Pilot Perception: Vikings

Welcome to Pilot Perception, our feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.

The Show: Vikings, History Channel and History Canada, Sundays at 10/9c

The Pedigree: The show was created and written by Michael Hirst (The Tudors, Camelot). The pilot was directed by Johan Renck (Breaking Bad).

The Cast & How You Know Them: Vikings stars Travis Fimmel (Tarzan). Other regulars include Gabriel Byrne (In Treatment), Katheryn Winnick (Bones), Clive Standen (Camelot), Jessalyn Gilsig (Glee), Gustaf Skarsgard (Kon-Tiki), George Blagden (Les Miserables), and Jefferson Hall (Game of Thrones).

The Premise: Vikings follows the family of Ragnar, a farmer and warrior who wants to explore to the west, and is in conflict with his chieftain, who wants to continue the traditional raids to the east. It mixes family and interpersonal drama with the larger issues affecting the changing society.

A Taste:

What Works: The show is visually stunning and the pilot certainly held my attention. I was impressed by how much action, exposition, and character development it managed to combine into one episode without things feeling cluttered or disjointed at all. The young boy as viewpoint character is a useful device for this, as his elders can explain things to him, and therefore the audience, without it seeming out of place. I was worried that the show would take itself too seriously, especially as it’s History Channel’s first scripted series, so I was delighted to find that it was quite funny at times.

What Doesn’t: First, a caveat: While I enjoy reading/watching history-related things, I am not an expert on the Vikings, so I can’t speak to the historical accuracy or lack thereof with any specificity. I will say that there were a few things that made me think “Hm, really?” but none that made me want to throw anything at the screen. Some of the dialogue was a bit heavy-handed or seemed designed to be “edgy,” as when a young boy casually explains to a visitor that they have to wait outside because his parents are having sex. And the accents are kind of all over the place – not just with different characters having different accents, but with characters changing from scene to scene.

Our Favorite Line: “Odin gave his eye to acquire knowledge, and I would give far more.”

You Might Like This if you like sprawling, epic historical dramas, especially of the medieval flavor, like Camelot or The Tudors. And tonally, the most obvious comparison is Game of Thrones, though of course that’s fantasy.

If You’re Interested: Vikings premieres tonight on the History Channel and History Canada at 10/9c.

(Photo courtesy of the History Channel.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *