Eric Northman: HBOs Most Honorable Character

By Tara Mazzucca on May 1, 2012 to True Blood

I had never heard of The Sookie Stackhouse series before I began watching True Blood.  I was intrigued by the series because of the posters plastered everywhere in NYC in the summer of 2008 advertising “Vampires Were People Too”.  So when the premiere came around I sat myself down and enjoyed an entertaining hour of television. That went on for a couple of weeks every Sunday until the fourth episode when my entertainment became an obsession.  That was the night I was introduced to the 1000 year old Viking vampire, Eric Northman.  Alexander Skarsgard’s portrayal of Eric has been a joy to watch.  From the very first time seeing him on his throne, commanding respect, to this past season seeing Eric’s vulnerability during his amnesia, we have been subjected to the most intriguing honorable character on HBO.

It has been a process for the fans to see the true character of Eric.  We have been subjected to little bits and pieces which we couldn’t trust fully because Eric always has his guard up.  In Season 1 Eric was made out to be the villain, but from that first meeting I got the feeling that I wasn’t privy to some kind of information that was important.  Skarsgard was able to give the impression that Eric needed to be feared but also someone who wasn’t all they seemed.  There was a wealth of emotion coming off of him that made me want to know who Eric was.  I wanted to understand why Eric was so respected.


It was in Season 2 the fans got to understand Eric from the beginning.  We met his maker, Godric, who in his own right is a very honorable character who commands loyalty and respect.  Through his relationship with Godric, we learned that Eric would do anything for the people he loves, even put himself in harms way to protect them.  Eric was taught everything by Godric.  He was taught to be a vampire and also to remember and respect who he was when he was human, which is a very important trait that makes Eric stand out among vampires.  As a vampire grows older, they lose their human sensibilities and most vampires give the impression that being human is beneath them.  Eric plays that card very well, until Season 3 when he finds his father’s Viking crown in vampire Russell Edginton’s menagerie and realizes that Russell massacred his family a millennium before.  For 1000 years Eric Northman has held a personal vendetta against the one who massacred his human family and he did everything he could to get back at Russell.  The emotions that crossed Skarsgard’s face as he looks upon his father’s crown for the first time in 1000 years was like watching the massacre happen right then.  The pure surprise, then hatred, then calculation Skarsgard conveyed in only a few seconds time gave the viewers the understanding that this is the reason he agreed to be turned into a vampire.  He needed to avenge his family’s honor.  He needed to give their death some sort of meaning because of how much he cared for them.

Season 3 was a very difficult time for Eric since he was still grieving the death of Godric.  For the first time, we see Eric not fully confident in his abilities and his emotions.  He has no anchor anymore and his progeny, Pam isn’t the grounding presence that Godric was.  Eric has let his emotions get the better of him and now he has to work through a strategy to stay alive.   Godric once said to Eric, “A vampire is never at the mercy of his emotions.  He dominates them.”  Since Godric’s death Eric hasn’t been able to dominate his emotions.  He is led by them. It was a very telling moment when Sookie bursts into his office and wants to know why she shouldn’t trust Bill.  Eric is sitting in his office knowing he might die very soon and it is a revelation to see him take that in.  Eric the confident, cocky vampire we all love, is now trying to make sense of his imminent death.  There is a desperation and a need to show Sookie who he really is for just a moment.   Eric has again put his life on the line for people he loves, this time Sookie.  Eric would never tell Sookie he loves her, he is too cool for that, but his actions are always done to protect her from others in the supernatural community who might want to take her powers away.

