When Vikings returns for its third season, the History drama picks up almost immediately after the events of the Season 2 finale, in which Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) rose to king. "I think one of the important themes [of this season] is: What does it mean to be king" creator Michael Hirst tells TVGuide.com. "It's a question that Ragnar asks himself right at the start of the season. Here's a man who didn't set out to be an earl or a king, who had no particular ambition that way. He's not motivated by the desire for power. He's motivated, as we know, by an immense curiosity."
And this curiosity will lead Ragnar to new countries, into new wars and a whole lot of other new adventures this season. Read on to learn exactly what you can expect from Vikings Season 3:
1. Don't worry. Ragnar will survive the season: With great power comes... a great big target on your back. But while Ragnar's new status as king definitely draws eyes (and ire), the heightened power won't be the death of him - at least this season. "I'm only somewhere in the middle of Ragnar's story, so don't expect any time soon that Ragnar's going to quit the scene because he's the most important character," Hirst says, easing our fears.
2. Lagertha is also safe - and she has a new lover! Though Season 3 begins with Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) asking the Seer about the moment of her death, the shieldmaiden won't be traveling to Valhalla this year. But she will be going to Wessex, where she develops a very interesting relationship with King Ecbert (Linus Roache).
"Ecbert, I think, is genuinely amazed by a woman who, unlike Saxon women, is not only a mother and a wife, but a warrior. And I think he's excited by that," Hirst says. However, Lagertha and Ecbert's courtship comes with an unorthodox third wheel attached. "It's quite an amusing relationship because initially neither can speak the other's language, so poor Athelstan has to translate their words to each other even if they're flirting with each other," Hirst says.
3. No one gets along: As part of Ragnar's farming settlement deal with King Ecbert, he agrees to have his men fight for Queen Kwenthrith and Mercia. This decision "gets him into a lot of trouble with Floki (Gustaf Skarsgard) and the Vikings who believe they shouldn't be fighting on behalf of a Christian king in a Christian country," Hirst says. Could this finally be the blasphemous straw that breaks Floki's back?
4. The Vikings take Paris: Ragnar's latest trip to England is no longer enough to quench his curiosity so he sets his sights on Paris. And Ragnar's Parisian raid won't be like any you've seen before. "Historically speaking, the Vikings raided Paris with 100 boats and 3,000 men, which means our production has had to step up considerably. And this is a huge endeavor. It's utterly fantastic to watch," Hirst says.
5. Bjorn will come into his own: According to the real-world history books, Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig) went on to become a famous Viking in his own right, sailing around the Mediterranean, raiding what he believed to be Italy and even being chased by pirates. And Season 3 will show the beginning of Bjorn's journey to becoming a true Viking warrior and leader.
"I always thought it was clever of me to find a lead character who had many sons to secede him ... so there's plenty of juice left," Hirst says, hinting at the direction of Vikings' future.
But for now, Bjorn's life will continue to revolve around his relationship with his new fiancée Porunn, who follows Bjorn to Wessex. "She, like many of the women in Kattegatt, is impressed by Lagertha and would like to be like Lagertha and do what Lagertha can do and be as Viking as Lagertha is," Hirst says. "And that desire actually can lead to trouble."
6. A new visitor will have a drastic effect on Kattegatt: When the men and shieldmaidens go off to England, they leave behind Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland), Siggy and Helga, who are haunted by identical, troubling dreams of a stranger arriving. And just as their dreams are prophesized, a stranger soon arrives, upsetting their lives dramatically.
"He's very enigmatic figure and calls himself The Wanderer," Hirst says."His coming has a huge and dramatic impact on these three women. And on Aslaug, because he turns out to have healing abilities and gifts and he helps her with her crippled and troubled son, Ivar ... He is an enigmatic figure because in the end you don't know whether he's good or evil. Or perhaps both."
7. There's a new player in the game: In preparation for her journey to England, Lagertha puts her trusted right-hand man Kalf in charge. Only it turns out that Lagertha put her faith in the wrong confidant when Kalf immediately stages a coup against her. But this power play takes a dramatic turn you won't see coming.
"That becomes something different and unexpected, so don't expect that you can figure out straightaway what's going to happen to Kalf," Hirst warns.
8. Baby goats: It wouldn't be Vikings without tons of adorable baby goats, would it?
Vikings returns Thursday at 10/9c on History.