Wake early if you want another man’s life or land. No lamb for the lazy wolf; no battle’s won in bed. – The Havamal
Vikings are awesome. If you don’t believe me, then you obviously misunderstood my poetic intro and haven’t been lucky enough to catch the HISTORY Channel’s breakout TV series. What was initially supposed to be a mere mini docu-drama ended up so much more, when not only the numbers demanded it (6 million viewers; first among broadcasts in the 18-49 age range), but the damn Vikings themselves demanded it! The cast got so close, and so closely intensive with this project, that the first season only demanded more. Now, after the arrousing success that was “Vikings,” the cast — those who made it out alive, at least — are back this summer for even more gritty shooting off the Ireland coast.
Before our new favorite shield-and-sword scandalous crew got rolling, these folks made sure to pronounce this sunny Friday at Comic-Con one thing and one thing only: Vikings Day. As I rattled off in the podcast a week or so ago, I was more than thankful to avoid all of the chaos that was Hall H and Ballroom 20 in exchange of lamping out by the Vikings Interactive Waterway.
Doesn’t that just sound so much cooler?
Trust the Divine one. It was. The good people at HISTORY actually built an enclosed waterway for attendees to race miniature Viking boats against each other, a photo op area for keepsakes and shield maidens to greet people when they arrive. But all that aside, I’m here because they are having an autograph signing with six members of the cast! And you don’t need to win some stupid raffle or get a dumb wristband to do it. Amazing.
Travis Fimmel (Ragnar), Clive Standen (Rollo), Jessalyn Gilsig (Siggy), Gustaf Skarsgard (Floki), George Blagden (Athelstan), and Katheryn Winnick (Lagertha) are all in attendance to greet their fans. As excited (or just nervous) as I am to meet the cast of one of the best new shows of 2013 is one thing, but to meet that woman…
Yeah, let’s move on. Great idea! It was just as cool to see much of the cast’s obligatory long hair and large, scruffy beards, seeing how they’re in the middle of shooting Season 2. The Vike’s look authentic, so seeing them up close and personal made it all the more chilling.
That brings me to one glaring issue here. The on-site staff decides to, oh, put all the fans in two lines for the signing. There are three actors for each line. Ummmmm. WHY?! So we have to choose which characters we like more? Why would you make the fans decide on which line to stand in when it’s a total ensemble show? Doh! So, of course, the congregation at home is just placing their bets that I’m going to the line with Katheryn, correct?
No. I’ve been doing this far too long to any trivial obstacle get me… I’m meeting both sides, man — gigantic King Arthuresque wooden tables, or not.
So, now I’m only about two people away from my End Goal and the staff ever-so-conveniently announce that the cast has to leave. Oh hell no. I’m right in front of her damnit! Now, I gotta get by Gustaf. And he’s ridiculously tall. A villain. And crazy.
But, this Crazy has nothing on the Divine. After giving Kat the biz, this stunningly beautiful aqua-blue-eyed, tough-as-nails princess told me “thank you.” Then, “aww. Thank you so much.” Then, “Yes, come please!” Then, finally, “Thanks for coming.”
Hey, I never said this was a family program. Oh, wait. That last quote was from George, wasn’t it? You must have all caught me in a sleeping on the Nordic-track!
OH, PUT ME IN A HIRST
To think that was just the signing… It’s panel time, and I’m quite shocked that a show like “Vikings” is only getting the 6A treatment. I know being on HISTORY, and not having a convention(al) track record thus yet, that Ballroom 20 is at least a year away, but still.
Of course, 6A fills faster than fat kids at a Ben & Jerry factory for the returning six cast members and creator/executive producer Michael Hirst and HISTORY Channel executive vice president Dirk Hoogstra. As far as what to expect in “Vikings” Season 2, with more creative freedom will come “some terrible sacrifices,” Hirst vaguely explains. “The stakes get higher, the armies get bigger, there are more boats and more is at stake. It’s going to be a great ride for everyone.” Now we’re getting somewhere. It sounds like some more great Viking battle scenes! Actor George Blagden adds, “We’re taking the Viking ship out on the ocean. Usually, we’ve just done it with green screen on a gimble or in a lake. We’re all a bit terrified.”
