The challenge for the cast of Vikings: Valhalla was similar to that of House of the Dragon: it needed to create a connection with the audience as strong and perfect as the original, Vikings. But the team led by Travis Fimmell had an advantage, Michael Hirst‘s always the sensitive and accurate script. When sequel critics complain about the current series, they don’t always remember that this is where the sequel’s Achilles heel lies. Hirst is still producing, of course, but there’s always something missing. It’s your words.
With that in mind I defend Vikings: Valhalla. It’s a wonderful series in itself. It uses real history, creates romances and adventures, and entertains, but its current formula creates spaces that its predecessor cleverly avoided (at least until the last season). This is to say excessively separating the trajectories of your heroes. While he was alive, Ragnar (Travis Fimmell) dominated the narrative and we didn’t get lost in the supporting dramas. When we got to the heart of the plot, which was how his children couldn’t understand each other and maintain his legacy, there was still cohesion. It was only when they separated Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård) from the group that they created the problem that Freydís (Frida Gustavsson) faces today: they present an almost didactic version of the religious dilemma between pagans and Christians. It doesn’t hold by itself. Ragnar, who followed the fundamentals without ceasing to question them, connected us. The others don’t.
Since the first season, we still suffer in dealing with the fact that some characters were changed by Michael Hirst (Harald Finehair/Fairhair, King of Norway, had no children in the series, but the current hero, Harald Sigurdsson (Leo Sutter) is his great-grandson, for example). For diehards, this is confusing, but what matters is remembering the History, not the series.
The first season introduced us to today’s heroes: the brothers Freydís Eiríksdóttir (Frida Gustavsson) and Leif Ekíson (Sam Corlett), as well as Harald Sigurdsson (Leo Sutter). Their lives intersect, separate, and meet again. Sam suffers from having to overcome the brilliance of Travis Fimmell and Frida the strength of Katheryn Winnick. They can not.
We effectively have THREE series in one: we have the pagan Freydís, a born leader who does not submit to Christian conversion, and who sacrifices everything for Viking culture. We have the two Vikings – one Christian and one skeptic – who travel the world and meet other cultures and people and we have the British Civil War, led by Earl Godwin (David Oakes) and Queen Emma (Laura Berlin). In this universe, it is precisely Freydís who matters least to us.
I won’t go into the plot twists, there’s still a lot to happen. There is a guaranteed third season and we hope for more later. Vikings told its story in six long-running (20 episodes each), Valhalla has to be more succinct about what it loses in character development.
I’ve already reviewed the trajectories of the real Godwin and Emma, and I’ll talk more about the others. About the second season? Very good. We want more!