[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the season finale of Vikings.]
Vikings' fifth season ended with yet another battle for control of Kattegatt, only this time the good guys won. Well, "good" being a relative term in the Vikings universe, of course. On Wednesday, Ivar's (Alex Høgh) reign of terror came to an end after Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig), Hviterk (Marco Ilsø), Harald (Peter Franzen) and King Olaf (Steven Berkoff) successfully teamed up to take on the ruthless ruler, who managed to sneak out of the city before being captured.
Bjorn was crowned King of Kattegatt by his mother, Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick), who continued to be shaken after her near-death experience and the loss of her lover Heahmund (Jonathan Rhys Meyers). Meanwhile, the fate of Floki (Gustaf Skarsgard) remained unknown; the former boat builder was last seen inside an Icelandic volcano when an eruption occurred, seemingly trapping him inside.
While Vikings creator Michael Hirst couldn't reveal to us whether or not Floki survived the eruption and will live to see the History drama's final season, we can reveal that Floki's fate will have a personal effect on Ubbe (Jordan Patrick Smith) next season. As for what exactly Ubbe, Bjorn, Lagertha and the rest of our Vikings favorites will get up to next season -- and the implications of that chilling final scene -- check out our full interview with Hirst below.
Freydis helped convince Ivar that he was a god, but his belief in his own infallibility came crashing down, not only with the birth of his son but with Freydis' betrayal and his defeat. How will this all shift Ivar's state of mind and fuel his next moves in the final season?
Michael Hirst: One of the interesting things about that -- and I don't use social media, but people alert me of things on social media at times -- and one of the things that people have been saying is, "Oh, you know, Ivar, we already know about Ivar. He's not as interesting as Ragnar was. He's a bit two-dimensional." And I think what we're going to see is that that is a pre-judgment too far, that what you're going to see, right from the start of Season 6, is a very different side of Ivar. ... He's going to reveal different aspects of his character and one of the reasons for that is that he comes across as someone who's even more ruthless and brutal than he ever could be. ... So Ivar becomes, in a way, much more interesting. We find out different things about him. He forms a new relationship, which is a very interesting relationship, in which he has to take responsibility for someone. ... I think we've been slightly disengaging with him inside because he's brutal and interpreting how to rule in the most negative sort of way. So what we're going to see is all that change and a much more vulnerable and a much more interesting Ivar emerging from his own personal tragedy.
The final scene is fascinating and also quite emotional, seeing Ragnar's conversation with the younger Bjorn about power again. What can you say about the implications of that vision and how this may or may not effect Bjorn's relationship to power and being king of Kattegatt?
Hirst: It's a beautiful scene, as we know that Ragnar didn't want to rule, that he wasn't interested in power. I think that, by contrast, Bjorn is interested in power and feels that he probably has an agenda, how he's going to deal with power. But it does set up a situation in which, right from the start of the sixth season, you realize how circumstances can go against you. Whatever you think you're going to do, you might not be able to do that. Power is very tricky. We've seen how Ragnar tried to use it. We've seen how Ivar tried to use it. When Bjorn tries to be very, as it were, liberal, very inclusive in ways that Ivar wasn't -- he's trying to be a much better ruler than Ivar -- he comes in as a much more popular person, but almost immediately he's forced into some decisions [that] are crucial, but they're incredibly difficult decisions he has to make. And if he gets them wrong, it will affect the rest of his rule and how he thought his rule pans out. I'm not saying, but it may be that he does make some bad decisions and it is going to impact on him. So, I think in a way I am interested in power and its expression. But I do think that power itself is much more complicated than you'd ever think about. On Game of Thrones, it's just all you need to do is get the throne and then it's sort of sorted. The great thing about Vikings is once you get the throne, that's the beginning of your problems. And that's what Ragnar is telling Bjorn as they sit on the mountainside. It's only the beginning of your problems, and so it proves.
The episode is called "Ragnarok", which is the end of the world in Norse mythology before the world resurfaces and starts anew. Was this finale hitting that darkest point and will next season be about rebuilding or is more destruction still to come?
Hirst: I think that there's a lot of gods and monsters in the final episode and a lot of betrayal. ... The whole season has seen kingdoms rise and fall. I think that Ragnarok, the myth, the story has just this potentially positive outcome; it was the end of the wars. In the myth, there was a man and a woman who survive and there is a possibility that things can build again and things can grow. So we start Season 6 with Ivar in a totally different position, in a totally different world, in which we think that there's something positive that's going to come out of that. We see Bjorn trying to make himself a positive ruler and so were hoping the age of destruction, the darkness that envelopes the world in Season 5 may be overcome in Season 6. And in fact, there is a lot more light, in a way, in Season 6, but it's very tentative. It's frail. It's a frail hope, but it's there nonetheless.
Ubbe managed to achieve Ragnar's dream of settling Vikings in East Anglia. Now that he's fulfilled that goal and taken back Kattegatt, what's next for him?
Hirst: I think that the end of Season 5 and going into Season 6 we see at least two of Ragnar's sons, Bjorn and Ubbe, trying to position themselves as the true heirs of Ragnar. And they approach things in a different way and they see their futures differently. Ubbe has met someone who has told him about a wanderer who sailed west from Iceland who once found an amazing land but wasn't able to actually land there because of storms. But he just caught a glimpse of it. He didn't know where he was, but he lived to tell this tale. And Ubbe hears this tale and that part of him, which is the explorer part of him, like his father, wants to find this land and doesn't want to rule. Ubbe doesn't want to be king. He doesn't want responsibility like that. He's like Ragnar, he's like his father. And he wants to find this mythic fabled land and he's prepared to die, to do anything to find it. So Ubbe becomes a man obsessed with a mission and the way that pans out is phenomenal, I think. Season 6 just has these incredible storylines and incredible visuals, too, so get ready for that.
