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Vikings: Season 1 Blu-ray Review

Vikings- Season 1 Blu-ray

“Vikings” is a watchable, but flawed series.

In the 9 episode first season of “Vikings,” the story primarily focuses on Viking warrior brothers (Ragnar and Rollo) who act under the orders of Earl Haraldson. The Earl is frequently sending the two out to raid the Baltic, but the brothers wish to travel west to see what is out there. The cruel authoritative Earl, however, does not approve of this idea so the brothers wind up venturing out in their own. The rest of the series essentially deals with a power struggle between the Earl and Ragnar’s camps as well as the raids and battles against the Northumbrians (the Vikings foes out west). Other key subplots involve Ragnar’s son (Bjorn) and wife (Lagertha), a Monk (Athelstan), Earl’s wife (Siggy) and daughter (Thyri), Lagertha becoming pregnant, religion, a disease, a dispute between King Horik and Jarl Borg, the Northumbrian King Aelle, and another woman in Ragnar’s life.

Throughout film and TV history, there has not been a plethora of genuinely good Viking films or shows. In fact, there have been some truly abysmal Viking centric works like “The Norseman,” “Pathfinder,” “The 13th Warrior,” and the very recent “Hammer of the Gods.”  The good news is that the History Channel series “Vikings” is better than a majority of all Viking films and shows. The bad news is that it’s still not what I would consider good.

Right off the bat, it’s evident that “Vikings” is clearly influenced by “Spartacus” and “Game of Thrones” and was probably even greenlit as a result of the success of those two shows. While it obviously doesn’t hold a candle to ‘Thrones’ (few things do), it is significantly better than “Spartacus” (although that isn’t saying much at all).

From a production standpoint, there is much to admire about “Vikings.” The costumes, the action sequences, the location shooting, and some of the cast members (namely Gabriel Byrne) are all impressive for a basic cable series. It’s clear that History Channel went out all here in creating a scripted original series. Unfortunately, the series often FEELS like one of the cheesy History Channel reenactments you’d see on a documentary program complete with iffy CGI and cornball dialogue. Perhaps the show’s biggest offense is the bland characters. Without any likable or strong characters, it’s virtually impossible to care about a show and that is the case here. It doesn’t help that the show’s writing is very inconsistent (not to mention historically inaccurate). “Vikings” is a very slow show that doesn’t pick up until the game changing episode 6 “Burial of the Dead.” After that, the series does improve somewhat, but whether or not you will be engaged by the events happening on screen will solely depend on your opinion of the cast and characters.  

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 1.78:1 1080p. How does it look? Truth be told, the cinematography is actually pretty stunning. I was particularly fond of the location shooting.

Audio Track: 5.1 DTS-HD. How does it sound? This is a very lively series that is jam packed with action. Audio buffs should be pleased by the show’s use of sound.

Extras:
* MGM/Fox film and TV series trailers.
* Extended cuts of all 9 episodes.
* 4 deleted scenes.
* Commentary on “Rites Of Passage” by Michael Hirst and Jessalyn Gilsig. While there are a few behind-the-scenes stories, expect lots of back patting for all involved.
* “Conquest and Discovery: Journey of the Vikings”- An interactive map features that includes brief information about the Vikings from a historian.
* “Birth of the Vikings”- Cast and crew members chat about the characters.
* “The Armory of the Vikings”- Another interactive feature. This one involves the weapons and ships.
* “Forging The Viking Army: Warfare and Tactics”- A featurette about the training the cast and crew underwent for the the show’s numerous battle sequences. Interviews and rehearsal footage are included here.
* “A Warrior Society: Viking Culture and Law”- Everyone from historians to cast and crew members are interviewed in this 20 minute featurette about Viking culture.
* Commentary on “All Change” by Katheryn Winnick and Clive Standen. A much more lively and laidback commentary, but ultimately it’s pretty forgettable.

Overall Thoughts: “Vikings” will likely divide audiences. Some will love it; others will be bored by it. If you are a fan, you will no dohbt want to keep playing these Blu-ray discs until season 2 premieres in 2014.

October 30, 2013 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , ,

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