The best of what Vikings has to offer, besides artfully, horrifically staged sequences of warfare, is fierce Lagertha. Played by Katheryn Winnick (a black-belt tae kwon do teacher in a past life), she may be the most exciting feminist character on TV.
Vikings exceeds expectations, so long as those expectations aren't up in Game of Thrones territory. What could be a silly exercise in quasi-historical swordplay is instead an earnest, tightly told family drama.
The series greatest strength is the sense that we're visiting a culture, a people that has been so mysterious; that we're seeing both the mundane and extraordinary aspects of what a Viking's life may have been.
Vikings has emerged in its second season as a series of appreciably higher quality. Its characters and storytelling, all within a world quite unlike any other on the TV landscape, have gone far beyond the cardboard stage.