Vikings Information

Vikings is a Canadian-Irish historical drama television series, written and created by Michael Hirst for the television channel History. It premiered on March 3, 2013 in the United States and Canada.

Filmed in Ireland, Vikings is inspired by the tales about the Viking Ragnar Lodbrok, one of the best-known Norse heroes and notorious as the scourge of France and Britain. It portrays Ragnar as a Viking farmer who pioneers the first daring raids into Britain with the support of fellow warriors, his brother Rollo, and his wife, the shieldmaiden Lagertha.

On April 5, 2013, History renewed Vikings for a ten-episode second season.


The series is inspired by the tales of the raiding, trading, and exploring Norsemen of early medieval Scandinavia. It follows the exploits of the legendary Viking chieftain Ragnar Lodbrok and his crew and family, as notably laid down in the 13th century sagas Ragnars saga Loðbrókar and Ragnarssona þáttr, as well as in Saxo Grammaticus's 12th century work Gesta Danorum. Norse legendary sagas were partially fictional tales based in Norse oral tradition, written down about 200 to 400 years after the events they describe. Further inspiration is taken from historical sources of the period, such as records of the Viking raid on Lindisfarne depicted in the second episode, or Ahmad ibn Fadlan's 10th-century account of the Volga Vikings. The series is set at the beginning of the Viking Age, marked by the Lindisfarne raid in 793.

The first season portrays Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) as a young Viking warrior who longs to discover civilizations across the seas. With his friend, the gifted craftsman Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård), he builds a new generation of faster longships and challenges the local ruler, Earl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne), a man of little vision, to allow raids into unexplored North East England. He is supported by his brother Rollo (Clive Standen), who secretly covets Ragnar's wife, the shieldmaiden Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick). Ragnar succeeds in carrying out the first Viking raids into the English kingdom of Northumbria, returning with rich loot and the monk Athelstan (George Blagden) as a slave. This earns him the enmity of King Aelle (Ivan Kaye) and triggers a series of increasingly violent confrontations with the autocratic Earl, until Ragnar kills and succeeds him. Ragnar pledges fealty to King Horik (Donal Logue) and represents him in negotiations about a land dispute with Earl Borg from Götaland (Thorbjørn Harr), in the course of which he is seduced by the princess Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland).

Historical accuracy

Some critics have pointed out historical inaccuracies in the series' depiction of Viking society. Lars Walker, in the magazine The American Spectator criticized its portrayal of Viking Age government (in the person of Earl Haraldson) as autocratic rather than essentially democratic. Joel Robert Thompson criticized the show's depiction of the Norse peoples' supposed ignorance of the existence of Britain and Ireland, and the use of the death penalty instead of outlawry (skoggangr) as a punishment for heinous crimes.

Monty Dobson, a historian at Central Michigan University, criticised the show's depictions of Viking Age clothing, but went on to state that fictional shows like Vikings could still be a useful teaching tool. The Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten reported that the series incorrectly depicted the temple at Uppsala as a stave church in the mountains, whereas the historical temple was situated on flat land and stave churches were a hallmark of later Christian architecture in Norway.

Regarding the historical accuracy of the show, showrunner Michael Hirst comments that "I especially had to take liberties with ?Vikings' because no one knows for sure what happened in the Dark Ages" and that "we want people to watch it. A historical account of the Vikings would reach hundreds, occasionally thousands, of people. Here we've got to reach millions."


Main cast

  • Travis Fimmel as Ragnar Lothbrok, a Viking farmer and warrior who yearns to raid the rumored riches of undiscovered England.
  • Katheryn Winnick as Lagertha, Ragnar's wife; a shieldmaiden.
  • Nathan O'Toole as Bjorn, Ragnar and Lagertha's son.
  • Clive Standen as Rollo, Ragnar's brother; the character is based on the historical Rollo who became Duke of Normandy.
  • Gustaf Skarsgård as Floki, a gifted shipbuilder and friend of Ragnar's.
  • George Blagden as Athelstan, an Anglo-Saxon monk captured by Ragnar on his first raid in England.
  • Jessalyn Gilsig as Siggy, Earl Haraldson's wife.
  • John Kavanagh as The Seer, a seiðmann.
  • Donal Logue as King Horik
  • Alyssa Sutherland as Aslaug, a princess; Brynhildr's daughter; and Ragnar's love interest.

