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The historical drama, "Vikings" was something of a surprise hit when it was released in the U.K., U.S., and Ireland. A co-production of companies from all three nations, "Vikings" tells the story of the legendary leader, Ragnar Lothbrok who was the subject of a large number of tales told by Viking leaders and those across Europe who came into contact with the culture. As the seasons have progressed, the story of the entire Viking age in Europe has been covered with the starting point of the raid of Lindisfarne and its abbey which took place in 793 A.D.
In the first season, the character of Ragnar is a simple farmer who believes he has found a new way to navigate the seas both night and during the day. Ragnar sees the possibilities for his own Viking culture if their ships can travel at both days, night, and in fog. Despite the success, Ragnor knows he can have with his new way of navigating, local leader Earl Haraldson refuses to give his blessing to Ragnar as he is jealous of the changes to the culture discovered by the younger man.
Ragnar eventually sets out on a raid with his friends and family and arrives at the abbey on the holy island of Lindisfarne off the coast of northeastern England. Not only does Ragnar sack the island but he takes a hostage of a priest who tries to convert the Viking and his family to Christianity. Earl Haraldson is unhappy that his refusal of the raid to England has been ignored and he faces a challenge to his leadership by Ragnar as he now has the ability to lead the Viking people around the world to steal everything they need to survive.
Series creator, Michael Hirst has stated the events of the show are based on the events detailed in the many different tales recorded about the Vikings and Ragnar in particular by his contemporaries and English writers. Over the course of the five seasons of ar released, the show explores the many different members of Ragnar's family, including his sons who set out on their own journeys to various areas of the world by sea.
The creative head and showrunner of "Vikings", Michael Hirst writes each episode and has a long history of writing successful films and TV shows with a historical edge. The Oscar-winning script for "Elizabeth" and the sequel, "Elizabeth: The Golden Age were written by Hirst. Despite switching from film to focus largely on TV, Hirst continued to find success prior to the launch of "Vikings" in 2013. Writing "The Tudors" brought Hirst to the attention of millions as his story of King Henry VIII and his six wives continued to build on his earlier success.
The main lead of "Vikings" in the first season was Travis Fimmel, who played the role of Ragnar Lothbrok which was based on the Viking of the same name. Fimmel was born in Australia and began his career as a model before beginning his career path towards becoming an actor. The role of Ragnar has been described as the breakout performance for the role of Ragnar which has allowed him to focus more on film roles in the last few years.
Alongside Travis Fimmel, the Canadian actress Katheryn Winnick stars as the historic Viking figure, Lagertha. In the show, Lagertha is the wife of Ragnar and is a fierce warrior in her own right. Winnick has enjoyed a long career on both TV and films with her main role on TV prior to "Vikings being Hannah Burley.
The local chieftain, Earl Haraldson is played by the iconic Irish actor, Gabriel Byrne who was one of the most popular actors in Hollywood in the 1990s. After joining London's Royal Court Theater in the late 1970s, Byrne found his feet as a Hollywood star in the 1990s with his performance in "The Usual Suspects."
"Vikings" is a co-production between Shaw Media, Corus Entertainment, Octagon Films, TM Productions, Take 5 Productions, MGM Television, and History. The show is classed as an Irish-Canadian-US production and found success in the U.S. when it was broadcast on The History Channel. The show has become a global hit with broadcast companies in Australia, Canada, and the U.K. seeing high ratings for the show. The streaming service, Amazon Prime has the rights to stream "Vikings" in North America and the U.K. The show is filmed in Ireland just to the south of Dublin in the picturesque Wicklow Mountains which has become something of a tourist attraction for fans of the show.
The critics gave the first season of "Vikings" the best reviews of the five-season run of the show to date. The first season of "Vikings" was given an average rating of 71 percent on Metacritic with professional critics praising the natural realism of the show. Among the aspects of the show which were praised by critics was the conflict between Ragnar and Earl Haraldson which drove the narrative. Other critics believed the performances of Travis Fimmel and Katheryn Winnick were worthy of special mention. In total, Rotten Tomatoes gives "Vikings" an overall score of 92 percent based on the reviews of twelve critics. The first season premiere drew in an estimated six million viewers and topped the demographic for males aged 18 to 49 during the primetime launch of the show. Although it was released around the same time as "Game of Thrones", "Vikings" was seen as a completely different show with the focus on historic drama instead of the fantasy of the HBO-produced adaptation of the work of George R.R. Martin. The final sixth season has already been announced and will be broadcast in 2019 as Michael Hirst brings the story of Ragnar and his children to a close.
Originally, Michael Hirst was commissioned to write a nine-part miniseries for History which had seen its earlier "Hatfields & McCoys" mini-series prove a rating winner for the network. A keen historian who was destined for a career in academia before becoming a writer, Hirst wanted to explore the untold side of the Viking culture and not simply a group of barbarians marauding their way across Europe. When you watch "Vikings", the languages spoken were resurrected after dying out centuries ago. The showrunner wanted to ensure viewers had a complete experience including hearing the languages of Old Norse, Anglo Saxon, Latin, and Old Frankish.