News

Vikings Star Alexander Ludwig and Creator Michael Hirst Look Back on Bjorn's Plight and Path

Ludwig and Hirst reflect on the fate of King Bjorn as the second half of Season 6 drops on Amazon Prime.

by | December 30, 2020 | Comments

(Photo by ©History Channel)

In the Vikings Season 6 midseason finale earlier this year, brothers Ivar and Bjorn shared a dream-like sequence on the beach while the battle between their respective armies raged around them. Ivar, who at that point had the upper hand, calmly and cloyingly assured Bjorn that he lost favor with the gods long ago, and that he was destined to lose this war. The episode then ended with the shock of Ivar’s sword stabbing clean through his brother’s abdomen. Bjorn falls to the ground, possibly dead, as the rest of his army retreats from the Rus around him.

While Vikings is no stranger to the season finale cliffhanger, this one in particular left us with a lot of question marks as they relate to our hero Bjorn. Is he dead, or will he live to fight another day? Is there the possibility that the stabbing was also part of a larger surreal dream sequence? What could possibly be next for our viking hero?

If you’re like us and have been waiting for months to get answers to these questions and more, you’re in luck: The final season premiered in full Dec. 30 on Amazon Prime Video before it’s set to debut in weekly installments at its original home on History. To talk about the big premiere, we jumped on the phone with the actor behind Bjorn himself, Alexander Ludwig, and creator and showrunner Michael Hirst. Warning: If you haven’t yet watched the season 6B premiere, we recommend you stop reading this article, as THERE ARE MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!

Alex Høgh Andersen in Vikings

(Photo by Bernard Walsh/©History Channel)

Now, with the proper spoiler warning behind us, let’s talk about the bleeding elephant in the room: Bjorn, indeed, is dead. He survived the battle at the end of 6A, but is gravely wounded and expected to pass from infection. But miraculously from his deathbed, with the Rus army returning to battle, he musters the energy and the courage to put on his armor and ride into battle with all the viking armies of Norway at his back. Uniting them all in a way that King Harald couldn’t, Bjorn saves his home country and forces Ivar, Oleg, and the rest of the Rus army to retreat. It’s while leading the vikings into battle that he takes a round of arrows to the chest and dies a hero atop his horse, leading the charge.

“I felt like it was the send-off that the character deserved and that the fans deserved—and what I loved about it was it definitely wasn’t something that most people would’ve expected,” Ludwig says of his beloved character’s final moments. “It was such poetic justice… In those final moments for Bjorn, he’s finally become the man that he always hoped he could be and that his father always knew he could be. I really couldn’t have asked for a better send-off.”

Alexander Ludwig and Ragga Ragnars in Vikings

(Photo by Jonathan Hession/©History Channel)

Hirst says that while Bjorn has accomplished some great things, up until this point, his life “hasn’t altogether been a success,” considering his poor decisions while ruling Kattegat, his inability to win the kingship of all Norway (“He didn’t come out of that looking very smart”), and his consistent mistreatment of the women in his life. Throw into the mix his mounting heartbreaks and losses in the last season alone with the deaths of his son and unborn child, his mother Lagertha, and the leave of his brother Hvitserk after he pledges allegiance to Ivar, and Bjorn was in quite a low spot for a man who was expected to live up to the legacy of his father, Ragnar.

“In some senses, if he died only having done those things, his life might not have lived up to the expectations of Ragnar Lothbrok; it could’ve been not a memorable life,” Hirst admits. But having died in battle while uniting the viking kingdoms against the Rus and essentially sacrificing himself in the process? That was “completely redeeming,” Hirst says. “He summons up extraordinary willpower to do something quite remarkable and to save his country. So his ending is tragic and heroic and wonderful all at the same time. And I was so pleased to come to that ending for him. I think he deserved to be redeemed. His last actions and by what he did, he was certainly the son of Ragnar.”

Bjorn, for what it’s worth, seems to know that he could have been a better man in this life. “I wish with all my heart I could go back and start again,” he laments in the premiere, wounded and bedridden. But it’s in part his guilt that drives him to do the courageous thing in the end.

Alexander Ludwig in Vikings

(Photo by Jonathan Hession/©History Channel)

“I think it’s less him being forgiven by others and more about him forgiving himself,” Ludwig posits of the character’s redemption arc. “He’s finally been able to forgive himself for simply being human. That, to me, was a really beautiful moment to be able to play. It certainly wasn’t an easy one for me to do, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity.”

So it’s with a heavy heart that we report Ludwig’s time as Bjorn has come to an end—at least as the living-in-the-flesh version of the viking we’ve come to know. (Both creator and star refused to say if we see more of him later in the final season.) The actor first made his debut as Ragnar’s son a whopping six years ago, and he has in turn grown up himself onscreen with the role.

