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What it’s about:

Set 100 years after the hit History Channel series Vikings, during the reign of Norman King William the Conqueror, Valhalla follows another legendary Viking, Leif Erikson, as he sets out to avenge his sister Freydis, and ultimately ends up joining a battle against England — one that will change the course of actual history.

Leif Erikson (Sam Corlet). Photo: Netflix.

Since the original series, the geopolitical map has changed drastically, with Vikings settled in England and elsewhere. The major plot points and characters from the original series are not key to this sequel, so if you’ve missed the original, no need to watch all six seasons before diving into Valhalla. (See our very brief need-to-know below.)

Season 1 of Valhalla began with the St. Brice’s Day massacre of 1002, and Leif, Freydis and Prince Harald must survive the rough waters from Greenland to the Viking hub city of Kattegat to join a larger group that has vowed revenge against England and the Saxons for the slaughter of all their Danish brothers by England’s King Aethelred II.  (For more on Season 1, here’s a good recap.)

Season 2 opens up with a choice for Leif, his sister, and Prince Harald: fight or flee.

Connection to the original Vikings series — the need-to-know:  The original Vikings series focused on Ragnar Lothbrock (Travis Fimmel), the Norse farmer who rose to become one of history’s fiercest Vikings, raiding England, becoming a king, and siring sons Björn Ironside (Alexander Ludwig) and Ivar the Boneless (Alex Høgh Andersen), who went on to become as fearsome as their father.  Ragnar, Björn, and Ivar are talked about occasionally in Valhalla for their legendary exploits. To follow all the connections and references to the original Vikings series in Valhalla, go deeper with this guide.

Names you might know:
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Freydis, Lief, and Harald. Photo: Netflix.

Leif Erikson, the fearless sailor and warrior bent on exacting revenge on the man who raped and tortured his sister, is played by Australian actor Sam Corlett.  Leif’s sister Freydis, a wild and determined woman who fiercely believes in the old gods after her traumatic encounter with Christians, is played by Swedish actress Frida Gustavsson.

Harald Sigurdsson, played by English actor Leo Suter, is a prince in love with Freydis. One of the few remaining Viking berserkers, he is the great grandson of Harald Finehair, the first king of Norway who appeared in the original Vikings series. (He wears the wristband his great grandfather wore.) Ambitious to become the next king, Harald fights hard but never loses his charisma, and he has a way with people unmatched by anyone in Norse society.

Why it’s worth your time:

Emotional, violent, and often brilliant in its plotting and coming-of-age story, the dark historical sequel is set in the 11th century, the High Middle-Ages, when the battle lines are drawn between Vikings (pagans) and English (Christians) as Europe experiences a big shift in power.

Valhalla shares the high production values, high-stakes, and intensely bloody battle scenes of the original series — as well as its dramatic tension and license; this is not to be watched as a historical documentary.

Where it differs — and becomes more relevant to today’s preoccupations — is that it introduces the epic conflict between between Vikings and the English Royals, with larger than life historical figures like William the Conqueror, all while focusing the story on three young Vikings, their romances, sex lives, and high-seas adventures.

The tension underlying all the action will have watchers sucked right into the story, and the fast pace, thrills and intensity of the phenomenal cast will leave you wanting many more episodes.

For a quick refresh, here’s what happened in Season 1 of Vikings Valhalla.

The takeaway:

While Season 2 of Valhalla loses some of the adrenaline of the first season, it goes deeper into the back stories and historical fault lines that deepened between religions and Europeans during the Middle Ages while delivering all the heroics, gore, sex and romance of its predecessor.

Watch it with:

Most fans of the original History Channel series will be delighted with Valhalla, but so will viewers interested in The Tudors, Black Sails, The Last Kingdom, The Witcher, Frontier, and Knightfall.

Worth noting:

Rated TV-MA, there’s sex, violence, nudity, crude language (of course). There also are several uncomfortable scenes with blood, gore, and one sexual assault. But the survivor exacts their revenge, and women generally have agency and power throughout.

 

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