It is a spoiler-free assessment of all eight episodes of Vikings: Valhalla Season 1, which premieres Friday, Feb. 25 on Netflix.
Vikings: Valhalla, Netflix’s companion/sequel sequence to Vikings, which ran for six seasons on Historical past and coated the legacy of Norse warrior-explorer Ragnar Lothbrok and his sons (who included additionally iconic Bjorn “Ironside” and Ivar “The Boneless”), is a sturdy, thrilling follow-up to the unique sequence, although not one with out a few tonal disparities.
Valhalla, which covers the tip of the Viking Period and showcases later-stage notables Leif Eriksson, Canute the Nice, and Harold of Norway (amongst others), is a extra simple sequence than Vikings was, extra within the broader beats of the story than the poetic and religious ruminations of the unique sequence. That is not inherently a foul factor although, simply completely different.
Netflix’s Vikings: Valhalla Pictures
The lengthy and lauded run of Vikings on Historical past was created and solely written by Michael Hirst (yup, all 89 episodes). It had a relatively singular imaginative and prescient and voice. Valhalla, then again, has been cranked out via far more of a conventional manufacturing mannequin. Whereas Hirst is credited as a co-creator and EP, not one of the episodes are written by him. Jeb Stuart — well-known for writing ’80s and ’90s motion scripts like Die Hard and The Hunt for Red October — is the EP/showrunner right here, penning the primary two episodes and presiding over a conventional writers’ room for the remaining. The sequence is dependable and typically thrilling, however from the opening credit alone, Valhalla feels worlds other than its predecessor.
There’s nothing right here that can be off-putting for followers of the unique sequence, although. It would not really feel the identical however — as an sudden security internet — the slight swap in tone is sort of baked into the story. The world of vikings may be very completely different in Valhalla than it was through the time of Ragnar so, accidentally-on-purpose, Valhalla can current issues in a brand new mild as a result of the outdated Norse methods are dying. The top result’s a sequence that presents as a well-executed axes and arrows journey, with gritty performances, massive battle sequences, and dramatic twists (anchored in historical past), with the draw back being that it lacks Vikings’ ethereal specialness and that present’s haunting dance with what lies past the veil, which is the curiosity that fueled all of Ragnar’s voyages and unconventional connections.
Sam Corlett is the centerpiece of Valhalla, taking part in the famed Leif Eriksson, a Greenlander viking whose location has stored him, his sister Freydis (Frida Gustavsson), and different shut comrades far off and indifferent from the Christianity that has all-but consumed the viking individuals through the century between the 2 sequence. When Leif captains a small boat via a lethal storm to Kattegat, to reply the warfare name of King Canute of Denmark, who needs revenge on England’s King Aethelred, he finds his worship of outdated gods makes him a disrespected outsider. And so, on the core of Valhalla, beneath all town sieges and numerous blood feuds, is the implosion of the viking individuals from inside and the rising Christian faction in search of to violently cleanse their ranks of pagans.
This new breed of Christ-worshipping additionally explains why most of the characters on the present really feel Anglicised, with their Scandinavian speech patterns and cadence buried and the sing song-y timbre muted. They’re extra animated and fewer pensive, although Leif, from far eliminated Greenland, nonetheless usually stews in silent depth, more often than not motivated by singular, honorable goal. Corlett makes for a fascinating Leif, who should battle to withstand enemies from inside and with out, whereas Gustavsson’s Freydis follows her personal journey for a lot of the season, her future very a lot tied up within the extra mystical, spiritual components of the present. Gustavsson provides a strong efficiency right here, infusing Freydis with a noble coronary heart and steadfast stubbornness that helps carry the again half of this season as soon as the key assault on England is over and plenty of characters scatter to different areas of the realm.
The sudden MVP of the center of the season is Bradley Freegard’s Canute, who actually steps as much as turn out to be an intriguing presence half manner, representing, maybe, the tip results of Ragnar’s drive to be a extra progressive and understanding viking. To juxtapose this, Canute’s father, Sven Forkbeard, is rife with old-style viciousness. After all, that is the kind of sequence that can really level out these themes via dialogue and never depart them understated. Nothing passes via with subtlety on Valhalla, although it is by no means so clumsy that it beats you over the pinnacle. Sadly, Canute, simply as he begins to breathe new life into the story, vanishes from the ultimate episodes.
The third central character right here, after Greenlanders Leif and Freydis, is Leo Suter’s Harald Sigurdsson, the good grandson of Vikings’ Harald Finehair. Harald, a Christian, is not as righteously piggish as his half-brother King Olaf (Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson), so he finds himself appearing as a berserker dealer of types: a peacekeeper who takes a liking to Leif, and much more of a liking to Freydis. Harald, caught between spiritual rivalries and his personal want for private vengeance, is properly balanced out by Suter, who will get to ship a hunky wild card facet to the sequence. Harald’s lack of prejudice permits him to see the intelligence and ability that lurks beneath Leif’s stoic exterior.
Vikings: Valhalla by no means skimps on motion. There are two marvelous warfare moments right here in Season 1, each spotlighting completely different methods, twists, and turns. The Battle of Stamford Bridge, as historical past labels it, is especially gripping, providing up a ton of bloodshed and suspense, whereas the finale’s violent chaos crazily marks the tip of an enormous period for this saga, bringing the brutality dwelling to the place all of it started. Asbjørn Krogh’s pious and psychotic Jarl Kåre makes for a formidable seasonal boss, which is one thing new to the franchise and an extra gust within the winds of change.