YMMV / Vikings

  • Acceptable Targets: Many Norsemen view Christians as this, and most Christians feel the same way about Pagans. There are a few exceptions on both sides, however.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Much like the Icelandic sagas from which it is adapted, Vikings brings a number of dark and highly complex characters to its audience and offers no definitive moral judgments whatsoever, instead submitting to them to draw their own opinions of their actions. Bear in mind that Values Dissonance can play a great role in changing how one perceives the characters, especially so in the case of the Vikings, with their highly alien world-view in comparison to a modern viewer.
    • Are the Vikings proud and intrepid warriors and conquerors who must range south and west for the the sake of survival, or are they bands of rapacious pillagers, bandits and rapists that murder innocents and steal that which rightfully belongs to others? Is their belief in Odin a great religion in its own right that extols them to bravery and honour in all walks of life, or is it simply an excuse to kill other people and bathe their lands in blood? Note that neither interpretation is necessarily mutually exclusive.
    • The Saxons. Are they merely the beleaguered defenders of their lands against these wildmen from the north, or are they self-righteous weaklings who have drifted far from the example of their forefathers (ie: by becoming Christian) and thus no longer deserve the lands that they won from the native Britons in ages past? What exactly makes them any different from the Vikings, after all, were they not the first to raid and conquer and steal their new country away from its previous occupants? Why is it alright for them to do it, yet so wrong when the Vikings do the same?
    • Ragnar Lothbrok. A great warrior-king unequaled in his valour, strength, and intelligence who is devoted to the welfare and advancement of his people's future, or an over-glorified barbarian whose ambitions have led to the deaths of countless innocents? Once again, neither interpretation need be mutually exclusive.
    • Is Rollo's sorrow justified given his difficult life, or does it merely veer into pathetic self-pity given that those around him suffer just as much, if not moreso. Just how loyal is he to his brother, given his willingness to betray him for the sake of his own ambition?
    • King Ecbert. A great and intelligent monarch who recognises that should the Saxon and Anglo kingdoms remain disunited they shall inevitably fall to the onslaught of the Norsemen and who is the only one with the vision and drive to provide the Anglo-Saxons with the leadership they so desperately need, or are these merely the lies he feeds to cloak a monstrous ambition upon whose altar he will sacrifice anything, even his own flesh and blood, in order to achieve?
    • Athelstan: Is he open-minded, or a coward who changes his views and sucks up to whoever he happens to be captured by at the time?
    • Is Athelwulf, son of Ecbert, a noble and pious warrior who simply works to defend his country, or is he a violent, bloodthirsty fundamentalist who is ultimately no better than the Vikings he so despises?
  • Anti-Climax Boss: Lord Athelwulf, King Aelle's brother. He's called in by Aelle specifically to defend Northumbria from Ragnar, is praised as a battle commander, and does show some competence as a tactician when he reigns in a few leeroys on his team. The problem is that he completely fails to assign sentries at his camp, so his men are slaughtered in the night, and when he awakens, he spends a good two minutes praying before battle. By the time he's done, his men are soundly defeated, and he doesn't even make it out of his tent — Floki brings the thing down on him, capturing him without a fight.
  • Broken Base:
    • Values Dissonance aside, some fans loathe Rollo for his background as an unrepentant rapist, and feel that his "redemption" character arc completely sweeps that issue under the rug. He's still a generally popular character.
    • Aslaug tends to provoke some mixed reactions from viewers, to put it lightly.
    • Siggy Bjornsdottir's death. Either you don't care or you do care. For the former, not even her own father, grandfather, or grandmother were paying attention to her, with Lagertha being more interested in Torvi's son. Also, there is the fact that she's completely fictional. For the latter, it was due to Aslaug's lack of care for her, but when you take into consideration how much of a bastard Ragnar is to her (well, everyone really but that's not the point), it makes sense that she'd have little to no interest in Siggy. To make it even worse or better, depending on your view, Siggy's death is just swept under the rug. It never gets mentioned after it is reported to Aslaug by Sigurd.
    • Aslaug's murder by Lagertha. There are those who cheered and there are those who point out that it was uncalled for and dishonourable of Lagertha. Possibly intentional since Ragnar's sons are also split on it.
  • Crowning Music of Awesome: Erik Selvik of Wardruna is the composer for the series since Season 2. Specifically, in "Boneless," Wardruna's "Helvegen" plays when the Vikings prepare to set off for Wessex again. May also be foreshadowing, as Helvegen is translated as "The Road to Hel."
  • Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: As with most recent costume dramas, this has been a complaint with Vikings: That nearly everyone is a cruel, vindictive murderer, so you really stop caring about what's going on. Others dispute this. The complaint has intensified with Season 3 in which King Ecbert and Aethewulf, previously more or less decent people, became genocidal warlords, and Athelstan, the show's most moral character, was murdered.
