Spoilers ahead for the Season 5 finale of Vikings on History.
The fifth season of Vikings pitted the sons of Ragnar against each other with higher stakes than ever, and the finale saw Bjorn and Ivar's long-awaited showdown for who would be king of Kattegat. Bjorn was ultimately successful, although victory came at the cost of Freydis' life after she showed Bjorn how to get his men inside the walls and take down Ivar. Unfortunately for folks hoping to see Bjorn end his brother for good, Ivar escaped and lives on for Season 6.
Ivar hasn't been the most popular character with fans over the years, and Season 5 saw some of those fans turn even more against his seemingly unrelenting villainy. Vikings creator Michael Hirst addressed the comments about Ivar and explained where the show is going to take the character next, saying this:
There have been some comments that Ivar is a little two-dimensional and that he hasn’t got any secrets left, or that he’s not as interesting as Ragnar was. The fact is that we’re going to learn a lot more about Ivar in Season 6. We’re going to see other aspects of his character and things we didn’t expect from him. I’m very pleased with the way his character deepens and changes. He’s still Ivar and he’s still unpredictable and crippled in many ways. But we do see these other aspects in him emerging. Clearly he hasn’t been a very successful ruler. We know the obstacles he’s had to overcome in order to get to the position he gets to. Whatever terrible things he does, somehow you never stop being interested in him. Or having sympathy for him because I keep reminding people where he came from. He is a cripple and he’s been in pain the whole time. His father left him outside to be eaten by wolves. It’s not that I forgive Ivar for what he does but I do understand a lot of things he does. He is capable of changing.
Michael Hirst acknowledges some of the specific issues fans have had with Ivar lately, including being two-dimensional and losing all sense of intrigue. The character also doesn't benefit from comparison to Ragnar, who was the anchor of the show and at least morally grey before his death. That said, in his comments to Variety, Hirst also makes it clear that Ivar isn't going to deliver just more of the same in Season 6.
Of course, Ivar will still have the physical issues that have crippled him all along, and we probably shouldn't expect him to suddenly see the light and regret every single awful thing he's ever done. Nevertheless, he'll be in a new situation and will have to rise -- or fall -- in new ways. While he wasn't a successful ruler, he did have power in his position as king. How will he react to having significantly less power than before? And living with the knowledge that he lost to Lagertha's son with Ragnar? What changes are in store?
Perhaps Ivar will be able to remain a villain but still turn over a new leaf and evolve as a character. Given that Michael Hirst is well aware that the show is coming to an end in the not-terribly-distant future, it's entirely possible that he has the rest of Ivar's entire arc already planned out. Ivar could be a pleasant surprise in Season 7, insofar as murderous madmen can be pleasant as characters.
The final season does open the door for the return of many dearly (or not-so-dearly) departed characters, and we have some picks of who should drop by the show again before the end. The Vikings universe will almost certainly continue with another series as well, so there's plenty to think about as we head into hiatus. What's the deal with Floki? Is Lagertha going to be okay now that Bjorn is king, despite her Season 5 experiences?