If you’re a fan of historical fiction, I’ve got some pretty good news for you. Vikings, the History Channel’s flagship drama, is finally back for season five! If you’re looking for a fast-paced, somewhat realistic insight into the Old Norse world, this is definitely the show for you. It’s got powerful female characters, some pretty awesome battle sequences, and even some slight historical accuracy! There’s also an excellent array of inventive facial hair on show. What’s not to love?
If you still need convincing, there are a whole host of other reasons to watch Vikings. Read on to find out just a few of the reasons why you should give this critically acclaimed drama a chance. Warning: there’s a couple of minor spoilers ahead, and quite a lot of Game of Thrones-bashing. Sorry, not sorry.
16. It’s Got Strong Female Characters
You might think you’ve seen strong female characters on TV, but unless you’ve watched Vikings you’re truly missing out. The women of this show are just so freaking badass. Just one example of this is Lagertha, the show’s female lead. Not only is Lagertha an actual warrior who literally slays on the battlefield, she’s also the reigning Queen of Denmark. She uses her power to protect other women from violence and abuse because, you know, female solidarity. Sure, she does some morally dubious things – such as killing two of her husbands – but she’s still a pretty strong female role model. Aside from the whole murder thing.
15. Every Character Has Their Complexities
None of the characters in Vikings can be criticized for being two-dimensional. They’ve all got their complexities, and they all have shades of good and evil in their personalities. Take Rollo, for example, one of the show’s most fearsome warriors. Rollo does some pretty questionable things over the series, including betraying his own brother, Ragnar, multiple times. The two end up having a pretty violent showdown. This conflict with the show’s protagonist has the potential to set Rollo up as a ‘bad guy.’ However, he’s also shown to be a caring husband and father, and a lonely man who just wants to be loved. He’s not pure evil, even if he looks freaking terrifying.
14. There’s Never A Dull Moment
A lot of TV dramas these days have a lot of clunky chit-chat and exposition in between all of the more purposeful action scenes. I’m totally thinking of the random Game of Thrones brothel scenes in season one here. However, Vikings doesn’t fall into the trap of prioritizing filler scenes over the storyline. There’s never a dull moment in this series, and half the time you’re left catching your breath while wondering what the hell just happened. That’s not to say it feels rushed in any way – the action is all perfectly paced. You’ll be glued to the screen from start to finish of each episode.
13. It’s Not Too Historically Inaccurate
Full disclosure here: I have a Masters degree in Medieval History. I know a fair bit about this era, and I can confirm that Vikings isn’t too bad when it comes to historical accuracy. A lot of the characters are based on real figures, although their relationships to each other are often twisted for dramatic effect. The way that Viking life is presented is pretty spot on, mind. Their warrior-slash-farmer lifestyle comes across really well, and there’s not one of those stupid horned helmets in sight. VIKINGS DIDN’T WEAR THOSE, GUYS. IT’S ALL A LIE. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that the plot isn’t so ridiculous as to make the show hugely unrealistic. It passes the ‘judgmental historian’ test.
12. The Characters Are Pretty Hot – But In A Realistic Way
Now, we all know that looks aren’t everything, but that doesn’t stop the cast of Vikings from being totally gorgeous in every way. However, they’re not hot in that fake, I-got-a-six-pack-just-for-this-show kind of way. Instead, their body types pretty much resemble what the Viking physique was probably like. Every character, male and female alike, has the muscle capacity to be a total badass in battle. It’s like watching a screen full of Khal Drogos. Plus, all of the women have actual realistic bodily proportions! They’re not all stick-thin and modelesque. In fact, they look like they could break someone’s bones if they needed to. If that’s not #goals, I don’t know what is.
11. There’s No Pointless Nudity Or Violence
Disclaimer: there is some nudity and quite a bit of violence in this series. However, it all serves a purpose; it’s not on the same gratuitous wavelength as Game of Thrones, for example. They don’t just show boobs and butts to keep the viewer’s attention. As for the violence, the Viking age was a pretty gruesome time. Sure, there’s a lot of stabbing and gouging and killing, but that’s kind of how it was in the real world. There’s no avoiding gore when you’re trying to take over the entire continent of Europe. It’s not an endeavor for the faint-hearted.
10. The Acting Is Insanely Good
My goodness, is the cast of this show talented. There’s no denying that the action of Vikings is pretty far away from these actors’ lived experience (at least, I hope it is). Despite the historical nature of the show’s content, the cast has created characters that you really relate to and root for. You get so emotionally attached to them, and kind of wish you could invent a time machine to go back and make sure their real-world counterparts have happy lives. It’s honestly shocking that the cast hasn’t been nominated for more awards – their performances are so convincing! Let’s all petition the system, guys. Give Vikings all the Emmys!
