— Death Chant of the Vikings, inspired by the death poem sung by Ţórir Jökull Steinfinnsson shortly before his execution.
"When Death comes, do not fear it. Embrace it. As if you were lying next to a beautiful woman."
— Ragnar Lothbrok
"Let him stand. I am sure he would want to die well."
— Rollo Sigurdrsson
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1 - Rite of Passage
How often does a show start with one? The fight in the Eastern Baltic is BADASS. And it even concludes with the surprise appearance of motherfucking Odin.
The Longship working.
2 - Wrath of the Northmen
Hell, Ragnar winning the men to his cause is awesome;
Ragnar: What is your name?
Ragnar: I've heard tales, Knut.
Knut: Just stories...
Ragnar: Heh. "Just stories"? (to the rest of the men) All things begin and end with stories.
Erik: Aye, but you have to remember: Earl Haraldsson has ordered us to sail East.
Leif: And you could get us killed for disobeying his orders.
Ragnar: We can give you the chance to shine in battle, and impress the gods. And to bring back such plunder as you have never seen before. So the only question remains... Do you have the balls to join us?
Erik: I'll go.
Kauko: And I.
The Rest: Aye!
Ragnar: What about you, Knut?
Knut: I'll come, I want a good story to tell my children.
In many ways, the success of their first voyage to England is this; they come back loaded with gold and slaves when everyone thought they would fail.
When the Vikings sail westward for the first time, a terrifying storm lashes the longship. Where the monks of Lindisfarne see the storm as the punishment of their god and cower, the Vikings scream and roar to the heavens and take it as the blessing of theirs. Floki's reaction is both one of these and a Crowning Moment of Funny
"It is true, Thor is beating his hammer! The lightning is the sparks from his anvil, but HE IS NOT ANGRY WITH US! I UNDERSTAND NOW! WHY SHOULD HE BE ANGRY WITH US?! WHY SHOULD HE WANT TO SINK US?! DO YOU NOT SEE?! HE IS CELEBRATING!!! HE WANTS TO SHOW EVERYONE THAT HE CAN'T SINK THIS BOAT! HE LOVES THIS BOAT! IT'S MY BOAT!! AND THE GODS LOVE MY BOAT!!!!"
3 - Dispossessed
It's pretty damned impressive how Haraldsson strips Ragnar of all the wealth of his raid with a few words. True, he was looking for a way to kill them, but it's still an incredible display of the power he has over his subjects.
4 - Trial
The Vikings' utter curb-stomp of the Saxons in spite of being totally outnumbered by them.
This quote from the Saxon nobles should spell it out.
"They fought like demons! Like men possessed, with no fear of death!"
The raid of the Saxon village in Trial, the music and atmosphere of the sequence is arresting. It showcases Ragnar's cunning in that he waits till everyone is at Mass before striking. It's the first true example of a Viking raid, in all its horror and glory.
Hell, the eponymous trial scene was awesome in its own right;
Ragnar's speech to the assembled;
Ragnar: It is true I killed Knut, sadly your brother, but I only did so after he attempted to rape my wife. (to the freeholders) I ask all of you, free men; what would you have done? Would you have just stood by, and encouraged the culprit? (laughs) No. I don't think you would. (to Haraldson) And even had I known at the time he was your brother, I still would have carried out the same sentence.
Of course, he didn't really kill Knut, that was Lagertha's doing. But still, this was a good speech.
Lagertha gets a remarkably understated one while threatening the Earl in front of witnesses, this woman has balls of steel.
Svein: (continuing from the above) Do you honestly expect us to believe your story?
Lagertha: I can confirm it.
Haraldson: You are the wife of Ragnar Lodbrok?
Lagertha: I am, lord.
Haraldson: How remarkable you managed to be there at the same time. Your husband is lying. And you are so under his thumb that he has persuaded you to lie for him.
And Rollo saving the day with his testimony, despite all prior signs pointing him to betraying Ragnar.
Haraldson: Now then, who killed my brother?
Rollo: Ragnar Lodbrok killed him.
Haraldson: (triumphantly) In cold blood?
