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Show You Need to Be Watching: 'Vikings'

Scandinavia: the home of IKEA, black metal and the highest standard of living in the world. Based on the popular myth of their Viking forebears' barbarism, the people of the region are strong contenders for the Comeback Civilization of the Millennium Award. But what were A-ha's ancestors really like?

That's a question that you'd have a hard time actually answering, as Vikings left very few written records. But the History Channel is still giving them a humanizing treatment with their new scripted series Vikings, and it's one of my favorite shows on TV right now.

The show was created by Michael Hirst, purveyor of other "tabloid history" shows The Tudors and The Borgias. Vikings focuses on farmer/warrior Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel), the only Norseman bold enough to suggest there might just be land beyond the water to the west. There's also his at-least-equally badass wife Lagertha (master karateka Katheryn Winnick), who fights alongside Ragnar in battle, who also possesses a hair swag factor that's rivaled only by Daenerys Targaryen.

Speaking of the Khaleesi, comparisons to Game of Thrones are inevitable -- History has even slotted Vikings at 10 on Sundays in an unabashed prod at GoT viewers to flip over right as that show is ending. But while I think Game of Thrones is a good show, at this point I'd lean toward saying Vikings is better.

It doesn't have Game of Thrones' ambitious scope, but Vikings' characters are easier to root for (and aren't imbued with Westeros' crushing sense of bleakness, either). And while its historical value and/or accuracy is not especially high, the show still provides an intriguing look at a frequently-misunderstood period of human history. There's also sporadic but highly entertaining glimpses into Norse mythology, like Odin's ominous presence on the battlefield and the mysterious "seer" character who seems to be able to communicate with the gods.

Vikings airs on History at 10 on Sundays, and you definitely should be watching it.

-- Dan Wohl /