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Vikings creator Michael Hirst on the Season 5B Finale and what Season 6A holds for Ragnar's family
Ragnar Lothbrok will have to wait until next season for a beloved family member to join him in Valhalla. There were casualties during Wednesday night's Vikings season finale (RIP Magnus), but none of the heavy hitters, like Bjorn, Lagertha, or even Hvitserk as fans might have anticipated.
After all the bloodshed, though, it feels as though everyone has a moment to catch their breath, for perhaps the first time since the show's sophomore season, when the newly crowned Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) sat atop the mountain with the symbolic Sword of Kings, not knowing the challenges he'd face.
After 50 episodes of countless battles, toppling monarchies, power struggles, and the expansion of the Viking Age, the Season 5B finale ended with Bjorn Ironside (Alexander Ludwig) on that same mountain top, holding that very Sword. He took back the city of Kattegat, conquering his stepbrother, Ivar the Boneless (Alex Høgh Andersen), but the lingering image is that of a haunting scene where ghosts of Ragnar and the Seer appear, warning him of the troubles on the horizon.
SYFY WIRE spoke with Vikings creator and writer Michael Hirst to discuss the biggest moments of Season 5B and future storylines featuring the Lothbrok family.
One of the most memorable scenes this season was when you recreate Ragnar’s final moments but his first wife Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) is playing all the parts. What is the anatomy of that scene?
It’s an amazing scene. She was given a vision of the death of the person she was most connected to. I thought we could use some of the old footage of Ragnar’s last days but Helen Shaver, our director for that episode, said, "No, it only makes sense if she’s involved. If she’s involved in different roles, then she can feel guilt, sadness, pride, and joy."
When a director feels strongly about something, I want them to put their best in these moments. Helen was very sure about Lagertha’s involvement in the death as opposed to just watching it. She’s involved in Ragnar's death. They will always be together, so we can’t have her in a passive experience. I don’t know why, but it just felt poetic, it was beautiful, and in a sense, a new beginning.
Could you explain what happened when she disappeared from the battle against King Harald’s army?
On that battlefield, she snaps, which is totally understandable. Not just her, but anyone in that state. So when we see her, once again we see her inner resilience, coming back from that.
Lagertha fans wondered about her death this season, but instead you’ve also left viewers with hope. What left is there to tell about her in Season 6?
She announces she’s going to effectively retire and that she wants to be a farmer again like she was when she and Ragnar first met. She doesn’t want the involvement in power and politics. She tries, she really tries. She has a little farm, away from it all. Of course, the problem on Vikings is that history catches up to them all. She’s going to become motivated when she takes up a cause — just wait, in a way, you haven’t seen anything yet. Remember that early scene when we just met her and Ragnar. She deals with these two thieves in her home, really impressively. You knew what a warrior she is. She goes back to that person she was when we first met her.
You wrote Ubbe (Jordan Patrick Smith) up in Season 5, didn’t you? He found a true partner in Torvi (Georgia Hirst), became King Alfred’s (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) confidant and earning the Danelaw in a fight to the death.
That’s an amazing fight, wasn’t it? All the sons of Ragnar have a disadvantage. Rollo used to say about living in Ragnar’s shadow is like, living under a rock. Fame is important to the Vikings. They want to be famous too. They want to crawl out from under the rock. Some of them find it more difficult than others. All of them again, are trying to claim the mantle of Ragnar in some way.
Ubbe looks most like a young Ragnar, but there’s never really been a moment where you thought, wow, he’s an incredible guy. I wanted to put him in a position to prove he is the son of Ragnar; it doesn’t mean anything otherwise. I love the whole set up when he tells Alfred that you better make me the leader of your army and when he negotiates with the three kings, the (opposing) army is chanting his name. That fight was the moment he had to prove he was worthy of it. He gets baptized, triumphs in this battle, comes back from nearly being dead and it’s insane. Everyone’s view of him changes, including his own view of himself. Jordan’s a good actor as well, I wanted to give him more, a type of comeback or something like that.
His revelation to Torvi that he feels nothing for Christianity, bookends his arc going back to his baptism earlier in the season, which re-centers him with his Paganism. What happens to Ubbe in Season 6?
Ubbe has decided not to rule. He’s like his father in that sense, he’d rather go exploring. Then he hears the story of a wanderer who once lived in the Greenland area and to the west of that. Ubbe becomes driven by a quest. His story to come is fascinating to write. Afterward, his brothers come to respect him, which is really interesting.
I felt that Ragnar's oldest son, Bjorn had to take a step back in Season 5 whether it was to rescue Lagertha or Ivar’s spotlight. Now that he is King of Kattegat, how are we to view Bjorn going forward?
Like with Ubbe, I felt I need to step up my own game with Bjorn in making sure he earned the mantle of being one of Ragnar’s sons. When adult Bjorn first came on the show, he was very puffy (conceited), and Alexander was puffy too. Yeah, I wanted him to be full of energy, but you have to think about how you behaved when you’re a young kid. Alexander and I spoke at great lengths about Bjorn and developing him.
We finally got to a place where Bjorn is a serious man. He’s had many flaws that have already been exposed, flaws in judgment with women, parenthood, alliances or whatever. You were never sure if he’d earned the kingship yet. In the final battle (against Ivar), I thought he did. Then he’s fighting with the ghost of Ragnar. He’s warned about the problems of being king. Bjorn is a sensitive guy, who thinks he can do a better job than Ivar and he’s determined to do that.
He finds out almost immediately, when he's forced into making some huge decisions that no one would like to make. If you make the wrong decision or f*** up, it compromises your whole rule. So immediately he understands what Ragnar is talking about. I feel I had to get him to that point, to someone who is the true heir of Ragnar. He does several things that are so incredible, so unbelievable, that you just feel he is a real hero. He’s a great Viking; he does something that Ragnar could surely never do, and when that part comes in Season 6, I can tell you that’s the best work that (Alexander) has ever done for the series. Bjorn becomes greater than his father.
Season 5 leaves Ivar isolated, mostly because of his own doing. Starting with his murder of the Seer, his newborn son, and his wife. What comes next for Ivar?
Ivar has been completely humiliated. He’s been betrayed by the one person who he thought he loved. He’s been beaten by his brother. He’s had to make out like a rat and scurry off. The important thing, is that Ivar starts Season 6 in a different situation, a different world. He has to learn how to survive and also forms an instant relationship with someone who nurtures a completely different side of his personality– the caring, fatherly, emotional sides of him. It’s a rebirth of Ivar – an Ivar that we’re going to sympathize deeply with, to identify and fall in love with. It’s quite exciting for everyone. You think you know someone and then you don’t know them at all. That’s what happens to Ivar and it’s a great storyline.
Vikings returns to History Channel this summer.