Rollo: No, lord. For a good reason. What Ragnar Lodbrok has sworn is true, your bastard brother was caught raping a Saxon woman when he tried to rape Ragnar's lawful wife, Lagertha, the Shieldmaiden. So, unfortunately... You cannot punish him.
Any time Erik fights, or does anything for that matter, you're in for something like this. To whit.
Hewing multiple Saxons apart in quick succession.
Sending a man flying with a shield bash.
Making a declaration of eternal vengeance against the King of Northumbria.
5 - Raid
In the fifth episode Ragnar returns home as the earl is attacking and makes a beeline straight for his family. Along the way he kills eight armed and armored men in about twenty seconds while barely breaking his stride.
One for Athelstan, after Ragnar falls near-dead into the river he jumps into the water, swims in and saves him from death. That alone gives lie to any accusation made by the Vikings that the Saxon is not a real man.
Another one from the same episode is when Athelstan starts praying over Ragnar's body and begs the Virgin Mary to save him as he recovers. This is inspite of the fact that the Vikings have mocked his God repeatedly, he still prays for their welfare. This man is a true Christian.
Rollo fights off several of the Earls men at the same time unarmed while they use weapons, and is only captured due to six or seven men zerg-rushing him and beating him to near death. He's then brutally tortured by Earl Haraldsson, but still refuses to betray Ragnar. That, friends, is loyalty.
2 - Burial of the Dead
The fight between Ragnar and Haraldsson. The only thing that could have made it cooler would have been a heavy metal soundtrack.
The fact that Ragnar wins handily despite being almost dead from a dozen grievous wounds and not even fully rested in addition to having a crippled leg only makes it more badass.
Another moment of awesome goes to Rollo after Ragnar wins the duel. Svein orders the other Northmen to kill Ragnar, but none of them move. Rollo then calmly walks over to Svein and kills him with an axe.
This speech by Tostig to Ragnar, an old warrior demanding the right to die in battle.
"The truth? That I am too old? Hah! Yes! I am old, but I have been a warrior all my life! Many years I sailed with Lord Haraldsson and fought battles against the Eastlanders. And I have watched all the companions of my youth die. And though I fought with them in the shield wall, never once was I touched by a blade! All the friends and companions of my youth are dead, and are feasting and drinking with the Aesir in the halls of the gods while I... I am FORSAKEN! BEREFT! Which is why I beg you lord! Give me the chance to die with honour in battle and join my friends in Valhalla!"
The battle in King's Ransom; despite launching a surprise attack, complete with cavalry, the saxons are completely routed by the superior tactics and fighting skill of the vikings.
Every moment Tostig gets in A King's Ransom, his fighting skill is incredible and what he said of himself to Ragnar barely does justice to his warrior spirit. His death scene is also magnificent, and easily rivals that of Earl Haraldson from the previous episode.
To elaborate on that, in both the major battles of the episode, Tostig fights and defeats multiple enemies at once. A feat rivaled only by Eric, Ragnar or Rollo. But what makes it more awesome that he's doing it while being several times as old as any of those guys.
On the raid in the Saxon camp, Ragnar himself has his gaze turned away from battle to witness Tostig felling two Saxons at a time. After he kills them, he shrieks "ODIN!!!", a cry so piercing and terrifying that it alone jolts the enemy leader awake, who has already managed to be oblivious to the raging sounds of a pitched battle
He then kills three Saxons in quick succession during the surprise attack on the Viking war-camp in the episode's climax.
Rollo examines and uses a Saxon blade and notes that in comparison to Viking weaponry, it's stronger and sharper. The Vikings have been handily overcoming an enemy with superior technology in comparison to themselves through SHEER FEROCITY.
The night raid on the Saxon camp is also this. They just stride in, slaughter the Saxons like cattle, burn the place down and take the King's brother as prisoner. All of this, right after the Saxons muse on how the Northmen must just be stupid beasts.