9. The Battle Scenes Are Epic
Vikings has a lot to live up to when it comes to battle scenes. There have been quite a lot of epic TV showdowns in recent times, most of them on Game of Thrones. Vikings can’t exactly pull out zombies or dragons to make its battles automatically epic, but it does a pretty good job nonetheless. Conflict in the Viking world was a pretty gruesome and grisly business, and the show captures that feeling really well. The fight-scene choreography really puts across the various characters’ desperation and lust for power. Plus, it gets bonus points for including female shield maidens to look up to. Women can fight too, you know!
8. It’s Impressive Visually
Pretty much every year since it premiered, Vikings has received an Emmy nomination for its visual effects. It’s pretty easy to see why – they’re stunning. The sight of huge longboats floating down rivers is breathtakingly beautiful, and you can hardly tell the fleets of ships in the sea are computer-generated. A lot of the weaponry featured in battle scenes is added in post-production too – after all, shooting dozens of arrows at actors and stunt doubles might be a bit of a safety concern. You’d never know it from the battle scenes themselves: every bit of them looks totally seamless.
7. It Showcases The Histories Of Quite A Few Cultures
It’s pretty obvious that Vikings is an excellent showcase of Old Norse culture. However, quite a few other historical groups are represented too. Early Christianity is explored a lot – although often in the context of religious persecution. Jesus himself even appears in a few vision sequences, as does the Norse god Odin. In later seasons, we’re given a glimpse of life in early medieval France, one of the many lands that the Vikings invaded. The Norse peoples were known to be great travelers and were possibly the first non-Native people to reach America. Who knows where season five of this show will take them.
6. It Doesn’T Kill Off Characters Quite As Ruthlessly As Other Shows
Okay, I’m definitely thinking of Game of Thrones again here. While a few Vikings characters do meet their end over the course of the show, it’s not to the excessive levels of other fantasy shows. You get the natural culling of characters associated with war, blood feuds, and illness, and not the absolute free-for-all that GoT has become. When you’re watching Vikings, you can afford to get a little bit attached to the characters without fearing their immediate demise. Still, the aforementioned epic battle scenes are always a tad tense. You just have to trust that your faves are the insane warriors you think they are.
5. The Plot Is Engaging, But Not Overly Complex
Vikings is often praised by critics for its simple yet engaging storyline. There’s not an intricate web of about twenty different plotlines overlapping (*cough* GAME OF THRONES *cough*), and there’s no risk of getting lost. It’s just a good old historical drama with a few little sub-plots. There’s a fairly compact cast of characters to get used to, and difficult-to-understand plot twists are kept to a minimum. There’s no risk of getting bored, though – each season has a unique setting and storyline. The show is, at its heart, a family drama. You end up feeling like a fly on the wall in one hell of a gruesome domestic dispute.
4. It’s The Perfect Blend Of Action, Adventure, Romance, And Thriller
I know it sounds like a horrible cliché, but Vikings really is a show that has something for everyone. It’s got romance – and not just heteronormative pairings, either. There’s no bi-erasure here! The show’s got a ton of action – I mean, the Vikings lived and breathed war, after all – and some pretty nerve-wracking thrills to boot. Plus, it’s hard not to get caught up in its sense of adventure. The Norse people roamed and marauded across continents, discovering new territories (and making new enemies) along the way. What more could you want from one series? Musical numbers, maybe? Nah, I’m not sure they’d really fit.
3. The Scenery Is Beautiful
Vikings was mainly filmed on location on in Ireland. The Emerald Isle is famous for its rolling green hills and stormy seas. It’s pretty scenic, and it makes for a stunning setting. When you’re not too busy watching the awesome battle scenes or admiring the badass Norse army, you might want to take in the backdrop to the action. If it’s not enough to convince you that you need to book a minibreak to Dublin ASAP, I’ll be seriously shocked. Make sure to wrap up warm, though. I have no idea how those actors managed to walk around shirtless for long periods of time without freezing.
2. You Can Easily Binge-Watch It On Amazon Prime
Luckily for all of us, Vikings isn’t one of those shows you have to scour the Internet for. The new series is about to start on The History Channel, but if you need to catch up on the action, the whole thing is on Amazon Prime. Just to warn you, though: it’s incredibly binge-worthy. Once you start, you just won’t stop. You’ll end up spending your entire weekend watching burly bearded men career around Scandinavia in their longboats, and you won’t regret it one bit. If you make it through the whole series, fear not: it’s going to last for at least forty more episodes! (Season six was renewed weeks before season five’s premiere.)
1. The Beards
The beards, I hear you ask? What can possibly be special about a TV show’s beards? Well, friends, you can’t possibly understand until you’ve actually watched an episode of Vikings. Those Old Norse blokes were incredibly inventive when it came to facial hair. There’s not a clean-shaven face in sight. You’ve got bushy beards, plaited beards, ginger beards, and trimmed beards. It’s basically heaven for every beard-lover out there. A personal favorite of mine is a guy who has two mini-plaits on each side of his chin. Sure, the Vikings were all about battling, but they sure looked good doing it.