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 who 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 Aethelwulf, 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?
There's an interpretation that Aslaug was asking Lagertha to kill her in their last scene together. She speaks of her destiny being fulfilled and her life being over, that she hopes her sons will be grateful for what Lagertha has done and the manner of it and not seek revenge, and seems happy when Lagertha shoots her. The "safe passage" she was asking was to Valhalla, which Lagertha granted her by giving her a violent death.
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.
Awesome Music: 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."
Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: Rollo's rape of Floki's slave. Rollo doesn't commit rape ever again, even though her being a slave means it does not count to them. Athelstan does observe that a freeman may rape or kill a slave and be innocent but with Rollo it just seems out of character and the slave could have been raped by some random individual and there would be no difference.
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.
Creator's Pet: Torvi is a fairly blatant example in the later seasons, where she becomes more connected to the main plot and receives a lot more focus. While more well-received characters in similar positions, such as Astrid, Margrethe, Þorunn or Thora are killed off swiftly and/or grow to be as unlikeable as possible when compared to Torvi, she has grown to become one of the most prominent recurring characters in the show, while receiving comparably little character development in the later seasons. Since her introduction as a secondary character, she has grown to become the love interest of Bjorn, after Þorunn becomes bitter and unsympathetic (and was later written out of the show). After her break-up with Bjorn, she almost immediately gets into a relationship with Ubbe, who is not much older than her own son, which comes at the cost of his wife Margrethe undergoing a massive and negative shift in personality over the course of just a few episodes. The obvious favoritism and notably increased focus at the cost of initially more well-liked characters has turned her into a character who is disliked nearly universally by the fanbase. It doesn't help that she is played by the showrunner's daughter, which hints at some very ugly reasons for her increasingly larger role.
The complaint intensified during 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.
The absolute nadir of this comes mid-Season 4; with the downfall of Ragnar, innocents are dying left and right, including two unborn children and a toddler, Siggy, who dies of neglect, and you cannot really root for anyone anymore: Ragnar is now a decrepit junkie, Floki has become a paranoid wreck, Lagertha is no less ruthless than her ex-husband, Aslaug only cares for herself and her children... and the Franks and the English are no better at all.
Designated Hero: The Vikings as a whole, but Ragnar in particular. He is The Protagonist, so he has the sympathetic point of view, and is generally presented as a classical mythological hero from the northlands instead of, you know, Greece. However, 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.
Designated Villain: A quiz on History's website to determine who your favourite villain on the show is includes Aslaug, Harald and Heahmund as three of the results. A problem with all of those: Aslaug never did anything that qualified as villainous, Harald is no different than any other man of his era and culture and has a goal of unifying a collection of petty kingdoms where each is the bitter rival of the next, and finally Heahmund is more of a dark anti-hero than a straight-up villain.
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 Main Characters (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.
Badass shieldmaiden, mother, farmer, and Earl in her own right, Lagertha is loved by pretty much the entire fandom.
Athelstan is pretty well liked for being one of the few morally sound characters on the show, and many fans enjoyed following his journey as an outsider learning more about the Norse culture.
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 SoldierDeath 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.
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.
Ivar and Bishop Heahmund. Much like his father, Ivar seems to have a fascination with a Christian priest. He's shown to be impressed with Bishop Heahmund's battle prowess and becomes so fascinated with him that this Viking who hates Christians actually keeps him alive, drags him back to Norway, and has philosophical debates while convincing him to fight for the Vikings. Heahmund for his part seems to be impressed with Ivar's strategic skills and how brutal he is. Hirst even said in interviews that there is an instant connection between the two of them when they first lay eyes on each other.
Genius Bonus: Possibly. There's a scene in season 5b where Bjorn, having learned of Ubbe's decision to convert to Christianity, angrily questions whether he's Ragnar's son at all. Unlike Bjorn Ironside, Ivar the Boneless, Hvitserk and Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, Ubbe is not mentioned at all in the Scandinavia sources like Ragnarssaga Lodbrokar or Ragnarssonar Thattr. In fact, despite being associated with Ivar the Boneless in English historiography, he's never mentioned as being related to him or to Ragnar Lothbrok. The primary references to Ubbe as Ragnar's son come from the Gesta Danorum, the same mediaeval Danish source from where Lagertha is derived, thus making Ubbe a Canon Foreigner insofar as the sons of Ragnar as concerned.
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.
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 with a bear motif.
The Vikings issue of comic book series "The World Around Us", a series from the 1960's, featured a Hrafna-Floki Vilgerdarson that bears an uncanny resemblance to Gustaf Skarsgard who portrays the same figure in this series.
