‘Vikings: Valhalla’ Review: A New Generation Keeps The Viking Legacy Alive

vikings-valhalla-review

In 2013, Vikings made its way onto television, and it was an instant hit. It came as a surprise that the original production by The History Channel could be so well constructed and acted. The show ran for six seasons, full of violence and emotion. The later seasons weren’t as good as the first three, but it didn’t matter; Vikings was already a brand of renown. 

So, when Netflix announced that they would be making a new show 100 years after the end of the original, it was only logical. Especially when the other great Viking show on the platform, The Last Kingdom, was also nearing the end of its run. The result of the endeavor is Vikings: Valhalla, a spin-off that keeps the legacy of the original alive and introduces new drama and stakes to the fold.

Vikings: Valhalla is written and created by Jeb Stuart, the writer of such hits as Die Hard and The Fugitive. The show stars Sam Corlett, Frida Gustavsson, Leo Suter and Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson. The show tells the story of Leif Erikson and Freydís Eiríksdóttir, the children of the infamous Erik, the Red, as they arrive at Kattegat on a secret mission. Only to get involved in the invasion of England by a Viking army in search of revenge. 

Vikings: Valhalla Character Posters

Jeb Stuart was responsible for writing big hits during the 80s and 90s, but then his star faded, so it is surprising to see it here as a showrunner. The good thing is that Stuart has not lost his touch and has led Valhalla into a good position in terms of narrative. At first, the show might seem a bit formulaic and even predictable, but the straightforward narrative ends up working thanks to a number of great characters.

Characters create the plot, not the other way around. Stuart has this principle of storytelling very clear in his mind and executes it very well here. The setting and the war premise have all been seen before, but the characters are very interesting, and the audience will definitely be interested in finding out what happens with their storylines.

The show presents many characters and tries to follow them equally, but it is clear that the storyline of Erikson and his team is the most relevant one. From the beginning, it is easy to root for these characters, as they are outsiders that are being forced to partake in a war they have no interest in. 

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Corlett is one of the main standouts in the cast. It is his job as Leif Erikson to anchor the show by portraying a protagonist that audiences can root for. Travis Fimmel did an amazing job with his role as Ragnar Lothbrok, and while Leif is not as charismatic of a character, his meditative demeanor and cold head in the face of danger make him a figure easy to admire. 

Katheryn Winnick also had a similar impact with her role as Lagherta in the original series, and this time it is the turn of Frida Gustavsson to fill the role of the main female character. This is a breakthrough role for Frida, and she kills it as Freydís Eiríksdóttir, a devoted believer in the old gods and a powerful warrior, as strong and charismatic as Lagherta herself.

The rest of the cast do well in their roles. Leo Suter is the most important of the bunch, but his character is a lot more stereotypical than the rest. Still, his character is faced with interesting dilemmas at every step of the way.

The conflict between beliefs, Christianity, and Paganism that was present in the original show is even more relevant now and, from the get go, is the source of most of the drama in the show. It is very fascinating to see how the world has changed since the end of the original series, and how the world of the Vikings has had to face change from the old ways. 

This same change will need to be faced by audiences who will, of course, miss characters like Ragnar, Lagertha and Floki. Thankfully, Stuart and Netflix have come up with a very intriguing set of replacements that throughout the season are able to stand on their own. However, the show feels the need to remind you of the old characters every so often. 

Netflix has done an excellent job of producing the show. The production values are as good or even better than in the original show. And while you won’t get the same quality as, for example, Game of Thrones or the new Lord of the Rings series, Valhalla is still a very good-looking show. A bit more of the mystic qualities of the original would be welcome. 

One thing this show does a lot better than the original is the pacing. With just 8 episodes in this season, the pacing feels just right; something is always happening, and the events don’t overstay their welcome either. Something that the original show frequently failed to do.

Vikings: Valhalla is a great spin-off as it keeps the feelings and legacy of the characters we all knew and loved and tries to fix some of the rough edges of the old one. If the quality of this season is anything to go by, we might keep the Vikings around for a long time. 

SCORE: 8/10