The Daily Gamecock

Review: 'Vikings: Valhalla' season 2 captivates viewers with explorative plotlines, emphasis on character development

<p>A photo illustration of a person watching "Vikings: Valhalla" on a television screen. The series is a spin-off of the popular History Channel show "Vikings," and its second season aired on Netflix on Jan. 12, 2023.</p>
A photo illustration of a person watching "Vikings: Valhalla" on a television screen. The series is a spin-off of the popular History Channel show "Vikings," and its second season aired on Netflix on Jan. 12, 2023.

Show: "Vikings: Valhalla"

Release Date: January 12, 2023

Season: 2

Episodes: 8

Genre: Historical drama, action, fiction

Rating: A-

The return of the Netflix original series "Vikings: Valhalla" once again takes viewers on an explorative journey through the Nordic landscape we have grown to both fear and admire. The second season arrived on the Netflix streaming platform earlier this year, and it is no surprise that the series has amassed close to 81 million hours of watch time among Netflix subscribers globally. 

Since the dawn of the first season in 2022 (a spin-off of the original "Vikings" series from the History Channel), viewers were exposed to the scenic beauty of a Nordic paradise alongside brutal conflicts between ethnic groups and religions yearning for the European crown.

Sticking to the themes of deception, vigor and bravery, season two follows each of the show's protagonists as they embark on their individual soul-searching endeavors. Forced to ponder their purposes after the devastation of the realm's capital, our beloved trio from season one, Freydis, Leif and Harald, become separated by their differing destinies. Yet, all of their expeditions have common goals looming overhead including avoiding Valhalla’s sword and fighting as if Odin is always watching. 

While these intentions prove straightforward for Olaf Haraldsson and his plunder-mentality, others like Freydis struggle to balance a gentle heart with the need for power in a cruel world. These unique yet interconnected storylines are what give "Vikings: Valhalla" its reputation as a one-of-a-kind viewing experience. 

Following the events of season one's finale, Freydis, Leif and Harald are left battered after the fall of Kattegat, the central hub of the Viking world. Forced to flee the pillaged city, the characters part ways, unsure if they will ever be united in the mortal world again. While each arc is uniquely riveting, Leif’s story in particular proves to resonate with the audience. 

After the traumatic death of his lover, Liv, Leif unleashes a brutal fighter persona as he rampages the remaining raiders in an emotional display of vengeance. Formerly established as a character who relies more on brain than brawn, this sudden urge for violence propels Leif into a journey of self-discovery as he sails toward Constantinople alongside Harald. 

Although the reunited men board the boat with differing fates in mind, the electric chemistry between the two friends proves to be a healing factor for Leif, as he is reminded of the beauty in humanity.

The perilous journey across Scandinavia obliges Leif to ward off bandits, navigate treacherous waters, lead a group of outlaws and learn to love again. It is a beautiful story of growth that leaves viewers satisfied with the character’s revival across the eight episodes. Although viewers may not relate to the hardships of the Viking era, Leif's adversities throughout the season are a point of connection between the character and the audience, who all know what it is like to struggle and persevere. 

On the other hand, Freydis’ storyline focuses on her development into a strong, confident warrior for both herself and the people she serves. Following advice from the prophetic Seer, Freydis travels to Jomsborg, one of the only intact Pagan towns remaining in the realm. 

Deemed the "Keeper of the Faith” in season one, Freydis' presence is seen by the people of Jomsborg as a sign of peace and protection from the Gods. However, its rulers prove to have malicious intentions beneath the surface. 

In a thrilling final battle, Freydis claims victory over the Jomsborg traitors and also strikes down the forces of the Christian raider, Olaf. In a rather conventional resolution, the innocent citizens of Jomsborg are rescued and their faith is returned thanks to Freydis’ bravery.

While Frediys' brave actions ultimately saved the village, they also helped her make peace with the title of "Keeper of the Faith." Previously, this was an identity she resented rather than embraced due to the stigma associated with Paganism. Yet, this shift in confidence was pleasing to watch unfold, as viewers can relate to feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty surrounding their own identities. 

The tales of Leif and Freydis represent only a few of the many plotlines throughout season two, which all encompass themes of love, loss and the meaning of power. Overall, this season’s continuation of character development perfectly builds off of the precedent set by the former. With season three on the horizon for next year, only Odin can decide the fate of the characters we have grown so attached to.