UPDATE: Mid-Martch reported as premiere date by Travis Fimmel (Ragnar Lothbrok) and Katryn Winnick (Lagertha) during IGN Live Stream
History Channel's new series 'Vikings' based on the historic myth of Ragnar Lothbrok, a great Viking hero, just wrapped up its first season. The series was renewed for a second 10-episode season with the release date given as 2014. This seems a long time for most fans of the series but hopefully they mean closer to the New Year rather than next summer since production is set to begin this summer.
The series were remarkably successful for the History Channel, perhaps surprisingly so. It average 5.0 million total viewers in the first season and managed to capture the highly desirable 18-49 demographic. The series is reminiscent of 'Game of Thrones', dealing with the power struggles, wars and religious conflicts of the Vikings portrayed by varied and interesting characters.
"'Vikings' is a win win for us. As our first scripted series, 'Vikings' has paid off in a big way with critical acclaim, strong ratings and a passionate, loyal fan base," said Dirk Hoogstra History Channel Executive Vice President of Development and Programming, "It came out of the gate strong and has stayed on top, solidifying History as a major player in the scripted genre, just as we are in reality. We could not be more proud of the entire cast and crew and everyone involved in the making of 'Vikings.'"
For those who aren't familiar with the series here is the plot synopsis by IMDP:
"Vikings follows the adventures of Ragnar Lothbrok the greatest hero of his age. The series tells the sagas of Ragnar's band of Viking brothers and his family, as he rises to become King of the Viking tribes. As well as being a fearless warrior, Ragnar embodies the Norse traditions of devotion to the gods, legend has it that he was a direct descendant of Odin, the god of war and warriors."
Warning: SPOILERS ahead
The season one finale 'All Change' left Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) in charge of Earl Haraldsson's former domains of Kattegat. Having sworn fealty to King Horik, Ragnar left to negotiate a truce between Horik and Earl Borg of Gottaland in a land dispute. Neither ruler seems inclined to give ground nor is King Horik interested in peace. He strongly implies that he would like Ragnar to assassinate Earl Borg.
Ragnar gets distracted from his mission and falls in love with Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland), all but forgetting about his wife Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick). Unbeknownst to him his daughter had died in the plague and his brother Rollo appears to have gone behind his back and forged a secret pact with Earl Borg to betray Ragnar and the King.
In an interview, Michael Hirst, creator of 'Vikings,' offers hints about what we can expect to see for season 2. Rollo has come close to betraying Ragnar many times before but has always restrained himself. Is this the final betrayal that will drive a lasting wedge between the brothers?
It could well be ... Jarl Borg makes him an offer that's very difficult to refuse that, if he betrays Ragnar and joins with Jarl Borg, they'll fight together against Ragnar and Horik and carve out their own kingdom. We know that Rollo finds it very hard to live in the shadow of his brother. In Viking society, fame and reputation were very, very important. It was just a staple thing, that aspect of their society. So for a great warrior like Rollo, it's difficult to have a brother who is achieving a great deal, who's obviously very clever, who's very ambitious. So, the invitation to come out from under Ragnar's shadow may be overwhelming. And, if indeed that is what happens, the consequences could be huge.
One aspect of Vikings that's attracted a lot of attention is its cast of strong female characters, particularly Lagertha, a shield maiden and Ragnar's wife. She is seen in the first episode sword fighting two bandits who invade her home with just a poker and later she accompanies Ragnar on raids against the Kingdom of Northumbria where she kills one of the Earl's men when she catches him raping a civilian. Hirst speaks of her character development for season 2:
What happened is again, unexpected, until you realize what a powerful and strong will this woman has. It's very difficult for her, of course, with the new woman in Ragnar's life. She has to make a decision whether she puts up with that or she doesn't. And if she doesn't, what she then does and in turn, how she comes back into Ragnar's life. What I would say, because this is historical, is that Lagertha becomes an Earl in her own right. At some stage they are going to meet again as equals.
Another character fans find interesting is Athelstan, a former monk taken as a slave by Ragnar when his monastery was raided. He has proven to be the moral center of the show, attempting to maintain his Christian beliefs and compassion in a society that is still very much following the Viking gods who often demand blood sacrifice. The struggle between the Christian faith and the Viking beliefs are a major social clash for the show. Hirst promises more development on those issues for season 2:
I'm taking the audience through his struggle then with his faith, which I find a very powerful subject because of course, the big thing for him is ... his faith is obviously profound and not easily shaken, but he does have a query about whether God has abandoned him. What possible plan could God have to let him be captured and taken into a pagan household?
So, he has this issue. He's also grateful to Ragnar for sparing him, for taking him in. In order to survive, he of course has to accommodate Viking ways, dress more like a Viking, grow his hair just to fit in, to survive. But his faith continues to be a big issue. He perhaps even tries to believe in the pagan gods, but of course, he's not sacrificed because he's still a Christian. These issues will continue. They are real issues for him. They lead him into some pretty dark and dangerous places in the second season. I agree, he is a fascinating character and George plays him tremendously well I think.
The Kingdom of Northumbria has been humiliated and forced to pay tribute to Ragnar after suffering a severe defeat in which Ragnar destroyed his army and took the king's brother prisoner. Historically, Northumbria was the first victim of Viking raids at a time when the kingdom was weakened by internal strife. The King of Northumbria was portrayed as a cruel but lazy leader, killing his younger brother for fleeing a battle and sending his middle brother to fight Ragnar. Hirst promises that next season Ragnar will face a powerful new enemy:
But also there is going to be a new big, big character who is the King of Wessex. Wessex is a much larger kingdom than Northumbria, with a much more powerful king and also a cleverer king, a king who spent half of his young life at the court of Emperor Charlemagne. He's a different kettle of fish. The Vikings are coming across someone with real history and real knowledge and tactics. So, Ragnar is going to be up against a very formidable foe in the King of Wessex.
Season 2 will now begin to shoot in Ireland this summer. Hopefully we will see much more of this compelling series very soon.
Are you looking forward to season 2 of 'Vikings'? Why don't you check out these other shows?