Review: History's 'Vikings' storms back for season 2
This is, you may have noticed, a very busy week for TV premieres, as the business unpaused itself in a big way the second the Olympics were over. February is now the new September, unless maybe January is the new September, which would make February the new January, and this is all so very confusing when all you want to know is when "Hannibal" is going to be back (that'd be tomorrow night at 10, and I'll have a review of the new season going up this afternoon).
With so many shows debuting or returning, there hasn't been time to write about them all — and I highly recommend both reading Fienberg's "Mixology" review and then never actually watching "Mixology" — but I at least wanted to acknowledge tonight's return of "Vikings." (Season 2 premieres at 9 Eastern on History.) I liked the show quite a bit in its first season, and it continues to be strong as it opens its second. It's part of a recent trend of pulpy genre shows — like Cinemax's "Strike Back" and "Banshee"(*) — that understand exactly what they're about and try to present the best possible version of that.
(*) Recent "Banshee" episodes actually suggest the show is starting to aim higher artistically than just giving us the best fight scenes on television, and if I can ever find the time before the new season's over, I'm going to write more about that.
There is political intrigue on "Vikings," and talk about their worship of Odin and the rest of the gods of Asgard, as compared to the Christians from England whom they like to pillage, and "Vikings" remains good enough at those things that you won't be checking your watch waiting for the next big action set piece. But when those set pieces come? Buckle up. Season 2 opens with a bit of a time jump (which the show already did a few times in season 1) that may make you feel like you missed an episode, but the goal is to jump straight into an epic battle scene between the forces of our hero Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) and his king (Donal Logue, now a series regular) and those led by Ragnar's gigantic brother Rollo (Clive Standen), and it is a humdinger.
Fimmel, Katheryn Winnick and the rest of the cast remain, like the show, better than the material probably needs to be a commercial success, and thus strong enough that "Vikings" remains a genuine pleasure rather than a guilty one. It ain't deep much of the time, but it does the job, and I'm glad it's back.