Recurring cast

  • Jouko Ahola as Kauko, one of Ragnar's warriors.
  • Vladimir Kulich as Erik, one of Ragnar's warriors.
  • Gerard McCarthy as Bronsted
  • Diarmaid Murtagh as Leif, one of Ragnar's warriors.
  • Maude Hirst as Helga, Floki's consort.
  • Ivan Kaye as King Aelle of Northumbria'
  • Eric Higgins as Knut, Earl Haraldson's half-brother.
  • David Pearse as Svein, the Earl's henchman.
  • Thorbjørn Harr as Earl Borg.
  • Gabriel Byrne as Earl Haraldson, the local Viking chieftain; Ragnar's rival.
  • Ruby O'Leary as Gyda, Ragnar and Lagertha's daughter.
  • Elinor Crawley as Thyri, Earl Haraldson and Siggy's daughter.


An Irish-Canadian co-production, Vikings was developed and produced by Octagon Films and Take 5 Productions. Michael Hirst, Morgan O'Sullivan, John Weber, Sherry Marsh, Alan Gasmer, James Flynn and Sheila Hockin are credited as executive producers. The first season's budget has been reported as U.S.$ 40 million.

The series began filming in July 2012 at Ashford Studios, a newly built studio facility in Ireland, chosen as a location for its tax advantages. On August 16, 2012, longship scenes were filmed at Luggala, in the heart of the Wicklow Mountains. 70 percent of the first season was filmed outdoors. Some additional background shots were done in Western Norway.

Johan Renck, Ciarán Donnelly and Ken Girotti each directed three episodes. The production team includes cinematographer John Bartley, costume designer Joan Bergin, production designer Tom Conroy, and composer Trevor Morris.

According to actor Clive Standen (Rollo), future seasons may feature characters such as Alfred the Great, Leif Ericson, and Ivar the Boneless, as well as travels to Iceland, Russia, France, and across the Atlantic.


Vikings premiered on March 3, 2013 on History in the United States, where episodes are also available on the channel's website, and on History in Canada.

In the United Kingdom, Vikings premiered on 24 May 2013 where it is exclusively available on the streaming video on demand service LoveFilm.

In Australia, Vikings premiered on Thursday 8th August, 2013 on SBS One.



The series received generally favorable ratings by critics after the first episode had aired, with an average rating of 70% according to Metacritic.

Alan Sepinwall of HitFix praised the series' casting, notably of Fimmel as Ragnar, and observed that Vikings "isn't complicated. It (...) relies on the inherent appeal of the era and these characters to drive the story." Nancy DeWolf Smith of the Wall Street Journal noted the "natural and authentic" setting and costumes, and appreciated that Vikings was (unlike, e.g., Spartacus) not a celebration of sex and violence, but "a study of character, stamina, power and (...) of social, emotional and even intellectual awakening". Hank Stuever, writing for the Washington Post, found that the "compelling and robust new drama series (...) delivers all the expected gore and blood spatter". But he also wrote that it successfully adapted the skills of cable television drama, with the care taken in acting, writing and sense of scope reminiscent of such series as Rome, Sons of Anarchy and Game of Thrones, and that even the way the series emphasized "a core pride and nobility in this tribe of thugs" reflected "just another iteration of Tony Soprano". Neil Genzlinger, in the New York Times, praised the "arresting" cinematography and the actors' performances, notably Fimmel's, and favorably compared Vikings to Game of Thrones and Spartacus for the absence of gratuitous nudity.

In TIME, James Poniewozik noted that the relatively simple generational conflict underlying Vikings "doesn't nearly have the narrative ambition of a Game of Thrones or the political subtleties of a Rome", nor these series' skill with dialogue, but that it held up pretty well compared to the "tabloid history" of series like The Tudors and The Borgias. He concluded that "Vikings' larger story arc is really more about historical forces" than about its not very complex characters. Clark Collis of Entertainment Weekly appreciated the cast's performance, but considered that Vikings was "kind of a mess", lacking the intrigue of The Tudors and Game of Thrones. Brian Lowry criticized the series in Variety as an "unrelenting cheese-fest" and as a "more simpleminded version of 'Game of Thrones'", but considered that it achieved "a level of atmosphere and momentum that makes it work as a mild diversion". In the San Francisco Chronicle, David Wiegand was disappointed by the series' "glacial pace" and lack of action as well as by the "flabby direction and a gassy script", while appreciating the performances and characters.


