‘Vikings’: Michael Hirst Talks About the ‘Risk’ in Killing off Ragnar Lothbrok

We have Michael Hirst to thank for the amazing series Vikings. He recently took part in a panel for the show on Friday, July 24, 2020. The at-home panel was part of San Diego Comic-Con@Home 2020, and it featured some huge names from the series.

Hirst was joined by Travis Fimmel, who played Ragnar Lothbrok, Katheryn Winnick, who played Lagertha, Alexander Ludwig, who plays Bjorn Ironside, Clive Standen, who plays Rollo, and Jordan Patrick Smith, who plays Ubbe.

Michael Hirst says it was a ‘risk’ to kill off Ragnar Lothbrok

Michael Hirst and Travis Fimmel
Michael Hirst and Travis Fimmel | Vincent Sandoval/Getty Images

Everyone who participated in the panel was asked a fair amount of questions, but Hirst’s answers were extremely illuminating. The moderator asked Hirst if there was a character that he was “nervous” about writing out. Not too surprisingly, the first person that comes to mind is Ragnar Lothbrok.

When Hirst wrote the outline for the hit series, Ragnar was supposed to die at the end of season 1. However, Hirst realized that Ragnar’s story was far from over, and there was still a lot of the story that needed to be told. After his death, things continue as his sons try to pick up the pieces going forward.

“There were plenty of gloomy, doom-laden warnings that to kill off your major character will damage the show,” Hirst said. “And it was a risk… But I’d sold the show on the basis of that this is Ragnar Lothbrok and his sons.”

Ragnar’s ‘presence’ is still felt

RELATED: ‘Vikings’: Fans Weigh in on Ragnar Lothbrok’s Transformation Over Time

After Ragnar’s death, his sons carve out their own legacies and make names for themselves. But just because Ragnar is gone doesn’t mean he isn’t still immensely felt in the show. He is continuously talked about and remarked on by others, and his “presence” is certainly still felt, according to Hirst.

“And what actually happened, was that Ragnar continued to be a presence in the rest of the show,” Hirst explained. “He never really went away. People would talk about him all the time.”

How does Ragnar Lothbrok die in the series?

Ragnar returns after many years away looking for revenge for the destruction of the settlement in Wessex. Fans will remember that King Ecbert (Linus Roache) ordered the Viking settlement to be destroyed, and the people living there killed. Ragnar should have avenged his people years ago, but he does finally come to his senses and seek justice. However, he soon learns that no one respects him like they once did, and he’s essentially on his own to get to Wessex.

Ragnar bribes a skeleton crew, and is accompanied by his son, Ivar the Boneless (Alex Høgh Andersen). Once they land on English shores, Ragnar quickly kills the people he sailed with, and finds King Ecbert. He convinces him to hand him over to King Aelle (Ivan Kaye) to be killed. Ragnar knows that this is the only way to make sure he gets his revenge. Aelle kills Ragnar in a pit of snakes, but soon, Ragnar’s sons learn of their father’s death. They bring the Great Heathen Army over to England, and nothing is ever the same again. They get revenge for their father’s death, as well as for the destroyed settlement.

Ragnar Lothbrok sacrificed himself for his ultimate goal of revenge for the Wessex settlement. He knew his sons would make moves, and they certainly did. Although Ragnar’s death was a “risk,” it worked out for the overall story.