Netflix review: ‘Norsemen’

Norsemen

I really wanted to like Norsemen, a Viking Age comedy produced by the Norwegian NRK network. The series is filmed at the reconstructed Viking farm at Bukkøy, which is associated with the North Way Interpretational Center at Avaldsnes, Karmøy, Norway. Avaldsnes is the parish where my great-grandfather Walker was born and baptized. I’ve been to the Viking Farm, so when I watch this show I’m looking at a familiar place.

In the first episode, a shipload of Viking raiders under the command of Chieftain Olav return to their home in Norway. Olav’s brother, Orm, has been in charge in his absence, and he’s so bad at it that old men are reduced to jumping off a cliff to reduce the number of mouths to feed. Orm’s wife, Frøya, was along on the raid as a warrior, while Orm himself is pretty much useless with weapons. She despises him. Olav’s chief warrior is named Arvid. Olav arranges for Arvid to marry a widow – or rather, she becomes a widow after he’s killed her husband. But they find themselves incompatible. Meanwhile, the chief slave, Kark (saga fans will recognize that classical reference), gives instruction to the newest slave, Rufus of Rome, a professional actor who seems to think he’s on a pleasure cruise and keeps complaining about the accommodations.

What you’ve got here, essentially, is the History Channel’s Vikings series, crossed with The Office. The costumes and hair are intentionally similar to those on the Vikings show (which is to say, even worse. Black leather, which real Vikings never had, abounds). But the dialogue is straight out of The Office, with people talking in 21st century jargon. That dialogue concerns a lot of killing, which is played for laughs, and it’s also very smutty. The program was filmed in both Norwegian and English, so what you see on Netflix is neither dubbed nor subtitled.

I watched three episodes. The first two, which mostly introduced us to the characters, seemed to me kind of rudderless. But the plot began functioning at the end of Episode Two, and I went on to watch the third one. I could probably continue, because the story got more interesting once I detected a plot, and realized that the characters I’d felt sorry for were pretty much as awful as the characters I’d hated. What it boils down to is that this is one of those shows about appalling people whom I don’t care about at all. And considering the level of profanity (very, very) black humor, and casual violence, plus a little nudity, I don’t think I’ll continue with it. And I don’t recommend it to our readers.

12 thoughts on “Netflix review: ‘Norsemen’”

  1. So was that long hall with the weird shaped roof really accurate? I know they were kind of bowed but it seemed to have some extra curves in the roof. Very much agree that it built off of the history channel which is what I worried about with that series. Now people think the shaved hair, etc. is the truth,

    1. Interesting you should ask about the “hall.” What they use as a great hall in the series is actually a reconstructed boat house, intended for housing a ship. It’s the only building on the site suitable for using as a great hall, and that in fact is how the museum people use it, for fundraising events, etc.

  2. I think you missed the point here. The show is supposed to be stereotypical, not 100% true-to-life. It is a parody, in the spirit of Monty Python, and more recently The Office. If you care about factuality, then you watched the wrong show. From the first five minutes I realized the comedic intent of the show, which I imagine anyone with some sense would. Why then does it matter how “real” it is? The power of this show lies in its beautiful dry wit, not in plot. Think of this show as an exaggerated comedic depiction if “everyday” Viking life. The plot is slow-moving for this very reason. Anyways, that’s my two cents. I think you missed out on a great show.

    1. If I gave the impression that my main objection was the costumes, I expressed myself poorly. I could enjoy the costumes if I took them as a visual parody on the History Channel series. What really put me off was the casual murder and the smutty language. I could perhaps tolerate those things for dramatic purposes, but I’m not broad-minded enough to find them funny.

    2. Your two cents were what I was looking for after binging this show. I loved it for what it was. I laughed out loud several times. Suspension of disbelief seems to be harder to obtain for many people. This is unfortunate because the joy I get out of shows like this and ridiculous comedies is something I treasure. Everyone needs to kick back a little and just enjoy. Great comment my friend.

  3. Kudos to you for getting through three episodes. I had a tough time getting through three minutes. The alleged humor is sophomoric, mean-spirited, and falls as flat as a Viking sword blade.

    I loved the Detectorists BTW.

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