There is no better way to spend a chilly Friday night than to binge-watch a Viking saga, especially if you like blood, gore, intrigue, great costumes, and even better characters. And Netflix’s Vikings: Valhalla is the perfect vehicle for that.
While the action has been slowed a bit from the breakneck pace of Season 1, there is still enough bloodletting and heads falling that will suffice for the fans of the genre.
Vikings: Valhalla Season 2 finds all of the characters still struggling with survival and security in a changing world.
Season 2 picks up right where Season 1 left off (and warning: some spoilers ahead). King Canute is still absent from London, fighting the Wends in Denmark. Queen Emma (Laura Berlin) is left to run things in his absence, while her advisor Godwin (played extremely well by David Oakes) is constantly scheming. Oakes plays the character as someone you can’t help but like despite his scheming oily ways. He is a survivor.
Olaf’s attack on Kattegat goes awry, and the Danish Vikings of Sven Forkbeard hunted down his men. Olaf is captured and brought back to Kattegat naked in a cage. But inexplicably, Forkbeard (played magnificently by Soren Pilmark) changes course in mid-stream, spares Olaf’s life, and leaves Norway with much of his army, leaving his grandson in charge, with Olaf as his protector.
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Pilmark plays Forkbeard with the same fearsome glare and long flowing beard that is his namesake but also shows that he’s funny, intelligent, and even a bit grandfatherly. Although he appears only briefly in Season 2, he steals every scene he’s in.
Jóhannesson plays the blood-thirsty Olaf perfectly as the foil for the two “Greenlanders” Leif and Freydis, as well as his half-brother Harald, whose ambition to be the king of Norway is only matched by his love of battle and blood.
Harald is expertly played by Leo Sutter, who, from all appearances, loves playing his character. He’s an adventurer and a brawler who rejoices in a battle, but he’s also a lover and makes love to Freydis with the same passion that he goes into battle.
But the star of the series is Freydis, who escapes with Harald and Leif from Olaf and his forces. While Harald and Leif go to the Rus, Freydis goes to the Viking city of Jomburg, where she is welcomed as almost a mythic figure. The hidden stronghold is where the followers of the “old ways” strive to survive the others who are converting to Christianity.
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Freydis, who is played by Frida Gustavsson, is stunning and a renowned fighter, and the villagers of Jomburg look up to her almost with adoration. In Vikings: Valhalla Season 2 she is defined not just by her extensive fighting skills but her compassion for her fellow people. Gustavsson does a magnificent job of blending the two sides of her persona. She embodies the best of the Norse culture and steals every scene she’s in.
The characters are all enthralling and likable (in some cases unlikable), but it all works to keep you glued to the television. And it works.
Additionally, the series has great cinematography, and it is hard to tell what’s real and what is CGI the detail that went into character building and costumes is readily apparent.
Jeb Stuart and his crew of filmmakers and actors do a marvelous job of blending true history and fiction and Vikings: Valhalla Season 2’s excellent production has raised the bar for television series.
One can definitely sense that the writers used Season 2 to set up what promises to be an epic Season 3. Don’t watch the first episode of Vikings: Valhalla Season 2 unless you have hours to spend in front of the television.
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