[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the midseason finale of Vikings. Read at your own risk!]
It's not a Vikings finale without a few major deaths. We know that, you know that, it's just the way the History drama operates. But that doesn't mean we were prepared for the final few minutes of Wednesday's devastating Season 6 midseason finale. During the battle between the Vikings and the Rus, Ivar (Alex Høgh) surprised Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig) on the battlefield by stabbing him through the chest and leaving Bjorn seemingly to die.
However, the show's creator, Michael Hirst, told us not to count out the King of Kattegat just yet. "Well, he's not dead, is he? He's very, very badly wounded," Hirst teased to TV Guide.
"I can't tell you too much," Hirst continued, "but what I can tell you is the [midseason premiere] is an extraordinary episode and a number of things that you thought were true at the end of [midseason finale] proved not to be quite true."
As vague as that statement is, what's clear is that Bjorn isn't dead yet, which means there's still hope for him to make some sort of miraculous recovery — as unlikely as that may be. Alexander Ludwig also confirmed to us that fans will see Bjorn "in some way, shape, or form" when the series returns, but it seems as though fans will have to wait and see whether Bjorn's next appearance will be his final one or not.
But while Vikings fans can rest a little easier knowing Bjorn is at least alive for now, the ramifications of this battle will continue to be felt when the drama returns. TV Guide spoke with Hirst about what viewers can expect of Vikings' final 10 episodes, including if Ivar will regret what happened with Bjorn, whether Ubbe (Jordan Patrick Smith) will make it to the Golden Land, and if fans can expect any other original characters to return before the show bows out.
In his conversations with Bjorn on the beach, Ivar seems sad that this is the way it had to be. How will we see Ivar working through his guilt or regret over what happened with Bjorn?
Michael Hirst: I think that in this season we've seen a different Ivar. I think that Ivar actually has been redeemed, to some extent, by his relationship with the boy, with Igor. We've seen a kind of warmth, and he's been almost fatherly towards Igor. And instead of being the narcissist he's always been, he's been able to be emotional, emotionally generous, and empathetic, and I think he's brought that to the battlefield. I think that he's a different person. He's thinking differently about his own life and about his brothers and what his brothers mean to him. And he's always felt that he and Bjorn were in conflict. And they were partly in conflict as the person their father loved best and the one that inherited Ragnar's mantle. But I do think you're seeing a more empathetic, a more thoughtful Ivar. It makes a huge difference. It makes those exchanges with Bjorn highly charged and very emotional. And I loved writing them, actually.
Hvitserk (Marco Ilsø) and Ivar have such a complex relationship. At the moment it seems that they are on good terms and maybe getting along better than we've ever seen them before. But can that last, especially given Hvitserk's previous belief that they were fated to kill each other?
Hirst: It is very, and always has been, a complex relationship. Hvitserk has, in a way, never really worked out why he jumped ship in the past, when he had to choose between Ubbe and Ivar. He was close to Ubbe and he suddenly changed sides and jumped ship and went with Ivar. And he didn't quite know why he did that, and I suppose Ivar didn't, and to some extent I didn't. But I knew that it was the right thing for him to do. So he's still working through the meaning of that and the full meaning of that, the significance of that and why it happened and what it leads to won't become clear until the very final episodes of this show, in which it does become, at least for Ivar and Hvitserk, clear why what has happened has happened. But as it is, it is still complex. But again, you know, Ivar being a gentler soul — I mean, you have Ivar welcoming Hvitserk back to Rus with him and in his company in a very warm and loving way. So this again is part of the new Ivar, part of the redeemed, emotionally engaged Ivar. But I think for the moment, Hvitserk's complexities and the puzzles and challenges go on. But it's been wonderful to map and to chart and to follow these two characters in the ebb and flow of their relationship.
Harald (Peter Franzén) and Bjorn were both gravely wounded and this was such a massive loss to the Rus, so what can you say about the consequences of this battle and how it will affect the Scandinavian Vikings moving into these final episodes?
Hirst: Well, I think perhaps one of the unexpected things about that episode, the last episode of 6A, was how definitive it seemed to be that this is a wipeout for the Vikings that we've never really seen. And you know, we've seen the power of the Rus. I mean, those extraordinary scenes in Episode 9, when we see the Rus army marching out and we realized just how formidable and huge that army is. And so it's not a surprise that the Vikings can't hold them. And yes, a lot of people, a lot of Vikings are killed. And Harald and Bjorn are certainly extremely seriously, seriously wounded and likely to die. But what happens after that is saved for [Episode 11].
Ubbe is planning on sailing west to find the Golden Land, but in order to do that he must sail with the man who claims the name Athelstan (Ray Stevenson). What is this man hiding and what should we expect from him?
Hirst: Othere is another, obviously, complex person who is already contradicting himself and not telling the truth possibly about what he knows about Floki and Floki's possible death. And so [for] Ubbe, he performs this twin function. One is that he, hopefully, is the guide to the Golden Land, wherever that is. And the other thing is that if there is a mystery about Floki's death, then he's the one who's hopefully going to reveal it. I think the truth is that Othere not only appears to be a very complex character, he actually is a very complex character with an extraordinary backstory. And again, we have to wait, really, to the second part of Season 6 to discover just how complicated that backstory is. And so I'm sorry to introduce all these complications and complicated characters, but it is fun to have them around. And the fact that Othere is not who he seems does produce a lot of extraordinary results moving forward.
Oleg (Danila Kozlovsky) and Ivar already have a very tense relationship. So now that this big battle is behind them, how will their uneasy alliance develop?
Hirst: Well you know, this isn't a secret, but Ivar's been negotiating with Oleg's brother, who is hoping to overthrow Oleg and, depending obviously on what happens in battle for Kattegatt, you know the plan is that Ivar would become king of all Norway if they succeed in defeating Bjorn and Harald. But if that doesn't happen, it raises the possibility that Ivar's plan with Oleg's brother might come to some sort of fruition. I think that relationship between Oleg and Ivar, again, is a rich and complicated one, and it always has been. The Rus had been pagans very shortly before they became Christian, so it's only a generation since they were pagans. And when Ivar first turns up, he's a famous Viking warrior. He also claims to be a god. And that has sort of thrown Oleg, even though Oleg is so powerful, so brutal. He's mystified and troubled by Ivar. So there's game that goes on between them. ... Oleg has had all the power, opportunities to kill Ivar. But Oleg is worried about Ivar and continues to be worried just in case some of what Ivar claims is true. So it goes on being a dynamic relationship where Ivar, who seems to be powerless, is in fact not powerless. Ivar is clever and intelligent and can find ways round the most difficult situation, and I think that's what you'll discover.
Ivar is very intelligent and we're used to seeing him being very ruthless. But we've seen him trusting Katya (Alicia Agneson) a bit, even though it's so hard to decipher her intentions.
Hirst: Ivar thinks Katya is the resurrected soul of his dead wife, and that freaks him completely. It's true that they are played by the same actress. But it's telling that when he introduces Katya to Hvitserk and says, "Don't you recognize her" and "It's Freydis," Hvitserk does not recognize her as Freydis and says Freydis is dead. So Ivar is haunted by ghosts. He's haunted by the memory of what he did to Freydis, who did love him and who he treated appallingly. And he can't get out his head that in some way Katya has been sent to punish him. So again, that's a deep, rich, and strange relationship. And in my mind, I mean, Katya is not Freydis. It's a projection of Ivar's, but it's an understandable projection. But everybody seems to be playing their game by this stage. The games get interrelated and complicated and the truth is many of these things only gets revealed in the final season.
Will the final 10 episodes of the series see a return to Wessex or the introduction of any new worlds?
Hirst: Both. I think that the Vikings who survive the Rus attack begin to feel that there's unfinished business in Wessex, so we do return to Wessex to settle this unfinished business. Meanwhile, Ubbe finds a way west from Iceland. He's going to go with Othere as promised. Ubbe and Torvi are going to go with him west to try and find this Golden Land. And this becomes a huge adventure, a great voyage, and an extraordinary adventure in which they come across another unknown land and a monster that lives there. And so the final season has at least two, probably three major storylines that are all related but take us forward, and also at the same time take this back into Viking history and folklore. So there's a lot to look forward to. And a lot of jeopardy for all the characters that we that we love.
Because the show is coming to an end, fans keep wondering if we'll see any returning characters in the final episodes.
Hirst: It's possible.
I'm personally hoping for one last Rollo (Clive Standen) appearance.
Hirst: My lips are sealed. I couldn't possibly say. But it is certainly possible that there is a return for one or more of our original characters.