You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Vikings,’ Season 3

Travis Fimmel, Katheryn Winnick, Clive Standen, Jessalyn Gilsig, Gustaf Skarsgard, George Blagden, Alexander Ludwig, Alyssa Sutherland, Linus Roache

History’s investment in dramatic programming has yielded mixed results, but its best, enduring franchise, arguably, has been “Vikings,” which sails into its third season with considerable assurance and gusto. Showrunner Michael Hirst has managed to craft a compelling serialized storyline around the exploits of the Norsemen and their crafty leader, Ragnar Lothbrok, whose travels this time will eventually lead him to France. For now, though, Ragnar and company are busily trying to carve out a mutually beneficial relationship with the English King of Wessex, with ample bloodletting, lust and betrayal to go around.

The determination of Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) to improve the Vikings’ lives not through pillaging but farming, somewhat mystify his compatriots. But in the nothing-is-ever-easy department, King Ecbert (Linus Roache) needs Ragnar’s martial skills to help solidify his power, resulting in the inevitable bloody battles in the early episodes. Few programs, notably, do a better job of conveying military tactics than “Vikings,” and the skirmishes at the outset of season three are no exception.

Still, the jockeying for power doesn’t always involve an axe, with Ecbert setting his eye on Ragnar’s ex-wife, Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick), who is facing a threat to her own power while she joins Ragnar on his adventures abroad. There’s also more potential trouble at home with the arrival of a mysterious wanderer (“The Strain’s” Kevin Durand) whose cryptic utterances play into the superstitions of Ragnar’s current wife, Queen Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland).

Hirst seems particularly fascinated by the clash of the two cultures, and “Vikings” can get a little thick from time to time on dramatic symbolism, what with the Pagans and Christians trying to live in harmony. Along the way, there are some very good scenes featuring Ecbert — Roache is especially good in the role — lusting after Lagertha, marveling at how there are no Saxon women like the warrior maiden, while forcing the former monk Athelstan (George Blagden) to uncomfortably and amusingly play translator.

Almost everything about “Vikings” is bold and brawny, and the show’s success has seemingly allowed for greater scope in bringing the eighth century to life in all its brutal glory. Indeed, amid a wave of period dramas generally made possible by international production, few are as fully realized or consistently satisfying.

Granted, History has journeyed a long way from its original profile, occasionally straying far from any legitimate claim to its name. And while this is essentially the popcorn version of a quality serialized drama — with more overt appeal to men than most — “Vikings” is the sort of nifty endeavor that can give the idea of shamelessly marauding in search of loot a good name.

Or, as the linguistically gifted Ragnar might be saying before the season’s over, “Vive la difference.”

Popular on Variety

TV Review: 'Vikings,' Season 3

(Series; History, Thurs. Feb. 19, 10 p.m.)

Production: Filmed in Ireland by Take 5 Prods and Octagon Films in association with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Crew: Executive Producers, Michael Hirst, Morgan O’Sullivan, Sheila Hockin, Alan Gasmer, Sherry Marsh, James Flynn, John Weber; producers, Steve Wakefield, Keith Thompson; director, Ciaran Donnelly; writer, Hirst; camera, PJ Dillon; production designer, Tom Conroy; editor, Aaron Marshall; music, Trevor Morris; visual effects supervisors, Julian Parry, Dominic Remane; casting, Frank Moiselle, Nuala Moiselle. 60 MIN.

Cast: Travis Fimmel, Katheryn Winnick, Clive Standen, Jessalyn Gilsig, Gustaf Skarsgard, George Blagden, Alexander Ludwig, Alyssa Sutherland, Linus Roache

More TV

  • NBC Campaign Aims to Reclaim Brand

    NBC Launches Campaign to Reclaim Brand Ownership of Hit Comedies (EXCLUSIVE)

    NBC is preparing a new salvo in the streaming-era TV branding wars. As audiences increasingly watch shows like “The Good Place” and “Superstore” on other platforms, the Peacock network has launched a new campaign to remind them that these are, first and foremost, NBC shows. And they’re even enlisting a real-life peacock to convey the [...]

  • Shane Gillis

    'SNL' Sought Conservative Appeal With Shane Gillis Hire

    “Saturday Night Live” was looking to shake things up with the casting of Shane Gillis — and it did, albeit unintentionally. According to sources, the long-running NBC comedy show and series mastermind Lorne Michaels were actively looking to cast a comedian for its new season who would appeal to more conservative viewers. This was meant [...]

  • TV News Roundup: Netflix Announces Arsenio

    TV News Roundup: Netflix Announces Arsenio Hall's Comedy Special Premiere Date

    In today’s TV news roundup, Netflix announced the premiere date for Arsenio Hall’s comedy special and a “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” duo (among others) will guest star on “Elena of Avalor.” CASTING “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” stars Rachel Brosnahan and Tony Shalhoub, as well as Auli’i Cravalho (“Moana”), John Leguizamo (“When They See Us”), Taye Diggs (“All American”), Eugenio Derbez [...]

  • How 'Save Our Show' Campaigns Affect

    From 'The OA' to 'One Day at a Time': How 'Save Our Show' Campaigns Affect Network Interest

    Organized flash mobs and mounting billboards still may not save your favorite shows, as some fan campaigns are finding out. Following Netflix’s most recent decision to stand firm on its cancellation of “The OA,” the question remains, “what will save these shows?” When networks and streamers find that smaller favorites aren’t big cash cows, fans [...]

  • Afton WilliamsonABC All-Star Happy Hour, TCA

    Afton Williamson 'Rookie' Investigation: Studio Finds No 'Inappropriate' Workplace Behavior

    Entertainment One (eOne) has released their findings into claims of racial discrimination and sexual harassment and assault made by Afton Williamson, former star of the ABC series “The Rookie.” A statement released by the company reads, in part, “As a result of the independent investigation, we have concluded that those identified in Ms. Williamson’s allegations [...]

  • DeVaughn Nixon'A Tale of Two Sisters'

    DeVaughn Nixon to Play His Dad Norm Nixon in HBO’s Showtime Lakers Pilot

    DeVaughn Nixon, best known for his roles in “Prom” and “Marvel’s Runaways” has joined HBO’s untitled pilot about the Showtime Lakers of the 1980s. Nixon will play his father Norm Nixon, a debonair playboy who overcomes insurmountable odds to become the all-star point guard of the Lakers. He expertly maneuvers the complexities of NBA stardom, [...]

  • "The Stockholm Syndrome" - Pictured: Rajesh

    Inside the Blockbuster $600 Million 'Big Bang Theory' Streaming Deal With HBO Max

    As one of TV’s most popular shows of the past 20 years, “The Big Bang Theory” was sure to command a huge price when the streaming rights were finally shopped in a red-hot market for iconic comedies with large libraries. But “Big Bang Theory” wasn’t shopped widely on the open market before the streaming pact [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content