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!”