The world wouldn’t be what it is today without the iconic Vikings of Scandinavia. And, lucky for us, television has been graced with the Norse power of these ancient men and women. History Channel’s popular television series, Vikings, is an unprecedented saga with more historically accurate portrayals of Viking lore and culture than most major films depicting Vikings. (Although there’s always room for historical discrepancies between scholars and creative teams.)
The scope of this series ascended towards a higher plane of televised drama and action. And no one really expected this from a scripted drama series on History Channel. The cast (let’s be honest, they’re all ruggedly beautiful) have passionately maintained the series’ presence at various conventions and awards over the past few years. There’s never a dull moment on screen thanks to the team of dedicated writers, directors, and producers, including show creator and writer, Michael Hirst. And it doesn’t hurt that the lush Irish locations are beautifully filmed.
Season four is right around the corner, arriving February 18, 2016. Trust us when we say now is the perfect time to bundle up, drink some mead, eat some meat, and binge on the previous three epic seasons! There’s a lot that goes down during each season, so refresh yourself below with our overview, (mild spoilers below!) as well as a glimpse into the future of Vikings.
Season One (2013)
The first season opened with a simple, timeless tale: man wants more, man fights for more. man gets more. What was special about season one was its brutal approach to everyday life and lore in Viking culture. It’s a wonderful introduction to a handful of truly complex (fictitious and real) characters.
The main character of the series, Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel), is a farmer-warrior who believes he’s destined for greatness and glory. But he’s limited under the rule of the current leader of Kattegat, Earl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne). The leading heroine of this saga is Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) a respected shield-maiden and Rangar’s wife. Aside from the occasional fight with the widowed schemer, Siggy (Jessalyn Gilsig), she lacks any rivals. But when Princess Aslaug (Alssa Sutherland) arrives later in the season, Lagertha quickly reassesses her situation. Their tricky “other-woman” relationship is one to pay attention to throughout each season.
Against Earl Haraldson’s commands, Ragnar wants to lead his people west towards the undiscovered world, on ships that Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård), his friend and master ship-builder, cleverly constructed. And by mid-season, together with Ragnar’s ruthless older brother, Rollo (Clive Standen), the Viking citizens of Kattegat survive an uprising that essentially jump-starts their collective quench for exploration past Northumbria.
That’s where Athlestan (George Blagden) comes in. Perhaps one of the most interesting characters of this show, Athlestan is a Christian monk-prisoner, trapped between his established faith and the wild religion of this mysterious civilization. Through his eyes we come to see the Vikings as more than blood-thirsty barbarians. They aren’t consumed by mindless destruction, which many religious historians have often thought. Ragnar and his band of followers had a real vision for the future of their exploration. Raiding and plundering was just an afterthought.
Season one closes on the everlasting themes of leadership, power-struggles, and prophecies. Another interesting thing to note during season one: Earl Haraldson’s ultimate death feels like a haunting glimpse into Ragnar’s eerily similar fate for the upcoming season, and the overall series.
Season Two (2014)
Drama ran especially high for season two’s thematic opening episode, appropriately titled “Brother’s War.” This season experienced a rush of intense drama, romance, and violence. There’s a 4-year jump early in the season, but it’s justified. And the season finale, “The Lord’s Prayer,” was especially devious and gory.
A back-and-forth game of village destruction between Earl Ragnar, the legendary Danish King Horik (Donal Logue), and the viscous Jarl Borg (Thorbjørn Harr) occurs throughout the season. Also, the once-Princess Aslug gets more screen time, since she’s now Ragnar’s new pregnant wife with hints of mystical foresight. The bond of matrimony ebb and flow, though, as Ragnar’s raiding lust grows starts to grow than his romantic lust for Aslug.
Lagertha leaves Kattegat early on with her and Ragnar’s son, Bjorn Ironside, only to return with a larger, older Bjorn during a moment of dire need for both parents. In the end, the decisions made by these two defiant parents helps Bjorn progress as a prime player, primarily, for the upcoming season four.
Season two sheds some serious light on the inner workings of group strategy versus individual desire. Ragnar, his horde team, and Athlestan, who’s now a vital adopted-member of the village, invade Wessex, tell some lies, and then return to Kattegat with major victories on both fronts. Hard decisions and negotiations take precedence over petty vengeance. And hopefully, season four Ragnar will remember a thing or two about humility and strategy from season two Ragnar.
Season Three (2015)
The raiding comes down hard during season three as the main characters suddenly find themselves trapped with more than they bargained for. If season two was mostly about victories and group dynamics, season three is about vulnerabilities and isolation.
Ragnar and Rollo are on the same side, at least for the most part of season three. And Bjorn finally comes into his own, commanding and demanding like a seasoned Viking leader, while also dealing with complicated relationship issues with Porunn (Gaia Weiss), a tough-as-nails shield-maiden. Floki, on the other hand, has a particularly important and deceitful presence in this season, setting him up as the major catalyst for season four.
France is the major country that the Vikings set their sights on for season three. Wessex, still ruled by the tactful King Ecbert (Linus Roache), stands back to contemplate their vulnerability and form new alliances. Although Ragnar is now a King to his Viking citizens, Ecbert will always consider himself a cut above the rest and refuses to shy away from his power.
Distinct aspects of magical realism also start to shine this season. A mysterious character named Harbard (Kevin Durand) makes his appearance early on while Ragnar and the men are away from Kattegat. His strange interactions with Queen Aslaug, Siggy, and Floki’s wife, Helga, make for serious creepy-mystical consideration i.e., possible divine influence of the Norse mythology kind. We can only wait and see if Harbard makes an appearance next season. This character is tricky but imperative to the series. He could take another form, another name, another life in a matter of one quick episode.
Season Four (2016)
Going into the just announced 20-episode-long season four, things will definitely get thrown around with the introduction of Ragnar’s next generation of sons. Loyalties will be tested within Kattegat and across the sea. And of course, a brutal, bloody war is about to begin on all sides.
Which season of Vikings have you enjoyed the most? What are you looking forward to in season four? Let us know in the comments below.
Images courtesy of The History Channel