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.

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