It is safe to say that the Pirate ship has been sufficiently plundered, so to be different the folks at the History Channel went in a different direction with their latest scripted series – Vikings. The 9 episode season 1 is now available in a slip-cased Blu-ray/DVD Set. If you are looking for a soapy, action filled show to veg on, this is one worth checking out.
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Vikings is largely filmed in Ireland and focuses on the exploits of legendary Viking Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) and his family as he seeks to open up new territories in the west to explore and raid. He eventually became known as the scourge of France and England. In the beginning we see the seeds of conflict forming as Ragnar discovers a new way to navigate the seas via a compass. He dreams of gaining his fortune by going to new territories that he thinks will be filled with riches. Unfortunately, the local ruler Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne) doesn’t want to take the risk. He secretly has his friend Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård) build a new, faster, ship in secret. Along for the ride is his partner and brother Rollo (Clive Standen) who secretly covets Ragnar’s wife Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick).
We find out in the very first episode that Lagertha isn’t someone to be played with as we watch her take out two would be rapist without blinking. The show delves deep nto Viking history and lore. We get a good idea of how its society works, the political structure and warfare tactics. The show is at times intense, filled with action, romance, betrayals and also has a lot of heart.
The quiet moments is when the show really shines, I really enjoyed watching Ragnar’s softer side around his children and his wife. You could really see the love and respect that he has for them. His relationship with Rollo is complicated and its pretty obvious that it will end badly, so it’ll be a fun ride watching this all unravel.
I’m not convinced the Blu-ray picture quality is that much better than the standard DVD quality. The scenery at times looks really lush and green, at others the darkness looks better on Blu-ray than it did in standard definition. The English only 5.1 dts audio mix sounded nice, but it didn’t blow me away. Available subtitles included English, Spanish and French. The 9 episodes spread across three Blu-ray discs that are enclosed in a standard jewel case that has two slip covers; it’s a little bit of overkill and not very functional, but it does look pretty on the shelf.
- Rites of Passage – Deleted Scene and Episode Commentary with Michael Hirst and Jassalyn Gilsig
- Interactive History – Several “Interactive” features that explore various aspects of Viking culture including the islands sailed to and the weapons used. These interactive elements seem a bit pointless as we don’t get enough information that made including them worthwhile. I would have preferred a simple 10 minute featurette to clicking around on a map or scrolling through different weapons and armor. They do offer a “play all” function but it looks weird seeing a photo of a weapon with a clip playing in the background with a professor explaining stuff. Seems like an interface that would work better in a museum.
- All Change – Deleted scene and episode specific Commentary with Katheryn Winnick and Clive Standen.
- A Warrior Society: Viking Culture and Law (HD, 21 Min)
- Birth of the Vikings (HD, 17 Min)
- Forging The Viking Army: Warfare and Tacticcs (HD, 17 Min)
When I met the cast at SDCC, I hadn’t watched the show (I can’t watch everything!), but now, I’m fully down. It is filled with good soap opera twists and is a welcome break from all the Supernatural, Fantasy and Procedural fair that I’ve been od’ing on. The extras feel a bit light, uninspired and is it wrong that I think every Blu-ray/DVD set released these days should include the digital copy version? Just seems skimpy not to include it. This is a strong rental for people who want to sample this show.
- TV Show – B+
- Audio/Video – B
- Extras – C
Final Grade – B