Rollo converts (in appearance) to Christianity in order seal the deal with Aella for 2000 pounds of gold and silver. He insists that it was only a ruse, and that he holds to the old gods. Floki calls him out on it all the same. Rollo then fixes him with a deadly stare, and then when the Saxons come, he vaults into battle full of rage, and promptly shows where his faith lies.
"HEY! HOW MANY CHRISTIANS DID I KILL, FLOKI?! HOW MANY?!!DO YOU THINK ODIN'S STILL ANGRY WITH ME NOW?!"
Special mention has to be given to Floki, who meets Rollo's Death Glare and doesn't flinch. After the battle and Rollo's outburst, Floki just grins with amusement- one has to wonder if he wasn't trying to get just such a rise out of Rollo.
Also, a bit creepy, many of the Northmen are visibly unsettled by Rollo at this time, and the promotional meterial for season 2 states that Floki has begun to fear that Rollo is becoming an honest-to-Odin berserker.
During the battle with the Saxons, Leif loses his axe. His reaction is to start roaring and now strangle armoured Saxons and to snap their necks.
Hell, the entirety of A King's Ransom was this for the Vikings.
They make shore at Northumbria and promptly decimate the entirety of the force sent to defeat their warband and take a member of the ruling family hostage.
They then go into the king's own hall and swiftly make a mockery of all the Saxon's beliefs and get him to agree to pay them 2000 pounds of gold and silver to leave his country.
Then, the Saxons make one final attempt to annihilate the Vikings by sending a MASSIVE army at them with dozens of horsemen and through a combination of clever engineering, battle-tactics, and concentrated badassery, they slaughter that whole army with minimal casualties. After that, Ragnar kills the King's brother - the man whom they had been using as a bargaining chip all along, and sends his blood-drenched corpse on a cart to Aella's castle, to show the man that the Norse don't fuck around.
And then, realizing that throwing men at them wont make a difference, King Aella gives them their gold and silver anyway to get them to leave. A King's Ransom was just one long succession of these.
Hell, the conversation prior really sells it;
Ragnar: It seems your brother, the king, does not care if you live or die.
Athelwulf: I-If you let me talk with him I'll... convince him to honour his pledge-
Ragnar: (paints the sign of the cross on his forehead in blood) Why should I not just kill you now?
Athelwulf: (confidently) Then you'd have nothing left to bargain with.
That slow motion shot of all the Vikings preparing for battle as the Saxon army charges forth. Pretty much a non-verbal Pre-Asskicking One-Liner. In particular, Rollo hammering his axe on his shield in slow motion while shooting the Saxons a Death Glare A better way of saying 'bring it, bitches' has yet to be formulated by mankind.
Aella himself gets one in this absolutely epic declaration of vengeance, only made stronger by the actor's terrific delivery.
"I swear before God All-Mighty: I declare war eternal on the Northman; Ragnar Lodbrok. I swear to our Lord Jesus Christ, to the Blessed Virgin, that one day, I shall avenge myself on him. Bring him to justice, and to death. So help me God.
1 - Brother's War
The battle scene at the beginning is awesome from start to finish. Special mention goes to Rollo's Unstoppable Rage, and Floki taking on both him and Jarl Borg at the same time.
Hell, the entire battle was barely a ten-minute sequence of an honour long episode, and yet it was but a succession of one awesome moment after another:
The battle itself, just seeing Ragnar's hird clash with Borg's is incredible, it's the first time we've ever seen a true shield-wall vs shield-wall battle.
The soundtrack to the fight was composed by Kriftrafn. That is all.
Rollo continuing to fight on and dominate even when Floki cuts off the head of his axe, in other words; Rollo can kick ass even with a stick.
Brutal, but Rollo killing Arne is an incredible show of strength and skill. Not to mention the great acting in that scene, the way the actors look at each other, Arne showing despair not for himself, but for Rollo, and Rollo's own disgust at what he's done, which in turn sets up his later repentance at the end of the battle. All the more poignant as Arne states to Rollo that he thinks of him as a brother before the battle.
The absolutely haunting music during that scene simply makes it all the more harrowing.
Ragnar's pure rage upon seeing Rollo slay Arne, the way his look shifts from shock to hate as he slaughters his way through a maelstrom of warriors to bring his brother to book is simply the definition of badass.
