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Vikings - Series 1- "Rites of Passage" - Recap/Review (Spoilers)

Here’s your recap of tonight’s premiere of “Vikings” titled Rites of Passage.

The series opens on a massive battle field (because what better way to draw people in than with blood and swords) and we meet Ragnar Lothbrok and his brother Rollo at the end of battle the specifics of which aren’t really important here. This is a show built on some pretty strong themes though, and we see a few of them in this scene. We see Ragnar and Rollo (world’s next pop star duo? Popular cookie? There is something there… you decide) take down the reminder of their foes with such teamwork that hasn’t been seen since The Avengers. And we have our first major theme from the series – community and teamwork.

As Ragnar surveys his handy work he’s startled by a vision in black (literally) come to take the bodies of the dead into the afterworld. And let’s again tick a box on our major themes checklist because religion is going to play a major role in this series. In ways that only benefit it.

Special note on the credits. They might be one of my favorite parts of the show actually. They are so incredibly beautiful.

Back to Scandinavia and we are introduced to Ragnar’s family and get to see his parenting skills, which include knocking his son in the head with a shield. But he’s just teaching him to defend himself so we’ll let it slide this time. Ragnar insists on taking Bjorn with him to a rites of passage type ceremony but Lagertha, his wife, is concerned. As strong as the women characters are in this series, Ragnar wins this one but Lagertha doesn’t seem too upset as Ragnar confesses his love for her in a wonderfully weird sort of way. Blood pudding is Ragnar’s idea of pillow talk.

On the way to the ceremony Ragnar confesses to his son that he grows tired of raiding in the east. It’s quite cold and the Internet connection is choppy. He wants to see what is to the west; he’s heard their blood pudding is to die for. His reasons for wanting to head west aren’t all gold, riches, and blood pudding though. No Ragnar has a thirst for knowledge, and he would give up almost anything to pursue it.

Back at home, Lagertha is teaching her daughter important life lessons, like how to make blankets, and also how to kick ass and take names. Another theme this show strongly stresses is just how strong and fierce Viking woman are especially here as two men come to satisfy their needs and Lagertha easily fends them off. And the audience immediately falls in love.

We find out that Bjorn is attending the ceremony to become a man. His father asks him what a man does and Bjorn tells him a man fights and protects his family. Turns out Ragnar just wants to make sure Bjorn knows what he has to do incase he decides to look into some westward expansion.

Ragnar shares his dreams of travelling west with Rollo and Rollo is skeptical, because everyone knows you can’t sail across an open ocean. But Ragnar has the latest in GPS technology, something called a sun board that can lead them across the ocean and show them the way. I’m already loving the bickering brother dynamic between these two.

Ragnar has made his decision to go west, now he just needs other to support him. One who is not going to be showing his support is Earl Haraldson who is the leader of this particular group of Vikings. We get a look at the Viking judicial system, which is surprisingly fair even though one man is sentenced to death. But hey he gets to choose how he dies so that’s fair, right? If anything is clear, it’s that the Viking society has a lot of rules.

We also learn another important thing about this series and that is Vikings do not fear death. Getting excited about death is like the password into the clubhouse. It’s a great honor. Another great honor? Bjorn is finally a man now and the long awaited ceremony in fulfilled. Ragnar wants to know where they will be raiding this year and the Earl informs them that they will raid east again into Russia. Ragnar, clearly growing tired of the Earl’s Napoleon like tendencies insists it would be better to go west. The Earl has heard these stories before and he thinks they are fantasy, and since he pays for the ships, he gets to decide where they go. I get the sense that the Earl is not Ragnar’s number one fan. Earl Haraldson invites Ragnar to come speak with him privately but it turns out this isn’t a friendly chat. The Earl is upset that Ragnar insulted him and reminds him that he’s a farmer and he should be happy with that. Because a lot of people around here could use some land. It would be a shame if something…happened. We also learn a little backstory on the Earl in the form of a dream. Apparently his sons were murdered. I’m thinking we’ll get more on that as the episodes progress.

Ragnar goes to talk to the Gods because “that’s what we do” and we meet the seer, who looks like he stepped right off the set of 300. Ragnar is seeking some guidance and it’s your typical ancient seer cryptic speak. Ragnar is not impressed. Obviously if you want answers around these parts you're going to have to get them yourself.

Ragnar introduces Bjorn to Floki, who will easily become everyone’s favorite character. He might already be everyone’s favorite character. Floki knows how to talk to trees and he can make Ragnar the perfect boat to carry him west. We’ll find that Loki jokes about many things, but the one thing he is very serious about is ships. Ragnar wonders if the boat will be strong enough and Floki assures him they won’t know until they try. How’s that for confidence?

Ragnar is reunited with Lagertha and they quickly get reacquainted with one another. Rollo comes by for a visit and we learn that Rollo has a bit of a thing for Lagertha. This story line is a tad predictable but I’ll take it because I think it has potential. Also, who wouldn’t have a thing for Lagertha? Lagertha says Rollo is a great warrior, but not a great man.  How's that for insults?

Ragnar has another vision, a vision he takes as a sign that the right decision is to sail west. It’s a good thing Floki has finished the boat, but he’s not confident it will not sink. But the sail is set and lo and behold the boat works! Looks like Ragnar is finally heading west!

What Worked
 • Visually the show is stunning, as I’ve said before the scenery is just breathtaking and really transports    you. The attention to detail is amazing.
• Vikings does what it sets out to do and it does it well. And if that’s not enough for you hopefully you were keeping track of all the different themes it brings in.
 • The brother dynamic between Rollo and Ragnar actually really works for this show, which was apparent to me on first viewing.
 • Floki. Need I say more? There is just something wonderfully childish and delightful about his character.
• This episode perfectly sets up where the story is going and where it needs to go without being over convoluted.

 What Didn’t Work
 • My only complaint would be the pacing of this first episode, but I believe that’s more to do with the fact that it is a first episode and unfortunately needs to introduce that characters and set up the story. You can’t necessarily fault the show for that. It still does a remarkable job at it.

What did everyone else think? Will you be tuning in next week?

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