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 Main Characters . 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 Main Characters 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.
Aethelwulf. He's a fundamentalist, sure. But he seems to be suffering from some serious paternal issues. Over the course of the show, he finds himself slowly supplanted in the esteem of his wife and even his own father by Athelstan, is treated by Ecbert as a disposable pawn, his wife cheats on him with Athelstan, which is made worse by the fact that Ecbert chooses that son to groom as his heir, before she cheats on him with Ecbert,, and by the end, Ecbert can only stare blankly when Aethelwulf asks if his father loves him. Oh, yeah, and some Norsemen are invading and pillaging his entire kingdom too. Kind of makes you want to give him a hug.
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 Lothbrok is a bold young Viking who schemes his way into being challenged by Earl Haraldson of Kattegat to kill him and take his place. As the Earl, Ragnar faces threats from men such as Jarl Borg and King Horik of Denmark, but manipulates, betrays and destroys them too, in the case of Horik even allowing the king to believe he has turned Ragnar's allies against him before revealing they were secretly Ragnar's spies against Horik. Even managing to sack Paris by faking his own death so his "body" will be brought before the rulers so he can take Princess Gisla hostage and force the city's gates open. Ragnar becomes broken in his later years, but schemes to create a new Viking age by turning himself over to the Saxons for execution so his sons will avenge his death, achieving everything he sets out to accomplish. A cunning, ruthless, occasionally brutal man who is dangerous to friend and foe alike, Ragnar exemplifies both the best and worst of the Viking age.
The transferring of one of Aslaug's sons to another wife of Ragnar was previously seen in the Edison Marshall novel The Viking were Ivar was made the son of Thora and Hasting the son of the fictional Judith.
Ragnar interacting with Rollo was previously seen in the French comic book series Ragnar the Viking. It didn't even stop with Rollo. Leif Erikson was included in as well.
Ealhswith developing feelings for a Norseman originates in the 1969 film Alfred the Great where she developed feelings for Guthrum.
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.
The singing slave girl who is about to be sacrificed.
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.
Aslaug. Many fans are willing to paint her as a home-wrecker or a spoiled brat when in fact she is far from either.
Lagertha. On this show about a bunch of thieves, rapists and murderers, where virtuous main characters are few and far between at best, Lagertha had picked up a vicious and vocal hatedom that rages against her every time she does something as ruthless as the other members of the cast. She still has many devoted fans, though.
This situation is Turned Up to Eleven in Season 3 when the Main Characters lay siege to Paris. Quite a few viewers find themselves cheering for the Franks when the first Viking assault on the city is pushed back with heavy losses.
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 mid-way through Season 3 things take a sharp turn downwards; after receiving a nasty scar in battle, she becomes consumed with self-pity, and 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 their 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.
Seasonal Rot: Depends on whom you ask, but many people feel that the civil war storyline between Ragnar's sons in Season 4 and 5 drags on quite a bit. Added to the mix are complaints regarding the later battle scenes, romance subplots such as that between Lagertha and Heahmund or Bjorn and any given women he sets his eyes on, the curveball about Rollo and Lagertha's prior relationship (which was vaguely alluded to in precisely ONE scene, and a deleted one at that) and the slow-burn that is the Iceland subplot.
Some people also point to the increasing emphasis on English and Frankish court intrigue in the later seasons as stealing the spotlight from the more alien culture of the Norse, which was the main source of the show's appeal previously.
Strangled by the Red String: Lagertha and Bishop Heahmund. The two of them seemed to be mashed together without any real chemistry simply because the show needed to fulfill their romance for the season with two pretty people. Lagertha decides to spare his life, flat-out saying she doesn't even know why. The dialogue between them is as corny as it if had come from a Twilight novel, with Heahmund stating he feels he's known her his whole life about five minutes after they first meet, and completely forsaking his previous character as a devout warrior from God by declaring he's going to pledge his life to Lagertha after they sleep together once.
It's truly a kick in the ass because this romance supplants the one true lesbian relationship in the show between Lagertha and Astrid, which was much more organic and had two seasons to grow, and the clear amount of chemistry that Heahmund had with Ivar. It almost ranges into Unfortunate Implications after Astrid is killed by Lagertha as if stating that it's alright for the gay relationships on the show to be shunted to the side as long as there's a straight replacement waiting in the wings.
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.
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.
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.
Writers Cannot Do Math: Now, no exact number of years is given for the Season 4 time skip, but we know that after the skip Magnus is 12. Ivar was born roughly a year before Magnus, making him 13 after the time skip. The same age as Bjorn at the beginning of Season 2...