The saga of the Vikings is a fascinating series that, even with a broad international audience, didn’t reach the same level as the Game of Thrones fever, even when it stoped competing with it. It’s a shame. Michael Hirst‘s series is one of the best of the past years with great performances. After six seasons, its final 10 episodes will start being aired – weekly – on December 30th. It’s going to be, as promised, epic.
Vikings at first sounds like fantasy series, but it’s inspired in true events. Its showrunner, Michael Hirst, is behind movies such as Elizabeth and Elizabeth – The Golden Age (both starred by Cate Blanchett), and the series The Tudors. He writes alone and therefore grants continuity and coherency.
Vikings was born out of a personal curiosity. Right after finishing Elizabeth, Michael wrote a concept of King Alfred, the Great, HISTORY SPOILER ALERT FOR FOREIGNERS, who won the battle against the vikings invasion in England. While Hirst was researching about that fact, he realized that there was very few documents about the vikings and became more interested in their saga, myths and Gods. He wrote a note to himself to going back to it “one day”, and, in 2012, the opportunity came along through a project with History Channel. At this point, The Tudors was a hit and when the showrunner pitched his idea, they were all ready to embark in a new adventure, told this time, through the eyes of the invaders.
Every story has its protagonist and Vikings needed one to lead the plot. A friend, specialized in Middle Ages suggested to Hirst to look into the story of Ragnar Lothbrok, the first viking that became a legend. He was the first to lead a viking invasion. That’s how the author claims to have found his hero. Besides being clever, Ragnar, had many sons that kept his myth alive and that was the element that attracted Hirst the most, the fact that the series could go on “forever”.
And it’s true. He divided the story of Ragnar and his sons in many seasons. Some chronological liberties were taken for the sake of the storytelling, mixing some famous vikings around the hero, but turning into the Lothbrok’s family saga is the secret of the success of the series.
Ragnar’s myth was registered in poems and northern legends. His greatest true achievement was to attack Paris, in 845, traveling through the Seine with 120 vikings boats. Some question his existence and deeds, but the farmer who became King conquered many fans with the performance of the Australian Travis Fimmel.
SPOILER ALERT Ragnar’s story end on Season 4 being immediately picked up by his son’s story. In truth, two of them, Ubbe e Ivar, invaded England in 865, as shown in Season 5, but King Alfred‘s victory will be the series conclusion.
While all the pagan Gods and beliefs are important to Vikings, bringing some fantasy to it, it’s part of real folklore and there are no dragons in it.
To female audiences, it came as inspiration that the vikings women were so strong. That was before the women’s empowerment movement of the latest years. Lagertha fights as well as any men, even better than most. Canadian actress Katheryn Winnick, who SPOILER ALERT, was around until the first part of Season 6, became a reference to the series. Women’s role in viking’s society, had voice, but Hirst had to fight to keep it on the series.
The final season SPOILER ALERT will conclude the civil war between Ragnar’s sons. In truth, they never fought amongst themselves, quite the opposite, but it’s all for storytelling.
The younger cast, Ragnar’s sons, it’s as good as the original. The greatest revelation is of Danish actor Alex Høgh Andersen, who brought life to the difficult and fascinating Ivar, the boneless.
What will Michael Hirst do next? Well, he’s been working for two years with Martin Scorcese in a new series of Roman emperors. Production of The Caesares didn’t start yet, but it’s promising.