Norsemen (Vikingane) is a Norwegian comedy series on Netflix. Norsemen is filmed simultaneously in Norwegian and English, for domestic and international consumption. 3 seasons of 6 episodes X 30 minutes. Cert 15 U.K. (2016- )
”The residents of an 8th-century Viking village experience political rivalry, social change and innovations that upend their culture and way of life.”
Kåre Conrade ~ Orm
Nils Jørgen Kaalstad ~ Arvid
Jon Ølgarden ~ Jarl Varg
Bjørn Myrene ~ Torstein Hund
Silje Torp ~ Freya
Trond Fausa ~ Rufus
Øystein Martinsen ~ Kark
Marian Saastad Ottesen ~ Hildur
Kristine Riis ~ Liv
Mikkel Bratt Silset ~ Ragnar
Erik Aleksander Schjerven ~ Magnus
Henrik Mestad ~ Chieftan Olaf
A (Mostly) Non-Spoiler Review:
When I first started watching Norsemen I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of it, but then it rapidly dawned upon me that it is a parody of life during the Viking era and of various aspects of our own society. I think it may have been the leaping over the cliff existential discussion about Valhalla that was the major clue. I have now avidly watched and “ugly laughed” my way through all 3 seasons, and it is one of my not so very guilty pleasures.
This show is as if Monty Python and Blackadder met, went to Norway and had a baby. This irreverent offspring has much modern angst, a definite sense of fashion, is crude, rude, definitely enjoys slapstick but also has a tendency towards violence. If your sense of humour does not tend towards the very silly, then the chances are you will not “get” the humour.
Occasionally Norsemen can surprise will real subtlety, one example would be Chieftan Olaf’s willingness to play a political game. Mostly though what it lacks in subtlety it makes up for with laugh out loud outrageousness. The sort of humour where you find yourself laughing, very loudly, while all the time thinking, “I really shouldn’t be laughing at this because it isn’t something you should be laughing at,” e.g. someone being decapitated. Running gags abound in this show, and there is a lot of character-driven humour.
Looking at other aspects of the production for a moment, aside from the comedy, Norsemen has some stunningly beautiful scenery. The cinematography in general is very on point with the hand-held camerawork during battle scenes being just one example.
There is some excellent fight choreography with impressive battles of the kind you would expect from a more serious historical drama. The costuming, makeup and hair are all impressive with a good deal of accuracy and detailing. The colours of costumes, the leather, the fur, the jewellery, the crochet… Another area of accuracy is the ponies that they ride, including some beautiful Fjords.
The performances from the ensemble cast are all excellent, with great comic timing (kudos also to whoever edits this show) and range from the understated to the completely over the top. There are also parts which look as if the actors not only were having a great time but were also struggling not to crack up laughing. That a deadpan delivery can be maintained is seriously impressive. One of the devices I really enjoy is the use of “this will have a name in the future but we can’t use it now because it doesn’t exist yet”.
There are many homages to Python, Blackadder and Vikings woven through this show. However, given that all comedy is socially and culturally based, that it takes all sorts to make the world, and we do not all find the same things funny some people will not enjoy this. Historical Drama purists may also find this not to their taste.
I enjoy it immensely and look forward to more seasons to come. Laughter is good for the soul. And if nothing else, bear in mind these sage words of advice:
[Since this review was first published Norsemen won the Serie Critics Award for Best Comedy for the third year in a row. It has also not been picked up by Netflix for a 4th season. Hopefully it will find a new home elsewhere…]
For those who are fans of Nordic/Scandi TV shows and films there is great affiliated Facebook Page:
Both Henrik Mestad and Erik Aleksander Schjerven are in the Norwegian show Occupied, which is on Netflix: