The Vikings civil war will reach its climax on Wednesday when Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) and Ivar (Alex Høgh Andersen) face off for one last stand. But after Ivar's embarrassing defeat, will he be able to rally his forces and take revenge for his mother's death once and for all? Or will Lagertha continue to knock Ivar down until he's only a shell of the great leader he imagined he'd become?
TV Guide chatted with Winnick, who was busy shooting her directorial debut for Vikings' sixth season, about where Lagertha's head is at going into this final battle, how the prophecy of her death weighs on her and how that affects her relationship with Ragnar's sons.
Lagertha won the first battle against Ivar, so going into this next battle do you think that victory has emboldened her and raised her confidence, or is she now just preparing for an even deadlier retaliation from Ivar?
Katheryn Winnick: Well, Ivar is definitely a threat, especially now. He's a very calculative, strategic ruler and she does know his strengths and what he's good at. He also doesn't necessarily have much empathy, so he will go above and beyond to get what he wants and Lagertha really, truly knows that. So the stakes are always high when there's a threat with Ivar. Especially, more than anything else, there's a personal threat. He really wants to have revenge against Lagertha for killing his mother, so he made a promise that he will try and kill her. I say try.
Do you think Lagertha understands why Ivar feels it is his responsibility to kill her? And if so, does she blame him for this?
Winnick: I feel that I've tried to show that in an earlier scene where she understands where Ivar came from. Lagertha's a very sympathetic character, she's also a mother herself, she's had sons, she understands when a boy loses his mother — especially somebody as close as Ivar was to Aslaug — so I wanted to make sure that that was played in the earlier episodes. I think he definitely surprises her, in terms of his skill as a leader, but in terms of understanding what his motivations are, she fully understands and is going to do whatever she can to protect her kingdom. And he's in for a fight, let's put it that way.
Ubbe (Jordan Patrick Smith) and Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig) are fighting for Ragnar's (Travis Fimmel) legacy. But what is Lagertha fighting for in this war?
Winnick: I truly feel that she is really fighting for herself. More than anyone else, she is fighting to prove to herself that she doesn't necessarily need — if anything, I feel she is in a different place where before, she's relied on so many people and now she has to rely on herself as a warrior and as a queen. She's motivated to be able to make those decisions by herself, to be able to be a ruler that rules from a different perspective, not necessarily typical revenge or bloodshed. I've always wanted to play her and I have always played her as a very smart ruler and someone who would try to see things from a different angle and not necessarily just cause more pain and war and lose warriors, and I think that is also evident in the contrast between her and Ivar, especially.
Lagertha was a very different type of ruler than the ones Kattegatt had seen before, and that lost her a lot of support and allowed Harald (Peter Franzén) to live and help launch this campaign against her. Do you think, given the chance, she'd do things differently?
Winnick: It's funny, I ended up asking [creator] Michael Hirst that question. Like, why is she letting him go after everything she's learned? Why is she letting Harald go? At the end of the day, she really rules also with her heart. She wants to see the good side of people. She does want to give people a second chance. If she can still have — not even control. That's not the right word. She wants to make the right decision for the people of Kattegatt and [if she can] save an extra person from going to Valhalla, she would try and do so at least. It's not always the case, as you know. She's killed many people. But at this stage of her life, where she's lost so many and had so many hardships — with losing Ragnar, losing Gyda, her miscarrying a few times, getting usurped a few times, having to kill her future husband — and it means that she is definitely a lot wiser and not necessarily one that would just make decisions based on initial reactions, but she's a more thought-out ruler. So if you're asking me if she would do it all again, I actually don't think she would because I think she really wants to believe that she's making the right decision.
Lagertha is a woman of strong faith, so does believing that one of Ragnar's sons is destined to kill her mean that she is now wary of them all, including her ally Ubbe and her own son Bjorn?
Winnick: Yes. I think in her mind, once the Seer prophecized that one day she'll be killed by the son of Ragnar, it really shifted her focus and allows Lagertha to be able to look at all sons as possible threats. Is it Ubbe that's going to kill her? Is it Bjorn? Is it Hvitserk (Marco Ilsø)? Is it Ivar? I'm not sure she can really fully trust anyone at that point. And that's why it brought me to our first point, which is that she really needs to rely on herself more than anyone else.
How does this belief hang over Lagertha and affect her relationships with Ragnar's sons?
Winnick: I think it always does affect it because she is someone who truly believes in the fates. I think she tried to cheat the fates in Season 2 or 3 when she miscarried — or maybe it was [Season] 4. She miscarried a couple times — where she had that line, "I was hoping to cheat the fates," because the Seer prophecized that she would not have any more children. And because of that experience and because of everything else that has happened, she's probably the only character that is that strong in her belief of not only Valhalla, but of the fates and prophecies. So that has given her a lot of peace more than necessarily fear because she can go into a certain battle and if it's the gods' fates that this will be her last day, then that's the gods fates.
Is Lagertha ready to die?
Winnick: I feel like since that prophecy, since that meeting with the Seer, I feel like she has gotten to a stage of her life that has a certain amount of peace. She's not acting out of fear. She's not trying to change fate. If anything, she knows that's how she'll go: that one day, a son will kill her. A son of Ragnar will kill Lagertha. But it gives her certain a strength and a certain courage, and she definitely goes into every experience being grateful and kind, but also fearless.
How does Lagertha feel knowing she'll have to face Astrid (Josefin Asplund) on the battlefield?
Winnick: I think it's a mixed bag. I think it's a very complicated thing for Lagertha to have to face her past lover, her one person that she trusted. And now Astrid is there as Harald's wife and that's complicated in itself. I think that she ends up doing what she needs to do, I'll put it that way. But I think it brings back a lot of past emotions. And that scene was shot really beautifully by Daniel [Grou], who's one of our directors who's actually here on set right now. I think a lot of people are going to be really excited and they will see the battle shown in a very different way and they're going to be blown away because, creatively, they've never seen anything like this before.
Vikings' midseason finale airs Wednesday at 9/8c on History.