One brother rises, one brother falls
Entertainment Weekly – Season 4 has been a transformative period for Rollo, brother of Ragnar. Having long grown used to living in his brother’s shadow, Rollo betrayed his Viking brethren, allying with the Franks and defending Paris against a new attack from the Northmen. In Thursday’s midseason finale, Rollo met his brother in the field of battle. And the results were bloody. We talked to actor Clive Standen about what led up to this — and what the finale means for his Rollo.SPOILERS, natch!
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: It feels like the whole show has led up to the moment when Rollo faces off against Ragnar. What do you think is going through Rollo’s mind, in that moment?
CLIVE STANDEN: It’s never been about betraying Ragnar. It’s about existing. Michael [Hirst] and I always held onto this old Swedish proverb: “One wants to be loved, in lack thereof admired, in lack thereof feared, in lack thereof loathed and despised. One wants to instill some sort of emotion in people. The soul trembles before emptiness and desires contact at any price.” We talked about that in season one. He just wants to fit in. He just wants to be acknowledged by his brother.
VARIETY – After three seasons of simmering jealousy, Ragnar Lothbrok’s (Travis Fimmel) rivalry with his brother Rollo (Clive Standen) finally came to a head in a brutal battle in the April 21 epiode — but the long-awaited clash had an unexpected result, with Rollo and his Frankish forces defeating Ragnar and his Viking warriors. The episode then jumped forward several years, revealing that Ragnar left Kattegat after his loss, leaving his sons — Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig), Ivar (Alex Høgh Andersen), Ubbe (Jordan Patrick Smith), Hvitserk (Marco Ilsø) and Sigurd (David Lindstron) to grow up without their father, curious about his fate and (in some cases) resentful of his absence.
Variety spoke to “Vikings” creator Michael Hirst about the events of the midseason finale, the introduction of Ragnar’s adult sons and what’s ahead in the back half of Season 4. This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Why did now feel like the right time for Ragnar and Rollo’s confrontation, and why was it important for Rollo to win?
It was always going to happen. Rollo had rebelled before, when he tried to creep out from under Ragnar’s shadow — the Viking idea is that fame is everything, to be remembered for things, and he just felt that he was never going to be remembered. And then the Seer had told him that if he went to Paris that something extraordinary would happen. And I remember telling Clive that, and Clive was very excited by the idea, because Clive had thought himself that his character was always put upon and always beaten. But I said, “if you look at history, history tells you something different; the character you’re playing becomes one of the most impressive people in Dark Ages Frankia and establishes an empire, basically,” so I’m only following history. Whatever the psychology is and whatever I’m supposed to do myself, I’m actually trying to follow a historical line, because I knew that Rollo became a Count, and that was going to happen because I try to be as truthful as I can be.
Ragnar is comprehensively defeated by Rollo and his comprehensive defeat changes everything. It changes the nature of Ragnar’s life, what he chooses to do afterwards, and it has this wonderfully unexpected texture, that Rollo is victorious. Someone told me, “whatever I thought about Rollo, I didn’t expect him to be triumphant, but when this happened, I kind of liked it. I could respect it, because I expected to be sympathetic to Ragnar and yet when Rollo is victorious I kind of liked that.” And I understand that; I feel that myself. I feel good for Rollo — he deserves it.
And how season 4 was influenced by Hemingway, Tarkovsky, and Nicolas Roeg
EW – The midseason finale of Vikings was a bloody, shocking thrill ride. And all that was before – SPOILER ALERT – the massive time jump forward. Ragnar Lothbrok led his Viking warriors into battle against his traitorous brother, Rollo, and despite promising that one brother would die in the ensuing showdown, both great warriors survived the day. But their positions have changed. Ragnar slumped home to Kattegat, defeated. Rollo returned to Paris, triumphant.
Years passed. While Ragnar disappeared, his sons grew to young manhood — and certain revelations about their father’s past led a couple of his sons to declare their intention to kill him. They got their chance when Ragnar returned, older and seemingly waiting for someone to kill him and claim his throne. We caught up with Vikings creator/writer Michael Hirst to talk about the first part of season 4 and what awaits us when Vikings returns later this year.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When we spoke a year ago, you promised a “final reckoning between the brothers” in season 4. Ragnar promises Rollo that one of them will die. Does he want to kill Rollo? Or does he want to die?
MICHAEL HIRST: You can read that in different ways. We know that Ragnar didn’t want power, he didn’t choose power. He’s not going to Paris to raid. He’s not interested in trinkets. He feels deeply that his brother has betrayed him, like a lot of people have betrayed him. He’s a very sensitive guy, and you feel the struggle he has had to stay in power. The drug-taking was a way of masking these psychological problems.