Hirst finishes these thoughts with some boldness, “These are Vikings. These are not human beings. They sometimes are capable of doing things we wouldn’t do. And sometimes they make terrible choices.” Sort of like me choosing the other line first over Katheryn’s. Or Ragnar Lothbrok — like most foolish badboys — cheating on Lagertha? (I mean, c’mon, man! The woman goes into battle with you!)
“Ragnar’s all about his legacy. He wants as many kids as he can get. He wants them to be proud of him and follow in his footsteps. It was certainly hard for him,” Travis Fimmel answers about his ever-horny lead character, smerking over at Ms. Winnick. “I’m a little bit nervous tonight because I’m sitting next to her.” As damn right you should be! Did you see what she can do to men that piss her off?!
When Winnick is asked how Lagertha is going to deal with all of this insubordination, my queen simply reponds,“I think she needs to kick some serious ass.”
MASSIVE SHIPS, MASSIVE APPLAUSE
Massive… nevermind. Guess we now know whose side everyone is on. As soon as the applause died down, Clive Standen very timely says,”She chose the wrong brother.” Of course you’d go there, “Rollo”, considering the fuel of the “Vikings” Season 1 fire was the budding rivalry between you and your brother, Ragnar. “Ragnar’s very much like a tornado, whereas Rollo’s very much like a volcano, he’s volatile and could erupt at any time. It’s about him not being able to be in Ragnar’s shadow anymore,” Standen stamped.
So just how does Rollo’s new siggy other — Siggy — play into all of this? This newly widow is certainly not going quietly into the night, that’s for sure. “She has an incredible drive, and the way I figure it I wanna get back up on that chair and I’ll do whatever I have to to get there,” desires Jessalyn Gilsig, who lost her celebrity hubby (in more ways than one) Earl Haraldson, played by the show’s biggest name, Gabriel Byrne (The Usual Suspects).
Far more devastating to Siggy than losing her King, however, was losing her child in the series’ final episode, much like the other Queen of House, Lagertha. “I never want to film that scene again. That was very tough,” Gilsig adds. “I don’t know if she’s going to have a ‘love’ life, but she’s definitely gonna be busy. So far I haven’t seen that Siggy really believes in a romantic love anymore. Relationships are opportunities. Is she capable of true love again? I do think she loves Rollo, but I think that she will stay in control of her emotions because there is no way she is going to make herself vulnerable.”
Speaking of invulnerable, there is no bigger wild card in “Vikings” than Floki. But, Gustaf Skarsgard — brother of “True Blood” “hottie” (don’t ask) Alexander Skarsgard — can’t possibly be this batshit cray in person can he? “I hope I’m not as fucking crazy, but I’m pretty fucking close.”
STEERING THE RIGHTEOUS PATH
There’s no doubt the most complex character in the series is Athelstan, who’s certainly had a hellacious tough time steering his own path, considering the Anglo-Saxon monk went from Ragnar’s prisoner bitch to best drinking buddy. From peaceful to bloodthirsty to all that mess in between, it’s the complexity in many of these characters that makes the HISTORY series so compelling. You’d think with a show called “Vikings” that plain-sight black-and-white attributes would be what you’d receive. Even Blagden himself would find disapppointment “if it was easy for Athelstan to become completely Viking. It’s very difficult for him to make that decision.” Despite the fact Athelstan is indeed playing the game of “I’m one of you, trust me,” in the end we’ve got to remeber that he’s still a very religious man.
