Warning: This story contains graphic violence.
Vikings creator Michael Hirst once decried the excessive and explicit violence of Game of Thrones, but it would seem his attitude has shifted when it comes to his own show. That’s likely by necessity – this season is the most epic yet, with expansive battle scenes that match the expansion and high stakes of the story as Viking factions vie for power.
After all, a show about the heathen hordes would be pretty vanilla without the gory violence. And Vikings has never disappointed when it comes to its depiction of brutality, with the sickening Blood Eagle, disembowelment and a stab through the eye just a few highlights.
But season five ramps up the violence to new heights. Here are some of the most memorable scenes so far.
When Ivar the Boneless (Alex Høgh Andersen), and brothers Ubbe (Jordan Patrick Smith) and Hvitserk (Marco Ilsø) lay siege to York, Ivar’s hatred of Christianity is received loud and clear. After slaughtering members of the congregation in the church, the Vikings hold down a priest, prising his mouth open with weapons.
“Now you can kiss your cross,” growls Ivar to the priest, as molten metal is poured down the petrified holy man’s throat, cementing a bubbling golden mask over his mouth. It’s one of the most horrific and disturbing murders we’ve seen to date in Vikings, but the death method comes straight out of the history books.
The battle for control of York is the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to heightening the violence in season five, with Ivar orchestrating a brutally efficient defence of the city against the Saxons. The booby traps of wooden spikes are a highlight, with Saxon soldiers taken by surprise and tumbling into impalement.
Spike through the mouth
But the pièce de résistance is when King Aethelwulf (Moe Dunford) and his men are forced to use their fallen comrades as a human bridge, unwittingly piercing them further. One poor soldier gets a massive toothpick through the mouth.
Death by super mallet
Talk about a headache. With Hvitserk (Marco Ilsø) furiously fighting the son of King Aethelwulf, Aethelred (Darren Cahill), along comes a beast of a Viking from behind with a blood-soaked, massive mallet, killing Aethelred with a decisive blow to the head.
Pick to the head
When will everyone learn not to mess with Ivar? In an epic York battle sequence, the warrior is charging forth on his chariot when he is sent flying by a Saxon soldier. Winded but feigning an out-for-the-count stillness, Ivar surprises the Saxon with a pick to the leg, followed by a frenzy of strikes to the face as he bellows in defiance.
Up until the battle for York, we hadn’t yet seen much of the violence that Saxon warrior Bishop Heahmund (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) was capable of. In this scene prior to his capture by the Vikings, Heahmund calmly uses his horse as a murder weapon, guiding it in a circle to stomp a young female Viking warrior to death. It’s brutally realistic.
The stab and spit
With Heahmund captured, Ivar gives the battered bishop an ultimatum: fight with the Vikings or die by a stab to the heart. It looks like the bishop is choosing the latter, asking Ivar for a noble death. “Why don’t you give me the knife?” he growls with a knowing smile.
As Heahmund turns to the Viking horde, knife poised to his heart, the crowd chants as a Viking gets in the bishop’s face, goading him, “Die! Or are you afraid? Do it! Coward!”
Heahmund’s eyes light up with rage as he grabs the Viking by the neck, stabbing him in the throat. He follows that up with a swift gob of blood over the unwise heathen’s eye to seal the deal. Ivar, of course, is loving every minute of it, belting out his signature maniacal laugh.
Watch Vikings on Wednesdays at 9:30pm on SBS.