The third season of this Scandinavian comedy is out and it’s time for a review.
Welcome to Norheim, the place to be in the 790s. We’ve got pillaging, we’ve got slavery, we’ve got a lot of unpleasant sexual practices, and our hygiene is second to none. In fact, our hygiene IS none. The leader of the village is Olav (Henrik Mestad), a celebrated raider who found a route to sail to the West of Norheim. His wife is Hildur (Marian Saastad Ottesen). Orm (Kåre Conradi), the chief’s brother, is a sneaky coward who stays home most of the time while his wife, Frøya (Silje Torp), goes out on raids with the Chief and the Chief’s right-hand man, Arvid (Nils Jørgen Kaalstad). Other notables are Rufus (Trond Fausa Aurvåg), a Roman actor who is enslaved in the village, Kark (Øystein Martinsen), a freed slave with Stockholm Syndrome, Jarl Varg (Jon Øigarden), a rival Viking lord, and Liv (Kristine Riis), Arvid’s bossy wife. Come for the mead, stay because you’ve been murdered.
This show’s production is an accomplishment in itself. The show is filmed in Norway and is shot simultaneously in Norwegian and English by shooting every scene twice. Given how many times most shows have to do comedy takes, that must be grueling, particularly when the result is this good, even in the cast’s second language.
The comedy in this show mostly derives from the fact that the Vikings in the show act almost completely antithetical to their common image, but probably more accurate to their actual historical counterparts. They have a very modern style of humor, reminiscent of The Office or Parks and Recreation, except that they’re usually talking about things like the rules for killing slaves or that rape is a big part of “their brand.” Norsemen treats their pillaging, which mostly happens off-screen, like a job and focuses instead on their day-to-day lives, particularly about the politics of the village. It’s the conflict between the subject matter and the tone that leads to most of the funny moments. Similarly, the personalities of the characters, who are usually insecure or contemplative, clashes with the fact that they often are cutting people in half.
The production values on the show are extremely impressive, from the costuming and the sets to the blood and gore. The writing is pretty consistent, but varies everything enough that you never feel like it’s just repeating the same kind of jokes over and over. There is a decent amount of character development as the show goes on, with characters having to change roles with the times. The first season focuses on the efforts of Orm and Rufus to try and move the main Viking industry from “pillaging” to “theater,” which works about as well as you’d think, while the second season deals more with the growing rift between Norheim and a vengeful Jarl Varg. The third season takes an even more surprising turn, but I actually think it’s best saved as a surprise.
Overall, honestly, it’s just a fun show. I really recommend giving it a try. It won’t be everyone’s taste, but I think it’s the best thing out of Norway since they got rid of Maelstrom at Epcot.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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