- Jenna Sliter
- Hi, I'm Jenna and I'm addicted to great television. I'm on a mission to share with you what I think are the best of the best when it comes to shows and mini-series. Long format visual storytelling is my entertainment of choice. I've got a lot to say, so stay tuned..... P.S. I am under some sort of invisible legal obligation to state that I do not own any of the photos posted herein unless otherwise specified and if you see any of your images and would like me to credit you or take it down (‘cus you’re just a meanie), please contact me
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
I'd been seeing billboards all over Los Angeles, but they were tagged History Channel. I figured that "Vikings" was a documentary series on violent Scandinavians that was getting a big marketing push. After Hatfields & McCoys, how could I be so silly? History Channel has been venturing into original programming and this latest endeavor is pretty spectacular if you ask me. And I've only seen two episodes!
Michael Hirst, the co-regent of period drama alongside Andrew Davies, is the mastermind behind this historical drama. If you liked his other series "The Tudors" and Starz's "Camelot", "Vikings" is in the same vein. The nine part series (hopefully season one of many) follows the ambitious farmer/warrior Ragnar Lothbrok as he journeys towards greatness. But...you know, viking greatness which among other things includes killing, stealing and kidnapping. Hey, if it makes for great drama, I'm in!
"Vikings" definitely does make for great drama. From the captivating opening credits, through the action and into the tender family moments, the storytelling is stellar. After only the first two episodes (ok, after 20 mins) I am completely enthralled and already disappointed that there are only nine episodes to look forward to.
Ok, down to the nuts and bolts. What else besides an exciting story makes this series worth watching?
The opening credits are stunning. See, I've already mentioned them twice. Gorgeous images accompanied by the hauntingly beautiful song "If I Had a Heart" by Fever Ray. No surprise as to the quality if you look back at the intros to "The Tudors" and "Camelot". Hirst obviously appreciates the value that masterfully made titles add to a series. Director Rama Allen created a memorable sequence that has quickly become one of my favorites. Watch the Vikings Intro
Sublimely shot by veteran cinematographer John S. Bartley (ASC), it makes me actually want to visit this seemingly savage and harsh place. Although, the story takes place in the Nordic region, the series is shot in Ireland. Apparently, the go to place for period and fantasy genre productions these days.
The production design, art direction, costumes, make-up and ESPECIALLY the hair is amazing. Who knew that there was a dude out there that could pull off a mohawk/mullet braid?
Speaking of...once again Hirst went to casting directors extraordinaire Frank & Nuala Moiselle. For their Norse hero, they found Travis Fimmel, a relatively unknown Australian actor. I don't know if it's accurate, but I love his viking accent. I have a feeling that this role will take him places. He really embodies this warrior who madly loves his wife, is a good father and is destined to be a leader. That is, if he's strong enough to go head to head with the Earl of his tribe played by the brilliant Gabriel Byrne. I've always liked him, but after watching "In Treatment", I would watch that man read a newspaper. I can't wait to see what he does with a villain.
I don't really know anything about this time period or these people. Obviously, this is television series and they will take creative liberties. If you want complete accuracy, go watch a documentary. Sometimes history needs a little doctoring to be entertaining enough to keep you coming back every week. I love it when I'm inspired to do some research of my own to see if what I'm watching really happened. To find out the other side's story. To put it into context. Historical dramas engage me, particularly when they are so beautifully produced.
Check out this cool infographic on History.com about Viking Gods & Mythology
So the lesson for today? Watch "Vikings" on History Channel (formerly that Nazi documentary channel) Sundays at 10pm. You'll thank me later.
Only 2 episodes have been broadcast, but you can watch the first three on History.com or on Hulu.com.
Hands down, my favorite new show of the winter season is "The Following" starring Mr. Kevin Bacon himself. Why should I watch, you might ask. I'll tell you. Week after week (there have been 8 so far) I am on the edge of my seat. "The Following" has the intensity and suspense of "24" and the deranged, albeit brilliant writing chops of "Luther". This psychological thriller was created by Kevin Williamson. Yes..... "Dawson's Creek" Kevin Williamson, but remember he did the Scream movies too. Trust me, this is no "Dawson's Creek". In a time of DVRs, online streaming and next day viewing, this is one to watch live.
Bacon plays Ryan Hardy, the former FBI agent that took down Professor and serial killer Joe Carroll. His specialty? The macabre writings of Edgar Allan Poe of course. During his years in prison, Joe has acquired followers, equally damaged and demented people that want.... no, need to kill. You might think, it must be hard to recruit cult members from inside a prison cell. Apparently, if you are charming and seductive enough........ and have a sexy British accent, it can be done. Knowing that these soldiers are out there killing on his behalf almost seems as satisfying to Joe as committing the murders himself. But to a man that is passionate about death, how long can that last? Well, we're only in the beginning stages of a grand plan. And yes, I can see this going on many exciting seasons. I mean come on, no one thought "24" last as long as it did and there at least 4-5 (debatably) really good seasons.
When the followers are set in motion, Hardy is brought back to the FBI as a consultant to connect Carroll to the crimes and stop them. He's teamed with cult expert Debra Parker and a keen young agent that's read everything there is to know on the Joe Carroll case, including Hardy's tell-all.
Ryan Hardy's involvement with the original investigation was complicated. He's obviously been destroyed by it mentally, physically and emotionally. Ryan's deep connection to Joe's wife Claire (Natalie Zea) during the trial led to a brief affair. Despite the love between them, Ryan knew that he'd be a reminder of the monster in their family and ended things. After Ryan left and with her husband incarcerated, Claire was left to raise young Joey Jr. alone.
Or was she? Joe has followers everywhere, especially watching over his beloved family. With each episode, we see a little more of how big this network of psychopaths really is. They seem like you and me. Normal....but they're not. They've been lying in wait. Some of them, for years. And now the plan is unfolding. I'll watch through my fingers covering my face, but I have to know what happens. It's gruesome. It's shocking. It's thrilling. It's heart-poundingly great television. I guarantee at least one gasp every episode.
I watch so much on cable and premium channels these days. It's great to see that a Network will air something that pushes the envelope a little. The places this show goes, it doesn't feel like a Network playing it safe. So, it's not for you if you're looking for another "NCIS", but you probably figured that out by now.
Please accept my sincerest of apologies for not telling you about how amazing this show is from the very first week. I knew it then. Seriously, watch it! After the pilot, you'll be hooked. Or completely disgusted and never read this blog again.
You can catch up from the beginning on Hulu Plus. Fox.com and OnDemand only post the last few episodes. Boo on them : (
Mondays at 9pm on Fox