[Netflix] Norsemen – a Norwegian Viking comedy

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From 793 AD onwards, the Vikings played a significant role in England’s history. First they came as raiders, then as settlers. By 886 AD they controlled a vast area of northern and eastern England, later known as the Danelaw.

If you’ve ever wondered about those Viking raiders, you might enjoy the Netflix comedy Norsemen. Its eighteen episodes were filmed in Norway in Norwegian and in English. I think only the English version is available on Netflix in Britain.

Norsemen tells the story of a group of Viking raiders and their home village in Norway. Over the three series the characters’ relationships develop in some very unexpected ways. Norsemen isn’t only a comedy, it works as a drama.

I don’t know for sure, but I imagine that Norwegians probably learn a lot of Viking social history at school. It shows in this comedy, which is full of jokes about Viking beliefs, habits and traditions. I think if we had tried to make a show like that over here in Britain, it just wouldn’t have been as good. I suspect the writers would’ve assumed that viewers knew far less about Viking life.

The sets, costumes and hair styles all have an authentic, natural look to them. I don’t know anything about how historically accurate it all is, but it’s nice to look at.

One thing that isn’t historically accurate, and isn’t meant to be, is the dialogue. The characters speak with the mentality of self-aware 21st-century corporate employees. They worry about their performance and their place in the group. They say things like “isn’t modern technology marvellous?”

For me, this pairing of 8th-century rawness with modern corporate sensibilities is the best part of the humour of this show. I hope that there will be another series.

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