Warning: The following article contains spoilers pertaining to Vikings Season 4, Episode 15.
We all knew it was coming, and yet the sting of Episode 15’s fateful events hit with a stalwart bite. After more than 40 episodes, Vikings said goodbye to its lead character, Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel). In “All His Angels,” Ragnar was executed by King Aelle, courtesy of a snake pit.
The hour opened with Ragnar striking one last deal with King Ecbert (Linus Roache), a final meeting with his son, Ivar, alone. That last bit will inevitably come back to bite King Ecbert. When Ragnar bid his son farewell, he betrayed his word to Ecbert, telling Ivar (Alex Hogh Andersen) that he and his brothers should avenge their father by punishing Ecbert, not Aelle, for his execution. True to his nature, Ragnar never let any good turn go unpunished.
Lothbrok remained defiant until the bitter end. After enduring several beatings and various forms of torture, he was dropped into his slithery grave. The venomous creatures swathed him, delivering the bites that would ultimately end his life.
In an age where every television show is trying to out Game of Thrones the other with shocking death twists galore, Vikings unfolded Ragnar’s death in a way that only played as shocking because it was so hard to fathom. To see a character as dynamic, troubling, and versatile as Ragnar Lothbrok killed off in Vikings’ fourth season is a baffling move for a series one would presume wants to continue thriving. As the doors to his tomb closed, so did an era that Vikings will have a next-to-impossible time stepping out from the shadows of.
Nearing the end of its fourth season, Vikings seems determined to shed the final vestiges of its original skin. With Aslaug’s death in the previous episode and now Ragnar’s, it stands to reason that Lagertha (Kathryn Winnick) will not be far behind. She is now at the forefront of Ivar’s wrath, and given his level of motivation, it would not be surprising to see her join her ex-husband in next week’s episode.
Vikings has been preparing fans for the end of Vikings as they knew it for a while. At the end of Season 4 Part 1, Vikings jumped several years ahead, aging Ragnar’s younger sons into adulthood. The result has been an uneven season that has only shined thanks to the final remnants of the sun setting on its lead character.
In its sea of new characters, Vikings has not produced one who can shoulder its story the way Ragnar has. Frustratingly, there was a great deal of story left on the table, loads of potential tales that will never be realized.
What was Ragnar doing all those years he was missing? Why was he so anxious to die? Did it have something to do with those “lost” years? We will likely never know. Vikings’ rush to rid itself of a character as story prone as Ragnar is puzzling, but such is the age of needing to constantly, if sometimes unnecessarily, move forward.
To its credit, Vikings gave Ragnar a worthy send-off, one that heavily relied on actor Travis Fimmel. Few actors on television have turned in the mesmeric performances Fimmel has through the years, and without any of the critical fanfare he has deserved.
Like Thor’s lightning bolt, Fimmel has electrified Vikings, turning the series from your average action-adventure series into a complex character study of spine-tingling proportions, a veritable must-see. Fimmel’s role has not been an easy one. Ragnar has been vile, raw, and doggedly intricate. After years of despicable behavior, he got his comeuppance, and it was brutal.
While there have been several series vying for the genre spotlight so rabidly consumed by HBO’s aforementioned juggernaut, only Vikings has truly earned it. This has been thanks in large part to Vikings possessing a character none of its rivals have. Even in Game of Thrones’ vast universe, they cannot count a character as uniquely twisty as Ragnar among its cast of characters.
No matter the emotion, Ragnar has evoked strong ones from viewers, and having a central character that has never begged for indifference has been one of Vikings‘ greatest assets. Throughout his time on the series, Fimmel played Ragnar as a farmer, an adventurer, an upstart, a villain, a father, a husband, a womanizer, a king — the list goes on.
In truth, none of Ragnar’s sons have the potential to be to Vikings what their father has been to the show. It is sad, but true. There is no coming back from this. Vikings is now riding a creative current that is undoubtedly leading it toward choppy waters.
Throughout “All His Angels,” there were brief flashbacks to Ragnar’s earlier years as he reflected on the people who had shaped his life. Many of their stories will continue. None of them as interesting or as bold as his, but in true Vikings fashion, the show must sail on.
Season 4 of Vikings continues next Wednesday at 9/8c on History.
[Featured Image by History]