Is it possible to take a risk without it offending one of your elders? That's part of the premise behind History's new show "Vikings," which had one man going against tradition to take a huge risk that might not pay off. Sure, the show did get off to a very slow start, but the premiere also demonstrated some great promise as well.
"Vikings" followed a group of Vikings as they tried to follow their traditions closely in order to provide for their families. Unfortunately, Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) lived in two alternating worlds as a Viking warrior who killed anyone that got in his way and a farmer who provided for his family. After years of pillaging the same land, Ragnar was eager to go west to explore some undiscovered areas for greater opportunities. Unfortunately, Ragnar's request was denied by his local chieftain Earl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne) because he was hesistant to take any new risks. Haraldson told Ragnar to give up his quest, but he decided to have him watched just in case. He also had to watch out for his seemingly loyal wife Siggy (Jessalyn Gilsig) who had an agenda of her own. To further his cause, Ragnar turned to his boat builder friend Floki (Gustaf Skarsgard) to help build a new type of ship that could withstand a long journey. He also had the support of his devoted warrior wife Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) and his brother Rollo (Clive Standen), but Ragnar was unaware of Rollo's hidden jealousy. Will Ragnar be able to explore the west or will he die trying?
In terms of questions, "Vikings" posed numerous ones for the viewers to try to solve each week. The only problem was that the premiere had a hard time connecting all of the various plots together. The premiere only foreshadowed Byrne's ruthless ruler and his relationship with his wife, but future episodes should iron out those kinks. The episode should've initially focused on the cast as a whole before turning to a particular few to drive certain stories. This issue could be remedied by spending some time to delve into their complicated backgrounds (Ragnar and Haraldson to name a few). Sadly, the show's biggest flaw was not fully fleshing out the supporting players Floki and Rollo) that made them more than mere characters on a page to help them fit into the story. The show's main focus will likely be of Fimmel's charmingly ruthless Ragnar who looked very similar to "Son of Anarchy" star Charlie Hunnam, except his character wasn't entirely corrupted with a lust for power just yet. Fimmel was perfectly cast as the charmingly confident Ragnar as he was given the opportunity to portray a wide range of emotions without going too far over the top. The show was also lucky in casting Byrne as Fimmel's counterpart, because he could convey his displeasure without saying a word. He expressed his disgust for anyone who disagreed with his beliefs by giving them a withering look that could turn his prey into dust. Viewers will waiting with bated breath for Fimmel and Byrne's long awaited confrontation. It should be interesting.
As for breakout stars, Fimmel and Byrne were obvious choices for their brewing feud that was going to be a season long affair. The premiere might've focused largely on the two enigmatic leads, but there was some potential to be had in the rest of the cast as well. Winnick and Standen led the pack because their characters' limited but tense interaction told viewers that there was more to their story than met the eye. Winnick's Lagertha initially had the appearance of a farmer's wife, but she was a lot more than that. She was a warrior who could defend herself against potential attackers by brandishing household weapons to prove that she was stronger than she looked. Winnick had a genuinely comfortable rapport with Fimmel that give the show some moments of rare levity. She also had a strong chemistry with Standen that allowed them to be polite one minute and muttering insults under their breath. Viewers don't fully know the story between Rollo and Lagertha, but it had some pontential cause great trouble for everyone involved. Standen, on the other hand, portrayed Rollo as a loyal brother on the surface, but his hidden jealousy could prove to be his undoing if he betrayed his family for greed. Only time will tell if that's the case.
"Vikings" premiered on March 3nd and airs Sundays at 10:00 PM on History.
Verdict: The show could use a little work in connecting the plot points together, but Fimmel and Byrne give top notch performances.
TV Score: 3 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)