The History Channel found enormous success with its first mini-series Hatfields & McCoys. Now it is presenting its first original scripted series The Vikings, which will run for nine consecutive weeks. This saga about the looters and raiders from early Scandinavia is a brutal telling of how the first Viking ship arrived in England. Travis Fimmel and Gabriel Byrne head up a cast that gives the story realism and dramatic impact.
The focus of the story is on Ragnar (Fimmel), a farmer and a raider. Each year, the ruler of his area, Earl Haraldson (Byrne) sends his raiders to the east where there is a limited supply of riches. Ragnar wants to head west. He has obtained an early compass and knows he can get his ship to a country in the west and back. Earl Haraldson however forbids him to do so.
Ragnar's wife Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) wants to make the trek with him. She was a shield maiden before they married and is an aggressive fighter in battle. Ragnar also wants his brother Rollo (Clive Standen) to accompany him. Although forbidden to do so, Ragnar has his friend Floki (Gustaf Skarsgard) build him a boat.
This sets up the conflict between Ragnar and Earl Haraldson that permeates the series. It leads to brutal battles and gruesome scenes of death and destruction. The violence is not graphic but the audience certainly gets the impact of each heinous event that occurs.
The characters have to grow on you. Since most of them are actors who are unknown to general audiences there is no built-in comfort factor. Byrne is the most familiar face and next is Jessica Gilsig who plays Siggy, Earl Haraldson's wife. Gilsig was last seen on Glee as Will Schuester's wife.
It doesn't take long for Fimmel to demand your attention. He looks like a superhero come to life, and all of the physical requirements of the role of Ragnar are totally believable. There is also a comfortable fit between he and Winnick, who plays his wife.
Vikings is not a series that will appeal to everyone. For the fainthearted, it is much too brutal and bloody. On the other hand, for those who like action and adventure, it will become appointment TV. The storyline is strong and the cast is good. Plus writer/creator Michael Hirst is fully in command of his story and characters.
The History Channel should have another hit on its hands. Plus, Travis Fimmel and Clive Standen should emerge as two of Hollywood's brightest new leading men. They bring the show to life and the series showcases their talent.
Vikings premieres March 3 at 10 PM on the History Channel.