Ragnar Lothbrook is truly Vikings’s anchor in a way that most other shows don’t have, especially other period pieces like Game of Thrones, which follows several different protagonists. Every event revolves around him and his rise to power. Upon first meeting Ragnar, his wife, Lagartha, and their two children it becomes immediately apparent that Ragnar wants much more out of life than to simply serve Earl Haraldson, to whom he pledged fealty years before. The clash between Ragnar and the Earl is my favorite part of the season; their power struggle is the catalyst for most of the major events. Ragnar aspires to sail west into uncharted waters and see what lies across the open ocean, while the Earl doesn’t believe western lands exist and is wary to expend the resources. It’s hard to comprehend a world where the existence of lands to the west is a controversial topic, and Vikings is a little difficult to swallow because of it, but the historical setting is great for such stories of power and glory.
Though the show focuses heavily on Ragnar’s traits and aspirations, he occasionally fades into the background as a slew of other entertaining characters steal the audience’s attention. The Earl has some great moments that establish him as someone to be feared and respected, similar to some of Walter White’s iconic power-grabbing moments on Breaking Bad. The eccentric shipbuilder, Floki, is a loose cannon filled with silly quips and comedic relief. A Catholic monk Ragnar captures has a great arc as he learns about Viking ways and a new meaning of brotherhood. Lagartha, Ragnar’s wife, becomes a very strong character throughout the season, which is surprising given that most men in the village have a very low regard of women, seeing them as simply housewives or child- rearers. I sincerely hope Lagartha has a bigger part in the second season in the new role she holds come the end of the first season.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Vikings is that it moves so quickly. The pilot establishes that Ragnar wants to explore lands to the west, which I believed would be the entire season’s arc. By the second episode, he is in England. Time passes in the blink of an eye to serve the story’s needs. While certain subplots are rushed at times—a baby is conceived and born in the same episode—I feel it is ultimately positive for events to move so quickly. This show had the potential to be boring and focus on a lot of the downtime between raids and battles, but instead chose to focus on the blood and guts by skipping ahead in time. It makes for a wholly entertaining, compelling, satisfying season that is perfect for binging.