[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the latest episode of Vikings. Read at your own risk.]
Vikings is gearing up for one of its last major battles in next week's Season 6A finale. And based on the impressive, and frankly intimidating, size of the Rus army at Ivar (Alex Høgh) and Oleg's (Danila Kozlovsky) disposal, it might prove to be the most devastating battle yet for our Viking heroes.
But while Ivar seems to finally be on the precipice of achieving his goals — with Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) already dead and good reason to believe he'll wreak havoc on his brother Bjorn's (Alexander Ludwig) forces in the upcoming fight - the fallen king doesn't appear to be happy. For much of Ivar's tenure on the series, he's been depicted as a relentlessly ruthless, power-hungry sociopath. But the first half of the final season has shown a gentle, more empathetic side of Ivar. So does this mean he might be having second thoughts about seeking revenge on Bjorn? And if Ivar is interested in redemption, is that even possible after everything he's done in the past? TV Guide spoke with Alex Høgh about all this and more of what fans can expect of Vikings' final season.
When Hvitserk (Marco Ilsø) revealed he killed Lagertha and when Ivar saw Oleg's army, Ivar didn't look happy. He actually looked a bit hollow and even sad. Is there a part of Ivar that is doubting himself and this ruthless path he set himself on?
Alex Høgh: Well, he's in new territory and I think he's maybe doubting himself a little bit at the moment. I don't think he's in full power and I think he understands that. ... I think he's doubting himself just a little bit because he's in unknown territory and I think he feels like a fish out in deep water, I would say. Yeah, he's concerned maybe a little bit.
I don't think we've ever seen an army as massive as the Rus forces. What can fans expect of the battle between the Vikings and the Rus?
Høgh: They can expect obviously a massive, massive battle. We've shot some amazing stuff. There's some cool stuff on the boats. I won't get too much into that, but there will be some very extraordinary, cool stuff. I know they took a lot of time and put a lot of effort into building the sets for those battle scenes and it was amazing to shoot. You always turn into a little boy again when you're on set shooting all the battle scenes. It's a pleasure. It really, really is. And the fans can expect something big as always, but this is extremely interesting because [creator Michael Hirst] came up with a new, not shield wall-oriented battle, which I find super interesting. It's massive and it was hard to shoot. It was cold, it was wet, and that's how we like it.
Ivar is once again fighting his brother in this battle. Do you think Ivar has any regrets about the way their family has been torn apart and the role he's played in that?
Høgh: That's always the question, isn't it? I would like for him to have a teeny, tiny regret about this whole thing. And I've tried to show that maybe once in a while. But I think at this stage and at this time in his life, he knows there's no turning back. There's no way he can do that. So it's 100 percent what he's going to do and he will go through with that 100 percent, as he always does. And I think he has left that part of the past — the entire past that he had with Bjorn and all the love that he might have had for him is gone. So I think it's all about the power now and it's all about maybe reestablishing himself again because he is a narcissist, first and foremost. He's a hurt narcissist but he is one after all, and I think that is what speaks the loudest in his mind at this point in this story.
We saw Ivar raise himself up to the status of a god last season. How has Ivar's quest for power evolved and what does he want power to look like now?
Høgh: In the end of Season 5, this whole idea of him being a god, I think that died with him losing Kattegat. And I personally never really thought that he completely, wholeheartedly believed that he was a god. And I think it died with him in the end of Season 5. He's using it as a tool to manipulate Prince Oleg in Russia, but that's just because of his reputation. That has nothing to do with his inner self and his inner image. And I think his quest of power now, it's based and driven by him trying to redeem himself. I think that's what it is because when you first get the taste of power, you're not going to let that go. And he has been, for now, nine episodes in Russia all by himself, almost being a puppy to Prince Oleg. And he's power oriented. He's thirsty for that. And I also believe he's a little homesick. He wants to go home. I don't think he likes Russia that much. He didn't get a warm welcome, that's for sure.
Given their complicated history, is Ivar happy to have Hvitserk back by his side simply because he's lonely or is there any real affection for his brother?
Høgh: The thing about the brothers, especially Hvitserk and Ivar, is it's a love-hate relationship, and mostly hate. I have to say especially with Hvitserk, because they've spent so much time together and he jumped the boat to be with Ivar, there is a special relation between those two, absolutely. Obviously there's still more hate than love, but there's more love between the two of them. But I also absolutely believe it has a lot to do with Ivar recognizing a familiar face in the middle of the forest. And with his brother, I think he's really happy to see him. He's not going to show it too much, obviously. He's not that kind of a guy. But he also believes that that's a tool that he can use to move forward with his plan. But on a personal level, I believe he's really, really happy to see his brother again, because he's lonely. And yeah, I like to think of him as a human being and not just a crazy psychopathic narcissist.
