As a passionate streaming enthusiast and avid fan of historical fiction, I was eagerly awaiting the release of Netflix‘s Vikings: Valhalla. Now that the first season has arrived, how does this flashy sequel stack up against the original beloved series, Vikings? Let‘s dive deep into the key factors that distinguish these two immersive Viking sagas.
Introducing Our Viking Heroes – Old and New
First, let‘s get familiar with the main characters we‘ll be exploring. Vikings focuses on the ambitious farmer-turned-raider Ragnar Lothbrok and his extended family. We witness Ragnar and his sons – Bjorn, Ubbe, Hvitserk, Sigurd, and Ivar – transform over decades, becoming complex and morally ambiguous characters.
Valhalla features entirely new faces like the legendary explorer Leif Eriksson, the fiercely devout Freydis Eriksdotter, and the ambitious Norse prince Harald Sigurdsson. While entertaining, these characters feel somewhat flatter so far without the multi-season character development of Vikings.
|Vikings||Ragnar Lothbrok, Lagertha, Bjorn Ironside, Floki, Ivar the Boneless|
|Valhalla||Leif Eriksson, Freydis Eriksdotter, Harald Hardrada|
But how do these flagship Viking shows compare when it comes to historical authenticity, plot, production values, and audience reception? Let‘s break it down.
Bringing the Viking Age to Life
Both shows bring the medieval Scandinavian world to life, but with different levels of historical accuracy. Vikings hews closer to reality in terms of sets, costumes, music, and the general aesthetic. Filming in Ireland and utilizing natural light gives Vikings an immersive, gritty feel. Valhalla looks more polished with crisper cinematography, but occasionally feels too clean for the time period.
In terms of cultural details, Vikings again appears more meticulously researched, with touches like characters eating authentic foods and using objects of the era. Valhalla makes more creative choices for the sake of entertainment, like adding diversity to the main cast that feels anachronistic.
Overall, Vikings does a better job capturing the genuine essence of the Viking time period, from the shadowy longhouses to the intricate tattoos adorning Ragnar Lothbrok. Valhalla wins points for gorgeous scenery and thrilling action sequences, but the sets have a certain artificial sheen that detracts from historical immersion.
|Sets/Environments||Gritty, realistic longhouses and villages filmed on location in Ireland.||More elaborate set designs on sound stages, with some CGI environments.|
|Costumes||Detailed, well-worn costumes using materials like linen, wool, fur, and leather.||Intricate costumes but fabrics look cleaner and less aged.|
|Cinematography||Natural lighting, hazy landscapes, and a subdued color palette.||Crisper image quality, more vivid colors, and stylized lighting.|
|Music||Minimalistic score using era-appropriate instruments like horns and drums.||Grand orchestral score better suits the action and adventure tone.|
When it comes to adherence to history and mythology, neither show is rigorously accurate. Vikings intertwines real figures like Bjorn Ironside and Ivar the Boneless with fictional storylines. Valhalla is even more loose with the historical facts, but does effectively weave in legendary Norse figures like Erik the Red and Harald Hardrada. Ultimately, Vikings feels more rooted in historical texture and weight.
Unraveling Complex Storylines
In terms of plotting and narrative complexity, Vikings is the clear winner. Vikings slowly unravels the multifaceted story of Ragnar‘s gradual rise and fall over several decades. We delve into Ragnar‘s complicated motives, relationships, and internal conflicts. Supporting characters like Lagertha and Floki also undergo dramatic character development across several seasons. There are no straightforward heroes and villains – everyone has shades of gray.
Valhalla, at least in season 1, relies more heavily on action and adventure to drive the story. The central conflict is reasonably engaging – pagan Vikings vs. Christian forces threatening their way of life. But so far, the characters lack the psychological depth that made Vikings so compelling. That said, there is still time for growth in future seasons.
Overall, I have to give the edge to Vikings for its ambitious, crisscrossing narrative woven over 89 episodes. The complexity of Ragnar Lothbrok alone outweighs the entire ensemble of Valhalla. But Valhalla could potentially rival Vikings in future seasons if the writers give more dimensionality to characters like Leif and Freydis beyond their raiding adventures.
|Vikings||Intricate, character-focused drama spanning several decades.|
|Valhalla||Action-oriented plot revolving around one major conflict in season 1.|
Critical and Audience Reception
In terms of popularity, Vikings experienced strong viewership during its 6-season run on History channel. It averaged around 10 million viewers per episode at its peak. On Rotten Tomatoes, it has an Critics‘ Score of 71% and an Audience Score of 85%, indicating positive reactions especially among everyday viewers.
Valhalla has only aired one season so far, but has still put up impressive numbers, with Netflix reporting over 100 million viewing hours in its first week. However, it has a lower Audience Score of 72% on Rotten Tomatoes. Many reviews praise the polished production and gripping action scenes, while critiquing the thinner characters and plots compared to Vikings.
Based on these metrics, Vikings appears to have resonated more deeply with both critics and audiences so far. But as a Netflix Original, Valhalla may have an opportunity to reach an even wider subscriber base moving forward if the writers play to the show‘s strengths.
|Vikings||~10 million per episode at peak||71% Critics
|Valhalla||100+ million hours viewed in 1 week||72% Audience|
The Verdict: Which Viking Saga Reigns Supreme?
So which show ultimately delivers the superior Viking viewing experience? As much as I‘ve enjoyed Valhalla‘s eye-popping production and action sequences, I have to give the edge to Vikings. It has greater authenticity, depth, and dramatic heft that immerses you fully in the Viking era. The characters stick with you long after watching.
That said, Vikings: Valhalla is still a worthy successor, continuing the exciting stories of legendary Norse heroes and heroines. With more character development and sharper writing, Valhalla could potentially live up to or even surpass Vikings in future seasons.
For now, I‘d strongly recommend any fan of medieval history start with Vikings to fully appreciate the magic of Valhalla later on. The original series has secured its place as one of the finest historical fiction shows ever produced for television. Valhalla has promise to carry on that blood-soaked, axe-swinging legacy in an entertaining way – just don‘t expect the same dramatic weight right out of the gates.
So fire up your streaming devices and live vicariously through these gripping Viking adventures – whether you prefer Hallef axe-hacking action or complex storylines, there‘s plenty here to enjoy. Skål, warriors!