This opening letter is from the Den of Geek x Vikings: Valhalla Special Edition Magazine created in paid partnership with Netflix. You can read the full digital issue here!
Welcome to Vikings: Valhalla! It’s hard to believe it has been over three years since I received an email asking if I would be interested in exploring some sort of continuation of Michael Hirst’s epic series that had just wrapped after six seasons. As I sit here now it’s hard to believe my first reaction was: “No way I would do that.” Don’t get me wrong, I was a huge fan of the original series, but /Vikings/ had left the bar, in terms of character and action, so high you could hardly see it. Following that was a tough assignment.
But I couldn’t argue that while the original series had shown us the start of the Viking era, it had left us with an unanswered question: what would its end look like? And those years were also filled with some of the most memorable Vikings of all time; names like Leif Eriksson, his fiery sister, Freydis, King Canute II, Emma of Normandy, and Harald Sigurdsson, who would one day be known as Hardrada, the “Hard Ruler.” I also couldn’t argue that Valhalla fit my style of writing—fast paced, big in character-driven action, with twists and turns in every story.
The plan from the beginning was to keep the DNA of the original—its attention to character and action—but be bold enough to create a new series, with a new cast, new themes, and that a new audience could watch without having to have seen every episode of the first. This would require finding an exciting new entry point in the Viking timeline, far enough from the original that it could afford us a fresh start.
It turned out I only had to go 125 years.
In my research, I came across a report of an archeological excavation at St. John’s College, Oxford. There, below an old chapel, 35 skeletons, all males, and of great physical stature, had been discovered. DNA analysis showed that they were Vikings and wound marks on the bones suggested they had been subjected to violence and ambush. Most importantly, the date of their deaths was traced to the year 1002 AD when the Saxon King Aethelred the Unready ordered the massacre of all Danes (Vikings) living in England.
And there it was, the St. Brice’s Day Massacre. A blip on the scale of English history for sure, but for the writer in me, a doorway into our new story. What if one of my characters had been there? What if he or she survived? How would their Viking kin, who were locked in a religious civil war in Scandinavia, react? Would they put aside their religious and ideological differences and remember that at the center of their being they were Vikings? Would they come together to avenge this slaughter of their people? The answer of course was, yes.
And what if Leif and Freydis were on another mission, a personal mission that brought them to Kattegat just as this great army of revenge was about to set off. And what if these two stories collided in a way that jeopardized the success of both. Well, there you have the start to Valhalla.
It has been my pleasure these last three years to work with master filmmakers in Ireland and Canada who have poured their passion into this new endeavor. Their skills are on full display in every frame of every episode. As are the talents of our great international cast, Sam Corlett (Leif Eriksson), Frida Gustavsson (Freydis Eriksdotter), Leo Suter (Harald Sigurdsson), Bradley Freegard (King Canute), Laura Berlin (Emma of Normandy), David Oakes (Earl Godwin), Caroline Henderson (Jarl Haakon), and many, many others.
Valhalla was made to live alongside /Vikings/. To tell a new and final part of the Viking saga. It has truly been a joy to work alongside this immensely talented cast and crew. We hope you enjoy watching it as much as we have enjoyed making it.
January 15, 2022