It was in Season 4 that we get to see the most vulnerable Eric.  Having been cast with amnesia from a witch’s spell all of Eric’s defenses have been knocked down and we get the true essence of who he is as a being.  I want to believe that this is what Godric saw on the battlefield that night 1000 years ago.  The true Eric is a scared young boy, who has a playful streak that is mixed with curiosity, wonder, a big heart and charm, but if provoked will push back the fear and fight for who he loves.  I know that Godric was the only person who got to see the true Eric, that is until Eric got his memories back.  As Eric’s memories flooded back to him it was amazing to watch Skarsgard convey that Eric was seeing and processing the man he was for the very first time.  Eric was able to see himself as he truly is and be confident in the vulnerability and fierceness he posesses in his soul.  When Eric talked to Sookie after getting his memories back there was a subtle shift in how Skarsgard played him.  It was the first time, we the fans really got to see the true Eric for ourselves.  He was still cool and collected but it was also the only time Eric put all the cards on the table and the shift that Alexander Skarsgard made in that scene was so minute, but we knew everything was riding on it.

Eric Northman may be guarded and calculating, but it is to protect the people he cares for the most.  Over the millenium, Eric has learned to adapt, play, and survive the perils of the world.  He has also been very intelligent in setting himself around others that will protect him.  It is a mutual agreement which doesn’t come easily.  Eric doesn’t have many friends, but the ones he has, will follow him where ever he goes.  Over the past five seasons, we have seen the evolution of a vampire that has had his world crushed with the death of his maker, his reason for being rectified momentarily by the entombment of Russell Edgington in a concrete grave, his heart broken by a human with faerie blood and somehow Eric finds within himself something to keep living for.  It has been an honor watching Alexander Skarsgard find that spark within Eric that enjoys life and craves for more.  I can’t help but think that Godric would be proud.

We’ve updated out True Blood cast page with Eric as our first entry for True Blood! We’ll be adding to it as the weeks roll on and we hope to focus in on all of the main characters eventually. Waiting sucks, I know!

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67 Comments on "Eric Northman: HBOs Most Honorable Character"

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He’s the least honorable character. All he does is whine and cry and act like a hypocrite. He’s the biggest Mary Sue ever created for television!

Unfortunately, he’s tall and blonde so preteen viewers flock to him. I just wish they made his character less of a crybaby. He acts like he’s the only vampire ever to feel pain and it’s frustrating because he caused so much pain to others.

I love Eric Northman!!!! Please let him be Sookie’s soul-mate at the end of the TV series~They’re perfect together.The beautiful sun fairy and the viking sex god ♥

Eric is probably one of the highlights of the entire series, books or show. He really came back to his true Eric this last season! Can’t wait til season 6!!

Definitely the sexiest part of the show…don’t get me wrong he pulls off this part better than I could imagine anyone else (which is sexy all on its own), but he isn’t too bad to look at ;D

He is really the star of the show and my favorite part of watching.

Great commentary Tara – Love the Viking and love AS’ portrayal of him.

Thank you Sheldon :)

I loved the article…You summed it up with “Eric Northman may be guarded and calculating, but it is to protect the people he cares for the most. Over the millenium, Eric has learned to adapt, play, and survive the perils of the world.” I love the Viking Sex God that is Eric Northman but has opened my world to the likes of Mr. Alexander Skarsgard and have made sure to see everything out there that ha has starred in which only solidfies your point that he is one fine character actor!

I must disagree wholeheartedly with the description of Bill not being honorable. Having said that, this is about ERIC and honor. It is not a comparison between Bill and Eric. So, to continue: It seems to me we need to see vampires as different than humans and operating from different motivations and toward goals that are not human goals ( in most cases). If we’re talking HONOR, we are talking about acting in a way that benefits others rather than just yourself. It is an absence of being untrustworthy, untruthful, and underhanded. One is honorable when one is above board,… Read more »
True2Bill and Silver Hater I loved what you two said! Those are such thoughtful, insightful answers to the world of True Blood and Eric and Bill. Eric and Bill are similar and the lines are blurred, but for me Eric stands out. He is the quintessential vampire to me and Eric’s relationship with Godric really resonates with me. I am excited to see this “bromance” they keep talking about with Bill and Eric because now that they are fighting for the same cause and Eric is behind Bill maybe the two of them will learn from each other and become… Read more »
Hey Tara, for me too, Eric stands out. The way his story was presented was so extraordinary and to actually see this ancient vampire being moved, emotional and letting his guards down is spectacular. I will never forget the moment when he cried for his maker, on his knees. Having lost his human father before, he was losing his vampire one too. That was unknown to us then, but the powerful scene with Godric and Sookie certainly led me to believe that there was so much more hidden underneath his cool exterior (Sookie alludes to that in her dream 1… Read more »
Hi True2bill and thank you for your honest and thoughtful answer. I agree that the honour as a concept for the vampires is hugely stretched by our human standards and as such every vampire on TB can be challenged somewhere along the road about their motives or methods. There is a curious similarity between Bill and Eric (bear with me, LOL, this could actually be a great topic separately) which is how much they seemed to be motivated or defined by their human past. Where Eric’s family was brutally taken away from him in front of his eyes causing him… Read more »