He’s deliberately, it seems to me, focused on the personal. It was always going to be between [Ragnar and Rollo]. But who knew that Rollo would look strong and fit and be really supercharged, and would motivate his people? Ragnar’s not motivating the Vikings, and I think there’s a slightly suicidal sense about going into battle in that way. He wanted to get into a personal battle with Rollo, and I think he would have been happy if they both died. That’s my feeling, that that would have been a good ending for him.
THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER – [Warning: This story contains spoilers from Thursday’s midseason finale of Vikings, “The Last Ship.”]
After spending an entire season apart plotting against each other, Rollo (Clive Standen) and Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) finally came face-to-face in Vikings’ midseason finale.
In a twist that many viewers did not have seen coming, a drugged-up Ragnar was epically defeated by his traitor brother and the men of Paris, forcing the injured leader along with his hurt ex-wife Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick), son Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig) and frenemy Floki (Gustaf Skarsgard) to retreat back to Kattegat.
There, rather than deal with the immediate aftermath, the show jumped forward in time to an informant telling Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland) about Ragnar’s Wessex son and the fact that all the men he had left behind were immediately killed. It set in motion a chain of reactions from the people of the much-bigger town, including Ragnar’s now grown-up sons Ubbe (Jordan Patrick Smith), Hvitserk (Marco Ilso), Sigurd (David Lindstron) and Ivar (Alex Hogh Andersen), who hadn’t seen their father for years — ever since he disappeared. Then, in the closing minutes of the episode, Ragnar finally returned as a now-hated man, closing out the show in a tense monologue asking who in Kattegat would be brave enough to kill him and proclaim themselves king.
THR caught up with creator Michael Hirst to weigh in on the multi-year leap forward, what it means for Ragnar’s journey moving forward and whether this is the last we’ve seen of the Rollo-Ragnar rivalry.
How does this time jump reset things for the next half of the season?
We’ve done a significant time jump before and we didn’t do it in a conventional way or wait until the end of the season; we didn’t want to do anything conventional this time either. It seemed like it was better to do something dramatic and get to where we needed to be. This has always been the story of Ragnar and his sons, so the time jump is just enough time for all the boys to grow up. In this last episode, we got a glimpse of the boys before starting the next half of the season; it gives a taste of what’s to come.
TV Guide – [Warning: The following contains major spoilers from the Vikings midseason finale.]
Vikings’ midseason finale did not disappoint. Battles were had. Secrets were revealed. Relationships were mended. But one character’s fate remains unknown, even after the massive time-jump.
Could Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) really be dead?
To get the answer to this and more Vikings burning questions, TVGuide.com spoke with creator Michael Hirst.
Lagertha’s fate revealed: The last we saw Lagertha in the finale, the shieldmaiden had been stabbed brutally in the chest during the siege on Paris. She doesn’t appear in the flash-forward, nor is she mentioned. Has Lagertha gone to Valhalla?
SPOILERS BELOW THE CUT!
And leaving shocking deaths in his wake
AV CLUB – With only two episodes before the mid-season finale, “Death All ’Round” continues last week’s housecleaning of unprofitable characters, concluding with Torvi finally standing up to—and snuffing out—treacherous weasel Erlendur with his own beloved crossbow. Like Odo, like Kwenthrith, Elrendur’s death has little impact, either on the plot or, I suspect, on viewers. His revenge narrative never registered on a personal level—not really Edvin Endre’s fault, but the little creep was always more of a plot device than a person, a feeble threat to Bjorn whose machinations were doomed to fail. (Last week’s ill-conceived crossbow fakeout faked out only those who imagined Elrlendur a lot more formidable than he ever was.) The other deaths in this episode, however, mean more.
First there’s Lagertha’s baby, as doomed by the Seer’s prophecy that Lagertha would never have another child as it was by the stray shot at the start of the episode of Lagertha wincing and putting her hand to her tummy. (While helping haul Ragnar’s ships through a forest, no less.) Still, when the inevitable comes and Lagertha sits pale and covered in her own blood in her tent, it’s devastating, especially because of Katheryn Winnick, Travis Fimmel, and Alexander Ludwig’s performances. The sight of the three of them—their past and Ragnar’s recent drug-assisted vision of the family they were still echoing—sitting together in wordless grief is powerful. Everything that’s separated them further from each other is momentarily swept away in shared sorrow. The sight of Ragnar simply holding his former wife’s head and stroking her hair (and Lagertha allowing it, for a moment at least) sees all the years—and the betrayals—drop away. And when Lagertha regains her wonted strength and orders the men out, they move away, but only a few feet, father and son adopting identical crouched poses on either side of the woman they both love. Like the best emotional Vikings moments, it works because there’s so little said. These aren’t people prone to explaining themselves or making speeches about their grief. Here, it’s the movement of Ragnar’s hand in Lagertha’s hair, Bjorn and Ragnar’s wordless refusal to leave, and Lagertha’s drained, set expression that are so eloquent.