Watch Vikings on History Channel
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“Vikings, ” which will include a bifurcated and expanded fourth season beginning with a flurry of 10 episodes, has become History’s poor-man’s answer to “The Walking Dead.” And based on the opening salvo, success hasn’t spoiled these pillaging Norsemen, with the show essentially picking up where season three left off — after the bloody siege of Paris — operating on several parallel tiers. Heck, there’s even a “Revenant”-like encounter with an angry bear, as showrunner Michael Hirst distinguishes the basic-cable series as a premium-level commodity.
For starters, Viking leader Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) was badly injured, leaving something of a power vacuum in the early going. Not surprisingly, there is no shortage of aspirants to fill the void, including his wife Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland) and son Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig), although since Fimmel is the star of the show, nobody should count him out just yet.
See More:‘Vikings’ Creator Talks Season 3 Finale, What’s Ahead for Ragnar
The fallout from season three, meanwhile, continues with the exposure of Floki (Gustaf Skarsgard) as the murderer of Ragnar’s pal, the former monk Athelstan; and the exploits of Ragnar’s brother Rollo (Clive Standen, especially good in these early chapters), who has stayed behind in France, where plans of an arranged marriage don’t exactly go smoothly. Finally, there’s Ragnar’s warrior-maiden ex, Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick), who faces threats to her earldom as well.
The Vikings, obviously, are a perfectly organic vessel through which to explore lust and violence, but Hirst has gone well beyond that in terms of developing intrigue and strategy — including machinations by the only slightly more civilized Europeans, like King Ecbert (Linus Roache), to make just nice enough with Ragnar and his ilk to prevent them from pillaging their strongholds. That reached a dazzling peak with last season’s protracted attack on Paris, which raised the bar on what was already a pretty impressive show.