There are many pleasures, some admittedly base, to be taken from Vikings. The blood-and-spear fest, which stars former Calvin Klein beefcake Travis Fimmel as Ragnar, a charismatic warrior who through canny leadership of his clan of Norse fighters has risen to earl, is a visual feast of sweaty men with the physiques of CrossFit coaches. Thank you to the writers who've introduced new character Ecbert, king of Wessex (Linus Roache), a ruthless and ambitious man who likes to take meetings in his bathhouse. The scene of Ragnar slowly undressing and lowering himself into the tub was a gift to us all.
But the best of what Vikings has to offer, besides artfully, horrifically staged sequences of warfare, is fierce Lagertha. Played by Katheryn Winnick (a black-belt tae kwon do teacher in a past life), she may be the most exciting feminist character on TV. In the season premiere, Lagertha leaves Ragnar after he dares suggest she share her home with his mistress, the physically luminous but otherwise unimpressive Princess Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland). And when her lout of a husband tries to rape her, she fights him off with a slug to the jaw. ''Don't ever treat me like a whore!'' she says as he cowers in pain. ''I. Am. Your. Wife!'' Blood is spilled, lands are taken, allegiances constantly shift except for the viewers' undying loyalty to Lagertha the Great. A-