In 2013, the History Channel debuted its series Vikings. It might be worth watching the 89 episodes before starting the new spin-off, Vikings: Valhalla that just dropped on Netflix.
However, it’s not necessary since Valhalla takes place over one hundred years after Ragnar Lothbroke’s journey ends. However, you’ll hear a couple of character names from the original series being dropped.
Here we see the development of the iconic Kattegat, a city of people that has flourished. Many still travel to the heart of trade, including a group of Greenlanders. In this group, there is Leif Eriksson (Sam Corlett), based on the real historical figure.
Lief travels to Kattegat with his sister, Freydis (the fierce Frida Gustavsson), who murders the man who assaulted her. But the Nordic world and laws have changed since the times of Ragnar Lothbrok and legendary shield-maiden, and ruler, Lagertha.
Actions lead directly to consequences, and revenge is not so easily sated. Especially because the series picks back up with the St Brice’s Day massacre. A real event, have to love the inclusion of some history here. King Aethelred (Bosco Hogan), had ordered the slaughter of every Dane in England, reducing the Danelaw to ashes. A retaliation for all of the Norsemen’s raiding for who knows how long.
An army is being raised by King Canute (Bradley Freegard), with the help of cunning Harald Sigurdsson (Leo Suter). One that starts off frigidly because of a religious divide that has been spawning between Vikings and has changed the world of Vikings we once knew.
Some things don’t change though: gods, glory and gold still run deep throughout the series.
It’s much less predictable than expected: especially because of the women. We are introduced to powerhouses other than Freydis, such as Queen Emma of Normandy (Laura Berlin), and Jarl Haakon (Caroline Henderson), the leader of Kattegat.
This series kicked off by giving them more agency, making them more calculated and strong on their own. We root for them because of their ambition, how they’re not reduced to being just women. They have their own fights, journeys, and troubles.
By giving all the characters these traits, rather than just a few, it gave the eight-episode series more depth.
Some areas are predictable because no series is perfect. Although, it’s refreshing because we also find ourselves being deceived alongside the other characters. Whilst it still holds some of Viking’s traditional gore, Valhalla offers something new too.
A richer set of characters and new faces show up and disturb the scene. There’s violence because what is Vikings without some? But there’s also more growth. Especially in the journey of Freydis, who isn’t victimised by her past and Lief, who is torn between his beliefs.
It’s a bold spin-off to a beloved original series. There are unexpected twists, infuriating turns and unlikeable characters. Not only is it a glorious tribute to our original Vikings, but it also becomes grand on its own: without needing to rely on them. Which is everything a good series needs.
Stream all episodes of Vikings: Valhalla on Netflix now.
Featured image credit: NetflixTudum.com
Deputy Editor of Brig Newspaper. Fourth year journalism and English student at the University of Stirling. Lover of covering social issues and creator of 'The Talk' column for everyone who needs to hear it.