September 27, 2022

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Vikings: Valhalla “The Marshes”

Season One, Episode Three

Look, I don’t want to say that Vikings: Valhalla is a better show than Vikings was.  It’s got its own flaws.  But it has managed to fix some of the flaws from the old series rather nicely.

So, here are some of the flaws from the old show:

  • Mercia/England and its politics is downright boring.
  • Viking politics is rather simplistic.
  • The pacing is really slow, especially when the parent show went from 10 episode seasons to 20.
  • Interesting characters got killed off before the series ended.

However, it had its strengths too:

  • Good battle sequences considering the budget the show was probably operating under.
  • Charismatic characters, at least when the show started.
  • Knew when and how to go over the top.

Now, three episodes into Vikings: Valhalla, and I feel comfortable enough to make some general statements.  I may find myself to be very wrong about all these points later.  However, to cover them one by one…

England

Honestly, for me right now, all the stuff going on in England with Queen Emma, Lord Godwin, and Prince Edmund is a lot more fascinating than the Viking pagan vs Christian drama.  Emma and Godwin both have plans to keep England running, and they know Edmund has a part to play, and this kid’s political instincts are OK but not as good as they should be.  Yes, Godwin will get him crowned by the end of the episode, but both Emma and Godwin want to keep him off the battlefield as they both know, rightly, that with his father dead, the Vikings will settle for killing Edmund instead.  Plus, Godwin’s showing Edmund how little the teen knows about actual fighting when the lad’s own soldiers were not exactly the best sparring partners was a rather smart move.

Viking politics

The old show mostly just paid lip service to “the gods” on a routine basis, and mostly they fought over Kattegat.  They wanted to raid, and any king or jarl that came along and acted friendly probably wasn’t going to stay that way for the main characters.  Here, the vikings have a conflict going between themselves much more than they do anyone else.  Freydis’s pilgrimage to a pagan holy site isn’t going well, especially since her party was attacked without warning by a lone, Christian berserker, and Freydis doesn’t seem to realize that guy has some powerful friends that will come looking for her later.  Meanwhile, it sure did look like some of the other leaders set Harald and the Greenlanders up to fail with a scouting mission that turned into an ambush.  Not having the vikings in lockstep while also not making it all about fighting each other is an interesting development.

Slow Pacing

Three episodes in, and already most of the cast is fighting in England.  I’d say the pace is anything but slow, helped by the fact that the season only has eight episodes.  They can’t afford to wait on this.

Interesting Characters Killed Off Too Early

Eh, not so much of a problem here as there aren’t that many characters I would define as interesting yet with the exception of Harald.  He’s a Christian, but when asked about showing mercy to defeated foes as a Christian should, he says he’s a viking first.  Now, if only these shows would remember “viking” was an activity or profession and now a nationality…

Good Battle Sequences

Oh yeah, no issues there.  The episode opens with a battle, there’s the ambush outside London, and Freydis’s own small-scale fight with the berzerker with only a handful of helpers was also pretty well done.

Charismatic Characters

OK, here is where Valhalla so far falls short.  I really don’t know who many of these people are.  Some of the Greenlanders seem to die in England, but the only one I know by name is Leif, and he has the plot armor of a main character to protect himself.  He and Harald do make a good team as they infiltrate London and scout out the defenses inside, especially since Harald, unlike Leif, actually speaks the local language.  But so far, there are too many the series seems to pretend I care about when I can’t even name a lot of them.  A smaller cast might have worked out better.

Over The Top Stuff

Actually, this one hasn’t come into play yet, mostly because the overall tone of the show is different, and so far, less of a soap opera that I came to expect from Vikings creator Michael Hurst since that was basically all The Tudors was.  Valhalla seems to be taking itself in a more serious direction, if that makes any sense.

So, basically, I like what I am seeing so far.

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