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Warning: Significant spoilers for the latest episode of Vikings Season 5B, entitled "Hell," lie below.
Burning himself out is exactly what Heahmund did. He was killed on the battlefield but not before calling out "Lagertha." And that is something that Lagertha responded to before seeing him cut down in the latest episode of Vikings. Michael Hirst's explanation to Variety sheds light on his unexpected end and the backdrop for it.
Given the way the season was going, it was tough to imagine Lagertha also losing the lover she had come to care deeply for. However, Vikings is always full of surprises and Season 5B has been no exception in that regard. In further discussing the "why" behind Heahmund's demise, Michael Hirst said:
Heahmund's death certainly fits his story. He was a warrior and Vikings has tended to have warriors die where they are most comfortable. The lead up to the battle had played with tension in the episodes prior. One of the series' newer and most high-profile characters being killed off in this latest episode was not a predictable move.
The battle did not see Heahmund fall at the hands of a well-known character. For instance, Harald was not the one to do it. Instead, Heahmund died in the midst of the battle, a victim to the noise of it all. As for that death scene, Michael Hirst explained why he decided not to give a face to Heahmund's killer. Hirst said:
In other words, that it happened was more important than how it happened. Still, it is slightly surprising Vikings would not seize the chance to have Harald be the one to kill Heahmund. It would have deepened the feud between him and Lagerth, giving them both ammo moving forward in the story.
Vikings tends to stick to the realism of not having one-on-one disputes necessarily settled in battle. It is unrealistic that with so many participants, two warriors with personal history would be able to confront each other face-to-face.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers weighed in on the death of his character. Explaining why there was no historical precedent for why Heahmund would have an extended run on the show, Rhys Meyers said:
Heahmund's time on Vikings was briefer than others. His impact will continue for some time, as he left a significant impression on one of Vikings' pivotal leads. The ramifications of Heahmund's death on Lagertha are already taking root.
With Heahmund dead, Vikings has arguably tuned its narrative over to Ragnar's sons. They are now the most prominent force that will be charging the events to come. Heahmund's death should not directly impact them, however, it will affect Lagertha. It is a major blow for her.