2013|
|Poland||History||21 October 2013|
|Serbia||RTS 1||8 September 2014|
|South Africa||M-Net||13 March 2014|
|Spain||TNT||12 June 2013|
|United Kingdom||History||24 May 2013|
|United States||History||3 March 2013|
|Romania||History||21 October 2013|
The series received generally favourable ratings by critics after the first episode had aired, with an average rating of 70% 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, and that even 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 79% 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 among 18-to-49 year olds. 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. The temple as depicted in the show does have similarites with the reconstructions of the Uppåkra hof on the other hand. The show also portrays a crucifixion of a prominent character instigated by a Christian bishop near Wessex, apparently as a standard punishment for apostasy - however, Emperor Constantine outlawed crucifixion in the 4th century and no crucifixions were documented to have taken place in Europe thereafter.
Other errors include the presence of window glasses, XVI-XVIIth century helmets used by King Ecbert´s soldiers, the mention of "Russia" as the land the Vikings aim to plunder in the first episode, although the episode takes place in 793 A.D. and Russia would not exist until 860 A.D. (as the Kievan Rus'), as well as the scenery where Ragnar Lodbrok lives, which shows great mountains although there are no mountains in Denmark. One could assume Ragnar lives in Norway because of the presence of fjords and that Uppsala can be reached by land while Horik arrives always by sea. However, Lagertha seems to be able to ride from Hedeby to Kattegat without crossing a sea which would be impossible at the time.
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.