As season five of Vikings arrives, one titan will still loom large, if not in human form then in legacy. Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) died a valiant death last season, so it’s only fitting to revisit some of his greatest moments and prognosticate on what the Norse king’s death means for seasons to come.
Ragnar defeats Earl Haraldson
It didn’t take long for Ragnar to go from humble farmer to Earl of Kattegat, defeating Earl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne) in an epic battle, the first of many shows of power for the Viking. Things weren’t looking good for a hobbling Ragnar when his sword was destroyed, but as the men reached the next round, battling with axes and each laying blows, Ragnar lay the final one, felling Haraldson to take the Earldom.
Ragnar attempts to seduce a monk
As Athelstan (George Blagden) read the good book, Ragnar and Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) were at it hammer and tongs before a dismount and an indecent proposal for their slave-monk. How’s about an unholy ménage à trois?
“Come on,” said a topless Ragnar. “Don’t you want to? You’ll enjoy it.”
Athelstan protested celibacy and monkness while Ragnar lay his well-muscled torso next to him suggestively and Lagertha showed some leg. As Athelstan tried to pray the temptation away, his master gave up. “Go to sleep then, with your God,” teased Ragnar before giving him a cheeky nash of the teeth. Good Lord!
Ragnar blood-eagles Jarl Borg
“Since you consort with eagles, I will draw a blood eagle on your back and your ribcage will spring apart… like wings.”
In season two’s "Blood Eagle", Ragnar displayed the ultimate show of power, meting out one of the most brutal of Viking punishments after Jarl Borg (Thorbjørn Harr) attempted to usurp him as Earl of Kattegat and threatened to kill his family. Anyone who challenged Ragnar after witnessing this harrowing torture would be a fool indeed.
Ragnar becomes king
King Horik’s (Donal Logue) treachery would be repaid in kind on this night of daggers in the season two finale. Behind the king’s so-called alliance with Ragnar was a plan to kill his entire family and take Kattegat. But with Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård) as a mole, Ragnar had Horik’s measure, turning the tables, and brutally slaying him and most of his family. In the final scene, Ragnar sat atop a cliff alone, finally holding the royal sword.
Ragnar grieves Athelstan
In a moving soliloquy in season three, Ragnar buried his friend and spiritual guide, Athelstan, in the forest after Floki murdered him. It was a rare depiction of absolute vulnerability in Ragnar as he payed tribute to and grieved Athelstan.
“Why did you have to die? We had so much more to talk about… What am I to do now, hmm? I hate you for leaving me! I ache from your loss. There is nothing that can console me now.”
Ragnar invades Paris via his fake death
In the ultimate bait-and-switch, Ragnar, thought dead by everyone but his son Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig), leapt out of a coffin during a funeral inside the Paris cathedral. “I win,” he said, as he took Princess Gisla (Morgane Polanski) hostage and let his Viking hordes in to attack. They weren’t successful in taking Paris, but it was a mighty bold move by Ragnar to infiltrate the capital.
Ragnar challenges his sons to kill him
After returning from self-imposed exile, Ragnar challenged his now grown sons Sigurd (David Lindström), Ivar (Alex Høgh Andersen), Ubbe (Jordan Patrick Smith) and Hvitserk (Marco Ilsø) to kill him and take the throne as king. For who would want Ragnar as king now after he abandoned Kattegat and his own sons?
“WHO WANTS TO BE KING?” he yelled ferociously, in another tour de force from Fimmel. “So, now boys, who’s going to do it then? Who’s going to kill me? What about you, Hvitserk? Do you think you’re a man now? I dare you. Put me out of my misery. Do it!”
Ragnar’s epic (real) death
Ragnar cheated death a number of times, but in season four’s "All His Angels", his life finally came to a brutal end at the instigation of King Aelle (Ivan Kaye). Bloodied but defiant as ever, the Norse king hung in a cage above a nest of vipers to deliver his final words:
“This hero that comes into Valhalla does not lament his death. I shall not enter Odin’s hall with fear.”
The trap door opened as Ragnar fell into the pit, bravely taking each deadly bite until his last breath as the crowd looked on above. It was gut-wrenching viewing and devastating for fans everywhere.
While the great man has (hopefully) gone to Valhalla, it seems the ghost of Ragnar Lothbrok will linger, defining the events of season five at least. As The Seer tells Lagertha in the season five trailer, “You have only seen the beginning of the end. The consequences of Ragnar’s death are not yet played out.”
So what does that mean? In a word: Ivar. Or in five: Ivar starts a civil war. The rogue son and Ragnar’s choice to succeed him set the ball rolling after murdering his brother Sigurd, putting Ragnar’s sons at loggerheads. And Ivar’s wrath will continue as he attempts to take the throne from freshly minted queen Lagertha, who murdered his mother, Queen Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland).
But could the The Seer’s reference to “the beginning of the end” bode something more? Could he be referring to the end of the Viking Age? As Lagertha warns in early season five footage, “The end of our world is here.”
Watch the season five premiere of Vikings on Wednesday 6 December at 9:30pm on SBS.