When I heard about these series, I figured it would just be another popularised spectacle about raiding Vikings which of course makes nice battle scene for people who like mindless action. Then I started to hear good things about these series, also from contemporary heathens (often Viking lovers). In the end I bought the first season ouf of curiosity.
Things do not start all that bad. Main character Ragnar Lothbrok got a way (from his patron Odin) to navigate while at sea and he tries to persuade his earl to allow him to sail West, rather than the Baltic lands that the Vikings plunder every season. Ragnar is turned down, yet he sets sail with a group of fellow rebels, lands on Holy Island and plunder the Lindisfarne monestary (had not the Vikings in reality already been there as traders?). Ragnar returns with bounty, but his earl is not amused. A struggle arises and the Vikings prove to be quite like ourselves with wrath, plots and disgrace. Where is the honour of these Vikings? The series mostly portrays the Vikings in the typical way of greedy barbarians. Quite annoying.
On his first raid, Ragnar returns with the monk Athelstan who stays with him as slave, but actually more as an equal. This part of the story reminds of the accounts of Ahmad Ibn Fadlan. There are other famous elements, such as the account of Adam of Bremen with the nine-yearly offers at the temple of Uppsala (Uppsala looks nothing like how Uppsala looks today, the landscape is completely different). Myths are interwoven, sometimes as silly as a scene in which a man accuses his wife of adultery, but the pregnancy is actually called by a man named Rig (from the story of how Rig created the three ranks). Everything is mashed together into a story that supposedly has to look interesting, but I find it all rather silly. The series are -to me- nothing more than an adventure around a bunch of barbarian Vikings and -as far as I can judge- can hardly be seen as a history lesson. Still, the series are produced by the History Channel.
Not my thing I guess, like most of the popular series… I doubt I will ever see season 2 or 3.