Why Vikings' Katheryn Winnick Was Key To Setting Up Bjorn's 'Downfall'

Vikings Katheryn Winnick Lagertha History
(Image credit: Jonathan Hession / History)

Is this the beginning of the end for Bjorn? His reign as the King of Kattegat only just begun at the start of Season 6, and it has hit one rough spot after another. It is not just Bjorn’s life as a king that has taken a beating. His personal life is in shambles, and Vikings’ Katheryn Winnick hints that Bjorn’s “downfall” started in the most recent episode.

Who better to capture the beginning of Bjorn’s downward spiral on Vikings than Katheryn Winnick? The actress portrayed Bjorn’s mother, Lagertha, until her sudden death earlier this season. Winnick returned for a stint behind the camera to direct the episode after her character’s funeral, which saw an emotionally wrought Bjorn eulogize his mother. On directing the latest episode of Season 6 and Bjorn’s disintegrating state, Winnick told Variety:

There were many different things that I wanted to accomplish and the most important thing was really performance. It was Bjorn’s episode and really the start of his downfall, especially because he can’t cope that he’s not the king he thought he could be. And knowing Alex Ludwig for so long and not only playing his mom, but also being a dear friend, I can really sink my teeth into his character and I feel like we have this internal dialogue where I know his personality but I also know his backstory as a person. That’s only helpful. It only added to be able to bring your personal life onto the screen. I love that part of it.

Katheryn Winnick is familiar with the many nuances of Bjorn, having played his mother, and knowing the duo’s remarkably special bond through the years. As you can imagine, it came in handy when stepping behind the camera. Winnick also indicates that her emotional proximity to Alexander Ludwig, who plays Bjorn, proved helpful in directing her Season 6 episode of Vikings.

That is not to say that Katheryn Winnick did not face her share of challenges directing the Season 6 episode. The Vikings actress previously revealed that she had to deal with the tricky task of hiding a neighboring TV series’ set. There were other issues, too. Responding to the different challenges she faced, Winnick said:

In terms of the hardest thing, it’s really hard to say. The burning of Hvitserk was a challenge. Bjorn’s speech was a huge challenge to get that many people out there and I wanted to symbolize something to show it visually. So I had them do the passing of the torch that I wrote in. I also wanted something beautiful and to have Gunnhild [Ragga Ragnars] stand up for her man and have her really be a queen for the first time, she just did a great job.

If only Gunnhild’s speech had meant as much to Bjorn, who, it is pretty safe to say, is in a state of freefall on Vikings. Bjorn suffered the death of his son and mother while he was away helping out a former ally, King Harald. Plus, the demise of Bjorn’s son and Lagertha happened in the aftermath of one of Bjorn’s first decisions as king of Kattegat.

In far less important Vikings news, Bjorn also lost the kingship of all of Norway, exiled his brother for killing his mother and had his wife propose a plural marriage after learning of his adultery. As you can tell, Bjorn has had a lot going on in Vikings lately.

As Katheryn Winnick points out, Bjorn has had to face the reality of the king that he is verses the one he thought he would be. On that note, I think it is fair to say that Bjorn has not made the best decisions since becoming King of Kattegat on Vikings. As his mom, Lagertha, mentioned to Bjorn’s wife earlier in Season 6, his choices have been well-intentioned, if fateful.

Despite Bjorn’s intentions, it has not changed the outcome, which has been disastrous, and Vikings has shown the dominos fall one after another. On a familial level, Bjorn has become isolated as Season 6 heads towards its midseason finale without Katheryn Winnick’s Lagertha. His brother turned arch-nemesis, Ivar, is off in Rus playing head-games with a fellow madman.

Meanwhile, Ubbe and Bjorn’s ex-wife, Torvi, have gone off to uncover the mystery surrounding Floki, taking Bjorn and Torvi’s daughter with them. Bjorn still has his devoted wife, Gunnhild, and the baby they are expecting, though. Like Katheryn Winnick, I also enjoyed Gunnhild’s speech, and was quite surprised by the proposal of plural marriage which came after.

Fans of the History series will have to stay tuned to see if Bjorn takes her up on it. Or realizes that he needs to break up with his mistress, Ingrid. The parallels between Ragnar’s life-changing decision regarding his marriage and Bjorn’s choice during the latest Vikings were palpable. Can Bjorn avoid his father’s mistake?

That is not entirely assuring for Bjorn’s trajectory for the remainder of Season 6. Vikings has had Bjorn battle back from considerable struggles in the past. However, these are the first ones he is facing without his rock, Lagertha. Bjorn is sort of drifting now. Can he let Gunnhild be his new anchor? I hope so!

Find out what happens as the final episodes of Vikings Season 6A air, Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on History. The historically-based drama’s Season 6 return is one of the midseason’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.