According to Nielsen, the series premiere drew 6 million viewers in the U.S., topping all broadcast networks among 18-to-49 year olds. An earlier claim of over 18 million viewers was later retracted by the channel with an apology.

In Canada, the premiere was watched by 1.1 million viewers. The first season has averaged 942,000 viewers.

Series overview

Season Episodes Originally aired DVD and Blu-ray release date
Season premiere Season finale Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
1 9
2 10 2014


Season 1 (2013)

No. Title Directed by Written by Original air date U.S. viewers
Viewers = 6.21 ShortSummary = Ragnar and his brother Rollo return from a battle in which Ragnar has visions of the god Odin and his valkyries. Home again, Ragnar takes his son Bjorn to Kattegat, so Bjorn may undergo his rite of passage. Left at home, Ragnar's wife Lagertha quickly dispatches two would-be rapists. In Kattegat, Ragnar convinces Rollo that raids to the west are worthwhile and possible, thanks to new navigational tools, but is rebuked by his ruler, Earl Haraldson, who orders raids into the Baltic as usual and has the upstart Ragnar watched. Bjorn and Ragnar visit Floki, a gifted shipwright and Ragnar's friend. He has been secretly building a new type of longship, which they successfully test. Meanwhile, back at home, Rollo makes unwelcome advances on Lagertha. LineColor = ada460 }}

Viewers = 4.62 ShortSummary = After gathering volunteers, Ragnar, Rollo, and Floki embark on an unauthorized raid to England. Lagertha violently objects to Ragnar's refusal to take her along. Earl Haraldson has a man killed, who attempts to seduce his wife Siggy, as well as the blacksmith who forged Ragnar's anchor. After a tense voyage, Ragnar's men land in England near the monastery of Lindisfarne, which they proceed to sack. They kill most of the monks and capture the rest to take back as slaves, including the young Athelstan, whom Ragnar protects from death at Rollo's hands. LineColor = ada460 }}

Viewers = 4.83 ShortSummary = Ragnar's warband returns in triumph to Kattegat, where the Earl confiscates the plundered riches except for one piece per man. Ragnar picks the distraught Athelstan and returns home. The monk's faith and his vow of chastity perplex Ragnar, but Ragnar gathers from him useful intelligence about the kingdom of Northumbria. On that basis, Earl Haraldson authorizes another raid on England. Now accompanied by Lagertha and the Earl's trustee Knut, Ragnar re-embarks post-haste, leaving Athelstan to mind the farm and the children. As the Vikings set foot on English soil, they are met by the local sheriff and a handful of armsmen, who invite the newly landed "traders" to meet King Aelle. Ragnar agrees, but his other warriors' distrust incites a battle in which the Northumbrians are slaughtered. LineColor = ada460 }}

Viewers = 4.54 ShortSummary = The Vikings raid a Northumbrian village with little bloodshed, as the villagers are gathered for Mass, but Lagertha kills Knut as he tries to rape her. Back on the beach, the raiders defeat a superior Northumbrian force under Lord Wigea, sent by King Aelle, and return to Kattegat. There, Earl Haraldson has Ragnar, who claims to have killed Knut, arrested and tried at the Thing assembly. The Earl's ploy to bribe Rollo to testify against Ragnar fails, and Ragnar is acquitted. As the raiders celebrate with Athelstan and Ragnar's children, they are assaulted by armed men. Although Ragnar's followers prevail, his companion Erik is killed. LineColor = ada460 }}

Viewers = 4.74 ShortSummary = Earl Haraldson's raiders assault Ragnar's settlement, killing all they can get hold of. Ragnar, Lagertha, Athelstan, and the children narrowly escape in a boat, but Ragnar is severely wounded; Athelstan saves him from drowning. The family hides in Floki's house, where the shipwright and Helga slowly nurse Ragnar back to health. Meanwhile, Earl Haraldson marries his daughter Thyri to a rich old Svealander against his wife Siggy's wishes. Aware that the Earl has Ragnar's friends watched, Rollo offers his services to Haraldson. The Earl feigns acceptance, but Siggy's warning to Rollo is too late: Haraldson has Rollo seized and tortured in an unsuccessful attempt to discover Ragnar's whereabouts. As Torstein brings word of this to the still-weak Ragnar, Ragnar sends Floki to challenge the Earl to single combat with Ragnar. LineColor = ada460 }}

