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Ever since Vikings premiered in 2013, inevitable comparisons to Game of Thrones have followed. Although Thrones is obviously not historical to real life, both shows are set in a period from the past and battles for power are central to their stories. How does Vikings' Clive Standen feel about the comparisons? Standen has weighed in, saying:
It's a bit unfair really Game of Thrones is a fantasy show. It has dragons and things. It all comes from the imagination of one man's mind. Whereas Vikings is a historical drama. It's documented in history. It's a very, very broad spectrum of history. But... these are all real characters that lived and breathed and walked the earth. They're all worthy of the history books. Michael Hirst obviously spins his writing imagination to kind of put it all into one TV show.
He certainly has a point. The two shows may share similarities, but the differences are just as pronounced. As Clive Standen mentions to Fox News, Vikings is based on history. While George R.R. Martin has teased the historical events he was inspired by, Game of Thrones does not have to stay true to them.
That is something Vikings must loosely follow. For a new fan, a quick Google search of Ragnar would reveal his ultimate fate. No matter how much time went in between, you know while watching that Vikings will stay pretty true to that. The same can be said of many of Vikings' characters, some of whose fates are lesser known.
Clive Standen continued discussing the differences between Game of Thrones and Vikings. He shared his thoughts on how Vikings has portrayed its namesake. Standen said:
We're not going to have flying dragons around. [And] I think this is the first time that the Viking history has been done justice. It's been looked at from the inside out. With the type of people that Vikings are, I suppose with their gods and monsters and the pagan religion, it does seem quite fantastical at times. This is what this race of people really did believe in. They believed the gods walked the earth with them. . . . I think it's nice to be able to show Vikings in their true light. They didn't write much down in history.
Vikings has certainly given curious minds an intriguing reference point for Viking history. The series has always been evocative of presenting the culture in a highly absorbing manner. No matter how you feel about the characters' actions in the series, it is told from their perspective. It is a take that is also uncompromising. No one fits the direct bill of a hero.
On Game of Thrones, identifying the heroes and the villains is a far easier narrative to follow. Vikings fans may see a connection in the ferocity of Daenerys and Lagertha. That is sort of where those comparisons end. For instance, the through line of Thrones' moral tone is much different.
As for what the Viking people believed, this is where the show has always walked a thin line. Game of Thrones resoundingly shows the fantastical, while Vikings flirts with it. The History series has traditionally taken viewers into the mind's eye of a protagonist, as they see things relating to their beliefs.
No dragons have shown up though, and hints of the real gods walking among them has received a wink or two. Like Game of Thrones, many characters on Vikings take action due to their beliefs. So far, viewers have not seen a sword light aflame as visual confirmation of a mythological element. That is Game of Thrones' territory.
Fans of the HBO hit have reason to check out the History hit. There is something there for each of them. Find out how Rollo's journey fares when the second half of Season 5 continues. New episodes of Vikings Season 5B air Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on History. The show is among many returning this fall and during the midseason.