And, who’d know more about the most powerful religion of all than GodHatesGeeks? That religion is that of Popular Geek Culture — duh! — and with “Vikings” referencing more Thor’s and Odin’s than the Holy Book of Asgard, there’s certainly great incentive for Marvel Geeks to be on the search for our most favorite Norse Gods. It certainly doesn’t soothe our little nerd brains when “Vikings” can’t help but tease the existence of the supernatural.
“What you see early on in the show is Odin and Valkyries; that’s what the Vikings are seeing in their minds,” Hirst clarifies. “[Those gods] are what the Vikings saw on the battlefield. Occasionally, I’m going to remind the audience of what’s happening in the minds of the Vikings.”
And reminding us why we love these Nordic raiders in the first place, by Thor’s Mjolnir, Odin’s Beard, or not.
- But that’s not all! I was given the opportunity to sit down with the cast afterwards for a private media session at San Diego’s Hilton Bayfront Hotel and really test the wits of these warrior explorers. More interestingly, these press interviews were basically like speed-dating, but with the unfortunate reminder that none of these lovely gals would be calling me later! Except Katheryn, of course. Because she remembers. Doesn’t she? Either way, I get to ask the “Vikings” all the tough questions. You know, like How was your Comic-Con, dudes? Even the sadistic Floki — which sounds all too similar to Loki, no? — reflects with a smile. “It was great feeling the love and warmth of the audience. You see they really love the show and care for the characters. You always hope for it to go this way, but you never know.” Skarsgard even went on to answer about the oft-said historical innacuracies, perhaps the show’s primary criticism. “When you start doing research about the Vikings you realize there’s a lot of things we don’t know. It’s very speculative. There’s different sources and they’re all contradictory. I got surprised by a lot of things.”
- (Booouuuuuuummmm!) Those are the sounds of the Viking horn going off, as it’s now time to switch off from a loose cannon and corrupted monk to the warm cadence of a proper Englishman…with a tall glass of wine. “We know that there were Vikings and they came to North America. We’re reaching out to people and saying ‘this is part of your heritage.’ We’re connected to these people and they’re in our collective history,” Mr. Hirst summed up about the origins of the HISTORY series, further continuing about his controversial decisons to “structure [“Vikings”] based on historical reading, but I’m making choices and selecting things [since] it’s not a documentary. I try to make the motivationals plausible based on what I know about the characters. It comes out of research but then it’s about being a dramatist.”
- It’s no surprise that both Winnick and Gilsig look absolutely “divine” in select dresses, while all the dudes are walking around like they just fell out of bed. Hey, no complaints here. “The desire for [“Vikings”] to be the best in every department really bleeds in. We feel like if we come to set and you have a very intense scene, everybody knows it. I’ve never experienced anything so acutely focused. We’re very lucky that way,” chimed Gilsig who continued on about the importance of the female leads in this story. “If I was written into a scene, there’s a reason you’re there — even if I don’t have lines. What’s shocking to me, is that it’s taken this long for people to realize that if there’s a woman in the room she has an opinion. And that’s been there since the beginning of time. We’re finally allowing that to be explored!” Preach on, sister!
- We finish, of course, asking the obligatory GodHatesGeeks question. Seeing how there are a ton of references to Asgardian mythology in “Vikings”, did you have any background with the Marvel Comics version of it all? Crazier than my question was Standen’s answer. “I liked Punisher because he was like Batman. He was a real guy. I love characters that have a big fire in their belly.” Didn’t see that one coming! “As far as Thor goes, I really liked the first Thor movie. The second one looks interesting.” No answer from Mr. Ragnar-ok himself on that one (not even a “Nay!”), but Mr. Fimmel did go on about their characters’ comic book level intensity. “If [Ragnar] is attacking someone, I want him to have fun. I want to go on the adventure with him. We do a lot of horrible stuff. There’s a lot of that making love with sinister faces.”
And, guess what, peeps!? Katheryn remembered me. “Good to see you again [Mr. Divine]!” Good to see you, too, Lagertha… Vikings’ Season 2 will air on HISTORY sometime in 2014.