Viewers = 3.31 ShortSummary = The Earl accepts Ragnar's challenge, and the two meet in single combat. Ragnar kills Haraldson, Rollo kills Svein, and Siggy kills her hapless son-in-law. After Ragnar is acclaimed as Earl, he grants his dead foe a chieftain's burial at sea, and Athelstan is revolted to see a slave agree to follow her master in death. In the following winter, Lagertha is pregnant again, Athelstan learns the Viking tale of Ragnarök, and Siggy accepts Rollo's protection and his proposal to marry an earl " himself. As spring beckons, three of Ragnar's ships sail up the River Tyne. After throwing the luckless Wigea into a snake pit, King Aelle prepares to meet the raiders in battle. LineColor = ada460 }}

Viewers = 3.42 ShortSummary = The Vikings set up a fortified camp, assault the Northumbrian besiegers at night, and capture the king's brother Aethelwulf. In a meeting with the king, Ragnar demands 2,000 pounds of gold and silver as a price for the Vikings' departure. Aelle agrees but demands that one Viking be baptized a Christian, and to Floki's scorn, Rollo agrees. Home in Scandinavia, Lagertha rules in Ragnar's stead. She accepts Siggy's offer of service and suffers a miscarriage. Instead of paying the ransom, Aelle has his men attack Ragnar's camp, but they are bloodily repelled. After Ragnar sends Aethelwulf's corpse to Aelle, the king at last pays the ransom but swears vengeance upon Ragnar as he watches the raiders depart. LineColor = ada460 }}

Viewers = 3.85 ShortSummary = As Lagertha is unable to conceive another son, Ragnar takes his family and followers to the temple at Uppsala to attend a great rite to the "?sir. He pledges fealty to King Horik, who charges Ragnar with an embassy to Earl Borg, a rival encroaching on Horik's lands. Siggy chides Rollo for not looking to his own advancement. Priests question Athelstan, now in Viking garb, about his faith. They discern that despite his claims, he has not renounced Christianity, and they declare him unfit to be sacrificed to the gods. Leif, Ragnar's follower, volunteers in Athelstan's place for this signal honor and is sacrificed by King Horik at the climax of the rite together with eight other men and numerous animals. LineColor = ada460 }}

Viewers = 3.58 ShortSummary= Ragnar's embassy to Jarl Borg of Götaland fails, as King Horik rejects a compromise settlement about the contested land. Driven by ambition and jealousy, Rollo agrees to support Borg against Ragnar. In Kattegat, a disease kills many inhabitants, including Lagertha's daughter Gyda and Siggy's daughter Thyri. Underway, Ragnar meets and is seduced by the princess Aslaug; eventually she reveals that she bears his child. LineColor = ada460 }}

Season 2 (2014)

On April 5, 2013, History announced that it will renew Vikings for a ten-episode second season. With Ragnar Lothbrok in the service of King Horik, he engages in larger raids against England and France. Ragnar also deals with his love life and his family. He now has two loves: his wife, Lagertha, and Aslaug, daughter of Sigurd and Brunhilde. He also deals with his brother, Rollo, the future Duke of Normandy, who has betrayed him to the Geats. Athelstan also continues to struggle with being a Christian in a non-Christian world. Throughout this season, Ragnar faces off against King Egbert of Wessex.

Two new series regulars were announced on June 11, 2013, Alexander Ludwig portrays the teenage Björn, and Linus Roache will play King Egbert of Wessex. Season 2 will undergo a jump in time, aging the young Bjorn (Nathan O'Toole) into an older swordsman portrayed by Alexander Ludwig. According to reports, the older Bjorn will not have seen his dad Ragnar for "a long period of time." Lagertha herself will have remarried to a powerful Jarl, a stepfather who provides harsh guidance to Bjorn.

Several Swedish media sources are reporting that actors Edvin Endre, son of renowned Swedish actress Lena Endre of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009 film) and Wallander fame and Anna "?ström, who recently co-starred with Gustaf "Floki" Skarsgård in controversial Swedish language film Us has signed up for roles in Season 2.

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