‘Vikings: Valhalla’ Season 1: Recap – Everything You Need To Know Before Watching Season 2


Created by Jeb Stuart, season one of “Vikings: Valhalla” took us back to the 11th century and showed us a land plagued by religious fanaticism. There were a few who knew that for the Vikings to flourish, it was imperative that they stay unified, but then there were zealots who were ready to go to any extent in the name of religion. With “Vikings: Valhalla” Season 2 coming on Thursday, let’s take a quick look at what all transpired in the first season and how the power dynamic stands as of now.

Spoilers Ahead

Why Did Vikings Want To Take Revenge From King Aethelred?

During the eleventh century, the mighty warrior clan, the Vikings had settled all over England. It felt like the golden era when the Norse legend Ragnar Lothbrok ruled the North and would once again return. More than 100 years had passed since the Vikings had left their northern homelands, but the English had still not accepted them as their own. There was a deep-rooted resentment in the Anglo-Saxon cultural group, and they wanted their king, Aethelred II, to do something about the “Viking Problem.” It was the night of Saint Brice’s Day, and the Vikings were celebrating the auspicious event when they got to know that the king’s guard had been summoned by King Aethelred. Sten, the elder brother of Harald Sigurdsson, was the leader of the king’s guard, and he was naive enough to believe that the people of England took them as their own. The king ordered the extermination of the entire Viking clan living on the island. The members of the king’s guard were murdered in the dining hall of the king’s chamber, and the entire Danelaw was set ablaze by the English forces. King Aethelred didn’t even leave the women and children, and the cries of the helpless and innocent reached the Danish shores. King Canute of Denmark decided that he would unite the Viking forces under one banner and take revenge on behalf of his brothers and sisters. The Vikings from all over the North were asked to assemble in Kattegat, but the Danish king didn’t know that an anti-pagan sentiment was rotting the very foundation of his kingdom.

Why Had The Greenlanders Come To Kattegat?

At first, when Leif Eriksson and his sister, Freydis Eriksdotter, arrived on the shores of Kattegat, people thought that they had come to participate in the war against the English. They had crossed the wild ocean and reached Kattegat after traveling for five weeks. Harald Sigurdsson was smitten by Freydis the moment he saw her. She reciprocated his feelings, and the two shared an intimate moment when Harald noticed a big scar on Freydis’ back. Freydis then narrated to him what had happened in her past and why they had come to Kattegat in the first place. Many years ago, a so-called Christian Viking came to Freydis’ house and found her all alone there; he raped her. That man carved a cross on Freydis’ back, and while doing so, he told her that he was converting her to Christianity and washing away her sins. Though it is said that there is no competition in the kingdom of God, religions have always sought to gain power for the growth of their communities. Freydis’ family believed in the old ways, which is why they were ostracized by extremists over the years.

Harald’s stepbrothers, Olaf Haraldsson and Gunnar Magnusson arrived at Kattegat because King Canute needed their expertise to win the war against the English forces. Olaf and Gunnar had helped King Aethelred build his defenses, which is why they knew exactly what their weaknesses and strengths were. Olaf was a zealot, and he was ready to help King Canute on one condition: the king had to facilitate a mass conversion, as he didn’t want to fight alongside the pagans. Canute told Olaf that he wouldn’t discriminate against his people based on religion and that he was fighting the war for the entire Viking clan. Harald knew his brother well, and he had realized that to break the deadlock between him and King Canute, he had to resort to some other way. Harald told Olaf that Canute would become a rich man after raiding the English empire, and if Olaf decided to fight alongside him, then he could also reap the benefits. A reconciliation of sorts was reached, and Olaf agreed to assist King Canute in the battle. There was widespread tension among the masses already, and when Jarl Gor, a devout pagan, refused to fight alongside the Christians, it added even more fuel to the fire. Harald once again intervened and asked people to look beyond their petty beliefs, and because he had such an impressive and commanding aura, the people agreed.

Freydis had recognized the perpetrator who had raped her, and it was none other than Gunnar Magnusson, the younger brother of Olaf. Freydis stabbed Gunnar and killed him in front of everybody. Olaf would have killed Freydis, but Estrid Hakoon, the ruler of Kattegat, came in between. Later, Harald manipulated the situation and asked Estrid to allow Leif to repay the debt owed by his sister by fighting alongside Canute.

Was King Canute Able To Conquer England?

Even before the war started, the news of King Aethelred’s death reached King Canute. The Vikings decided that even though the actual perpetrator had died, somebody had to pay the price for his sins. Edmund, King Aethelred’s young son, was crowned king, and Harald and the other Vikings decided to take him down and avenge the deaths of their people who had died on Saint Brice’s Day. Capturing England was very important for King Canute, as he had always harbored the desire to sit on the throne in London. With the help of Olaf, the Viking force hatched a plan to bring down the English Empire. Queen Emma of Normandy, the second wife of King Aethelred, was an intelligent lady, and she knew that the Vikings would plan on attacking from the south in order to surprise them, as the marshlands provided a natural defense to the English empire from that end.

