Filmed in Ireland and set in various Scandinavian and English locations comes the sequel series to the History Channel's well-loved Viking adventure.
'Vikings: Valhalla' is set a thousand years ago in the 11th Century, over 100 years on from the original series. Closely following the escapades of real-life heroes from history, brother and sister duo Leif Eriksson and Freydis Eriksdotter (Sam Corlett, Frida Gustavsson), the Greenlanders sail into Kattegat in Norway to seemingly join the Viking army that's being formed in retaliation to the horrific St. Brice's Day Massacre, whereby English King Æthelred purged a number of English-dwelling Vikings. Norwegian Prince Harald Sigurdsson (Leo Suter) takes the pair under his wing when the real reason for their voyage comes to light, and the Vikings forge a journey to England to seek revenge.
If you are looking for non-stop action, 'Valhalla' should probably be next on your must-watch list. From the opening minutes, right the way through each and every one of the eight episodes, the series delivers fight after bloody fight with two huge battle scenes unfolding throughout the season. While this over-reliance on battle sequences might overwhelm some viewers, it's all part and parcel of watching a series about Vikings getting revenge on a well-to-do empire such as England.
While 'Vikings' in a way heralded the beginning of these barbaric champions, does that mean 'Valhalla' signals the end of their reign? Looking at real-life history, all signals are pointing to yes, and season one is peppered with signs that the Viking Age is in peril.
The introduction of Christianity is a topic that remains quite central to the storyline of the season, resulting in the "less modern" Pagan ways being thrown into jeopardy. Harald's older half-brother Olaf Haraldsson (Jóhannes Jóhanesson) is the forefront leader of this new religion within the seafaring people, setting up what could be a pivotal transition for the characters should the series last as long as its predecessor.
Being a sequel series, 'Valhalla' doesn't shy away from referencing what came before it. Heroes from the past six seasons of the show, such as Ragnar, Lagertha and Bjorn, are referenced in the earlier episodes, leaving that historical connection open for returning viewers. However, this is a fresh take on the franchise, and the later episodes plough ahead with fleshing out these new characters and their adjustments to the ever-changing Viking landscape.
As you might expect, with the series being filmed in Wicklow, the vast Irish countryside has never looked more fitting for a series such as this. Elaborate set pieces pop on screen (particularly episode four, entitled 'The Bridge') and there are enough dramatic beats shared between the characters to keep you mostly invested; the trade-off is that the emotional scenes can feel a little wooden.
With the exception of a tendency to lean far too heavily on the action side of the storyline, 'Vikings: Valhalla' it's a worthy successor to the original series that will see fans returning in their droves. Newbies, it might take you half of the season before you begin to feel a connection.
'Vikings: Valhalla' begins on Netflix on Friday, February 25.