  • Designated Hero: The Vikings as a whole, but Ragnar in particular. Though he's popular among most fans, there are those who will rightfully point out that he did betray his wife and family. Of course, Aslaug catches most the blame for that.
  • Draco in Leather Pants:
    • Earl Haraldson; in Episodes 1-5, he displays extreme cruelty and pettiness. Among other things, he has a man unjustly executed and desecrates his body over a personal grudge, has one of his men killed for trying to sleep with his wife after he himself gives permission for it to happen, has his henchmen kill a thirteen year old boy, attempts to assassinate the protagonists (succeeding in killing at least one of them), launches a full on raid on Ragnar's village, slaughtering dozens just to get one man, and brutally tortures Rollo. However his death scene is so epic and so well acted that it managed to shift many people's opinion of him to Anti-Villain.
    • Rollo in Season 2. A combination of Walking Shirtless Scene, Badass, and the fact he's now officially a berserker may be the reason.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: When Saxons start destroying Viking property their new settlement and threaten to do worse, Aethewulf is sent to resolve the conflict. He orders his men to kill every single one of the Vikings, afterwards saying that the slaughter fulfilled their religious duty. He says this as they stand in front of a large cross that they had set on fire.
  • Ear Worm: Ragnar's funeral march at the end of Season 3.
    • The battle song King Harald Finehair and his brother Halfdan The Black usually sing after successful raiding.
  • Ensemble Darkhorse:
    • Badass shieldmaiden, mother, farmer, and Earl in her own right, Lagertha is loved by pretty much the entire fandom.
    • Erik is incredibly popular with the fandom. Primarily as a result of copious badassery, one-hit kills, and a stellar performance by Vladimir Kulich.
    • Tostig, the Old Soldier Death Seeker, has become extremely popular as well, for similar reasons as Erik. Not the least of which for his epic speech — a tremendous reading by Angus MacInnes.
    • Floki has captured the hearts and minds of many in the fandom and has been called the the Viking version of the Joker.
    • King Ecbert has gained his fair share of admirers for his effective leadership, respect for pagan cultures, and for being the first non-Norse antagonist to give the Vikings a serious challenge.
  • Epileptic Trees: Ragnar Lodbrok was never a very important character in Norway, but after this show premiered he has gained a Periphery Demographic in Norway who are sure that he is Norwegian because there are Fjords in Kattegatt! Nevermind that the show also depicts fjords in Uppsala and Hedeby. Ragnar Lodbrok is described in the Sagas as Swedish or Danish or a mixture of the two, but never Norwegian.
  • Fan Nickname:
  • Foe Yay / Ho Yay:
    • Ragnar and Athelstan. When Ragnar first finds Athelstan, he pushes him up against a wall and gets in real close. Later, Ragnar invites Athelstan to have a threesome. After Ragnar fails to maneuver Athelstan into getting sacrificed at Uppsala, their friendship becomes increasingly close and emotional. When Athelstan chooses to stay with Horik over returning to Kattegat, Ragnar feels spurned, and even tells Athelstan that he loves him, though other Vikings express their love for close platonic friends. When Athelstan dies, Ragnar mourns him, personally buries him, dreams of speaking to him again, and even gets baptized so that he can meet him again in heaven.
    • And then there's the scene where Ragnar and Ecbert discuss a possible alliance while in the bathtub together, particularly the part when Ecbert stares at Ragnar as he undresses.
    • And, of course, Floki's anger over how much Ragnar trusts Athelstan causes him to behave almost like a jealous lover at times.
  • Growing the Beard: The first season showed that the network could do scripted drama and manage to look and feel like more than your typical hour long docu-type history lesson for which the channel is known. The second season upped the ante in terms of storytelling and production value turning a good series into an epic, while still maintaining realism.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Princess Kwenthrith's sexual proclivity is initially played for laughs — then we find out that she was repeatedly raped by her uncle, brother and their companions from the age of six. Sexual trauma can manifest in many strange and contradictory ways, and her promiscuity is clearly the result of the abuse heaped on her as a child.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: The Edison Marshall novel "The Viking" featured a one-eyed bear whom the protagonist Ogier called "Ragnar's Brother." Fast forward to this show where Ragnar actually does have a brother and is one with a bear motif.
  • Jerkass Woobie:
    • Earl Haraldson kicks plenty of dogs, but he's also spent quite a lot of time mourning the horrific deaths of his sons and heirs. His death scene in particular makes it clear that while he is a petty tyrant who will kill innocents and torture men without regret, he's become so because he is a weary and deeply unhappy man who, in the end, welcomes death and smiles for the first and last time in the series as he dies.
