[Warning: The following contains spoilers from the latest episode of Vikings. Read at your own risk!]
We've had to say goodbye to a lot of beloved characters on Vikings, but there are some that hurt far more than others. The death of Athelstan (George Blagden) in Season 3 is one of those that we're still not over, which is what made hearing his voice in Wednesday's episode all the more impactful.
While visiting the monastery that Athelstan belonged to, the monk's son Alfred (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) admits that he can't follow in Athelstan's footsteps as he had hoped. Speaking to his deceased father and unsure of where life will take him next, Alfred says that he would at least like to do The Lord's Prayer together. Alfred begins praying and soon Athelstan's voice joins in, hitting us right where it hurts.
"I don't know what he expected, but as soon as you hear Athelstan's voice, I, myself, am prepared to dissolve into tears," creator Michael Hirst tells TV Guide.
The last time we saw (or heard) Athelstan was when he returned from beyond the grave in Season 4, appearing before both Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) and Ecbert (Linus Roache) to deliver special messages to his old friends. But while Athelstan's last visit helped Ragnar and Ecbert reevaluate their choices, this time Athelstan's return gets right to the core of what Vikings is all about about.
"To hear Alfred and Athelstan was wonderfully emotional," Hirst explains. "And these deep relationships between fathers and sons and daughters and wives -- [Vikings is] a family saga. It's about families. It's about making the Vikings human being like us. That's what the whole show is about."
Now we're left to wonder if -- and when -- Ragnar might make his own tear-jerking return. His sons could sure use some guidance right about now.
Vikings airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on History.