Category: TV


vik

Back in 2013 we asked after the first few episodes of Vikings, “Why this is only a nine-episode mini-series?”  The History Channel’s first historical fiction mini-series since the acclaimed Hatfields & McCoys fortunately didn’t stop at the first season, and the rest, as they say, is now history.  Vikings took stunning locations, a powerful score, and a fantastic story steeped in Nordic mythology and created an epic production on par with Braveheart, Rob Roy, 300, and Attila, the only time the Vikings have ever been given a worthy live-action TV or movie treatment (and it rated our pick for second best series of the decade here at borg) With season six finished last year and airing in its final markets this year, legions of fans eagerly await what will now be Netflix’s sequel series, Vikings: ValhallaAs part of Netflix’s new TUDUM fan event this weekend, we now have the first trailer.  Check it out below.

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The showrunner and cast of History’s Vikings, including showrunner and writer Michael Hirst and actors Travis Fimmel, Katheryn Winnick, and Clive Standen, who we saw at their first Comic-Con back in 2013, invaded Comic-Con this weekend with a new preview for the last time.  That’s a virtual invasion, because of course this year it’s San Diego Comic-Con@Home, but as panels go this was just as you’d see at any ordinary SDCC, but without the lines and squinting from the back of Hall H.  Hirst and actors Fimmel, Winnick, and Standen were joined this year by actors Alex Ludwig and Jordan Patrick Smith, to discuss the fates of Fimmel and Winnick’s characters on past episodes, the six seasons of the series, and what’s next.

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Who lives and who dies?

In July we discussed a great summer panel from virtual San Diego Comic-Con discussing the final ten episodes of History Channel’s Vikings series, following the first ten episodes released a year ago (check out our coverage of the panel here at borg if you missed it).  The showrunner and cast of History’s Vikings, including showrunner and writer Michael Hirst and actors Travis Fimmel, Katheryn Winnick, and Clive Standen, who we saw at their first Comic-Con back in 2013, provided a brief preview of the final 10 of the season’s 20 episodes.  Now those final episodes will hop networks to Amazon Prime, where they will all be available for binge-watching on December 30, followed later on their original network, History.  Along with the news of the change in networks and streaming date is a new trailer–check it out below.

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Last week we discussed here at borg Titan Comics’ first volume of stories spinning out of History’s Vikings series.  Vikings finished the 10-episode first half of its sixth season and the second half of its final season is expected late this year.  The next graphic novel tie-in fans of the show should check out is Vikings: UprisingThis second book in the series features even more deception, strategy, and bloodshed than in the first.  You’ll want to soak up these characters while you can.  A rumored TV spin-off is expected to come to Netflix in the future, but that show will be a 24-episode series called Vikings: Valhalla, set a century after the original series.  So the characters won’t be the same, but it will look similar as it will be filmed in the same location.  Its focus is adventures of Leif Erikson, Freydis, Harald Hardrada, and the Norman king William the Conqueror.

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As we look back on ten years of the best content we’ve covered at borg, it will be difficult to imagine the History channel’s Vikings not making our list of top television series for its faithful portrayal of historical and lore elements and its exciting drama.  Vikings season 6 has wrapped up the 10-episode first half of its season and as the wait continues for the second half of its final season, Titan Comics has two graphic novels to keep fans’ thirst for more quenched.  The first we’ll cover and preview today is Vikings: GodheadIf you like the characters developed in the show, or haven’t caught the series yet but are called to the Norse stories of axes, swords, and shields, this book is for you.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Deceit, betrayal, glory, destiny.  

At one level the back half of the 89 hours of History Channel’s Vikings series had two key components that kept viewers coming back week after week: the next scene always was completely and terrifically unpredictable, and each increase in stakes for your favorite character was just plain nail-biting.  Like walking a tightrope, at any point every character–no matter how great or small–might get wiped away.  Creator and writer Michael Hirst plucked cultural bits of Norse history and intertwined them with the written histories and mythology of historical figures to make something riveting, compelling, and permanent–the spirit of a historical saga that Viking descendants can be proud of, while also meeting the needs of fantasy viewers for the next swordplay action-adventure.  Primarily a denouement for the long six season run, the final ten episodes have arrived on Amazon Prime, with History Channel to air them at a later date.

The reach of the Norse influence, the survival of the Lothbrok line, the direction of early England and Russia.  It all intersects here.  Does the end measure up to the rest of the series?

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Every single episode of season five left us breathless and anxious for the next.  History’s Vikings is returning in early December to begin its sixth and final season, and the network just released the first trailer and poster for the show, based on the sagas of the Vikings in medieval Scandinavia, England, and France.  For followers of the series it’s goosebump-inducing stuff.  Action-filled, bloody, and dramatic, the series has seen brilliant characters in Ragnar Lothbrok, his sons Bjorn and Ivar, Lagertha, and Floki.  It’s also seen some powerful guest stars with roles taken on by the likes of Donal Logue, Linus Roache,  Adam Copeland, Kris Holden-Ried, and Gabriel Byrne.

Series star Katheryn Winnick has lead the way with her powerful, historical character Lagertha.  Credit goes to creator and showrunner Michael Hirst for his vision and smart writing, getting viewers to this season, and as the trailer reveals, some kind of a resolution between Bjorn and Ivar, for better or worse.  It’s great television, and if you haven’t been watching, you have two months left to catch up.

