The Vikings universe is expanding with the arrival of a spin-off series, subtitled Valhalla, directly on Netflix. The challenge is daunting: after six seasons of the first Vikings of the name, it was necessary to manage to take these warriors to unexplored territories…
The mourning of Vikings will have finally been short-lived. On the one hand, because Netflix does not want to let this highly exploitable universe slip away, despite the end of the series at the end of 2020 on History; and on the other hand because this same final has not yet taken place on the streaming platform! Those who follow the adventures of Ragnar Lothbrok and his sons directly on the SvoD service can therefore continue to wait for the broadcast of the last part of the show by launching its “sequel”. But don’t worry, the revelations are only incidental.
Simply because Vikings: Valhalla isn’t a seventh season of its own and places its own plot more than a hundred years after the last actions of Bjorn, Ivar and the rest of the gang. We discover new characters at the head of which Leif Eriksson and his sister Freydis, come from “Green Earth” to settle a personal affair while in Kattegat, pagan Vikings and Christians meet to avenge their brothers of the massacre of Saint-Brice , in England.
By entrusting the legacy of the baby of Michael Hirst (who officiates here as executive producer) to Jeb Stuart, the screenwriter of Piège de Cristal or even the Fugitive, Netflix intends to offer us a series of another caliber. And it starts with a first season collected over eight episodes, knowing that the platform has already ordered seasons 2 and 3 for a total of twenty-four episodes. As a reminder, Vikings opened on a nine-episode season to increase to twenty from the fourth season. In short, in terms of numbers, Valhalla wants to be less greedy.
Valhalla is not Vikings…
Which immediately plays on his rhythm! The course of these first eight episodes leaves no respite. This is the will of its showrunner who intends to impress his mark by offering us a generous show in action from its prologue. Where Vikings allowed us to think about schemes and other shenanigans sometimes several episodes in advance, Valhalla does not give us the time, giving us to discover the deceptions at the same time as the characters.
And if it is still too early to say whether or not this rhythm will be beneficial to the series in the long term, since, finally, the eight episodes pass very quickly, it allows it to stand out by offering intrigues, certainly very similar (we will come back to this), but so different in their applications that they are appreciated independently. Let’s just say that where certain characters could be manipulated for far too long in Vikings, here our heroes either have the intelligence to see the game of fools coming, or the bad luck to suffer the consequences quickly.
The result is a season where the events are linked and where the secondary roles do not really have time to settle. From then on, it becomes tricky to get attached to the accessory, so much we understand that its importance will only be utilitarian for the advancement of real projects. Vikings: Valhalla thus maintains itself on this line, between generosity and purification. And when it comes to battle scenes, the generosity of the action tends to immediately play on the refinement of the cast.
Going forward while looking (a little) back
The show also avoids comparing its heroes with their illustrious predecessors. Whether in temperament or in the relationships that are formed – at least for the moment – Leif, Freydis, Harald, Knut and the others have nothing to do with their counterparts of the past. If a Viking does not change his deep nature (and he will quickly prove it), the century which separates him from those we know has a direct consequence both on his ability not to reproduce the same errors and above all, on the stakes of the show.
Because if, unfortunately, we sometimes have the feeling of a repetition of intrigues, with the eternal war for the control of Kattegat (already tiresome in the parent series) or the raids on England, we feel that these are not likely to last, the heart of the matter being elsewhere.
The red thread being no less the desires for power or glory inhabiting each warrior of the North than their religious devotions. From the first to the last episode of the season, the place of religion, between the pagan and Christian Vikings, is central, the heroes not being jostled so much by the escalation of the violence which surrounds them as by the questioning of their faith. A subject installed by Ragnar and of which Leif becomes the natural development. A bit as if Vikings: Valhalla was the obvious extension of its model.