[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the latest episode of Vikings. Read at your own risk!]
When Ubbe (Jordan Patrick Smith), Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig) and Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) made one final appeal to Ivar, Hvitserk (Marco Ilsø) and Harald (Peter Franzén), the leader of the Great Army initially pretended to accept the peace treaty only to throw their offer back in their face. Lagertha's and Ivar's forces then went head-to-head in battle, which quickly turned into a one-sided massacre when Ivar's attempts to outsmart Bjorn backfired, leaving Harald and his men exposed.
So where does Ivar go from here? TV Guide spoke with Alex Høgh Andersen about where Ivar's head is at after that terrible loss, how he'll attempt to recover and why he felt the need to play that sick joke on his brothers.
Ivar and his army suffered a great loss in this episode. How does Ivar feel afterwards?
Alex Høgh Andersen: He's been riding a wave of confidence after his success with taking over and defending York, so this first real loss hits him hard. He starts doubting himself and that's dangerous for him going forward. You can't lead an entire army against Team Lagertha and not fully believe in your capability to win, and being a cripple on top of that. Confidence is key and one of his major virtues.
Ivar's attempt to be clever and out-maneuver Bjorn wound up playing a major role in the defeat. Does this sow seeds of doubt in Harald's mind about Ivar's ability to lead?
Andersen: Oh definitely. There has always been trust issues between Ivar and Harald and this only adds fuel to the fire. I think the only reason why Harald agrees to let Ivar lead the army is because he has proven himself to be a phenomenal strategist. If you take that away from Ivar, then what is he really worth? Ivar is of course fully aware of that and in complete damage control, all while he's maybe starting to doubt himself too.
Astrid wanted Ivar to return his forces to the battlefield to help Harald but he refused. How much of Ivar's decision not to help was because he thought it was the best thing for him personally and how much was because he thought it was the best thing strategically?
Andersen: Well, everything Ivar does is always based on what's best for him personally. But in this particular case, what was best strategically was also what was best for him. They lost the battle, but not the war. But again, if Harald died on the battlefield, I don't think it would hurt Ivar too much — perhaps the opposite. Who knows?
Ivar does make another surprising alliance in the next episode, but we know Ivar isn't exactly a man of his word. As Ivar continues to make allegiances and rise up the ranks of power, how will he deal with all the promises he's made to these different people with differing agendas?
Andersen: It's a good question. I don't think Ivar agrees to anything without having a plan — and a plan of how to get out (or rid) of it. Sometimes when you're with your back against the wall, you have to compromise and make deals you're not fond of. Good thing he's as smart and manipulative as he is. He's a "one thing at a time, but always three steps ahead" kind of a guy.
Ivar did express deep regret over killing Sigurd (David Lindström) earlier in the season, so it was believable when he initially said that he wanted to make peace, even though this turned out to be a ruse. Do you think Ivar learned anything from killing Sigurd or has he left those regrets completely in the past?
Andersen: Killing his brother created too big of a cliff between him and his brothers that a bridge could never be built upon [it]. He regrets it, and hates himself for losing control and letting somebody get to him. He sees that as weakness, but it's in the past and he'll never stop for anything on his way to fame and Valhalla, because he's all about the present and future.
Ivar could have said outright that he wasn't interested in a peace accord, but instead he decided to play a twisted joke. Why do you think he did that?
Andersen: He's a drama queen, but more than that, he wanted to make an extreme fool out of everybody, especially Ubbe, as he's deeply ashamed of him. Ubbe was once Ivar's legs and the one brother taking the best care of him, and now Ubbe's fighting alongside the woman who killed his own mother. One thing is the two of them splitting up, but to betray his own dead mother like that is worse than what Ivar ever did, he thinks. I think he's got a point and that's the cool thing about this clash: no one is completely good or evil.
Ivar goes so far as to tell Ubbe he is no longer his brother. Do you believe some part of Ivar still cares for Ubbe or does he feel nothing for him anymore?
Andersen: Ivar is full of rage and absolute disappointment and those are the feelings talking in that scene. Underneath all that is a sad little kid who is deeply conflicted. Ivar is getting where he wants to go, but his way there has destroyed everything. I think the voice of that little kid is getting smaller and smaller — Ivar is just too determined and too challenged already to let that kind of "weakness" stay with him. He's suppressing it in these very demanding moments.
What do you imagine would happen if Ivar and Ubbe were to come face-to-face on the battlefield — would either one actually be able to kill the other?
Andersen: First of all, I think Ivar would get killed because has no place on a battlefield. Haha! On a serious note, yes, I don't think they would have trouble killing each other. The time of compassion is long gone. Hvitserk and Ubbe on the other hand... that's a tough one.
Harald and Halfdan (Jasper Pääkkönen) are in a very similar situation to Ivar, Hvitserk, Ubbe and Bjorn. What do you think is the biggest difference between the different sets of brothers and how they're handling having to fight each other?
Andersen: I think it's pretty similar. It's the same internal fight of personal legacy versus family and the consequences of your choices throughout life, because there is no turning back and there is no middle way. It's everything or nothing.
How do you think Ivar achieving more mobile independence through his splints and chariot affected his mindset and his relationships with his family?
Andersen: He is trying to be as independent as possible throughout his life, but getting almost full independence through the calipers and chariot makes him more capable and therefore more hungry, progressive and dangerous. I think you can see it in Ubbe's eyes when Ivar is standing for the first time back in the beginning of the season in York. Ubbe realizes that this probably means trouble.
Ivar says he is launching this war to avenge the death of his mother, but Ivar really isn't a sentimental person. Do you think Ivar truly is doing this to honor Aslaug or do you think his true motivations are something else?
Andersen: I think he's a sentimental person. He's just trying his very best to hide it and has been practicing his entire life. I think he's sentimental about his life and his struggles throughout, but he has overcome them, which makes him an outstanding and very impressive human being. He's so strong, yet so broken on the outside as well as on the inside. There are always two sides to this young man and it's the same with the motivation behind avenging his mother. It's 50/50 him honestly avenging his mother, but also knowing the personal gains of defeating Lagertha: [becoming] King of Kattegat.
Do you think Ivar cares at all about how his actions will affect Ragnar's legacy?
Andersen: Ragnar passed the torch to Ivar. If you watch the last scene they have together in captivity in Wessex and listen to what Ragnar tells Ivar, it's not hard to understand why Ivar is so determined and ruthless. I think Ragnar was fully aware of what kind of a war monster he created in Ivar in that last moment together and throughout their journey in England, and I think Ivar is aware of that too. Ivar believes that most of what he's doing Ragnar would agree to, more than what his brothers believe. But it's also true that Ivar is on a fine line between building upon Ragnar's legacy while creating his own and completely destroying it.
Ivar recognized a kindred spirit in Heahmund (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), but now he's lost him to Lagertha, Ivar's mortal enemy. How will Ivar react to learning Heahmund is now with the woman he's aiming to kill?
Andersen: He's going to be furious, but then again, he's expendable. After all, he's just a Christian, right?
Vkings midseason finale airs Wednesday at 9/8c on History.