There’s more than certain proximity between History Channel drama and FX bikers gang ‘Sons of Anarchy‘. Your first shout could be: ‘Yeah, that Ragnar dude is Jax lost twin‘. Well, yeah, Travis Fimmel (Ragnar Lothbrok) and Charlie Hunnam (Jax) are so lookalike that it seems that one older blonde man was having fun in Australia and England. Well… those nations are also kinda like brothers.
CREATOR: Michael Hirst
Michael Hirst, the series creator, had a little bit of experience on the historic side. Basically all the experience he has is producing and writing historical based drama. As a writer and producer of the acclaimed ‘The Tudors‘ and ‘The Borgias‘, he already knew how to deal with such dense storytelling in the smaller screen. Not content with that, he also co-produced ‘Camelot‘ for Starz network and a couple of movie adaptations based on British Monarchy.
With ‘Vikings’, Hirst goes a long way back in time to the VIII century and tries to unveil the life and lies of mighty Ragnar Lothbrok, one of the bravest and smartest Vikings ever. Ragnar, and his Norse fellows Vikings are some kind of legend. The blonde hunk, while no one can actually prove his existence, according to legend came to be King and Ruler of the Norse and his raids to both England and France are lyrics to mythical Viking poems. Now, whether Ragnar was one man or many, his legend remains intact thanks to the visual dynamics of a TV drama whose budget appears to be fully devoted to please the eye. In that individual aspect, ‘Vikings’ guards some resemblance to ‘Hannibal‘, another refined, although filled with blood, drama.
So, ‘Vikings’ pays homage to ‘Sons of Anarchy’ and ‘Hannibal’ in different ways.
In Vikings: Season 1 we are presented with Ragnar Lothbrok who’s a Viking who’s also a farmer. Married with Lagertha (beautiful and fierce Katherine Winnick) and father of twelve years old Bjorn and his slightly younger sister Gyda, Lothbrok travels with Bjorn to Kattegat, the main village to visit his brother Rollo (Clive Standen) and to gather with fellow Vikings to hear the news of their Earl (the superb Gabriel Byrne). His news aren’t of the like of Ragnar. Earl Haraldson wants to travel east. It’s safe. Ragnar, on the other hand wants to go west, where he is sure there are better lands for raiding. And perhaps, firm grounds to grow as a community. In Vikings: Season 2, we will see Ragnar using his intelligence to determine whether to discover his plans to his friends or hide them of the foes. And then, in Vikings: Season 3 we can watch how he starts to reap the whirlwind.
Here lies the closeness between ‘Vikings’ and Kurt Sutter’s magnum opus.
We have an old leader, surrounded by weak doubtful men that follow him to anywhere, and a young one that tries to force evolution on his kin. He doesn’t hate those who follows the old leader, he even sees them as brothers. But, no matter what he will do his way and show that it works.
And it works like hell.
And old leader can’t stand it. But he can’t deny profit. So he meets the rebellious halfway, until the pressure is too much and everything explodes. Literally. Treason, romance, dead.
And then, Ragnar rises. Like that Jax dude once did.
With ‘Hannibal’, the reference comes with the artistic department. Blood is not just blood, as a warrior axe is not just an axe. It’s the extension of a Viking.
Will Graham (the lead in ‘Hannibal’) experienced the ‘designs’ of homicides and could experience like he was in the movies how every ominous ‘design’ was delivered. Killers, assassins and slayers appeared at the crime scene as savages with some kind of beauty. The art direction, ingratiated with exquisite cinematography and the whole direction department, expressed these particular gruesome scenes with magnificence. The kind of shots, the palettes, and the general mood of the setting where all together plotting to make the viewer a part of the atmosphere. ‘Vikings’ achieves that with singular success. There’s an approach to things, characters, places (the temple of Uppsala), myths and battles that introduce us to the world as a part of it. You don’t see the battle from a peripheral view. You are IN the battle. You are not watching Lagertha making eye contact with Ragnar. YOU are making eye contact with him (and his weird changing color eyes).
With three seasons over (last one recently finished), and according to Hirst, four more scheduled, ‘Vikings’ is heading to give sure battle to monsters like ‘Game of Thrones‘ and others. Its mix of gory battle, mythology, and a lot of ancient type politics makes it a serious contender even when it doesn’t gather much attention from the Emmy folks.
Of course, the critics pointed out that historical accuracy took an arrow to the knee with ‘Vikings’ since it’s not that truthful to Viking world as it should be. Most changes were made to create tension subplots. The drama is focused largely in the figure of Ragnar Lothbrok, and that generates a bunch of underdeveloped characters we hope to see more established in the future.
As now, I have nothing but good words. Or as they say:
‘Þórr heitir áss, ok er sterkr mjök ok oft reiðr. Hann á hamar góðan. Þórr ferr oft til Jötunheima ok vegr þar marga jötna með hamrinum. Þórr á ok vagn er flýgr. Hann ekr vagninum um himininn. Þar er Þórr ekr, er stormr.’