Posted by: markfender | October 13, 2015


In all my talk of Anglo-Saxon stuff for Exalted, I neglected probably the biggest popular source, Vikings.

vikings-ragnar-lothbrok-logoPrimarily, that’s because I hadn’t watched it, but there’s a few other reasons as well. For one, it’s about the wrong culture, even if there are a lot of similarities. Likewise, I am somewhat annoyed that the History channel is making an alt-history fictional show. Thirdly, I’m not all that fond of Michael Hirst’s historical dramas.

In the first scene of Vikings, Ragnar Lothbrok sees Odin. So, it’s not like the show doesn’t let you know immediately that it’s not gonna be all that historically accurate. Considering that Ragnar is already pretty much a myth, I’m not expecting real historical events. It’s more the cultural inaccuracies that annoy me (since that’s kind of the aspect I’m looking to emphasize in my North).

For instance, Ragnar’s young son is becoming a man. And so, he goes to the moot to swear fealty to his lord and receive his first arm-ring. But, his lord gives him a long speech about loyalty and swearing allegiance, which isn’t quite accurate. The Danish feudal system was much more about gift-giving than just fealthy, not because the guy who claimed all the land demands it, but because you wanted his largesse to continue. It’s those sort of things that annoy me about Hirst’s shows – he writes to a modern audience and puts it in terms they’ll understand. Everyone knows feudalism, so Vikings act just like feudalism from 500 years in the future. Other things also rub me the wrong way – the fight scenes are made more dramatic with moves that wouldn’t exist yet, Ragnar’s wife Lagertha has very modern ideas about a female’s place (Of course, it doesn’t help that every plot they throw at her is some “woman’s issue”), the English armor is from 300 years in the future, and I don’t know what the hell is going on with those Viking priests.

The show needs to pick an accent. Most of the principles are doing their best Danish accent (at least, I’m assuming so – I’m not really familiar with what a Danish accent would sound like), but then other people inexplicably don’t bother. Ragnar talks softly with his oddly clipped Danish accent, but his brother just has an English accent. Gabriel Byrne sounds like Gabriel Byrne, but Donal Logue does an accent. It’s random and all over the place.

Still, it’s an entertaining show. Travis Fimmel smirks a lot, making Ragnar seem far more clever than he really is (despite the fact that Fimmel smirks his way through his trial, his relief when his brother clears his name is the major plot point…so, Ragnar really didn’t have a clever plan, despite how he’s playing it for the audience). There’s decent fighting and the mood mostly feels right. The complete alien nature of English culture and Christianity to the Vikings is made pretty clear, which is kind of amusing to watch from a 21st century perspective. And it’s got really good opening credits.

So, I don’t really know if I would recommend this show. It gets the feel mostly right, but misses a lot on historical details. For my purposes (inspiration for an Exalted game), it works fine, since I’m not planning on being historically accurate in that game. But, there’s enough modern plot elements and sub-standard plot points that leave it a little lacking. It’s not bad, but it’s not great either.


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