First Impressions: Norsemen

Discovering a good show to binge on Netflix…

Pretty soon, I’m going to have to review something I don’t like, otherwise this blog will become a vehicle for me to bathe films and TV I like in praise. With that said, here is a show I’ve just started watching which is very good. Norsemen is a comedy series set in the Viking period in Norway, and follows the lives of several Norse Viking raiders in the town of Norheim. The series is a pastiche of several shows on at the moment, including Vikings and The Last Kingdom. In much the same way that What we do in the shadows dispels the mystique of vampires, Norsemen punctures the romantic idea of rough manly warriors, by portraying these raiders as normal people with sensitives who talk about their feelings and stumble over their words. Having the main actor be much less traditionally good-looking also pokes fun at the slim leads with eye liner and magnificent hair from Vikings.

Most of the comedy comes from these characters reacting to old fashion traditions and customs with modern sensibilities, like the warrior Arvid, who, coming home from rape and pillage, talks about feeling lonely as everyone around him marries and settles down. However, there can be downsides to this modern perspective. For example, Rufus the slave acts as though he is on a commercial trip when he arrives at the village, and constantly puts his foot in it by running his mouth, seemingly unaware that he has been taken as a slave at all. He complains and demands, and it leads to some very funny moments, but the illogical way his character acts rubs me the wrong way.

The physical comedy is another strong point, and there are several slapstick jokes that work well because they play on our expectations. For example, when Arvid’s new wife drags him to a dinner party with another couple, the playful banter drives him to punch his wife’s friend in the face. Within the world of the story, the audience can sympathise because it isn’t modern day, and modern sensibilities don’t make sense within that world, but as the characters act in a modern way, the punch is still a huge deal.

The series is written and directed by Jon Iver Helgaker and Jonas Torgersen, and they bring a lot of humour to the script in the characters awkward interactions. The fact that these tough warriors act so timid and awkward creates a lot of humour, and the contrast between how these characters and the proud warlords from Vikings is apparent. Oddly enough they also feel more relatable, more like real people going through problems. The show even uses the same style of music as Vikings. Aside from the writing Helgaker and Torgersen use excellent cinematography to showcase the setting. Several of the overhead drone shots are incredibly beautiful, although I think that the dialogue scenes could be filmed much more interestingly, and perhaps add to the humour. For example, It would be great to shoot something mundane in slow motion or fast editing, similar to the way Hot Fuzz uses dramatic editing to make fun of action films.

I haven’t finished the series yet, but I’m interested to see where it goes, and side from a few issues, I enjoyed it quite a bit. It’s a decent bit of comic television and for the budget and scale, looks relatively high quality. The costumes are a bit bland, but that also adds to the charm of the show, it’s not interesting in complete historical accuracy or huge production values, this is a show that entertains first. The series has gotten a bit of attention online, but I think it deserves more, and I’d be interested what they could do with a larger budget, so If you get a chance, check this one out!

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