The day has finally come for Vikings fans. The premiere of Season 6--the final batch of episodes for the History drama--airs on Wednesday, December 4. Thankfully, there's still plenty to watch, with the second half of Season 6 airing in 2020. With the end in sight, though, Vikings isn't slowing down.
There's a new king in town, more drama between the sons of Ragnar, and much more story to explore in the final episodes of the series. After all, with Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig) taking control of Kattegat and his mad brother Ivar the Boneless (Alex Høgh) ousted, the war between the songs of Ragnar is clearly not over.
Speaking to GameSpot, Vikings creator Michael Hirst previewed what's ahead for Bjorn and Ivar--as well as Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick). He also discussed finding the right ending for the series and making sure every character gets a proper conclusion.
GameSpot: You've been plotting this story out for years. Going into the final season, knowing this is the end, what were you hoping to accomplish in these last episodes?
Michael Hirst: Actually, when we went in to pitch the show to History way back when, I knew already where the show would begin. I knew that it started the beginning of the Viking Age and with one of the earliest leaders to emerge in the Viking Age, which was Ragnar.
But I also knew the ending that I wanted. But I also knew that it would take many episodes to reach it. And of course, I had no way of knowing that that they'd allow me to do that or that that would ever happen. Because the show continued to be a success and its audience grew, I was allowed to do that. I could realize my original intentions. I was very happy to be moving towards a destiny that I'd had in the back of my mind from the start, but I also wanted to make sure that all the major characters had good, strong, powerful storylines. I wanted to deal with them just as well as I could because I've been with many of them for a long time and I love them. Whether they died or didn't, I wanted to [factually] round off their storylines.
Partly because, you know, you've seen it so often that the show ends in a disappointing way often because there's plans to bring it back or there's disagreements about how it should end. But in this case, it was left to me and I was able to what I wanted to do. And of course, one of the upshots of that was that it was a hugely emotional season for me to write, and I'm sort of slightly still recovering. Talking about it again, it's bringing everything back and the very deep emotions that I've felt. I think the storylines are strong, and I think the ending is good. I'm very happy with it.
Looking at those storylines, Season 5 saw the rise and fall of Ivar as king of Kattegat. We now have Bjorn leading the kingdom. As the show has evolved to revolve around this particular song of Ragnar, what can you say about his reign?
You know, I began to think quite recently that in many ways Bjorn is the central character in the whole show. Because we saw him as a little boy. We saw his parents splitting up and him going with his mother, and that cemented that deep bond between them. We saw him becoming a man, fighting the bear going into the wilderness. And we saw his father talking to him about kingship and about ruling and how Ragnar never really wanted to be king and talked about how you have to stoop very low to pick up power and how power corrupts everybody.
I think that Bjorn took that on board, but he felt that in some ways he's had longer to prepare for kingship than his father and he's seen mistakes that were made. And he genuinely believes that he can do a good job. He's obviously going to be totally different from Ivar. He's going to be tolerant and democratic and all the things that that Ivar wasn't and in that way, being a king will be as corrosive and won't be as problematic, as his father suggested.
Of course, he gets handed a couple of huge decisions to make very early on. And they're both kind of lose/lose decisions in some way. He's also realized very early that this kingship game is exactly as his father said. [It's] difficult and troubling. We've got to share that learning curve and those trials that he has to endure. I think that the people of Kattegat are incredibly pleased initially. But you know, it's not long really before it all it slightly starts to unwind.
You mentioned Ivar. Season 5 saw Ivar coming to believe he was a god and, in doing so, made him a complete monster as he ruled over Kattegat. Now, with this final season, you're almost humanizing him in a way. Can you speak to his trajectory this season?
When I first introduced Ivar into the show, I knew that he was going to do bad things. I mean, historically, he did bad things. But it was in the context of his clinical condition, his brittle bone disease. We talked to some people whose relatives has brittle bone disease and what came out of that was that they are angry a lot of the time. It's a horrible predicament to be in, a horrible disease. And so, [even with] the idea of Ivar lashing out and doing bad things, I never lost total sympathy for him because I understood his condition. I understood his psychology.
But when he took over Kattegat, it was that other side the thing that got control--the bad side, the dark side. I kind of wanted to pull him out of there and to show him again, as someone who you could have sympathy with. To show him in a much more decent life. And of course, one of the ways was to put him against someone who is far more ruthless than he is. Oleg is far more ruthless that he could ever be really, who doesn't care at all. He doesn't seem to put any value on life itself and is toying with them a lot of the time.
We've also seen in a trailer for the new season that Lagertha is laying down her sword, seemingly retiring from life as a shieldmaiden. What can you say about her story this season, given that it's hard to imagine her not being part of any battles?
But you can imagine that she might want to retire, that she might have had just about a belly full of battles and death. She's been fighting since she was very young. Lots of things have happened in her private life and her public life. There's a sense in which to retire would be a sensible thing to do. On the other hand, of course, a famous shieldmaiden can't suddenly become un-historic. In a world in which fame meant so much--I don't mean celebrity. I mean fame for actually having done real things--you simply can't disappear.
Vikings Season 5 premieres December 4 on History. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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