Ragnar's What the Hell, Hero? moment to Horik, Borg and all the Norsemen present. Some great acting and writing, which truly shows how far Ragnar has come as he's risen from warrior to king.
"Why do we continue looking inwards? Why?! Why do we fight each other?! About this piece or that piece of land?! Why are we not looking outwards, to the west? If we raid it together, we would not need to fight amongst ourselves! We would not need to kill ANY more of our young folk! But instead, offer them land! Land that they can farm."
This moment is doubly significant because it alludes to one of the possible primary motivators for the Scandinavian expansion of the Viking Age — a lack of natural resources and living space.
For Lagertha fans/Aslaug haters, Lagertha divorcing Ragnar (rather than be his co-wife with Aslaug) probably counts.
After months of dreading, fans can finally breathe easy. Floki LIVES!
Ragnar's lecture to Bjorn counts simply of how well its delivered and how well it communicates such an alien world view.
"I know it is difficult for you to accept; but unhappiness is more common than happiness. Who told you you should be happy? You come to an age where you must grow up and be responsible about such things. When I was your age, I had many friends. All are dead now. Their happiness is neither here nor there."
2 - Invasion
Jarl Borg once again attempts to turn Rollo against Ragnar. This time, however, Rollo punches him in the face.
And the exchange right after;
Jarl Borg: (face covered with blood, eyes wide open, spitting and coughing blood) You're a fool.
Horik's speech during the battle with the Saxons of Wessex;
"Do not be dismayed; meet everything head on. Whether we live or die this day is already in the hands of the gods! They know whether we sup with them tonight so fear not. Fight well. And should you fall, surely Odin will take you to Valhalla!"
The entire battle sequence during the ambush was this.
The shield-wall vs. shield-wall fight between the Saxons and Norsemen.
Athelstan fighting and holding his own against several Saxon warriors.
Ragnar saving Athelstan, killing a dozen Saxons in the process.
The Vikings roaring their victory to the gods after they slaughter the Saxons.
One for the fyrdmen of Wessex, actually managing to catch the Vikings off their guard.
Rollo taking Siggy's white-hot dagger and holding it firmly in his fist, keeping quiet as the grave even while it's burning his palm. Her Oh Crap reaction says it all.
During the voyage towards England, a raven perches Ragnar's shoulder. The implications of that are just astounding.
Athelstan cursing Floki in Old English, in order to prove he's no longer that victimized priest from four years ago.
Ragnar making Athelstan a free man by granting him an arm-ring.
3 - Treachery
Horik punching Bishop Swithin in the face. Don't insult a Norseman's gods. Especially by claiming they don't exist.
Athelstan physically standing between the raiders and the tortured bishop, and giving him a Mercy Kill.
The Bishop of Winchester himself deserves one: He goes to Athelstan's face, who at this point is part of a large marauding party that just slaughtered most of the city's defenses and is holding an axe and tells him he'll go to hell for his deeds without even blinking. Then, as he is pierced by multiple warriors he keeps praying. The man may not have been a fighter, but he certainly earned his credentials as a Badass Pacifist.
Borg manages to go toe-to-toe with Rollo. Bear in mind this is after Rollo has killed close to a dozen of his warriors single-handed. He actually causes Rollo to flee.
"Run Rollo, run! Run like you always do."
The villagers of Kattegat fighting to the last man and woman to give Rollo and the rest of Ragnar's family to escape.
Old Guys seem to be able to get these effortlessly in this show;
An old Norseman convinces Rollo to leave the battle and save Ragnar's family. Though it kills him to do so, he eventually sees the wisdom of the elder warrior's words.
He then goes out, with Rollo's battle-axe in hand. The Gautar come forward to accept his seeming surrender, only for the old man to slaughter TWO HIRDMENN with his axe before he's finally struck down! This guy must have been Tostig's brother or something.
Borg standing triumphant in Ragnar's hall, laughing. A powerful ending shot.