OMG!! Amen to all that!!!! Alexander is an amazing actor and we are so lucky to see him portraying Eric Northman!! You said it all!!!

But why do we have to make every discussion into Eric v Bill debate? The topic is Eric and Alexander who brings him to life, progression of Eric as a character, analysis of his personality. Also, I find the notion “are we watching the same show” somewhat childish in a matter of opinions. We are watching the same show, but we may perceive it differently, no harm in that. I do ask that question if I see someone misquoting the dialogue or disregarding the facts but otherwise it’s really just everyone’s perception. I think that AB created multilayered characters in… Read more »

Very well said Silver Hater. I love Bill as a character too and I for one am looking forward to the “bromance” coming up on Season 5 between Eric and Bill just because of their history together. It is just going to make the characters even more interesting and obsessive to watch :)

Ok, a question to the plenary: Why is not Bill honorable? I think he was an exelent King ….

I don’t even think beehl or the writers would say that he was portrayed as a great king. His reign was riddled with missteps and subsequent damage control.

I don’t disagree that Bill was excellent King I thought. He did a great job as King my ownly hangup with him was he kept throwing it up in their faces that he was king of louisiana ok they know this next topic.

If you think about it, Eric was also controlled by Autority who told him what he should do and not do, set or what? The only vampirers who did not show respectability for Bill was Pam and Eric before Eric got amnesia ..f

I am not sure that Bill has the best reputation within the vampire community. We didn’t really see Bill be King. He was taking orders from Nan. Knowing now that Bill hired the dead beat couple to beat her up so Sookie would drink his blood and also everyone knowing that he was doing what he was told from the Queen. Bill IMHO always plays the victim which isn’t very honorable. I think Bill has to earn the respect of his peers, he definitely doesn’t have Eric or Pam’s respect. Eric went to the witches because he has actual memories… Read more »
Yes, Bill showed himself to be an effective, smart, decisive, and quick-thinking monarch. He had to maneuver with the road-blocks of Eric being under a witch’s spell, Nan being up his *ss with complaint after complaint, while never taking him or the necromancer threat seriously, and Pam and Sookie alternately lying to him about Eric’s whereabouts. He really had every reason to have Eric meet the true death, and yet he pardoned him. He devised the plan to put his remaining subjects under silver to prevent them from meeting the sun. He went after the necromancer, defying Nan, without knowing… Read more »

LOVE this post! You nailed the character of Eric Northman with every word written. He is by FAR the most honorable and interesting character on the show. Those who think he is selfish are only looking at the surface and not bothering to look inside for the depth within. Eric Northman is my entire reason for watching True Blood.

I agree with you Tiffany AS/EN is the only reason I watch the show also he’s a very deep and complex person on the show my favorite character and actor of all time.

