If you have not watched Michael Hirst’s History/Netflix series Vikings, whose sixth and final season aired more than a year ago, worry not. The new Nordic saga has nothing to do with the previous show that paid to the history of the Vikings. Instead, in a classic Netflix fashion, Vikings: Valhalla is a gory and violent odyssey of revenge that centres around these legendary Vikings.
Created by Jeb Stuart (known for Die Hard, The Fugitive) and executive produced by Hirst, the series is set nearly a century after the events of the original show. A Nordic version of HBO’s popular series Game of Thrones, the series is primarily a fictional account of the events in the 11th century that follow King Aetherald’s mindless extermination of the Danes. Beginning with the St. Brice’s Day celebrations, the English King avenges the age-old Nordic invasions by killing all Vikings. In a very Red Wedding-esque fashion from GOT, the Viking soldiers are ruthlessly murdered in the King’s alleged feast.
Thus begins a tale of rage and revenge when the King of Denmark, Canute, summons all Vikings to Kattegat. To avenge their lost brothers and the innocent women and children slaughtered in cold blood, Canute hopes to raise arms against the English forces. He is aided by Harald Sigurdsson, a rational Viking with a distinguished man-bun. Leo Suter breathes life into his character and is easily one of the most likeable characters in the series. Level-headed, he reasons with his brother, Olaf the Holy, played by Johannes Johanneson, over religious matters. Olaf is an orthodox Christian who refuses to associate with the pagan Vikings.
This lays the foundation for another problem plaguing the Nordic. The rift between Christianity and Paganism leads to various internal conflicts, unrest and sparring before Harald serves as the voice of reason. Played by Frida Gustavsson, Freydis seems to be a victim of this rift. Raped at 12 by an evil Christian Viking who carved a cross into her back to “convert” her, Freydis arrives at Kattegat for revenge. In a very satisfying turn of events, right in the pilot, Freydis nips it in the bud by killing her perpetrator. Having arrived in Kattegat to seek justice with her brother, Leif Errikson- played by Sam Corlett- they quickly get embroiled in this battle to seek revenge despite having no prior knowledge of the same.
The subsequent few episodes build up to the vicious Battle of Stamford Bridge, one of the most eventful battles in history, as anyone with a penchant for medieval history can vouch for. Maintaining the perfect balance between fact and fiction, with a dash of exciting elements from Viking history, the spin-off show creates an intense, fantastical journey that captivates viewers from the very beginning. Infusing in personal account and motives and confusing, layered characters, the whole premise is rooted in the tale of anger and revenge that helps in fleshing out the narrative. Valhalla also boasts strong female leads, especially Freydis, who deserves immense recognition for being the brilliant marauder and underdog.
Although the characters keep talking about how the old ways are no longer prevalent in the new world, veteran viewers may not be able to differentiate. Besides revenge, there is an undying pursuit of “glory”, as reiterated by Harald in the first episode. The show carries the burden of the past deftly while creating a new, intense experience that serves as a favourable and saucy deep-dive into the rough ways of the Nordic people, covered in beards, fur hide and bloody historicity.