Tag Archive: Vikings


Review by C.J. Bunce

How do you tell the disjointed and gap-filled history of the Vikings in the era of Erik the Red’s son Leif Eriksson?  Much like Vikings series creator Michael Hirst had done for his award-winning series: by stitching it together with good storytelling that’s all in the spirit of the legends and historical accounts.  Leif’s greatest deed in the first season of the sequel series Vikings: Valhalla didn’t really happen in history, but it results in an episode that should count as one of the best strategy and siege depictions in TV history.  The storytelling over eight episodes is so tightly written and the action moves at such a clip that you probably won’t notice the production, costumes, and props are just as authentic and grand as in Vikings.

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With season six only just released last year, fans eagerly await its sequel series, Vikings: ValhallaNetflix released two earlier trailers (we previewed them here and here).  Now we have the final trailer as we inch closer to the first season debut.  This trailer provides more insight on how the series plans to showcase lead characters Leif Erikson (Sam Corlett), his sister Freydis Eriksdotter (Frida Gustavsson), and prince Harald Sigurdsson (Leo Suter). Will Vikings: Valhallawith a new showrunner and new characters and story, be as completely believable as the first series and true enough to the ancient sagas of fierce warriors, gods of every stature, and clan intrigue? We’ll find out later this month.  But first, check out this new, and final trailer for Vikings: Valhalla:

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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: ValhallaNetflix has released a new trailer for the series, following the first from last September (we previewed it here).  Check it out below.

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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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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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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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Once a year at borg we ask: What makes a great screen heroine? It’s time for borg′s annual look at the Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines in film and television.  Despite delays in releases due to the covid pandemic, nothing kept Hollywood from including great female characters on the screen, even if that meant moving movies to the small screen for a while. We’re highlighting the very best from a slate of fantastic heroines, with characteristics to learn from and root for.  Determined, decisive, loyal, brave, smart, fierce, strong, you’ll find no one here timid or weepy, but all rely on their individual skills to beat the odds and overcome any obstacle that comes their way.  Over the years we have expanded the list to include any tough, savvy, gritty character played by a woman, so villains are welcome here, too.  (Want to see previous years’ kickass genre heroines to see how 2020 compares?  Here are 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015). Some may be frazzled, put-upon, war-weary, or human, but all have fought, some against difficult circumstances, others against personal demons (literally, figuratively, or both), and some against gun and laser fire.  And they all showed what a tough, kick-ass, and often badass, character is about.

This year we add masked superheroines, a CDC epidemiologist, aliens, assassins, martial artists, warriors, cyborgs, a telephone operator, an engineer, a bounty hunter, and a frog and a pig–with a roster evenly split between television and movie characters. Credit goes to both the writers, costumers, and other creators of the characters and the actors and performers that brought them all to life.

These are the Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines of 2020:

Bo-Katan Kryze (The Mandalorian, Star Wars: The Clone Wars).  In the animated series she would let nothing stand in her way. In a galaxy with villains like Grand Admiral Thrawn and Grand Moff Gideon, we’re lucky to have Bo-Katan on our side. Leading a team to find the Darksaber and restore Mandalore, she’s also willing to enlist a lone straggler, and help him for his efforts. With Katee Sackhoff, the actress behind Starbuck, in the armor, the coolness factor goes up by a factor of 100. Great heroines are great leaders, and, like Bo-Katan, they wield an incredible arsenal of skills. (Disney/Lucasfilm)

Nicole Haught in Wynonna Earp

Sheriff Nicole Haught (Wynonna Earp).  Katherine Barrell’s tough, savvy, and friendly sheriff is one of the best reasons to watch Wynonna Earp, now four seasons running. She’s the girlfriend of Wynonna’s sister Waverly, she is plugged into the local supernatural happenings, and she’s always available to lend a hand, when she’s not carrying out her sheriff duties. She’s an investigator who is loyal, driven, and smart. She’s also fun and friendly, making her the heart of the series. In a show about supernatural people, she holds her own as law enforcer simply by her own human wits. (Syfy)

Seven of Nine (Star Trek Picard).  More than forty years of Star Trek have revealed some exceptional women leaders. This year we were lucky to see the re-appearance of one of the best, a character who was captured as a child and trapped in what amounts to a technological cult. With the help of a strong captain, Seven was able to break free, and re-learn what it means to be human. This year that meant helping a legendary former admiral, avenge the death of her closest friend, and fight for good long after her call to duty. (CBS All Access)

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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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Review by C.J. Bunce

After World War II, in essence a world stunned with death and destruction emerged to try to forge its way into the future after one of the planet’s most trying challenges.  Inspiring tens of millions was the true-life voyage of Norway’s Thor Heyerdahl, a pioneer made of the same mettle as Shackleton and Hillary.  Heyerdahl was a student in Oslo who spent a year in Polynesia, where he developed the idea that peoples like the ancient Incas could have traveled across the Pacific Ocean and settled the area easier than saling from the west.  After a decade trying to prove his hypothesis, Heyerdahl assembled a team of six men, five Norwegians and a Swede, and built a balsa raft consistent with parts and construction the Polynesians would have had available centuries before, which he named Kon-Tiki after an Incan sun god.  His challenge?  To complete the voyage from South America to Polynesia without assistance from modern technology.

Heyerdahl’s 1948 account of the voyage, Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific in a Raft, became one of the best-selling books of all time (selling more than 56 million copies), his 1950 documentary of the voyage, Kon-Tiki, earned an Oscar, and an impressive 2012 theatrical adaptation, also named Kon-Tiki, was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign film.  Both of these films are now streaming on Amazon Prime.

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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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