Vikings: Valhalla Season 2 Is Bigger and Bloodier Than Ever

Vikings: Valhalla Season 2 broadens the size and scope of its world in every conceivable way.

Vikings: Valhalla. (L to R) Frida Gustavsson as Freydis Eriksdotter, Leo Suter as Harald Sigurdsson, Sam Corlett as Leif Eriksson in episode 201 of Vikings: Valhalla.
Photo: Bernard Walsh | Netflix

The Vikings: Vallhalla review is spoiler free

The first season of Vikings spin-off Vikings: Valhalla had a lot to recommend it, from its sprawling cast of major characters and nuanced exploration of the tension between politics and religion to its massive action setpieces and incredible production values. But after a first season that saw a Viking army literally bring down London Bridge, many viewers are probably wondering where on earth the second season of Valhalla could possibly go next. And the answer is: Literally everywhere.

The second season of Vikings: Valhalla is bigger and bolder in every sense of the word, from the scope of its setting and the breadth of stories it’s telling to the sheer number of characters onscreen. There are more storylines, more bloodshed, and even more physical countries than we’ve ever seen before, as the primary narrative fractures into several major arcs and each of the series’ main characters set off on new paths to find their destinies.

The story picks up right where the series’ first season left off, in the aftermath of the fall of Kattegat. Forkbeard’s (Soren Pilmark) troops have arrived in the town and taken Olaf (Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson) prisoner. Freydis (Frida Gustavsson) and Harald (Leo Suter) are in hiding. Leif (Sam Corlett) is still struggling emotionally and spiritually with Liv’s death and the violence it spawned in him  And Queen Emma (Laura Berlin) rules in England while Canute (Bradley Freegard) is off fighting the Wends, with the seemingly ever-scheming Godwin (David Oakes) as her advisor. 

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Leif sets out to find his sister and Harald when a bounty is placed on their heads by Olaf’s men and the group is forced to flee Denmark along with a group of Viking refugees who have been forced out of their villages by the advancing Christian army. But although our favorite trio is allowed to fight together one last time (in a typically epic Valhalla setpiece you probably saw in the teaser trailers), their paths subsequently diverge in unexpected ways. The three are eventually sent on separate paths, as the famed Last Daughter of Uppsala journeys to Jomsburg, a legendary Viking stronghold established by those who wish to protect the religious practices of the old ways. As for Harald and Lief, they turn eastward and set out for the city of Novgorod in the Kievan Rus, with hopes of getting King Yaroslav to support his nephew’s claim to the crown of Norway against Olaf.

As a result, many of the season’s major arcs feel fairly siloed from one another, but each ultimately works to reinforce the scope of the world we’re watching. The story of the original Vikings was largely centered around Kattegat, with occasional forays into other locations. Here, the world of the series expands to encompass continents, from the snowy steppes of Kievan Rus to the lands of the Pecheneg tribes in central Asia, and even the gates of Constantinople itself. When we tend to think about the Vikings as a people, we almost always think of them going west, toward England or even North America, but they explored much of the known world, journeying as far as northern Africa and Iran.  

On their journey east, Suter and Corlett are given the chance to explore Leif and Harald’s dynamic in new and interesting ways and their bro-y road trip vibe is more charming than it has any right to be. As the pair progresses well outside of the world of Scandanavia, they encounter an intriguing array of new people and cultures, from the gifted Muslim scholar Mariam (Hayat Kamille) to the blinded Pecheneg prisoner Kurya (Tolga Safer) who turns out to be much more than he initially seems. 

Freydis’s story is somewhat more isolated as she attempts to make a new place for herself among the people of Jomsborg, who essentially view her as a sort of mythic figure sent to them by the gods themselves. But not everyone in her idyllic new home is as dedicated to the good of all as she is, and she clashes repeatedly with the group’s leader, Harekr (Merlin’s Bradley James, serving excellent Big Bad energy), who seems to believe that only some Vikings are pure enough to be worthy of the safety of their new promised land.  

The series’ ensemble remains Valhalla’s strongest asset, and each cast member commits to their roles with enthusiasm. Suter is clearly having a blast living it up on his character’s accidental excellent adventure, as would-be king Harald haggles with Russian merchants for the furs he plans to sell to fund his army, happily boxes strangers (shirtless, of course!) for money, and literally sails a boat over a waterfall in an attempt to rich his destination more quickly. Life as a fugitive generally suits him and his expansive, adventurous spirit, and when the opportunity presents itself for him to ferry an important item from his uncle to the Emperor of Constantinople, he grasps it with open arms (and enthusiastic plans for how the journey will help his ultimate goal of claiming Norway’s throne). 

Often, it feels as though Leif’s primary job in season 2 is to sort of be dragged along in Harald’s seemingly unstoppable wake, but Corlett does yeoman’s work in making his character’s interior journey one that is as rich with meaning as the group’s physical one. As he struggles to process Liv’s death and wrestles with where his true beliefs (religious and otherwise) lie in the wake of her loss, we see him at his lowest and emotionally weakest points. And the man who is ultimately rebuilt from the repeated tragedies he experiences certainly looks a lot more like the one who will become one of the most famous explorers in history than he ever has before. 

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But it is Gustavsson’s Freydis that emerges as season 2’s standout, as her journey sees her come into her own emotionally, spiritually, and politically. Her rise as a leader—and her embrace of her destiny as Keeper of the Faith—is incredibly satisfying to watch, and despite her obvious talent for violence, it is ultimately Freydis’ care for and kindness toward others that establish her as a force to be reckoned with. Her love for her people is palpable and as she struggles to figure out how to best serve them, she uncovers even deeper reserves of strength and determination. Gustavsson is especially talented at balancing Freydis’s fierce inner fire with the genuine purity of her belief, and if there’s anyone who embodies the best elements of Viking culture, it is her. 

Is Valhalla season 2 perfect? Of course not. The series plays as fast and loose with historical accuracy at times as it always has, and several of its many subplots don’t entirely hit the mark. We spend much less time in England than we did last season, and the story there is season 2’s weakest and least interesting. An attempt on Emma’s life sends the queen on a downward spiral that eventually puts her at odds with Godwin, but this would-be clash of the titans often ends up feeling predictable rather than exciting. But, on the whole, the series remains a deeply entertaining ride, whose eight episodes breeze by in a constant stream of life-threatening battles, elaborate rituals, ridiculous schemes, and fascinating female characters who drive the series’ story as much as the men do. Where Valhalla goes next in season 3 is anyone’s guess, but its second outing certainly sets the stage for an even bigger journey.

All eight episodes of Vikings: Valhalla season 2 are available to stream on Netflix now.


4 out of 5