Saturday, April 13, 2013

History's Vikings: Second Sight

Here's good news for fans of The Vikings: History has renewed the sprightly Norse series for another 10 episodes.
This is the first scripted series for History (both the U.S. and Canadian channels).
In Canada The Shaw Media Channel started off with 942,000 viewers for the first installment of the Irish-Canadian co-production.
Episode Nine, the season finale is set for April 28.
But I'm boldly going forth where few TV critics chose to go. I've secured Episodes Seven and Eight and watched them in one go.
Sunday April 14 at 10 p.m. there's an hour titled A King's Ransom and it's directed by Ken Girotti (Bomb Girls).
The well crafted story looks at the dilemma of the Norse warriors as they storm the very heart of power in eastern England --the Royal Villa of King Aelle. Chieftain Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) is shown to be a man of many moods --he's curious but also vengeance seeking and his ascent to leadership is based on a capacity to kill enemies before they kill him.
Creator Michael Hirst set his story in the Dark Ages where the clash between pagan customs and emerging Christianity is about to begin.
Some reviewers have called it an evolving family saga. There is much attention to Ragnar's family values and his devotion to wife and children and also his deep devotion to his gods and what that entails.
The solid historical facts are there but this story is unusual because it is from the invaders' point of view. The Anglo Saxons consistently underestimate these strange people and do not understand they are a warrior race and in the end mostly prevail.
They also had families to support and this meant seizing the resources of other competing societies.
Technical details of the Viking ships sailing into the English ports are superb and Fimmel has matured as an actor since his Tarzan days. He now has the authority to dominate a scene and portray Ragnar as a true hero for his people.
Even better is next week's episode, Sacrifice,  (also directed by Girotti) which runs Sunday April 21. This one is a frank and open discussion between the competing forces of the old religion and the newly emerging Christianity.
It takes place during the traditional pilgrimage to the holy site of Uppsalla where human sacrifice must be made to appease the gods.
Ragnar must try to explain to himself his wife''s miscarriage and he does so by believing in the anger of the gods. He also drags along the monk Athelstan (George Blagden) who is tortured by what he sees and must undergo his own odyssey of discovery to see if he can remain strong to his Christian roots.
Often compared to Game Of Thrones the Vikings stands on its own and gets better by the week.
MY RATING: ***1/2.

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