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‘Vikings’ creator on what’s next after that time jump twist

ZAP2IT – It’s hard to believe that wasn’t a season finale, but “Vikings” is only halfway through Season 4 and already nothing will be the same.


In Thursday’s (April 21) episode, Rollo (Clive Standen) defeated Ragnar (Travis Fimmel), leading to a major jump in time that brought the midseason finale episode to a close. After being away for years, Ragnar returned to a Kattegat that had evolved into a major settlement without him to find all of his sons grown and Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig) plotting out the Mediterranean voyahe he is historically most remembered for.


With so many developments, Zap2it went to “Vikings” creator and sole writer Michael Hirst to help us sort out what it all means and get the lowdown on what’s to come when the show returns later in the year.


Zap2it: After the battle between Rollo and Ragnar, we see the Vikings retreating, defeated. We see Ragnar off to the side, curled up in a ball. What’s going through his head after being thoroughly handled by his own brother?


Michael Hirst: Well, I think that’s for you to decide. I think it was an interesting trajectory to take the most charismatic, the most beautiful, the most compelling character in the show and then to take him on a downward trajectory into defeat.


I don’t think that’s particularly normal. Certainly in America, it’s not something you’d expect to see. But I thought I could carry the audience with me because they knew Ragnar wasn’t interested in power. They knew the burden that he carried was almost too much for him. They knew he would probably be happy to die.


The funny thing is as well, whatever you think of Rollo — who’s not charismatic in the same way — you kind of went, “That’s OK! I’m rooting for him, he’s good! I like him!”


Then they say “Hail Caesar!” it’s a good moment for Rollo. I’m kind of pumping my fist for him too.


But Ragnar is devastated and is basically as low as you can get in that moment. The interesting thing is he still has the rest of his story and his saga. And if you knew what I know about what happens to him you would really thank God he didn’t expire at that time. Because Travis’s acting and performance is awesome and gets better. And he goes on a journey that is so profound and deep and meaningful and eventually involved King Ecbert — because those two have a lot in common, oddly enough.


The defeat is not the end of Ragnar’s saga, there’s more to come and it’s very powerful. I’m so proud of where we take that storyline.


So it looks like an ending, but it’s just another beginning.


Now shifting focus to the time jump, Ragnar’s sons are all young men now. Looking ahead to when the show returns, is this the beginning of them becoming a major focal point of the story?


Oh sure! From my point of view, this has always been the story of Ragnar and his sons. Ragnar historically was afraid his sons would become more famous than he was and we know Bjorn Ironside did become very famous by sailing around the Mediterranean and going to Africa. But we also know that Ivar the Boneless became almost the most famous Viking of all time.


I knew I wanted to get onto these guys. We moved forward with a lot of our initial cast intact — Lagertha, Bjorn, Floki and everything — but we do have these new, young guys who are bringing energy. Honestly, when you see Ragnar at the end of [episode] 10 when he comes back and you see what Ragnar was like in the first episode when he was a young guy, he’s changed. Travis has changed so much.


So the notion we have these young, really energetic sons coming on board is exciting.


And I know its a big jump forward in time. We’ve done it once before with Bjorn and it worked and I didn’t want it to be a lame thing where at the end of the season we jump forward. I wanted it to be organic.


So Ragnar’s been crushed and defeated, he’s going to go off and lick his wounds. In the meantime, the sons are going to grow up. They’re going to grow up with issues and I’ll confront those issues, but it’s organic.


We’re asking the audience to work a little bit, but we’ve known those boys since they were little. It’s not like you’re getting total strangers. I mean, they are strangers as we’ve never seen these particular versions, but we fed them through the system. They’ve grown up under our eyes. They’re not implants.


We also get a very nice little tease about Bjorn making his plans to sail the Mediterranean and his intention to bring Floki along. In Ragnar’s absence, has Floki become a trusted ally to Bjorn?


No. I think that Floki designing Bjorn’s boats, but it’s not that he’s necessarily transferred his affections [from Ragnar].


In fact, I wish I would tell you some things that happen … Enough to say Floki is an ongoing character and has a big, big part to play in the story going forward. But it’s a part that starts to separate him from the family, in a sense. He’s going to go his own way, to some extent.


Well given that so many years are being skipped over, will we be getting a look back at what happened during that time — Be it with Lagertha Rollo, Ecbert or even Ragnar?


When Ragnar comes back and he has his first look at Kattegat and sees it’s like five times as big than he left it, you know things have happened.


I think the gap in time affects the children more Ragnar. They have to deal with the fat that their father walked out on them when they were at a particularly critical place in their development. Some of them feel bitter, some will accept him.


There is a legacy there which they all have to deal with.


From Ragnar’s point of view, we don’t need to know what happened to him. I think when he reappears, he has reason to come back. He wants to see his sons, he wants to deal with what happened to his settlement in England. He has issues, but he’s just in a state of being.


Of course we talked in production about do we make the characters look older and we did a bit of tweaking. But does five, six, seven years really make a huge difference? No. The main differences will be psychological and we register that in the attitude of the sons.


We don’t need to know what happened to Ragnar, it’s not interesting. Because basically nothing happened to him.


You mention the sons, I have to go to Magnus, because the secret is out. How does a son of Ragnar raised by Ecbert fit into this puzzle?


Well the end result of that might surprise you. It doesn’t end up as you’d expect it to end up. But many things don’t, which is good.


Lastly, where do we find King Harald in all of this. When we last spoke you said he was a brutal threat to Ragnar and Bjorn. After all these years, is he consolidating power?


He’s definitely been working to solidify power! He’s a major player and doesn’t go away. He’s devious, he’s interesting. But his ambitions are boundless and everyone should know that.


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