Vikings has always been a violent show, and past seasons of History’s epic have featured massive battle scenes full of character fatalities. But Wednesday’s midseason finale, “Moments of Vision,” takes an unexpected approach to the climactic showdown between the forces of Ivar (Alex Hogh) and Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick). The episode tracks multiple characters in a nonlinear fashion, cutting from the fighting to preparations for the battle. There are flashbacks, and sequences that could either be spiritual visions or dying hallucinations. “I was quite determined that we would just do a unique thing,” says Vikings creator Michael Hirst, who wrote this episode (and all the others.) “A battle scene told from different points of view, including points of view of people who died.”
EW talked to Hirst about the bloody, poignant episode, and what it means for the show going forward.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: “Moments of Vision” saw a lot of long-running characters die, including Jasper Pääkkönen’s Halfdan and Josefin Asplund’s Astrid. How much did you plan out these character exits before working on the episode? In the writing process, did you save some characters, or write deaths you weren’t expecting?
MICHAEL HIRST: At one stage, I was sure that a son of Ragnar would kill another son of Ragnar. So that would probably be between Hvitserk and Ubbe. And I went into that final scene thinking that that was gonna happen. And then it didn’t happen, which was mildly surprising to me. A mirror image of that was Harald and Halfdan, and I wasn’t sure what was gonna happen, but then [Harald] killed him. I knew that Astrid was going to die, even though I didn’t want her to die! I loved her.
What I want to show, as well as cool action, is psychological damage. A bigv thing is to try to humanize the Vikings, try to show they were just like you and me. They’re fighting battles every other year, or whatever it is. And it’s gonna wear them down. With Lagertha, I wanted to start showing the psychological impact of continuously being between life and death.
There were interesting moments near the end of Ragnar’s time on the show, when he would have visions of his past life or younger days on the farm. It felt like a lot of characters had moments like that in this episode.
I had a lot of friends who were gay who died in the early AIDS epidemic of the ’80s and ’90s. They died in their 30s, essentially. That is the typical lifespan of a Viking. They didn’t live for very long. So Halfdan’s death, and the death of Torvi’s first son in the battle, and Astrid’s very young. Young people dying is a very powerful part of that episode.