TV Recap: Vikings

bill bodkin gets nordic on your ass…

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The premiere episode of any television series is supposed to accomplish a few things.

First and foremost, it must introduce to the viewing audience the characters the series wants us to become emotionally invested in.

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The History Channel’s new series Vikings doesn’t do this very well.

Secondly, it has to set the table for future episodes — laying out and setting up the series’ major storylines and character arcs.

The History Channel’s new series Vikings doesn’t do this very well.

And lastly, it’s supposed to wet the viewing appetites of the audience — leaving us with that feeling of “I gotta tune in next week to see what happens!”

The History Channel’s new series Vikings doesn’t do this…at all.

See what we did there.

All snark aside, Vikings‘ premiere episode is actually very disappointing. The trailers promised a series that could be the kind that’s a step above the stylized sex and violence for the sake of stylized sex and violence in Spartacus and a notch below the Holy Grail of sword series — Game of Thrones.

Instead, we’re given a poorly written, poorly constructed and poorly acted series that doesn’t hold a candle to even the lowliest of sword series or movies.

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The biggest problem with Vikings is that the show does a terrible job of introducing characters. Outside of our main character Ragnar Lodbrok (Michael Hirst), we literally know who no one is until about 5-10 minutes after we’ve first met them. Perfect example, we see Ragnar with a woman and two younger kids…which we find out, about 10 minutes after they’re onscreen, are is family. This is a problem for two reasons. First, why wouldn’t you introduce these people right away, they’re the main characters’ family … pretty sure they’re important, so clue us in on this instead of letting our confusion cloud whatever dialogue is being spoken. Secondly, the baby-faced Hirst doesn’t really looking old enough to be a father of a 12-year-old boy who’s ready to become a man. So when we do discover who these people are, it’s kind of unbelievable.

This lack of character clarity runs rampant throughout the show and really leaves the audience wondering who anyone is, what their motivation is and what they have to do with the show’s overall story. It’s really frustrating, because all of this distracts from the plot.

Speaking of the plot, talk about dull. Here it is: Ragnar believes there’s lands to the west but his lord, played by Gabriel Byrne, doesn’t believe him. So Ragnar is going to build a boat, find a crew and prove everyone wrong. Exciting right? Makes you wanna tune in for more? And the answer would be…nope.

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And then there’s the acting. Hirst is abysmally terrible. He looks like Charlie Hunnam’s stand-in, but sadly he doesn’t have any of the Sons of Anarchy star’s charisma or talent. It’s also very distracting that Hirst looks like he’s ready to crack up throughout the episode. When he’s not holding the giggles in he delivers his lines with such a soft yet thick, marble-mouthed mixed accent; so you don’t really understand what he’s saying. Combine that with the acting charisma of a two-day old bowl of soup and you’ve got one hell of a lead actor.

As for the rest of the cast, outside of Gabriel Byrne, they’re all pretty terrible. Some of the actors sound as if they’ve been overdubbed by actors with Scandinavian accents and whoever mixed the sound did a really bad job. Also, none of the actors make an impression on the audience enough to even warrant you caring about their future in the show.

Maybe if Vikings weren’t airing on Sunday night, a night that’s become reserved for the most well-written dramas on television, we would tune in again. Maybe if it weren’t airing right after the emotionally charged, blood-soaked third season of The Walking Dead, we would forgive its shortcomings. Maybe if weren’t airing weeks before Game of Thrones returned to television, we wouldn’t be so harsh.

But, maybe, if Vikings was actually a good show that took the time to clue its audience in, develop interesting stories and characters and quicken its pace, would we find ourselves wanting to tune in every week. But alas, we’ll stick to the war of The Seven Kingdoms and the exploits of the zombie apocalypse instead.

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site’s podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites