|Created by||Michael Hirst|
|Written by||Michael Hirst|
|Opening theme||"If I Had a Heart"
by Fever Ray
|Country of origin||Canada
|No. of seasons||4|
|No. of episodes||49 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||45 minutes|
|Original release||March 3, 2013– present|
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: his brother Rollo, his son Björn 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 February 18, 2016. On March 17, 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|
|10||November 30, 2016||February 1, 2017|
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 US$40 million.
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 August 16, 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.
On April 5, 2013, History renewed Vikings for a ten-episode 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. Season two undergoes a jump in time, aging the young Björn (Nathan O’Toole) 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.
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 four. 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, although the character he would play was not initially revealed.
Former WWE star Adam Copeland, (a.k.a. Edge), has been cast in a recurring role for season five. He will portray Ketill Flatnose, a violent and bold warrior, chosen by Floki to lead a Viking expedition intent on traveling to Iceland to set up a colony there. Irish actor Darren Cahill will play the role of Aethelred in the upcoming season. Nigerian actor Stanley Amuzie told local media he had landed a small role in the upcoming season. Season five will also include Irish actor, musician and real-life police detective, Kieran O'Reilly, who will play the role of "White Hair".
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.
The series received favourable ratings by critics after the first episode, with an average rating of 71% according to Metacritic. Alan Sepinwall of HitFix praised the series's 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 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 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 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 12 professional critic reviews.
According to Nielsen, the series premiere drew 6 million viewers in the U.S., topping all broadcast networks among viewers aged 18 to 49. An earlier claim of over 18 million viewers was later retracted by the channel with an apology.
In Canada, the premiere had 1.1 million viewers. The first season has averaged 942,000 viewers.
Some critics have pointed out historical inaccuracies in the series's depiction of Viking society. Lars Walker, in the magazine The American Spectator, criticized its portrayal of early Viking Age government (represented by Earl Haraldson) 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 (skoggangr) as their most serious punishment.
Monty Dobson, a historian at Central Michigan University, criticised the depiction of Viking Age 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 a hallmark of later Christian architecture. On the other hand, the temple as depicted does have similarities with reconstructions of the Uppåkra hof. The show also portrays the crucifixion of a prominent character instigated by a Christian bishop, apparently as punishment for apostasy, whereas in history Emperor Constantine outlawed crucifixion in the 4th century.
Many characters are based on (or inspired by) real people from history or legend, and the major events portrayed are broadly drawn from history. However events from over a hundred years have been condensed, so that people who could never have met are shown as of similar age, with the historical events amended for dramatic effect. For example, season one leads up to the attack on Lindisfarne Abbey of 793 (before the real Rollo was born) but in season three the same characters at roughly the same ages participate in the siege of Paris of 885. By this time Ecbert had been dead for over forty years, and King Alfred the Great was already king, yet he is still portrayed as a child in season four. Rollo is portrayed 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. Furthermore, most of the principal characters are portrayed as being from Norway, while according to primary sources they would most likely have been Danes.
Little is known about Viking religious practice and so its depiction is largely creative. 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". Regarding the historical differences and accuracy issues of the show, 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."
Kattegat, Hedeby and Götaland are different geographical terms. Only Hedeby is a settlement (today in northern Germany), Kattegat is the sea between the Jutland peninsula and today's Sweden, and Götaland is the southern quarter of Sweden. There are many fjords surrounding Kattegat (especially in eastern Jutland, and along the northern shores of Zealand and Funen), but Denmark lacks mountains. Only in Norway do such fjords between mountains exist. Denmark and southern Sweden (Scania) are covered with thick layers of fertile boulder clay or sandy soil, free of stones.
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 one. In addition to featuring Ragnar and Rollo battling alongside their father, the comic depicts the brothers’ first encounter with Lagertha.
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