“When Alexander joined us, he was very young, and he behaved like it!” Hirst says with a laugh. “He had a very puppy-ish way about him. He was very spirited and full of youthful energy, and he was so in awe of the show and where he was and being cast and he loved everything about it. One of the great joys was to watch Alexander mature as a man and as an actor until he could carry the show, as it were. He [now] looks like a man who has been through many, many difficult circumstances and situations. He does no longer look like a puppy.

Clive Standen, Alexander Ludwig, Travis Fimmel in Vikings

(Photo by ©History Channel courtesy Everett Collection)

“We put him through some pretty tough experiences, and he did it, he did everything totally uncomplainingly,” the creator continues. “And he was on the show for a long time! If you think about it, the show is really about him because it starts with him being a young boy and it ends with his death many, many years later. Meanwhile, both of his parents have died, and he’s a consistent factor in the whole show, him and his younger self. I hold him in the highest esteem.”

Ludwig says that he was lucky to know from the start that the total of Bjorn’s arc would be a great one. He’s known for some time, too, that Bjorn’s end was near. The biggest challenge along the way was also the greatest pleasure: growing and developing with the role and rising to the new demands of each episode, each season. And finally, the concluding moments of the character dying while sitting horseback, sword drawn, came together after much conversation between Ludwig and Hirst.

“Michael sat me down and pitched the idea of what he was thinking, and he said he wanted it to be reminiscent of El Cid [with Charlton Heston], and I felt like that would be amazing,” Ludwig says. “Furthermore, it was important that Bjorn help carry this story over, and I felt like it was such an ingenious idea for Bjorn to leave at the beginning of the season as opposed to the end, because I don’t believe it’s nearly as predictable. It gives room to really conclude the story for the other brothers.”

Alexander Ludwig in Vikings

(Photo by Bernard Walsh/©History Channel)

As far as what he’ll miss most? Well, sometimes, it’s about the vikings you meet along the way.

“I will certainly miss the opportunity to explore this kind of growth of a human being and eventually a leader, but I also loved the world; I loved everything about this show, but most important, the family we created,” Ludwig concludes. “It sounds so cliche, but it’s so true. I spent six years with the same crew, the same cast (give or take). I spent 11 months out of the year [filming] in Ireland for six years. So it’s bittersweet because I’m so grateful to be back home surrounded by my friends and family because I miss them so much, but I’m also gonna miss my other family, and that’s the family I created in Ireland.”


Part 2 of the final season of Vikings premiered December 30, 2020, on Amazon Prime Video.


On an Apple device? Follow Rotten Tomatoes on Apple News.