Bjorn welcomed Hvitserk back with open arms, literally, but when Ubbe saw him after the battle it definitely felt like there was still a lot of tension there. Can you talk about Hvitserk's journey next season and how his quest to find his place in the world continues?
Hirst: His struggles actually continue. Hvitserk is a really interesting character and you know, I think that Bjorn and Ubbe and Hvitserk are now creeping out of Ragnar's shadow and taking center stage. But Hvitserk is the most complex character, and he spends a lot of time wondering why he did the extraordinary thing of abandoning Ubbe, the brother that he was closest to. ... And both [Hvitserk and Ivar] continue to speculate why Hvitserkv needs to be near Ivar. And ultimately they decide that it's actually because one of them will kill the other and that's what the gods have decreed. But poor Hvitserk is in agony as he's trying to find his way in the world. He's in existential crisis a lot. But the performance just grows, I think. It's fantastic. It gets very complex in a very interesting, psychological way. And it pays off so hugely at the end of Season 6 that you can't possibly see that coming. You cannot see what's going to happen and what the gods actually had in mind for them. But it's an ongoing story in which poor Hvitserk finds it very difficult to sit in any convenient niche that's found for him. And it's very hard to define what he is, but that's an interesting thing to write about. It's interesting to write a character who is escaping definition all the time.
Lagertha has really changed a lot by the end of the season. How will everything she's experienced affect how she approaches situations? And are we going to see her find that boldness and confidence again in Season 6?
Hirst: Um, sure. She initially decides, after she virtually comes back from the dead, that she's going to step away from power, from responsibility, from fame. There's actually a meeting in the beginning of the first episode of Season 6 in which the winners of the battle for Kattegatt decide what they're going to do and she says that she's going to retire, that she's done enough, that she's weary, that she nearly died, that the people she loved are dead. And everyone is kind of amazed by this. Could Lagertha really become un-historic? Could she really retire from life? And she tries. She says, "I want to be a farmer again like I was when Ragnar and I were first together. That's when I was happiest, so that's what I'm going to do." So she does try and retire to a small community. She tries to become un-historic, but of course it doesn't work. When you're as famous inside a society as she is, you can't retire, you can't walk away.
Once you brought Magnus back, I kept trying to figure out how he'd factor into the larger storyline moving forward, which made his sudden death that much more shocking. Why did you decide to introduce this character and have him die just as soon as he fully embraced his Viking heritage?
Hirst: I thought that he was rather left over from the Ragnar storyline and the Ivar storyline. ... There needed to be some closure on that story. And then I thought, "This poor guy." And you saw him being expelled from the Royal Villa and I wondered what happened to him and so I was exploring possible outcomes for a while. And for a writer, that's nice sometimes, that you have a kind of free-floating character. Everyone else is about their business and you know what they're doing, but you have this character that you're exploring and you think, is there any way he could be accepted as a son of Ragnar? Could he play any significant role in this? How do the sons react to him? It's a terrible thing to say, but I like having fun with the character and realizing after a while that he was doomed anyway. He's always been doomed. He's been doomed from the start. It's a tragic story -- that he couldn't affect things, that he had been brought up as a Christian. He only dreamed of being a Viking. He could never really be a Viking. And he died sort of pointlessly, trying to be a Viking. It's a sad story.
You've said that Ivar goes to Kiev next season and that someone will go to the Silk Road. What can you say about where the characters will be adventuring and what brings them there?
Hirst: Well, we go to three different worlds in Season 6 and one of them is Rus, which is Kiev, which is Russia now. But it was Rus then because Russia was founded by the Rus Vikings. So Ivar finds himself in Rus, which is still a very young country, which is a Christian country that is ruled by an extremely ruthless prince. So for once, Ivar is very vulnerable in the situation. But we're in another world. We're in Rus. It's fantastic. It's much more sort of Eastern looking, from the Silk Road, imported things from China and all that. So it's one of the new worlds that Ivar goes to. And the relationship between Ivar and the prince is fantastic, is interesting. And Ivar faces new challenges and I say becomes a rather different character.
Why did you decide to end Vikings now and have you always known how you wanted the series to end?
Hirst: [In response, Hirst reads a prepared statement responding to reports that Vikings was canceled.] The History Channel didn't cancel Vikings. Why would anyone want to cancel one of the biggest or most successful shows on television? Always in the top four and frequently, according to IMDB, the number one show in the world. The truth is that after nine seasons, and remember we changed from doing 10 episodes to 20 episodes after Season 3... so after nine seasons and 89 episodes, all of which I wrote myself, I knew that I'd finished my saga about Ragnar Lothbrok and his sons. It came to a natural and organic conclusion and one that I always hoped and prayed that it would reach. History and MGM concurred. We finished shooting amidst very emotional scenes and after seven wonderful years in November last year. But we are deep in discussions with both MGM and History to start shooting Vikings Part 2. ... It will be made by the same creative team and the only major change is that most of the heavy lifting in terms of writing will not be done by me, but by Jeb Stuart, the amazing American writer responsible for instigating the Die Hard franchise. I will still be involved but my principal contribution has been telling the saga of the fame of Ragnar Lothbrok and his equally famous sons.
PHOTOS: The Bloodiest Shows on TV