Hvitserk firmly believed Ivar was fated to kill him earlier this season. Does Hvitserk still believe that, and how might this affect their relationship down the line?
Høgh: I don't know, that's up to Marco to answer that. I think my character Ivar — and I'm uncertain of Hvitserk, but he's always been like that. He's always had a massive defensive mechanism activated all the time, especially towards his brothers. And I don't think they're good to go as brothers and that they have come together all of a sudden. It's still a rough relationship and you're definitely going to see that in the next season as well, as far as I'm concerned. I don't think that will ever change between the two.
Ivar and Oleg's relationship has been complicated from the beginning and only gotten more so as time has gone on. How would you describe their dynamic going into the midseason finale?
Høgh: I enjoyed working with my character in front of Oleg because they're very similar. I read this article that called them frenemies — which is a term I've never heard before, but I like it a lot — to describe these characters' relationship. They started out as friends but have become more like enemies in a way because I think Oleg also senses that Ivar's planning on something. But I also believe that he underestimates him and Ivar's taking full advantage of that. But there is a certain mutual respect that they have for each other. And I think that if it was a different world and a different time and different context, I think they could actually be friends in another world, those two characters, and really good friends. But that's not how we do it on Vikings. But there's a lot of interesting stuff going on between them in the next season. It's going to develop lots and there will be ups and downs, for sure.
I also have loved to see the relationship between Ivar and Katya (Alicia Agneson) and was surprised when Hvitserk said he didn't see the resemblance between Katja and Freydis at all. Could you talk about Ivar's relationship with Katya and whether her resemblance to Freydis really might be all in his head?
Høgh: I don't know if every single time we see Katya, we see it from Ivar's perspective and that's the reason why she may be look very much like Freydis. I don't know, but it's interesting to think about. We have seen scenes of Katya though where she is looking like we always see her where Ivar's not in the scene, so that's some food for thought. But I have to say that it's an interesting and weird and crazy character relationship. How would that be to find your wife in Russia after you killed her? That's weird. And I remember those scenes being tough to shoot because like, what do I pull from in my personal life to shoot those scenes? That's harsh. So you know, that was full on imagination. It's fun. It's hardcore to try to create and make it feel alive because you're looking at somebody who you see as that person [Freydis] so that's very interesting and it was hard to shoot. And he's trying his best to get her out of his head, but he is not doing a very good job. And she has way more power over him and the past has way more power over him than I think he, first and foremost, realizes but that he accepts actually.
Seeing the different ways Ivar treats Katya and Igor compared to how he treated Freydis and his own child is very interesting. How has Ivar's time in Rus changed him, and what do you think spurred these changes?
Høgh: Obviously, him losing the kingship at the end of Season 5 took a toll on him. I think he was a boy before. I think he's grown up way more. And I think he got a reality check. He realized that he was not a god, first and foremost, and that he was vulnerable. And I think it hurt him quite a bit. And I think that's also the reason why he took a massive step back in this season and he's looking from the outside in now. Last season, he was on the throne from the inside looking out. And I think that's way more interesting to see him as this character in the shadows playing his little mind games and his little political sessions — I love that stuff about his character. That's also why it's good to have him back there. That's where I like him a lot. And yeah, that's also the reason why he has such a great relationship with Igor — first and foremost, because he can use him but also because he has a lot of empathy for him. He understands it. He lost his own child and he's kind of making this little guy kind of a son, kind of a little brother that he takes care of. And I think that's beautiful. Because if there's one character in this show that needs to show a little love to another character that would be Ivar, so I'm happy it went there. I think it paints a prettier picture of him as a whole character.
You mentioned that Ivar is interested in finding redemption, but he's done some truly terrible things over the course of the series. Do you think it's possible for him to find redemption by the end of the show?
Høgh: [Laughs] I have no idea. I have no idea. I think that's his main goal, but I can't get into that. And I won't, because that's not interesting to get into. It's interesting to watch and it's interesting to watch him try. And believe me, he will try to get redemption. Absolutely. I think he's a broken boy on the inside, and probably more broken on the inside than he is on the outside. And that's partly because he hates himself and he's not happy. So redemption would be a way to get there.
Vikings Season 6A finale airs Wednesday at 10/9c on History.