Tag Cloud

Black Mirror Tumblr black chucky comic book movie Lucasfilm LGBTQ archives First Look 20th Century Fox Teen natural history BAFTA Sundance festivals dceu spider-verse MTV doctor who kaiju cars kids rotten 71st Emmy Awards independent Musical TCM Extras Christmas South by Southwest Film Festival Instagram Live serial killer unscripted documentary Awards Tour American Society of Cinematographers Rocketman Opinion Cosplay Women's History Month Lifetime Christmas movies boxing NYCC Television Critics Association Trophy Talk BBC America facebook laika OneApp indiana jones nbcuniversal Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt true crime hispanic halloween tv spain Marvel Television Sony theme song 99% rt labs USA new star wars movies boxoffice AMC WarnerMedia golden globe awards Sci-Fi 2020 social media BBC One SXSW 2022 gangster rom-coms canceled TV shows emmy awards Academy Awards crime drama 21st Century Fox dark Masterpiece Set visit Superheroe king kong versus prank Adult Swim venice black comedy Star Trek robots Writers Guild of America Baby Yoda kong Holiday Disney Channel 2021 79th Golden Globes Awards CNN Interview based on movie summer TV preview crime ABC Family free movies ID sequels Spectrum Originals a nightmare on elm street justice league target scene in color Pet Sematary Sundance TV GIFs asian-american monster movies TV renewals DGA technology Best Picture Election Biopics parents Reality Competition adaptation Britbox psycho Syfy jamie lee curtis Hallmark Mary poppins war fresh foreign revenge travel ABC Signature what to watch The Purge Comedy Central Drama feel good supernatural dc Crackle docuseries Schedule political drama strong female leads 1990s 2017 Western Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Starz MCU live action TNT El Rey deadpool films Spring TV Horror anthology Quiz teaser TBS 73rd Emmy Awards slasher The Walking Dead TV streaming movies ratings batman IMDb TV rt archives 2015 Comics on TV worst Red Carpet RT History Pop TV royal family Netflix australia stop motion politics Broadway japan HBO Max wonder woman popular basketball adenture comics documentaries TruTV Star Wars suspense movies ViacomCBS hidden camera 90s Warner Bros. target BET Awards FOX romance lord of the rings Grammys Musicals MSNBC slashers leaderboard mob Ellie Kemper twilight 93rd Oscars SundanceTV Kids & Family elevated horror best Emmys biopic Mystery YouTube DC Comics E3 TCA Awards E! Watching Series game of thrones Apple TV Plus interviews discovery critic resources Elton John 94th Oscars toy story renewed TV shows CBS All Access TCA james bond Television Academy 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards video on demand AMC Plus scene in color aliens Wes Anderson romantic comedy Chernobyl casting Brie Larson summer preview Showtime Ghostbusters San Diego Comic-Con Pride Month FX on Hulu Mary Poppins Returns TLC classics Video Games Awards dramedy Lifetime rt labs critics edition Amazon franchise Calendar Winners Hulu Family reboot APB Pixar spy thriller trophy spinoff Epix halloween Tubi Amazon Prime Video OWN Thanksgiving DirecTV Classic Film ITV Vudu debate Sneak Peek CBS Best Actor legend marvel cinematic universe tv talk Cannes space obi wan TV movies singing competition First Reviews anime President cults blockbusters Tarantino children's TV hispanic heritage month joker sports diversity Paramount Pictures DC Universe christmas movies Summer Star Wars Celebration festival historical drama werewolf french Disney Shondaland indie Sony Pictures Pacific Islander RT21 cinemax PBS Pop Funimation Hear Us Out new york NBA stand-up comedy 2019 telelvision critics japanese WGN Rock finale CMT MGM game show Amazon Studios cancelled television ESPN cats HBO The Witch live event Bravo PaleyFest ghosts jurassic park Year in Review mission: impossible Country Indigenous Nominations zero dark thirty series VH1 sopranos crossover biography criterion summer TV HFPA See It Skip It vampires thriller dragons binge green book Box Office YouTube Premium cancelled TV shows sag awards transformers screen actors guild football animated Film Festival TCA Winter 2020 Hallmark Christmas movies zombie concert dogs Countdown rotten movies we love National Geographic Hollywood Foreign Press Association ABC Legendary Lionsgate DC streaming service zombies Toys comedies television godzilla Fargo disaster Columbia Pictures Travel Channel heist movie The Academy satire YA Martial Arts spider-man crime thriller pirates of the caribbean news die hard Prime Video aapi Universal Native Netflix Christmas movies composers miniseries name the review Captain marvel LGBT Mudbound olympics award winner Tomatazos FX VICE marvel comics latino cops golden globes Heroines Cartoon Network scorecard Trivia universal monsters Avengers Film Nickelodeon king arthur SDCC toronto Emmy Nominations Geeked Week Fantasy movie 2018 Podcast sequel IFC streaming Turner Photos Mary Tyler Moore Valentine's Day Focus Features art house know your critic Marathons The Arrangement comic books A24 Neflix blaxploitation IFC Films GLAAD Marvel Spike Apple Reality high school reviews Tags: Comedy Superheroes Alien Premiere Dates Ovation Food Network streamig sitcom cartoon obituary Paramount scene in color series italian remakes Nat Geo Rom-Com Shudder Action Animation YouTube Red Stephen King spanish language FXX Logo Binge Guide cooking Winter TV 4/20 broadcast Best Actress New York Comic Con Paramount Network Fox News Turner Classic Movies dreamworks comic Oscars Fall TV Fox Searchlight docudrama HBO Go Disney Plus GoT screenings saw USA Network nfl CW Seed posters vs. hist Disney streaming service 72 Emmy Awards all-time new zealand TCA 2017 cancelled Rocky hollywood nature south america science fiction Paramount Plus Esquire quibi international comic book movies BET Music superhero fast and furious mutant worst movies canceled Oscar Discovery Channel video 45 Mindy Kaling Comedy Certified Fresh X-Men young adult Black History Month Marvel Studios Image Comics Sundance Now mcc Dark Horse Comics History PlayStation Arrowverse Character Guide Comic Book Comic-Con@Home 2021 SXSW Universal Pictures women Walt Disney Pictures scary TIFF book Exclusive Video dexter trailers stoner Polls and Games richard e. Grant medical drama 24 frames spanish directors Crunchyroll Acorn TV Creative Arts Emmys VOD book adaptation Disney+ Disney Plus mockumentary superman scary movies blockbuster psychological thriller Anna Paquin Pirates Amazon Prime Super Bowl breaking bad Holidays NBC Tokyo Olympics The CW Apple TV+ talk show Peacock police drama scene in color film series TV Land A&E adventure child's play genre period drama witnail razzies The Walt Disney Company 2016 Infographic harry potter comiccon Best and Worst Endgame cancelled TV series BBC Best Director Trailer Freeform Song of Ice and Fire action-comedy 007 TV One