TV review: 'Vikings' charges ahead


I know I'm late with this, but I wanted to share as few thoughts about the second season of "Vikings." I liked the show a lot in its first season and am happy to see that the second won't be a letdown.

When you go to watch a show that by its subject matter promises big action sequences, battles, blood and swordplay, you can be disappointed when it doesn't deliver those things often enough. Starz's gladiator epic "Spartacus" did it well; not so much for its pirate drama "Black Sails." (At least until last week's return to the high seas.)

"Vikings" (9 p.m. Feb. 27, History; 3 star out of 4) charges out the gate with a HUGE battle and keeps that momentum going through the first four episodes I've seen.

The new season opens in 796 on a rocky plain in Scandinavia. Our hero Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel), his comrade Floki (Gustaf Skarsgard) and the warriors of Kattegat stand with King Horik (Donal Logue) and his men to face Ragnar's jealous brother, Rollo (Clive Standen), who fights with Jarl Borg (Thorbjorn Harr), king of Gotaland.

(Watch the clips above and below to get an idea of the first five minutes of the new season.)

Creator Michael Hirst and his writers have pumped up the action in Season 2, but also deepened the storytelling. Besides those marvelous battle sequences, "Vikings" has political intrigue, double crosses, family drama (and humor) and intriguing character development.

One of the most interesting characters is Athelstan (George Blagden), the Christian monk who was captured by Ragnar during a raid in Northumbria and brought back to Kattegat. He survived and has become Ragnar's close advisor and a warrior himself. In the new season, the conflict between his current life and his former Christian faith explodes when he joins Ragnar on new raids in Wessex, England. (Read my interview with Blagden here—no spoilers.)

Those who are new to the show might find Fimmel's take on Ragnar a little off-putting, but just watch and listen. Landing somewhere between stoned, soulful and steely, it's exactly what the character needs. Ragnar's a warrior and leader for sure, but he'd rather find a peaceful solution than anything else. He's thoughtful, caring and more curious about the outside world than most of his comrades save Floki.

Which brings me to Skarsgard, who like Fimmel has created a character in Floki that seems completely believable in its foreignness—even though Floki is more twitchy and impulsive than his best friend.

While the storytelling is generally riveting, Hirst and his team occasionally drop a few stinkers in the dialogue. The exceptional cast—which also includes Katheryn Winnick as Ragner's wife, Lagertha—is able to rise above those bombs.

It's their distinctive portrayals that, for me, bring this Dark Ages tale to life.

Where does "Vikings" land on the TV period drama timeline?

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