History's historical drama Vikings premiered in 2013, and was the first foray into regular scripted programming for a network that is better known for reality fare and WWII documentaries. The series proved to be an instant success, creating a large fan base with its compelling storytelling and visual effects that often rival that of cable TV’s prestige dramas such as Game of Thrones. The series has so far produced three well-received and action-packed seasons, with season 4 now on the way.
Created by Michael Hirst -- who has been at the helm of such historical dramas as The Tudors, Camelot and The Borgias -- the Ireland-based show centers on Viking Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel), a legendary Norse hero, and his journey from being a farmer to the eventual King of the Vikings in Denmark with the help of his family and fellow warriors through several successful raids in England.
Season 4, which was announced by Hirst before season 3 had aired, began production near Dublin in April of this year. The show’s high ratings have led the network to expand the upcoming fourth season to a total of 20 episodes, which is up four from its previous episode order.
Per TVLine, the move means that the season will be split in half, with the first 10 episodes kicking off on Thursday, February 18, and the remaining 10 premiering later in 2016 in a strategy that is being increasingly employed by basic cable networks. History had this to say about what fans can expect from the latest season:
"Season 3 of Vikings culminated with the battle in Paris, where Ragnar seized victory from the jaws of defeat — but still returns to Kattegat dangerously ill. Thoughts of his death galvanize the forces who seek to succeed him as king, including his wife Queen Aslaug and his oldest son, Bjorn. Meanwhile, Lagertha continues power struggles with her calculating, former second in command, Kalf; Rollo betrays his Vikings heritage by remaining in Frankia; and Floki is seized for his brutal actions to the Christian priest Athelstan."
The network previously released a dramatic trailer for season 4 during this summer’s Comic-Con, which emphasized the recent betrayals and teased the attempts by Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland) and Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) to rise to power. The latest promotional device includes season 4 key art that shows Ragnar at the center of a large table surrounded by his family, close allies and foes, reminiscent of The Last Supper, with the Vikings replacing Jesus and his disciples.
Season 4 will also include three new cast additions: Yidu (Dianne Doan), a new character who fascinates Ragnar; King Harold Finehair (Peter Franzén), a complex man who seeks to become King of Norway and a potential rival to Ragnar; and his violent brother, Halfdan the Black (Jasper Pääkkönen).
Vikings has been lambasted by some for its historical inaccuracies, but Hirst has managed to create a sprawling drama about an era that hasn't been explored countless times before, and which few people know much about. Vikings may be his most successful series to date, giving History a reputable start for future scripted endeavors.
Vikings season 4 premieres on Thursday, February 18 at 10 p.m. on History.