Alexander Ludwig is back as Bjorn, with Gustaf Skarsgård as Floki and Alex Høgh as Ivar.  Here is the new trailer for the sixth and final season of Vikings:

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Today we move from the big screen to the small screen with the Best TV Series of 2020.  If you missed it, check out our review of the Best Movies of 2020 here and the best Kick-Ass Heroines of 2020 here.  We watch a lot of television, and probably love a good series even more than a great movie.  We preview hundreds of series, but outside big franchise content you want to know about, we only review what we recommend–the best genre content we’re watching.  The theory?  If we like it, we think you may like it.  The best shows have a compelling story, a full range of emotions, great characters, tremendous action, a sharp use of humor, and all kinds of well-executed genre elements that satisfy and leave viewers feeling inspired.  Even better if we see richly detailed sets and costumes.

Without further ado, this year’s Best in Television:

Best Borg SeriesAltered Carbon (Netflix).  Showing life in a world well past the merger of the organic and inorganic via stacks placed in human individuals’ vertebrae in the back of the neck, the second season of the series further revealed the dark side of being able to live forever.  What parts of life have the most value in a cybernetic world?  What crimes emerge when body and mind can be separated and re-shuffled?  Honorable mention: Star Trek: Picard (CBD All Access)–revisiting Star Trek’s old nemeses The Borg and introducing the cyborg-like nonbiological humanoids called Synths, the same term used in the BBC’s Humans.

Best TV Borg, Best TV VillainDarth Maul (played by Sam Witwer and Ray Park), Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Disney+).  The athletic performer Ray Park provided the best-ever lightsaber duel scenes in his co-starring performance in The Phantom Menace.  Watching the animated series this year it was clear Darth Maul wasn’t just another animated character.  Add another great duel to the books–Park’s motion capture abilities live on and continue to set the bar for Star Wars action sequences, and Witwer voices a character we never want to see go away again.  Honorable mention for Best TV Villain: Grand Moff Gideon, Giancarlo Esposito, The Mandalorian (Disney+).

Best Sci-fi TV Series, Best TV Fantasy, Best Western TV SeriesThe Mandalorian (Disney+).  Not a lot needs explaining with this series, which continues to be compared to the original Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back more than anything with the Star Wars label on it since.  The Western motif is still alive, not all that hidden here in space fantasy garb.  And we won’t get started on the impact of The Child (aka Baby Yoda) now called Grogu, on the genre-loving world and beyond.  Credit Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau’s visible enthusiasm and love for the original movies for a series that only gets better with each episode, despite their short lengths.  Honorable mention for Best Sci-Fi TV Series: Star Trek: Picard (CBS All Access).

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Joseon has become a living hell.
No one will get out alive.
“We must stop it at all costs.”

Director Kim Seong-hun hid the secret to the cause of the zombie plague in the Netflix series Kingdom in plain sight, taking the first season to reveal its secret.  In season two the Crown Prince at last will return to confront his father and the clan of thugs that have kept him under guard, but not before the dead evolve into something worse.  The first South Korean series released by Netflix, Kingdom will see its second season arrive on the streaming provider next month, and Netflix has released its trailer (watch it below).  Sprouting from a well-documented, mysterious plague that killed tens of thousands of people in Hanyang (present-day Seoul) during the 19th century Joseon dynasty, the series transports the viewer to a fully realized Korea of the past, complete with opulent sets, costumes, and production values said to have cost nearly $2 million per episode.  The result matches a stunning script (based on a web series by Kim Eun-hee, who counts herself a zombie aficionado and proves it with this series), top acting from a slate of South Korea’s most award-winning actors, and cinematography showing locations most Westerners have never seen, with an exciting Braveheart of the Far East meets The Walking Dead genre action feast.

In the first season the king came down with smallpox, and on his death bed his latest wife, a young pregnant queen (played by Kim Hye-jun) schemed with her father and the king’s supposed confidante, Lord Cho (Masquerade’s Ryu Seung-ryong), to seize control of the throne, conspiring with Cho’s embedded clan of thugs to shun the true heir, the Crown Prince, played by Ju Ji-hoon (The Spy Gone North) as an earnest, Henry V-inspired leader.  The Crown Prince’s tough (and humorous) lieutenant  is back, assisting him on his journey, played by Sang-ho Kim (Octopus), with the doctor who joined them, played by Doona Bae (Jupiter Ascending), and the mysterious rifle-trained warrior, played by Kim Sung-kyu.  His past was the biggest secret that was left up in the air at the end of season one.

Deception.  Murder.  Conspiracy. 

We named Kingdom the best horror series and best import in our end of year wrap-up here at borg last year (read our full review here).  A prince who above all else looks to protect his people and lead them.  Swords and bow and arrow, and early rifles, as the only means of defense.  Gorgeous, truly cinematic imagery.  Western viewers got an incredible look at a beautiful island, forests, waterfalls, bubbling brooks, palatial estates, lakes and mountain views probably never captured for a wide modern audience, thanks to some stunning cinematography.  Fog, night, and fire eerily presented among cinematic storyboarded action sequences.  The music a blending of traditional, medieval, Eastern themes, and sweeping programmatic action movie cues.  The production sets and artistry are probably matched only by History’s Vikings of the current historical and fantasy TV series available.  And the expected horror of the zombie genre–sword beheadings were never filmed so believably.

Here is the trailer for season two of the big budget, cinematic television series, Kingdom:

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Milla Jovovich’s badass superheroine Alice in the Resident Evil franchise, from 2002’s first film through five sequels–Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004), Resident Evil: Extinction (2007), Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010), Resident Evil: Retribution (2012), and Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016)–has given us the 21st century version of Ellen Ripley and Sarah Conner.  And speaking of Connor, the trailers for the next chapter of Resident Evil, a prequel called Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, looks a lot like Terminator 3–plus lots of zombies.

Check out the first trailer and a profile on Hannah John-Kamen’s character Jill Valentine, below:

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