A lot has happened on Vikings over six seasons. That's the whole point of all the savagery and scheming: one man with a vision can make a difference and change the world. Now, with the sixth and final season upon us – available locally only on SBS and SBS On Demand – it's time to look back and figure out exactly how we've come from a lowly farmer to an empire that reaches across Europe and into Asia.
Here's a reminder of some of the series' biggest turning points.
Vikings began with Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel), a farmer with a dream: to sail further west than anyone had before, to loot and pillage the unknown land he was convinced was out there. With the support of his shieldmaiden wife Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick), his brother Rollo (Clive Standen) and his shipbuilding friend Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård), he defied his rulers, sailed west and discovered England.
While the English were no real match for the Viking raiders, Ragnar's real problems lay at home, where his rebellious nature put him at odds with the Earl (Gabriel Byrne) who ruled his home of Kattegat. Even after Ragnar dispatched his rival and became Earl himself, the intrigue continued.
Earl of Kattegat
Rollo marrying the dead Earl's wife Siggy (Jessalyn Gilsig) wasn't exactly a recipe for stability. Neither was Ragnar getting Princess Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland) pregnant, even if Lagertha was unable to bear him a son. While Rollo sided with a rival king against his brother, Ragnar took Aslaug as his second wife, which somewhat unsurprisingly failed to impress Lagertha. Despite his pleas, she left and their son Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig) went with her.
Four years later – Vikings isn't afraid to go for the big time jump – Ragnar finally has everyone on board with raiding England, only to learn from a seer that his sons will become more famous than him. Worse, their raiding party is blown off course and lands in Wessex, which has a king who actually knows what he's doing. And there's still more treachery going on back home, resolved only when Ragnar performs the 'blood eagle' on his rival. Let's just say you won't forget that scene in a hurry.
Even at the height of power, there's got to be a dark side. For Ragnar, it's the birth of a son with malformed legs, whom Ragnar dubs Ivar the Boneless (after failing to have him cast out to die). On the upside, Lagertha is back with ships and warriors of her own to support him. Once he tricks and kills the old king and his family, he's now undisputed ruler.
What does that mean? More raiding – and this time France is also in his sights. But first there's a whole range of fires to put out at home, including Lagertha losing her Earldom, Floki's growing hatred of Christians – bad news for Ragnar's captive-turned-friend, former monk Athelstan (George Blagden) – and Siggy's death while saving Aslaug's two sons from drowning.
A Kingdom Divided
Season four was split into halves. Which was handy, as the Vikings themselves were increasingly divided. After the siege of Paris, Rollo stayed behind to join the Frankish court (living as a French nobleman is not a good fit for him, no matter how hard he tries), while back in Kattegat, Ragnar's grim dreams of a future cut short didn't bode well for him or his kingdom. At least the next generation is in good hands, judging by the way Bjorn is coping with wandering the wilderness killing bears and warriors sent to murder him.
The arrival of King Harald (Peter Franzén) looking to unite all of Norway under his rule is a problem; Ragnar's increasing reliance on "medicine" supplied by Aslaug's Chinese slave Yidu (Dianne Doan) doesn't help – though it does open the door to future plotlines about the importance of the Silk Road and trading with China. The solution? Attack Paris! Unfortunately Rollo decides to side with his new friends. Another time jump means years pass with Ragnar fading into legend and his sons establishing themselves – until he returns and tells them they'll never become king while he lives.
An Era Ends
After well over a season of grim visions and foreshadowing, Ragnar's death still came as a bit of a shock, mostly because he'd cheated death so many times before. But as the Vikings' reach grew – they're now part of life in Wessex – Rollo has a toe-hold in Paris, and sailing the Mediterranean is now Bjorn, Floki and Harald's plan; Ragnar's influence was waning. At least his death inspires the rest to do what they do best: raid and plunder England (and in Lagertha's case, finally take care of Aslaug once and for all).
The Next Generation
If having Ragnar's kingdom in the hands of an extended family who all have their own ambitions wasn't trouble enough, season five saw the arrival of Bishop Heahmund (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), an English warrior-priest who was no fan of the Vikings. Bjorn, Ivar (Alex Høgh) and Ragnar's other sons battle over Ragnar's legacy – sometimes with words, sometimes with swords – while Lagertha has her own struggles to retain her place and power.
But as the increasingly unstable and vicious Ivar moves towards the throne at Kattegat, the conflicts between his other brothers gradually fall away as they unite against a common enemy. The sons of Ragnar may have made gains in other areas – Ragnar's dream of permanent settlements in England seems to have finally come true – but the final battle sees brother pitted against brother as they squabble over his legacy.
A legend falls
The first half of season 6 saw Ragnar’s legacy scattered across Europe. Following in his father’s footsteps and becoming king remained just out of reach for Bjorn, whose skills always laid more on the battlefield than the council chamber, while Ivar, cast out from his homeland, finds himself dragged across Europe until he eventually ends up at the feet of Russian prince and would-be conqueror Oleg (Danila Kozlovsky).
Even for a series known for killing off major characters at will, season 6 saw the most shocking death to date: Lagertha, a warrior queen in her own right and the series’ last real link to Ragnar Lothbrok, was murdered in what should have been her moment of victory. It was a shocking reminder that in the brutal world of Vikings, no-one is safe – and as the world moves on, the old certainties are swept away. With only ten episodes left and Norway seemingly under the heel of an invader, what hope is left?
Vikings season 6B (season 6 part 2) will premiere with a double episode on SBS at 8:30PM on Wednesday 6 January. Episodes will then air weekly on Wednesdays at 9:30PM and are available at SBS On Demand after broadcast. Watch the trailer: