For history buffs, we knew this moment was coming. But, still, it stung quite a lot when the moment landed. If you’re not caught up as of yet on HISTORY’s “Vikings,” heed our warning and turn back now.
It has taken four seasons and, finally, in Wednesday’s (Dec. 28) episode of “Vikings,” Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) died. It’s a move that has become more common in recent years — the killing off of fan favorite TV characters. But we have to take a moment and acknowledge the difference between this program and, say, “Game of Thrones” or “The Walking Dead.”
History — it’s right there in the name of the channel that has been the home to “Vikings” over the last four years. And it’s this finite detail that has dictated Michael Hirst’s decisions throughout every episode he writes. From the very beginning, he has stated the series would not just be a tale about Ragnar, but also his sons. When you look at history, you’ll see that — while Ragnar’s legacy is strong — his sons end up progressing the Viking mission way further than he could ever do.
It would feel like a risk to kill off the star of a show. That’s like “The Walking Dead” putting Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) out of his misery or “Game of Thrones” killing Jon Snow (Kit Harington) permanently. But those shows are based on mere fiction and have even taken liberties, straying from their source material, to change character deaths and other such pertinent details — all for the sake of story.
That’s not to say that Hirst hasn’t taken his own liberties with “Vikings.” From day one, the show has walked a fine line between historical events as they played out, and engaging fiction to keep audiences glued to the screen. But with Ragnar out of the picture, fans may find it hard to stay connected to the show. After all, who else can provide the steely-eyed stare and captivating, egocentric persona that is Ragnar Lothbrok?
Three words: Ivar the Boneless (Alex Høgh Andersen).
It’s Ivar that will eventually rise up and lead the Great Heathen Army, with his sons exacting revenge for his father’s death. Still, losing Ragnar is a difficult detail to accept. Why couldn’t they just keep him around longer? Well, if the show originally followed Hirst’s plans, the would-be King of Kattegat would’ve bit the big one at the end of Season 1.
In our time of mourning, let us take solace in the fact that death isn’t necessarily the end of a character on “Vikings.” Isn’t that right, Athelstan (George Blagden)?
That notion is super fitting in and of itself as, “Vikings” is essentially a ghost story — recounting the visceral tale of family, faith and war in the time of the great Northmen. The stakes have been raised to new heights in Kattegat with Ragnar’s demise, and honestly, we can’t wait to see what’s coming.
“Vikings” airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on History.