After the death of Travis Fimmel’s Ragnar Lothbrok halfway through Vikings’ fourth season, the series’ successor seemed to anyone’s game. But after Wednesday night’s explosive season finale, the question wasn’t who will succeed Ragnar, but rather how far he will go, as Alex Høgh Andersen and his character, Ivar the Boneless, took charge.
ET hopped on the phone with 22-year-old Andersen ahead of the shocking finale, where he opened up about what he learned from Fimmel before the star’s series departure, the pressure of joining the History Channel show and his character’s “violent” future.
VARIETY – Spoilers for those who haven’t seen Season 4 finale of “Vikings.”
The sons of Ragnar, different and yet all so like their father, have been united by a single purpose these last few episodes of Season 4: to avenge their father’s death at the hands of King Aelle and, by proxy, King Ecbert (Linus Roache). But they all seem to have different ideas about what to do next — settle down in East Anglia, go back to raiding, sail to yet further shores. And it’s all complicated by Ivar (Alex Høgh) throwing an axe into his brother Sigurd (David Lindström), bringing the finale’s main character body count up to three. “Vikings” creator Michael Hirst called up Variety to talk about what’s next.
Will anything happen to Ivar? One would think kinslaying would be a pretty serious deal.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY – A typical episode of Vikings is often fatal for minor or major characters. A season finale? That’s a guaranteed bloodbath. And History’s seafaring epic did not disappoint with the fourth season finale, which saw the rising generation of Vikings battle the forces of Wessex, seeking a final vengeance for the death of the great King Ragnar Lothbrok. SPOILERS FROM HERE, as we talk to Vikings creator Michael Hirst about the passing of one of the show’s defining characters.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: In some ways, this episode marked the endpoint of a story that goes all the way back to season 2, with the introduction of King Ecbert (Linus Roache) and his interaction with Ragnar (Travis Fimmel). We saw Ecbert die, by his own hand, in this episode. How did the character change from your initial conception through to his final moments?
MICHAEL HIRST: It’s been a monumental season in the sense of losing both Ragnar and Ecbert, two massive characters in the show. Their stories were interweaved. They were very different, but they found that they had so much in common. The process of discovery, of finding out what they had in common, was organic. It never occurred to me in the beginning.
Ecbert was a cultured, sophisticated mirror image of Ragnar’s authenticity. He, as a character, grew on me. I was blessed to have Linus Roache to develop him with. Linus and I share a deep love for T.S. Eliot. And I was astonished at how Linus himself had taken this character and started to look broken and old by the end of his story.
THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER – [Warning: This story contains spoilers from Wednesday’s season four finale of Vikings, “The Reckoning.”]
It certainly seemed like a passing of the baton during Wednesday’s fourth season finale of History’s Vikings. Following Ragnar’s (Travis Fimmel) death several episodes ago, his sons continued their mission of revenge in Wessex by coming for King Ecbert (Linus Roache) and his people. In the end, they didn’t have to look hard, as Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig), Ivar (Alex Hogh) and the rest of the crew found Ecbert camped out in his deserted castle, ready for his fate.
Ecbert’s plan to trade the Vikings’ (illegal) land and choose his own manner of death (suicide in a pool of water) may have worked for now, but his wasn’t the only blood to be shed during the episode. Longtime character Helga (Maude Hirst) was brutally stabbed in the throat by her “adopted” daughter, leaving Floki (Gustaf Skarsgard) to wallow in his misery. And following their victory, Ragnar’s sons continued to squabble about their futures, leading a provoked Ivar to throw an axe at his brother Sigurd (David Lindstrom) and kill him.
Meanwhile, over in another part of England, viewers finally got to meet Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ anticipated new character, Heahmund, a holy man with a penchant for fighting and sex. Although his introduction was brief, he may very well rival Ivar and his newfound war games skills when the series returns for a fifth season.
To find out where the show goes from here, learn more about Heahmund’s character and get a preview of the fifth season, THR caught up with creator and showrunner Michael Hirst.
It seems like Rollo (Clive Standen) and Floki’s storylines have come to an end — have they?
