It’s been a long wait for fans of History Channel’s Vikings since news dropped that Netflix was picking up and continuing the story, albeit some 100 years after the events that unfolded in the original series.
Is it as good as the original series, though?
Season 1 of Vikings: Valhalla looks just like Vikings
The good news is that Season 1 of Vikings: Valhalla looks and feels just like the original series. It is still set in Kattegat, and the ghosts of the original series are mentioned often to remind viewers that this series has a predecessor.
This should come as no surprise as Michael Hirst, who wrote every episode of Vikings, is still on board with Vikings: Valhalla, albeit in an advisory role this time around. Jeb Stuart steps in to head as showrunner but stays true to the feel of the original show.
In addition, Vikings: Valhalla was also filmed in the same location as Vikings were and even utilized various pre-existing sets.
Netflix has aimed to make sure that the new series looks and feels just like the old one, and they certainly achieve it — even while stamping its own brand on the new show.
In fact, as pointed out by Sam Corlett during IGN Fan Fest, Vikings: Valhalla now has “the largest flotilla of Viking ships in the world.” So, the network is certainly going for authenticity here.
And, if that wasn’t enough, various old characters are mentioned several times during Season 1. At times, this is great to remind viewers of the links back to the original show.
Mentions of Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) and Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) when Leif and Freydis first arrive in Kattegat is timely and warm the heart. Ditto for when fans are reminded that Emma of Normandy (Laura Berlin) is related to Rollo (Clive Standen).
However, sometimes, it feels overdone.
The new characters quickly arrive at Kattegat
The series opens with a dramatic sea voyage as Leif crosses from Greenland to Norway. He and his sister are on a mission to find someone that has wronged them, although I won’t say who that person is at this point.
I want to point out here that an Australian actor plays Leif, and I have no idea if that was intentional since Travis Fimmel turned out to be so phenomenal as Ragnar. However, Netflix has managed to find that perfect blend of introspective and vengeful that made Ragnar so endearing to the fans, and they have backed a winner once more in Sam Corlett.
Very quickly, Leif and Freydis get noticed by all the important people, and quickly the cast enlarges as Harald Sigurdsson (Leo Suter), his brother Olaf Haraldsson (Johannes Haukur Johannesson), King Canute (Bradley Freegard), and Jarl Haakon (Caroline Henderson) join the Norwegian line-up.
The English also get a look in as King Aethelred II (Bosco Hogan), also known as Aethelred the Unready, calls for a massacre of all those Vikings living in Danelaw. Along with the king, his son, Prince Edmund (Louis Davison), Emma of Normandy, and Earl Godwin (David Oakes) set themselves up as the opposition to the fearsome Vikings.
Religions clash in Season 1 of Vikings: Valhalla
The battle between the new Christian god and the old pagan ways is always at the forefront throughout the first installment.
In a recent interview with Justin Pollard, the Vikings: Valhalla historical advisor revealed that the new series would tackle the “end of the Christianization of Europe” in an interview with Den of Geek.
“But a lot of the Christianization in Northern Europe was done at the point of a sword. And as we all know, the most appalling, bitter, and often bloody wars are over belief,” Pollard said.
The struggle over religion also occurred in Vikings, but it is much more present in Vikings: Valhalla. After all, 100 years have passed, and Christianity is really getting a foothold in Scandinavia now. While Leif and Freydis and, by extension, all of Greenland still seem to be rooted in the pagan ways, things are different in other locations.
While England may be nearly entirely immersed in Christianity now, in Scandinavia, things are messier.
Harald is Christian but also holds true to the old ways as well. Whereas his brother, Olaf, is entirely fanatical in his Christian beliefs.
In Kattegat, Jarl Haakon allows all religions to practice as they please, and a utopian paradise seems to exist in this location that sees both religions co-existing – for now.
And, because of this, viewers can expect to see plenty of the bloody battles that they came to know and love in Vikings.
Overall, Vikings: Valhalla is an excellent new series that completely fills the void left behind by the original series.
Season 1 of Vikings: Valhalla will premiere on Netflix on February 25, 2022.