Episode 1 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 2 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 3 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 4 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 5 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 6 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Regarded by many as the greatest military force of its time, the Roman Empire stretched up to 5 million square kilometers at its height of power. Back in 9 AD, the Roman Empire was a fearful, unstoppable machine.
As this machine rolled into Germania however, the Romans found themselves written into the history books thanks to a fight that changed the course of history forever.
This pivotal moment serves as the backdrop for Netflix’s latest historical epic Barbarians. While the event itself is epic, Netflix’s 6-part German series is anything but. Instead, this series is enjoyable enough but also pales by comparison to historical juggernauts Vikings and The Last Kingdom, which both surpass this one in terms of scope and storytelling.
It’s a shame in some ways because the claustrophobic setting of the Teutoburg Forest does do quite well to hide the lack of set variation and could have proven to be a great veil to play out a more dramatic story than the one we’re served. The same locations crop up time and again, juxtaposing the otherworldly supernatural and seer elements which are never expanded on fully.
Having said that though, Barbarians thrives with its bubbling conflict between the Roman and Germanic forces. In the midst of this simmering cauldron of tension lies one of our central characters, Arminius. The adoptive son of new Roman senator Varus has quite the history with the Germanic people. Across the 6 episodes, he finds himself conflicted over where his allegiance really lies.
While the line between enemy and friend blurs for him, for everyone else this is very much a black and white story. The Romans are very obviously the bad guys with the Germanic people serving as the plucky underdogs striving for freedom.
The story – and the conflict to follow – really begins with a simple mischievous robbery. Lovers Thusnelda and Folkwin steal a golden Roman eagle statue from the midst of a Roman camp, which eventually sees everything escalate to a big, climactic battle on the edge of the forests in episode 6.
Along the way, the show explores an underwhelming love triangle, shaky allegiances between clans and simple archetypal characters that never really grow.
Those aforementioned problems with character growth ultimately hinder this show and hold it back from the aspiring heights it could have achieved. There’s not a single memorable character here, with both Thusnelda and Folkwin feeling like shadows of the central protagonists in Vikings.
In fact, the entire time Barbarians feels like it’s living in the shadows of Amazon Prime’s historical series and never pulls the trigger to allow you to embrace and empathise with any of these characters.
Segestes for example, remains slimy and despicable right the way through the show with no comeuppance. Varus doesn’t have a lot going on and despite a tease for one final one on one fight – it never arrives. That’s to say nothing of the cliffhanger ending either which serves as a cherry atop this formulaic cake.
For all of its problems, there’s definitely something compelling with Barbarians to keep you hooked to watch more. To be honest, a lot of this driving force comes from the desire to get to the good stuff at the end; knowing the epic Battle of the Teutoburg Forest is on the horizon. This expectation does come with a bit of disappointment, despite how effectively the battle is shot and played out.
This is ultimately one of those shows that’s very enjoyable in the moment but also instantly forgettable once you’re finished with it. It’s certainly a shame because there’s definitely potential with this – especially with a possible second season to expand the setting and ideas.
Given Netflix’s trigger-happy cancellation rate though, it’s hard to say whether this historical drama is good enough for Flix to give the green-light to for season 2. For now, we’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, Barbarians is an enjoyable enough series but unlikely to be regarded as one of the better historical dramas this year.
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Verdict - 6.5/10
6 thoughts on “Barbarians – Full Season 1 Review”
Mounted romans shown with stirrups – several hundred years before they were invented
If the review did come across as whiny or self-entitled then I do apologize, that absolutely was not intentional at all. It is true that Vikings mashed together plot lines but personally I felt the first 3 seasons in particular managed to do a good job weaving the supernatural elements in with the more grounded historical fiction. There were also some pretty spectacular fights too – especially the siege in Paris.
By comparison though I felt The Last Kingdom hit the ground running from the first season onwards and that’s doing fantastically. I really hope Barbarians is renewed for a second season as there’s a lot of history here that’s rife to be explored. As I mentioned in the review, I just felt like this 6-part series didn’t quite do the source material justice and there’s always a danger this one will be cancelled before we get a chance to see this show grow and evolve over time.
Our score of 6.5/10 reflects an above-average rating meaning we do recommend people check this show out. The great thing with a review though is that there can always be differing opinions and I respect you giving yours about the show and our review. It’s one of the best parts of this gig and I really appreciate you taking the time to comment!
I find the actual history more compelling than this version of it. Arminius is the whole reason the Germans won back then. The amplitude (figuratively speaking) of the show should have been how he came to the knowledge and military prowess he obtained by being a part of Roman life and a citizen. Also, in the first episode it makes it seem as if only Segestes knew the Roman language when Arminius literally grew up in Rome and joined their military. He would have been quite fluent in the language and culture; also, this show makes it seem as if he’s just a regular guy who defeated an army when in fact he wasn’t; he was quite intelligent and a Roman Citizen. He fooled Rome and its military leaders even while serving in the Roman Legions.
This show is about a great story that is so fictionalised from the actual story that what was real and awesome is set aside for this and I don’t get why.
Many screens too dark to see. Looks cheaply done. Acting and sets weak.
Overall just okay at best.
Braydynn Caesar? OK, but yeah I believe that you are wrong on your take of the show. Give it a.chance.
To whomever wrote this article. You know zero about plot lines and how to differentiate what a good story is. Vikings 1st season was very shaky as was the Last Kingdom which is headed by a German actor. The Last Kingdom had the same reviews and look what happened. Your writing is sloppy and you give the reader a sense of a whiny entitled spoiled brat.
This is actual historical fact unlike Vikings which mashed time periods together. Also the fact that one in particular main character of that show wasn’t even related to Ragnar Lothbrok because he never existed in the first place. You have a pedestrian sense of how a show is written and the depth of factual stuff they have to present to people who don’t know anything. Braydynn Caesar never existed. So, where did that come from?