    • To some, Jarl Borg can come off as either this or a Designated Villain. There's no question that he's an underhanded and ruthless warrior, but that really doesn't make him any worse than the protagonists. Horik dislikes him because of a long-standing dispute over land between them, but it's impossible to tell who was in the right on that one. Ragnar hates him because of his invasion and brief occupation of Kattegat. However, that assault was only in response to King Horik backing out of their alliance at the last possible moment, for petty reasons — which, given the relinquishment of his claim to Horik's land rested on Ragnar's promise of Western booty, was more or less an appropriate response by the laws of the time and the place. After Ragnar takes back his home and apparently forgives him, Borg swiftly admits that Ragnar is the better person, and genuinely seems open to making amends. However, this was all a cruel ploy on the part of Ragnar, who captures him and carves the Blood Eagle on him. These factors, combined with his tragic backstory and an absolutely epic Face Death With Dignity scene, can make it seem like all the hate he gets from the protagonists and portions of the fandom isn't completely merited.
    • Kwenthrith has this in Season 3. She's a murderess and a schemer, but her life has been a Trauma Conga Line since she was six years old.
  • Like You Would Really Do It: Trailers for Season 2 seemed to imply that Floki would be killed in battle by Rollo. Given the character's popularity, many fans suspected that this wouldn't be the case.
  • Magnificent Bastard:
    • Ragnar for his balls and the savvy genius that lay behind the westward raids, befriending one of the greatest sources of information on the Christian world, and then manipulating and outwitting the Northumbrians afterwards. Basically, it doesn't matter if you're a jarl or a king, Ragnar will find a way to out-maneuver you and come out on top. It's taken Up to Eleven in the finale of Season 2. And in Season 3, he fakes his own death as part of an elaborate plan to raid Paris. He even fools his own people (with the exceptions of Bjorn and a few trusted warriors, who were in on the plot).
    • King Ecbert is presented as a competent and shrewd ruler in Season 2, but Season 3 reveals that he's quite a bit more ruthless and Machiavellian than previously shown.
  • Narm: Kwenthrith's obsession with sex and tendency to hit on anything with a penis can come off as unintentionally goofy and over the top. Some of her scenes are, however, played for comedy.
  • Nightmare Fuel:
    • The Blood Eagle, a horrific form of execution reserved for those who commit the most heinous crimes. When Ragnar is administering this punishment to Earl Borg, many of the battle-hardened Viking warriors in attendance are clearly disturbed by it.
    • Torstein's arm being amputated with a red-hot axe.
    • Helga, Siggy and Aslaug's shared dreams become increasingly creepy throughout S3E2.
    • Rollo eating shrooms and going berserk in the Viking camp. He walks over to a sleeping Mercian prisoner and hacks his leg to bits, then stumbles around the camp in a stupor.
    • Rollo coming home from war to find that while he was gone Siggy drowned in an icy lake.
    • Judith suffering the Biblical punishment for adultery: having her nose and ears cut off. In front of a jeering crowd. Though King Ecbert stops the mutilation after she loses an ear when she names Athelstan as the father.
      • Her actress really carries the scene, positively howling in fear, pain, and anguish throughout the whole ordeal, and without turning it into Narm.
    • Throughout "Breaking Point", Ragnar is suffering from internal bleeding after falling off the ramparts of Paris in the previous episode, and several times he vomits and urinates blood. His horrific fever dream of Odin, Jesus, and Athelstan doesn't make things any better.
    • When Judith stabs Kwenthrith, she turns to Ecbert and accusingly tells him to look at what he'd made her become. The way it is filmed, the music in the background, and the actress' delivery make it pretty damn creepy at best.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Tostig appears in several scenes in two episodes, but has little more than 5 minutes of screentime. Still many consider him one of the most memorable characters in the entire show.
  • OT3: Athelstan/Ragnar/Lagertha. This is almost canon.
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: Aslaug. While she still has a few haters who'll never forgive her for breaking up Ragnar and Lagertha, her portrayal in the third and fourth seasons has changed a lot of negative opinions about her. In Season 2, she was made out to be smart, utterly righteous, and incapable of doing wrong, despite being harsh, a tad bit selfish, and possessing a cruel side, not to mention some questionable decisions and truly stupid comments. In Seasons 3 and 4, she is a more competent regent for her husband when he is away at war, and though her personality hasn't really changed much, her treatment in the show is now reflecting who she is — a complicated woman with both good points and bad points, like all the other Vikings — instead of making her out to be something she's not.
    • It helps her cause that after Ragnar's death, Lagertha pulls a power play on her. Aslaug comports herself with total dignity when Lagertha bullies her off of her throne and basically murders her in cold blood. While Aslaug's back is turned.