No. No, no. They haven’t gone at all. They’ll be back, absolutely.
EW – With just a few episodes left to go in Vikings‘ fourth season, “The Great Army” began pulling the show’s far-flung cast together. The sons of Aslaug sought local vengeance against their mother’s killer Queen Lagertha and simultaneously built up a great army to seek national vengeance against the Saxons for the execution of their father. Bjorn Ironside returned from the Mediterranean, leaving his Uncle Rollo behind in his adopted Frankish home. And while Lagertha builds up the defensive walls around Kattegat, the ambitious King Harald began actively plotting a coup against her. We spoke to Vikings creator and writer-of-every-single-episode Michael Hirst about how “The Great Army” sets up this season’s big climax. (We’ll be talking to Hirst after every episode for the rest of the season, so come back every week for a deep dive into the world of Vikings!)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I have to ask about the moment that ended the episode, with Bjorn kissing Astrid. We’ve seen some tangled relationships within the Lothbrok family, but this definitely took me by surprise!
MICHAEL HIRST: Bjorn is struggling with the impact and consequences of his father’s death. He’s been trying for quite a long time to be his own man. Ragnar used to tease him, and he was quite cruel. And Bjorn has found it difficult to escape from the shadows of both his father’s and his mother’s fame. I actually feel sorry for him in that respect. To me, it’s like the son or daughter of a famous rock star. How do you deal with that legacy? If you do the same thing, you get compared, and it’s usually a bad comparison.
So when he gets back to Kattegat [in this episode], he’s back in a family situation, where his mother is now powerful. His mother has become Queen. She never mentioned this, she never shared the idea that she was going to take over Kattegat. She just did it. And he’s going to live with the consequences.
Now, she’s got a female lover. He loves his mother, but part of him is saying: “I can take this woman away from you. You can’t dominate me. I’m as strong as you are.” He does that — I think, I may be wrong — he does that to prove a point. He’s not gonna just sit at her knee. He’s gonna take what he wants. And I think that that’s an issue that Bjorn is gonna struggle with and finally resolve. But for the moment, he’s still in the shadows of his father and mother. He’s saying, “I’m gonna take what I want! I’m Bjorn Ironside!”
I want to talk about the earlier scene between Lagertha and Ubbe, where she tells him that he looks exactly his father did at his age. What is Lagertha trying to communicate with that comment?
I don’t know who first said it to me, but on the set, someone said: “Doesn’t [Jordan Patrick Smith, who plays Ubbe] look like Travis [Fimmel] used to look? The moment someone says it, you realize you’ve been half-aware of it, but now it’s sort of in the open. You realize, “Yes, he does!” That’s an extraordinary thing, and it chimes very much with a lot of the ideas I already had for Ubbe’s character. All the sons inherited different aspects of Ragnar, his psychology or his philosophy or whatever. Ubbe, for me, was always going to be the closest to him, psychologically, and the one who was going to be most compelled to try and achieve his vision of a settlement in England, or somewhere else. It was in my mind that Ubbe was the inheritor of Ragnar’s philosophy, and in strong ways, his temperament. Jordan’s also Australian [like Travis], so he does have a slightly more laid-back atmosphere about him. I think Lagertha recognizes a lot of those things anyway, about Ubbe.
Characters have died on Vikings before — main characters killed by other main characters, major political figures cut down to make way for a new generation, and great warriors dying brilliantly in battle. But this week, the show cut down its most legendary figure. King Ragnar Lothbrok – who sailed across the sea to raid Northumbria and Wessex, who brought ships to the great walls of Paris, who wandered the world for long years after his humiliation and returned to his home to complete one final quest – is dead. Held high in a cage in the forest, he was dropped into a snakepit, his death witnessed by his nemesis King Aelle and his slightly-more-friendly nemesis King Ecbert.
Anyone familiar with the sagas from which Vikings derives its narrative knew that Ragnar would die eventually. You might be surprised, though, to hear that this death was originally going to happen much earlier. “I was meant to die at the end of the first year,” says Travis Fimmel, the Australian actor who played Ragnar. “I ended up staying around for three more!”