5 - Answers In Blood
The whole battle between Jarl Borg's and Ragnar Lothbrok's armies. We have scenes like Jarl Borg's literal Foe-Tossing Charge, Bjorn proving himself as a warrior, Lagaertha leading the charge, Ragnar slicing down next to thirty men in quick succession, Rollo and Ragnar finally acting like Bash Brothers and teaming up against their foes, and so forth.
King Ecbert has a Offscreen Moment of Awesome in single-handedly anihilating King Horik's troops and causing him to flee from Wessex in a period of weeks.
6 - Unforgiven
After being relentlessly degraded, humiliated, and abused by her husband, Lagertha finally snaps and stabs Earl Sigvard in the eye during a feast. He's then decapitated by one of his own retainers.
And you can tell by the look on his face that he's been wanting to do that for some time. He might as well have quipped "I never liked him anyway."
Ragnar pulling a move worthy of Walder Frey and checkmating Borg in a single evening - trapping his men in a barn and burning them alive whilst capturing the Jarl and promising to subject him to a Fate Worse than Death - Blood Eagle
7 - Blood Eagle
Borg did not scream while Ragnar drew the Eagle on his back. His passage to Valhall is assured.
Even cooler is the scene when he's about to die, he see's an eagle among the flames, and grins.
8 - Boneless
Lagertha...just Lagertha. The high points of this particular episode include a "Ride of the Valkyries" styled scene, ordering her warriors to get ready while petting a cat and talking a wannabe rapist into submission, verbally stripping him of his manhood.
9 - The Choice
The allied English armies soundly crushing the Norse raiding force in open battle. King Ecbert's tactics allow him to inflict heavy casualties on the Norsemen and send them running with their tail between their legs.
Bjorn fighting during said battle. His movements are so fast and convincing, it's easy to believe that he comes out of this mess unscathed.
Rollo cutting down charging horses with an axe.
Despite viewers knowing that Ragnar and his family would never allow Athelstan to be attacked, it was still incredibly gutsy of Athelstan to walk into the middle of a hostile Viking camp, completely unaware if they would kill him on the spot for being a suspected traitor and Christian sympathizer.
Lagertha's response to King Horik when he refuses to negotiate peace with the Saxons:
“Ragnar and I will go. And if he means to kill us, then so be it.”
10 - The Lord's Prayer
As if there was any doubt, Ragnar once again proves his Magnificent Bastard status by turning King Horik's scheme completely upside down, eliminating the King of Denmark and most of his family in one fell swoop.
The whole conversation between Lagertha and Horik's wife, which seems to consist entirely of two powerful shield-maidens sizing each other up for future combat.
Gunnhild: They say that you are now an Earl in your own right. How did it happen?
Lagertha: I killed my husband when he invaded me.
And then there's their subsequent battle, where each woman proves why they are such famed warriors once and for all.
The grand reveal that Floki and Siggy were both on Ragnar's side all along and had been feeding information to him for several months now. All of those furtive side-glances and resentful grumblings had been to win Horik's trust and favor; thus, allowing them to find out which members of Ragnar's family he would target first.
Early in the episode, Rollo tries to stand with the aid of a crutch and falls to the ground. Siggy tries to motivate him by tauntingly placing an axe out of his reach. Later, when Horik's men arrive to kill him, Rollo has managed to drag himself over to the axe, and as they approach, he manages to stand despite his crippled legs, and swings at the first man to approach him before the camera cuts.
Athelstan dual-wielding axes against Horik's invading soldiers. He may not like violence or fighting, but Athelstan is also willing to set aside his Good Shepherd values to protect his friends and family.
A cloak-covered Torstein revealing himself to Horik and his soldiers, showing that Ragnar had known about Horik's intentions all along and that Floki had been working for him as well, purposely feeding Torstein a non-poisonous mushroom that would make it look like he'd been murdered.
What do you get when you mix Sabaton and Amon Amarth with Vikings? Awesomeness. Pure Death Metal Viking awesomeness.
The Series Premiere for Vikings beat that of Season 3 of Game of Thrones right out of Valhalla. It's been standing toe-to-toe with it ratings-wise and quality wise ever since.