Leif Eriksson wanted the world to know that he was not like his father, the Great Berserker, Eric the Red, and that is why he wanted to do something that created a distinctive image of him in the minds of the people. Leif was a keen observer, and while he was on his little retreat with Harald, he noticed that the main arch of the bridge was built to withstand heavy weights, but the English had compromised it by installing a drawbridge in the middle. Leif proposed to trap the English forces by demolishing the bridge, and Olaf almost immediately rejected the plan by calling it a suicidal mission. Canute had seen that the Greenlander spoke with a lot of confidence, and he was inclined to believe that his plan could lead them to victory. Canute allowed Leif to go ahead with his plan, and they immediately started with all the preparation. Leif, together with Harald, Skarde, Najal, Liv, and others, set out for the mission. They managed to go underneath the bridge and wait for the Vikings’ forces to arrive the next morning. Queen Emma and King Edmund saw the enemy ships stationed at some distance in the waters, but they couldn’t understand what their plan was. The Viking army arrived, and they were intentionally thumping their shields so that the voice of Leif and others hitting the bridge with their axes couldn’t be heard. As soon as the tide turned, the ships that were stationed started pulling the base of the bridge, and that’s when Emma realized what they were trying to do. The bridge gave way, and Leif’s plan to trap the English forces was successful. King Edmund was defeated, and King Canute finally fulfilled his dream of sitting on the English throne. He decided not to kill Edmund as the young king had a good reputation among the Saxon nobility, and Canute needed their support. Canute married Emma, and together with Edmund, they started governing the English empire.

Why Did Jarl Kare Want To Kill Freydis?

The ruler of Kattegat, Estrid Haakon, had taken a liking for Freydis. Haakon had noticed that, just like her husband, Freydis’ faith was also very strong. Haakon wanted Freydis to travel to Uppsala and seek her destiny. She had a deep-rooted feeling that Freydis was meant for greatness. Uppsala was the most sacred site for the pagans, and Estrid wanted Freydis to pay a visit as soon as possible because she knew that there was a chance the animosity between the two religious groups might lead to its destruction. Freydis agreed to Estrid’s request and started her journey, having absolutely no idea of the perils that awaited her. On the way, her troop was attacked by a berserker who used to hunt pilgrims going to Uppsala. Freydis was helped by a healer, who gave her refuge, and after encountering many problems and challenges, she finally reached Uppsala. Freydis wanted to know her destiny; therefore, she was made to perform a ritual by the priests. She was given a drink, after which she started hallucinating. In her visions, she saw an old man, who was probably a pagan soothsayer, and he said that she was the last daughter of Uppsala, who carried the sword. The priests gave Freydis a sword, and when she encountered Jarl Kare on her journey back, she understood the piece of metal held great significance. Kare had told Freydis to go back to Kattegat and inform Estrid Haakon that he was coming for them. Kare went to Uppsala as he wanted to meet the Old One, the soothsayer, and know for himself if it was his cross that carried the sword or Freydis’. The old soothsayer told him what he had told Freydis, and that ended up provoking a vengeful Kare. Kare destroyed Uppsala and killed all the priests and pilgrims present there. When Olaf and Kare joined forces in the 7th episode of “Vikings: Valhalla,” we came to know that hatred for the pagans was something they had in common. Kare disapproved of the beliefs of pagans and referred to them as heathens. After wreaking havoc in Uppsala, Kare aimed to make the pagans of Kattegat meet with a similar fate. Kare believed that it was he who carried the sword, contrary to what the old soothsayer had told. Olaf wanted to become the ruler of Norway, and for that, he needed Kare’s help in conquering Kattegat. Kare told Olaf that he would help him in his battle if he agreed to build a great church in Kattegat. Kare wanted to ethnically cleanse the place, and for that, he knew he needed to kill the last daughter of Uppsala at all costs.

Was Olaf Able To Take Over Kattegat?

Olaf had planned that he would use Kare’s vengeance to his benefit and let him fight his war. Kare attacked Kattegat with all his might and after killing Estrid Haakon he finally came face-to-face with Freydis. Kare always believed that the girl would be no match for him, but he was proved wrong the moment he entered into combat with her. Freydis killed Kare and severed his head from his body. Olaf, who had been waiting on the sidelines, attacked once he saw that Kare’s army had done the required damage. Because of his cunning plan, Olaf was able to take over Kattegat without a single casualty. Olaf was hailed as the king of Norway, but his happiness was short-lived. Sweyn Forkbeard, who was ruling on behalf of his son, King Canute, came to know where Queen Aelfgifu had stationed the fleet of ships. Olaf had made a deal with Queen Aelfgifu earlier, and he was quite certain that she wouldn’t let anybody use it against him. In fact, he knew that there was a possibility that he would have the fleet under his command once he took Kattegat. Forkbeard reached the shores of Kattegat and seeing such a huge fleet, Olaf’s men abandoned him to save their lives.

Harald and Freydis were able to save their lives. They knew that they had to go into hiding and once again strategize to gain some leverage. Leif was alive, but the death of the love of his life, Liv, had left him deranged and vengeful. Sweyn Forkbeard, Queen Emma, and King Edmond sat on the English throne, and they waited for King Canute to return from the battle.

With Olaf still alive, we would get to witness a battle between him and Harald for the throne of Norway, probably in season 2 of “Vikings: Valhalla.” Olaf was a religious fanatic, and until the time he was there, any pagan, including Leif and Freydis, wasn’t safe. We have seen how far Olaf could go to fulfill his religious agendas, and we believe that he would continue hunting the pagans in “Vikings: Valhalla” Season 2 as well. It is said that vengeance has the power to transform a person, and that’s why we believe that we might get to witness a change in the sensibilities of Leif from now on. Freydis would play a crucial role, as it is prophesied that she would be the one to carry the sword. It would be interesting to see whether Harald is able to find some way to crush his adversaries or if he is forced to reconcile with Olaf.

See More: ‘Vikings: Valhalla’ Season 2: Ending, Explained: Was Olaf Able To Capture Freydis, Leif, And Harald?

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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