SPOILER ALERT: Do not read on unless you have seen the Season 1 finale of History's "Vikings," titled "All Change."
The season finale of "Vikings" saw Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) embark on a quest to negotiate peace in a land dispute between King Horik (Donal Logue) and Jarl Borg (Thorbjørn Harr), leaving wife Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) in Kattegat where a sudden and deadly plague claimed many lives -- including their daughter's. On his trip to Gotaland, we saw Ragnar tempted by the mysterious Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland), and the chemistry between them now threatens to undo Ragnar's family completely.
The Huffington Post spoke to "Vikings" creator Michael Hirst about the surprising events of "All Change" and where our characters might go from here, since "Vikings" has already been renewed for Season 2. Tread lightly, there are potential spoilers for future seasons ahead.
You wrote the "Vikings" finale without knowing whether the show was picked up for a second season. How did you approach that process and what were you hoping to accomplish in this hour when you set out?
I wrote this very much with the hopes that it was going to be picked up. Of course I felt it was far too early to resolve the big issues that I’d set up and running. Ragnar’s own life of course continued and he got married again and has a lot of sons and they became very famous ...
So, at the back of my mind was the anticipation, the hope that we would get picked up. If we didn’t, everyone would have found this last episode very unsatisfactory. [Laughs.] I think there are at least three or four issues that are opened up and unresolved -- huge issues: Ragnar and his brother; Ragnar and his wife; Ragnar and [Aslaug]; Ragnar and his son. Really big, big issues open up under the feet of all the major characters.
It was a very quiet, character-driven hour compared to some of the earlier episodes. I think generally, viewers have been trained to expect major battles and bloodshed and action from season finales, so why did you choose to subvert that for "All Change"?
I would say in general, we managed to defeat and question a lot of presumptions and assumptions that people would have had about a series about the Vikings. I think that people would have just anticipated only seeing battles and only seeing these fit looking guys with long hair hacking each other to pieces. And actually, what I think has been delivered is this much more nuanced, much more interesting show, which is essentially about a family. Of course, there are battles. We tap their way of life, but essentially, what pays off in the end is being invested in these characters and in the family.
So, the last episode is taking us back to what the series, in some ways, is about. It’s about Ragnar and his family, Ragnar’s future. It takes us to the root of that. It takes us to a moment of great potential change in his circumstances and his life. I think we’ve earned that through the series by getting people involved in these lives and making them real and interesting. So I didn’t have to pull a battle or anything else out of the bag just for the sake of it -- I wasn’t really interested in doing that. I wanted people to be engaged with the people. I think personally, that it’s a very, very poignant, very deeply moving, deeply felt ending. Again, very unexpected, if you were going to watch a show called "Vikings."
Doing some research into Ragnar and the numerous women he was believed to be involved with, and given the introduction of Aslaug, I was interested in how you intend to tackle that mythology, given that viewers have grown so attached to Lagertha.
He had two wives -- he was conservative by Viking standards. He did have a lot of sons. We don’t quite know how many, including the wonderfully named Ivar the Boneless. But the truth is that Lagertha is too wonderful a character to let go of. Katheryn’s made a huge success. She’s just about as popular as Travis is and amazing and wonderful and who would have thought that a female character would have been so big in a show about Vikings? I’m thrilled for her and I’m thrilled for the show and of course, I have no intention of letting her go, but circumstances do change.
What happened is again, unexpected, until you realize what a powerful and strong will this woman has. It’s very difficult for her, of course, with the new woman in Ragnar’s life. She has to make a decision whether she puts up with that or she doesn’t. And if she doesn’t, what she then does and in turn, how she comes back into Ragnar’s life. What I would say, because this is historical, is that Lagertha becomes an Earl in her own right. At some stage they are going to meet again as equals.
Rollo (Clive Standen) has seemingly been looking for an excuse to betray Ragnar numerous times this season, but often reels himself in and remains loyal at the last moment. Could this potential alliance with Jarl Borg really be a tipping point for him?
It could well be ... Jarl Borg makes him an offer that’s very difficult to refuse that, if he betrays Ragnar and joins with Jarl Borg, they’ll fight together against Ragnar and Horik and carve out their own kingdom. We know that Rollo finds it very hard to live in the shadow of his brother. In Viking society, fame and reputation were very, very important. It was just a staple thing, that aspect of their society. So for a great warrior like Rollo, it’s difficult to have a brother who is achieving a great deal, who’s obviously very clever, who’s very ambitious. So, the invitation to come out from under Ragnar’s shadow may be overwhelming. And, if indeed that is what happens, the consequences could be huge.
Athelstan (George Blagden) has been one of the most fascinating characters of the series so far. What can you preview in terms of his continuing arc next season?
First of all, I was doing my reading and discovered that there were at least two monks that had been written of who had been captured by Vikings and taken back to Scandinavia. In fact one of them, later on, was captured by the Saxons raiding back in England and they crucified him as an apostate. So I knew that I had an interesting character, but also interesting because, I realized that he was a way through for our audience into the Vikings' world. One would assume that he shared a lot of the values that the audience would share and would be shocked or surprised by what he saw in Scandinavia. I’m taking the audience through his struggle then with his faith, which I find a very powerful subject because of course, the big thing for him is ... his faith is obviously profound and not easily shaken, but he does have a query about whether God has abandoned him. What possible plan could God have to let him be captured and taken into a pagan household?
So, he has this issue. He’s also grateful to Ragnar for sparing him, for taking him in. In order to survive, he of course has to accommodate Viking ways, dress more like a Viking, grow his hair just to fit in, to survive. But his faith continues to be a big issue. He perhaps even tries to believe in the pagan gods, but of course, he’s not sacrificed because he’s still a Christian. These issues will continue. They are real issues for him. They lead him into some pretty dark and dangerous places in the second season. I agree, he is a fascinating character and George plays him tremendously well I think.
What can you share about your initial ideas for Season 2 at this stage?
I can say that the first episode of the new season will be absolutely gobsmacking. Hopefully we can start it off shooting in Iceland. That’s our plan. A great deal happens at the personal level as well. There are huge dangers at the personal level. Certain things are resolved in conflict and certain things continue. I would say that the scale will be bigger. He’s gone into business now with a king. So, he can raid with bigger parties. He can be more ambitious. What we’ve had so far is one, maybe two or three boats going west. Now we’ll have many more boats and many more warriors.
But also there is going to be a new big, big character who is the King of Wessex. Wessex is a much larger kingdom than Northumbria, with a much more powerful king and also a cleverer king, a king who spent half of his young life at the court of Emperor Charlemagne. He’s a different kettle of fish. The Vikings are coming across someone with real history and real knowledge and tactics. So, Ragnar is going to be up against a very formidable foe in the King of Wessex.
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