Vikings season 5 will feature “significant deaths” when it returns

Part two of the History drama's fifth run will see some major players killed off says showrunner Michael Hirst - but it may not be who you expect

Katheryn Winnick as Lagertha in Vikings

Contains spoilers for seasons four and five A of Vikings

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Some major characters could be off to feast with the gods in Valhalla when History drama Vikings returns for the second half of season five.

“There are, in [season] five B, significant deaths,” showrunner Michael Hirst tells RadioTimes.com, adding that he may not be referring to the characters fans are expecting…

As series five reached its mid-season break at the end of episode ten, Vikings’ original female warrior Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) finally seemed a broken woman following a defeat in battle. Could she be one of the casualties of the next instalment?

“Not necessarily,” says Hirst. “I know there’s a lot of speculation about that, people are reading the runes, but I would say don’t misread the runes. There are lots of big changes in her life but it doesn’t necessarily mean that she’s exiting – or that she’s not!”

Lagertha’s son Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig) has also been with us since the beginning and, as his nickname “Ironside” suggests, has survived numerous battles with little more than a scratch. Yet he came close to death in the first part of season five, narrowly avoiding execution. Could his luck be about to run out?

Ivar the Boneless (Alex Høgh Andersen) is another major player whose fate fans may be wondering about. The crippled but ferocious leader is in the midst of a period of ascendancy but that means putting himself in harm’s way as he tears into battle at the head of his army.

Whichever key players the gods (and Hirst) do see fit to dispatch, it may be slightly less of a shock to viewers than it once was. Vikings has always been notoriously bloody but the previous season saw the show really up the ante when it came to killing off major characters.

Series four featured the death of charismatic lead Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel), as well as Northumbrian King Aelle (Ivan Kaye), and Helga played by Hirst’s own daughter Maude Hirst, whose sister Georgia plays Torvi.

Did the showrunner feel an extra poignancy writing his daughter’s death?

“It was very hard to tell her that she was going to die,” he admits. “But then it’s been hard often to tell the actors. I can hardly think of a single one who didn’t plead for a stay of execution or to stay in…

“There was one of the actors who is a great star in his country [Thorbjørn Harr, whose character Jarl Borg met his end by the brutal blood-eagle method of execution].

“He came to me one day because he’d read the script, he knew what was going to happen, he said ‘do you think I could be spared? Because I’ve come across a story of a Jarl [chief] who was spared in that way and he went abroad, spent years abroad, and finally he came back and exacted his revenge’.

“And I said ‘that’s ok but the problem is that for a TV show I’d have to keep you alive, I’d have to keep you in the audience’s mind, so we’d have to suddenly cut to France, the Champs-Élysées and there’d you be smoking a Gaulloise, or in Moscow, because you’re just travelling the world… so I can’t do it.’”

It seems no amount of pleading can change Hirst’s mind once he’s decided to kill someone off. The Vikings would be proud.

Go behind the scenes with Michael Hirst and the stars of Vikings, as experts reveal the archaeology and history that inspired the show, in The Real Vikings – exclusively on History UK from Tuesday 20th February 2018 at 10pm

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The second part of Vikings season five comes to Amazon Prime later this year