Why Vikings' Game-Changing Death Needed To Have 'As Much Impact As Possible'

Vikings Bjorn Alexander Ludwig Lagertha Katheryn Winnick History

(Image credit: Jonathan Hession / History)

Warning: Spoilers for the January 8, 2020 episode of Vikings Season 6 entitled “Death and the Serpent” are discussed below! Do not read further unless you are ready to be spoiled!

Vikings delivered a game-changing death in an early-season shocker that will ripple throughout the remainder of the series. Fans had known that Lagertha’s end would come eventually and with the culprit being among a small list of suspects. Lagertha has now successfully fought her last major battle against the man who murdered her grandson.

Mortally wounded, Lagertha headed back to Kattegat in hopes of seeing Bjorn one last time. Bjorn had not returned, and she was instead met by another son of Ragnar, Hvitserk. High and hallucinating, Hvitserk believed Lagertha was Ivar and stabbed to her to death. The fulfilled prophecy leading to Lagertha’s early exit from Vikings Season 6.

For “Death and the Serpent,” Vikings primarily split its focus between two significant storylines – Lagertha’s, and her son, Bjorn’s. Ivar’s story in Rus also weaved in and out. Looking back, it seemed to be a sign that something meaningful was about to happen. Vikings’ creator, Michael Hirst, reflected on servicing Lagertha’s ardent fanbase with her exit story, telling Variety:

What was most important to me was to make sure that Lagertha’s death was as significant and powerful as it could be and was in the right position in the show. It had to be a standalone moment because so often in the show Lagertha has been with the collective: She’s been in the army or she’s fought with her son. She was the queen of Kattegat. I wanted her to have her own story, and that’s why I took her into retirement and out of retirement because it put her in the most dangerous position. She was the most famous shield maiden in the world, she can’t really retire from being that. The idea then was to give a significant part of Season 6 to her story so she would own it. She has a huge fan club and for a lot of women, she is a role model. I was very aware of that. But because I’d helped shape her destiny, I felt that it was appropriate and we could work on these final themes. I wanted it to have as much impact as possible because there are other deaths coming down the line.

Vikings did not tip its hand by making it seem as though this would be the end of Lagertha by giving her a standalone episode. That would have given the audience too great of a sense of what was coming. In my opinion, Michael Hirst did a great job of giving Lagertha a solo moment that felt hers entirely without sacrificing the suspense of a climactic plot.

As Michael Hirst points out, Lagertha got a significant storyline on Vikings leading up to her death. She put down her shield in the Season 6 premiere and attempted to return to her former life as a farmer. Lagertha also got a chance to bond with her grandchildren, only to be forced out of retirement by the bandits that Bjorn branded and banished.

It has been clear that Vikings was setting Lagertha up for something huge, considering the trajectory of her arc this season. As someone who knew that her death would eventually come at the hands of one of Ragnar’s sons, I did not expect her to die in the battle with the bandit. So, I was a little surprised when she was mortally wounded during it.

While Hvitserk dealt a death blow, it was clear that Lagertha’s fate was already sealed when she arrived in Kattegat. Hence, Vikings succeeded in giving Lagertha an incredibly impactful death, as it was unexpected, to say the least, despite a seeming confirmation. Where does Season 6 go from here? Stay tuned.

Find out what happens after Lagertha’s death when new episodes of Vikings air Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on History. The drama’s Season 6 return is one of this winter's premieres.

Britt Lawrence

Like a contented Hallmark movie character, Britt happily lives in the same city she grew up in. Along with movies and television, she is passionate about competitive figure skating. She has been writing about entertainment for 5 years, and as you may suspect, still finds it as entertaining to do as when she began.