  • Ron the Death Eater: Aslaug. Many fans are willing to paint her as a home-wrecker or a spoiled brat when in fact she is far from either.
  • Rooting for the Empire:
  • The Scrappy:
    • Aslaug is disliked by fans for supplanting Lagertha on the show, who is popular for her Action Girl characteristics. Aslaug is one of the few non-combatant female characters, has character flaws related to her privileged upbringing, and generally doesn't do anything exciting. By Season 3, however, Lagertha has re-emerged, and Aslaug is relegated to staying behind at Kattegat, so she is no longer considered a poor replacement for Lagertha.
    • Thorunn was likable in Season 2 in her journey from slave girl to action girl, but in mid-way through season three things take a sharp turn downwards; after receiving a nasty scar in battle, she becomes consumed with self pity, convinced that Bjorn won't want to be with her anymore even though he obviously still loves her. Her driving him away and eventually abandoning her child to Aslaug's care due to her own wangst killed her popularity and ended her up here.
  • Squick: Harbard, who is suspected of being Odin in disguise, seducing Aslaug, who is one of his descendants.
  • Spiritual Licensee:
    • Some people consider this show as adaptation of Vinland Saga and Northlanders due to its historical fiction (with "few" liberties) and Norse theme.
    • Some also considered it to be one of Bernard Cornwell's The Saxon Stories or Giles Kristian's Raven Saga, at least until the former got it's own adaptation in 2015.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: In the sagas, the princess Harald had the hots for was named Gyda. Just like Ragnar's daughter in the show. Now here is a thought for you: What if the princess Harald fell hard for was Ragnar's Gyda? In Season 2, she would have become a young woman in her mid-teens. Then this young, eager Viking shows up and falls for her. It's Harald before he had fine hair. Gyda is not impressed by the young Harald. So Harald interprets it that he must live up to Ragnar and the best way to do that is become king of all of Norway.
    • In the Sagas, Sigurd is not killed by Ivar but rather marries one of Aelle's daughters and returns to Denmark to take Ragnar's place as king while his brothers continue raiding and conquering abroad. Seeing Sigurd, who the show characterized as The Resenter, The Unfavorite who suffered from Middle Child Syndrome, and perhaps the least likely out of his brothers to inherit the kingdom actually step into the role and deal with the trails of ruling could have made for a very compelling character arc, whether he failed or succeeded.
  • Too Cool to Live: Let's see, Erik... Badass warrior? Imposingly big and tall? Beard of a grizzly bear? Has one-hit kill as a default? Cool voice? Played by Vladimir Kulich? Got top-billing (in the guest starring part of the ending credits anyway)? Nope. Sorry. You're so awesome, you might overshadow the main character. So... off to Odin's Hall with you.
    • For that matter, pretty much everybody in Ragnar's original band. Even Torstein, whom you thought would be safe having survived two seasons, ends up getting killed early on in Season 3.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Erik (Vladimir Kulich) dies in the fourth episode. You may recognize him from previous badass Viking roles like Buliwyf and Ulfric Stormcloak, or just generally badass roles like the Swede from Smoking Aces.
  • What an Idiot: In the first episode of the third season, the Mercians set up their battle lines well before the Vikings arrive and inexplicably decide to split their forces onto opposite banks of a river, with no way of supporting each other. They are then completely caught off guard when the Vikings make a bee-line for the smaller contingent and ignore the larger army instead of splitting their forces to fight both contingents simultaneously, leaving one side to helplessly watch the other get slaughtered. Oddly enough, an incident almost exactly like this did indeed happen in 845, only it was Frankish king Charles the Bald who split his army on two banks of the Seine when he went to attack the Vikings.
  • Whole Plot Reference: The way Floki supports Ragnar and how they drift apart is one whole story Shout-Out to the relationship between Loki and Odin.
  • Woobie:
    • Athelstan, who has seen his home burned down, is mistreated by his Viking masters and has to endure having his beliefs and his god ridiculed by them. And that's just the beginning of his troubles.
    • Torvi, Jarl Borg's far younger widow, has crap heaped on her by the bucketful through absolutely no fault of her own. Even now that she lives with Bjorn, things aren't exactly peachy. He's never abusive, but after his experiences in the wilderness he is a scary and distant man. Add to that her child is still at Hedeby with Erlendur, who is absolutely willing to use the child as a bargaining chip.
    • Helga, Floki's wife, is one of the few characters who is universally kind and considerate, yet she lives a hard life. She weathers Floki's various self-destructive inclinations, loses a daughter and ultimately tries to adopt a surrogate daughter in a mad attempt to fill her life with meaning, but is too desperate for love to realize the child is a traumatized hostage who hates her and ultimately murders her.


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