VIKINGS, History Channel

History’s VIKINGS has returned for a third season, and while it’s chock full of all the characters and action fans of the series have come to love, the writers are keeping their cards pretty close to their chest when it comes to the plot this season. The season opens with Ragnar and company preparing to return to England, this time bringing settlers as well as warriors. The voyage is over and they are once again treating with king Ecbert, who has agreed to give them land to settle in exchange for military aid when necessary for him and his allies. As Ragnar joins princess Kwenthrith on a mission of conquest against her brother and Uncle, Ecbert travels with Lagertha and Athelstan to the land being given to the Vikings, and it seems like he may be interested in more than a political partnership with Lagertha.

It’s clear from the start that this season is relying heavily on the audience remembering all the players and their relationships from last season, and hoping that that memory will be sufficient to drive the drama of the premier. While there is some minor bickering and arguing between various characters, it only serves to reinforce and reestablish the dynamic laid out last season rather than add anything new. The benefit of all this is that it lets the audience know where we stand and what’s going on, but the downside is that it isn’t very captivating. The one exception to this is the intriguing going on back in Lagertha’s lands, but as it involves characters we don’t have much history or attachment to, it’s not a very good hook for the season. In fact, the biggest highlight of the premier was the battle at the end of it, but as we are left wondering what the battle has actually achieved and what use it is, it’s not the saving grace the premier needed. The only thing I can say is that there are so many unknowns that fans of the show will certainly keep watching to find out what happens, but I can’t see this premier bringing in any new viewers.

Despite the lackluster story, the cast still delivered great performances. Travis Fimmel continues to play Ragnar, and it’s fun to watch him mold the character into a king rather than just a local leader. Lagertha is played by Katheryn Winnick, and while she’s been with the show from the start, she has really fleshed out her character and has an impressive and true ownership of her. Floki has long been one of my favorite characters and that is due in no small part to Gustaf Skarsgard’s amazing portrayal of him. Skarsgard infuses him with the tortured soul of a brilliant mad man, simultaneously blessed and cursed, and this fierce combination makes him one of the most captivating and memorable characters currently on television. Every season of the VIKINGS I keep hoping that they are going to do more with Athelstan, played by George Blagden, and I think this might finally be the year. Blagden has done a nice job portraying the poor monk who is trapped between cultures and gods, but I’ve been waiting for him to blossom into something more, as I see so much more potential in both the actor and the character. Lastly, Linus Roache plays the part of king Ecbert and I like how honest the portrayal seems. Ecbert is clearly a man who doesn’t reveal even half of his mind, but Roache brings such humanity to him that its hard not to like him, even if you suspect him of nefarious machinations.

While the premier may not live up to the greatness of last season, there is still plenty to like about VIKINGS, mainly the great performances, characters, and plenty of action. If you’re looking to get into the series, you should go back and start from the beginning, if you are a fan, you’re going to have to wait a bit to see if this season heats up.

Final Score: 6 out of 10