Thanks Tiffany! That is what I love about Eric and Alexander Skarsgard’s portrayal, the depth. Eric is a 1000 year old vampire that hasn’t lived this long because he is shallow and cocky and I think that is what a lot of people see and don’t move past that. I know Bill feels that way, so it will be interesting to see how these two vampires deal with each other. We know Eric doesn’t trust Bill, but if working with Bill will protect Pam and Sookie, then Eric is all for it…can’t wait for the new season to begin!
Loved this article, although I wouldn’t say Eric has always been honorable or is THE most honorable character in Bon Temps. Is he the most interesting and far more honorable than he was perceived to be the first two seasons? Absolultely! I think the “real” Eric is coming out more and more (just as the real Bill — who I think is more villainous than he is perceived to be) is coming to the fore. But I can’t give him the characterization of totally honorable (at least, outside of fanfic.) I have agree with you in giving high props to… Read more »
I know True Blood that we are going to be disagreeing all day about this. My article is about Eric and I don’t compare him to anyone. This is why I love the show because all the characters are complex, intriguing character where the lines are blurred and each of us has our favorites that stand out. Eric is the one for me that stands out and that I love to talk about the character. I perceive Eric as an honorable character and I love that you perceive Bill as one also, but this isn’t a Eric vs Bill piece.… Read more »
I think we have to point out that Bill has seemingly NEVER acted with any sense of honor, considering the reason he sought Sookie out in the first place. Their meeting was not by chance, but according to plans to aquire just exactly who and WHAT Sookie is. In my opinion, no one, be it human, vampire, or any other preternatural creature ever acts with sincere honor. There is ALWAYS something something to gain in the end. Eric is honorable in some form simply because he has never lied about who he was. He always put his true self out… Read more »
Thanks MyVikingBoyfriend! I define honorable as someone who commands respect and loyalty, which I think Eric does in spades. He has the leadership skills and know how to be King of Louisiana if he wanted, but he doesn’t. Instead he uses his position as Sheriff of Area 5 to be in the loop of vampire politics so that he can lead the life he wants and protect the ones he loves. Honorable to me doesn’t necessary mean he is “good” in that Hoyt or Terry kind of way. Honorable to me means that he makes difficult decisions to protect the… Read more »
Tara, help me, how multiple times? You do not mean when have caused russel afären himself because of his selfishness, and then had to use Sookie as bait, and almost killed her. Bill had to “ask” Pam to release him so he can rescue her … How an honorable vanmpire can expose all vampirer for Russell’s hatred because of his revange? It was not he thought of their well-being …. and then when he would take care of him so he failed again and NOT kill him … because of his weakness? or what??? HOW honorable is that?? He exposed… Read more »
Tara,,,only one itmes he offered to protect people and vampires and it was at FOS. Russel it was his fault and Nan did say to him do it !! Because it was done of his selfishness…. AND he USED Sookie for it…HOW honorable it was??????? It was Bill who said yes to offer him self first….do protect Sookie at Marnie house… Bill had saved life of Sookie at Fangtasia, tryed to protect her at cementery and outside the Marnies house.. But still is bill evil and not honorable? If you count thing like this as honorable at Erics case why… Read more »
This is where I use the quote from Godric “A vampire is never at the mercy of his emotions. He dominates them.” It is a lesson that Godric has been trying to teach Eric for 1000 years. The whole point of Eric becoming a vampire was to avenge the death of his human family. For 1000 years Eric has held onto the love he has for them and when he finally gets the chance to avenge what has been driving him for the millenium he goes in headfirst without thinking. It is that love that gets Eric in trouble and… Read more »

I love Eric in the books, I love Eric in the show, I loved the article, it kinda said what I’ve felt about the character. And our wonderful Eric – I think – actually made way for Alex Skarsgard who found Eric and Eric launched his career. An actor who fits the role, who has given life to the role, and that proves his merit.

Anyezke I never read the books before I watched True Blood. I just finished Book 4 recently and I love Eric in the books. And it is so great that when I am reading I picture Alexander Skarsgard as Eric because of the way he was able to embody what Charlaine Harris wrote. There is a part of me that wishes I had known about the books before the series and followed along with the transformation Skarsgard was able to bring to the character of Eric. I am just glad that Alexander Skarsgard has turned me onto the books, because… Read more »

I dont know, but a honorable man is – in my head- a man who do thing without selfish thoughts. And Eric is pure selfishness .. So many bad thing happend in TB because of his selfishness…

Yes, I think we are watching a different show…lol…
What about Hoyt????

