The main character is Vikings is a guy named Ragnar Lodbrok. (Be warned: You’re going to encounter a lot of Nordic names. You thought The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was rough. So many vowels, guys. So many vowels.) He apparently actually did live in the 12th century, and you know I love things Based on a True Story. The show’s first season focuses on the conflict between Ragnar and the tribe’s leader (“Earl”) over whether or not to go a-raidin’. Ragnar is pro, the Earl is against. Once Ragnar goes a-raidin’ anyway and returns with craploads of English booty, though, his fortunes—literal and metaphorical—rise completely. Season two, currently airing, furthers the themes of intertribal conflict (Ragnar’s Earl now. Pull quote: “I AM DE CAPTAIN NOW.”) and a-raidin’.
But enough of the plot summaries. Let’s discuss why this show is ÜBER GÜT (REALLY GOOD):
- Medieval Times: not just a restaurant. Quick: How many TV shows have you seen set during the Middle Ages? Not a lot, right? Yet it’s literally a thousand years when people lived and stuff happened. Nothing against shows involving people staring at cell phones or whatnot, but there’s something moving about the days when life was nasty, brutish, and short. In one scene, a woman is asked how old she is. She responds that she doesn’t know. PEOPLE DIDN’T EVEN KNOW HOW OLD THEY WERE BACK THEN. Mind. Blown.
- Badass women. The Vikings were fierce long before Beyonce; you know that from high school history class. The show naturally involves a fair amount of fighting with swords, fists, axes, arrows, etc. However, it’s not just the boys that can take care of business. Ragnar’s wife Lagertha is truly a woman after Eowyn’s own heart. You don’t want to get between her and a sword.
- Clever use of language. Non-spoiler alert #1: The show’s in English. Non-spoiler alert #2: Vikings didn’t speak English. It’s artistic license for sake of convenience, and I completely accept that. Where the show excels, though, is when the Vikings meet the English. In scenes featuring the two peoples, the English characters speak Old English with modern English subtitles. English speakers can pick out just enough words to recognize it, in the way that you can read a teeny bit of the Magna Carta. As a lover of language, I find that fascinating. In these joint scenes, the Vikings speak some sort of Scandinavian language, but more often just glare while fingering their axes.
- Violence and romance in equal measures. The violence is quite violent. The romance is quite romance-y. Something for everybody.
I’m thrilled that this show, about a civilization from a thousand years ago that neither read nor wrote, is finally getting a little press. Well-deserved. Strong recommend.
* Before now, I mean. I realized I mentioned it just then, smartass.