History’s ‘Vikings’ goes beyond blood and guts

  • Hank Stuever The Washington Post
  • Friday, March 1, 2013 4:54pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

One girds oneself for some serious hammer time when an opening fight scene of History’s compelling and robust new drama series, “Vikings,” delivers all the expected gore and blood spatter.

Yet, beyond its blunt-force trauma, “Vikings” (premiering at 10 p.m. Sunday night) turns out to be an adroit and even elegant surprise, simply by aping some of the basic skills of a successful cable drama.

The care shown for its dialogue and acting gives it “Sons of Anarchy’s” sense of scope, while the 1,200-year dial-back lends it a dash of “Game of Thrones” medieval mood.

And a relatively modest budget keeps “Vikings” honest, in a “Spartacus” way, as a caution for those tempted to take it too seriously.

But what I was most reminded of while watching the first five addictive episodes of “Vikings” was HBO’s much-missed “Rome.”

“Vikings,” created and written by Michael Hirst (who wrote the film “Elizabeth” and created Showtime’s “The Tudors”), isn’t that grand, but it possesses that show’s same air of confident storytelling.

It also has a Titus Pullo of sorts as its lead — that is, a conflicted antihero brute as a sympathetic protagonist — in the form of Ragnar Lothbrok, an arrogant Viking plunderer with a scientist’s curiosity about the world beyond his own.

This show’s real strength is the way it effortlessly ushers us into Ragnar’s life and carefully considers its characters, giving them a depth that transcends all the violent stuff (which is, by the way, marvelously shot).

“Vikings” is filled with an urgent, voracious, gritty and even sexy sense of the hyper-macho world it’s trying to portray. The people we’re rooting for are murderers, thieves and occasional rapists — displaying a disturbing arsenal of moral flaws that cable viewers have come to accept as de rigeur.

In a way, it’s all just another iteration of Tony Soprano, as “Vikings” emphasizes a core pride and nobility in this tribe of thugs and galoots.

We are meant to understand that Ragnar’s urge to see what lies beyond the western horizon isn’t merely about greed, nor is it about good and evil. What he’s feeling is the existential tug of history and fate.

More in Life

Are you a poor speller? You might have a learning disability

Jennifer Bardsley has a hard time spelling words correctly. And it’s not her fault.

A gray whale prepares to dive Sunday afternoon on Possession Sound on March 11, 2018. (Kevin Clark / The Daily Herald)
A whale tour tale: Guaranteed sightings with Island Adventure

The tours are between March and May when gray, minke, orca and humpback are feeding here.

Ford Mustang is still a fantastic beast in 2018

A power boost to the V-8 engine and some tech enhancements make the sports car roar.

Passengers await docking a ferry on the Mukilteo-Clinton run. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
A cruising guide to sailing aboard a Washington state ferry

Here are 10 ways to make the most of an affordable day on the iconic white-and-green boats.

A rookie’s guide to traveling in France

If you’re a first-time visitor to Paris, here are some more tips.

Average black bean dip, improved: This one’s smoky and warm

It’s like a magnet as an appetizer at a party, but it also makes for a playful and nutritious meal.

The parenting power struggle: Are you spoiling your kids?

Follow these guidelines the next time your child has a temper tandtrum to get what she wants.

Thai cookbook “Bangkok” brings it in Piglet Tournament face-off

In round three of Food52’s NCAA-like competition, “Bangkok” beats out “Auentico.”

A Snohomish chef charts a course to fresh and local cuisine

Whether he’s cooking or teaching, Cody Castiglia is committed to seasonal, local ingredients.

Most Read