Honorable to me is someone who commands respect and loyalty and Eric to me does that. Hoyt on the other hand, doesn’t have a person behind him at all at the moment and is a “good” man. He does what is right but it could be at the expense of the ones he loves the most. Eric I think will put his life on the line for the ones he loves the most. Eric pushes back the fear and goes head first into the fire. Hoyt, in my opinion will not do that out of fear of what others will… Read more »

Tara, thin only HOW he was using sookie for his sellfishness …and he had a feelings for her…

Great article I agree with every word, Eric Northman is so complex and fascinating to watch, so many layers, Charlaine really did create a wonderful deep rich character and I’m not suprised he’s the most popular on the show.

We must most certainly be watching a different series. No way is Eric Northman “honorable”. I disagree with almost everything you’ve written above. Eric is an interesting character as the entire ensemble cast is, but honorable he is not.

I have to agree with your assessment, Bad2thebone. As I commented below, I think vampires do not aspire to what we humans call honor, at least not most of them.
Eric is manipulating, egocentric, and extremely bloodthirsty.
But Eric does have loyalty. And he has shown courage. So he is, like most TB characters, complex and interesting.

BTW, I love your username!

Bad2thebone I would love to hear your take on Eric Northman! Let the friendly debate begin…

Im wondering wheather or not becoming “good” for a season has changed him permanently. I’d say the “Good” Eric was one of the most honorable characters for sure!

That is what I am really interested in knowing Jacob. I wonder if Eric’s amnesia has a lasting affect on how he conducts himself from now on, especially with the ones he cares about like Sookie, and Pam. I wonder if he is going to go back to being the cool and collected Eric we knew for 3 seasons or will he be the Eric we got to see talking to Sookie honestly on the couch right after he got his memories back…

That is a welcomed opinion Bad2thebone. I would wish however that you wouldn’t just leave it at that simple post.

Care to elaborate on what Eric Northman is to you if not honorable?

Thank you for this wonderful article highlighting the complexity of my favourite character Eric Northman & an amazing job that Alex does in bringing this character to life. Eric’s progression in the show has been palpable and every time one layer is peeled I find yet another reason to love him.There is a great sense of innate loyalty and nobility that Alex brings out in Eric, in his understated yet mesmerising and sophisticated manner, but there is also humour and a tremendous sense that this old vampire is pure fire under ice. I followed Eric’s story with great care and… Read more »

Wonderfully said Silver Hater! Totally agree with every word!

Thanks Tara. I think we have to remember that it’s truly a task to portray the emotional setting of someone who is 1000 years old, what it realistically entails, whether it is from a writer’s or an actor’s point of view. One of the best achievements of the show IMO was to create characters in a certain way in the beginning, however, those characters, through present challenges as well as the past flashbacks reveal many hidden depths and that is certainly the case with Eric. That is possibly why the Dallas hotel roof scene remains one of the most defining… Read more »
I wholeheartedly agree with you! I just saw Eric and Pam’s snippet for Season 5 and from the dialogue and actions of Eric he is terrified that Russell is back and he doesn’t trust anyone, even Pam. I think this is a by product of Godric committing suicide because Eric says, “I trust no one anymore and so should you.” It is a powerful statement and a telling moment, that Eric even has lost faith in his abilities to trust the ones he loves. They have disappointed him greatly in the past and it makes Eric a very lonely character… Read more »

Alexander Skarsgard is so good at Eric . I love him wonderful actor. Can’t wait to see season 5

Totally agree Carona!!! So excited! Is it June yet? LOL!

I can’t discern who I love the most Eric or Alexander Skarsgard but I’m sure I began to love Alex because his great performance of Eric. Please preserve this wonderfull character I’m really excited to see his evolution next season. My preferences are he getting Sookie’s love because he deserves it and Pam by his side too, I know I’m going to suffer a bit at least at the beginning of Season Five

I totally agree with you Helen on the suffering a bit in the beginning of Season 5 but I am excited to see what direction they take Eric in and what Alexander Skarsgard does with the material. I have a feeling we are just going to love Eric even more with his choices considering Skarsgard’s record for the past 4 seasons :)

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