4:30pm PT by Amber Dowling
Comic-Con: 'Vikings' Boss Warns Ragnar Is at "Death's Door" — Plus Watch the Season 4 Trailer
There are still a few months until the fourth season of History's Vikings kicks off, but producers and stars unspooled the new trailer at San Diego Comic-Con on Friday while also teasing what's next.
To get the inside scoop on the upcoming showdown between Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) and his brother Rollo (Clive Standen), what's in store for the raiding men now that they've conquered Paris, and how writers could possibly top last season's epic Paris battle, The Hollywood Reporter caught up with creator and showrunner Michael Hirst. (But first, watch the trailer, below!)
Could this be the year of the final reckoning between brothers?
You could safely say that; they’re heading that way. Rollo seems to have committed himself to marrying the emperor’s daughter, and Ragnar and Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig) have promised to return to Paris the following year. So it's all set up for another huge and defining encounter between them.
How do you top last year's great battle at Paris?
I can’t really go into details, but I think we can top it. It will be a different kind of encounter, something we haven’t seen before. Something that’s historically accurate but that we simply haven’t featured on the show so far. People can expect to be amazed at what takes shape when Ragnar returns to Paris.
How much time has passed when we pick back up?
Ragnar has managed to return home and it’s been a fairly long journey back, but he’s still desperately ill -- he’s at death’s door. Some of the early parts of next season are about the possibility of him dying and what are the ramifications of that. Who’s going to rule and what will it mean if the great Ragnar Lothbrok dies now? It sets up all future possible conflicts about the consequences of him dying. You can see the people cueing up to claim power. Of course the other thing we left hanging from season three was what Ragnar said on the boat to Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård): "I know you killed Athelstan (George Blagden)." So clearly we have to deal with those consequences now that it has been revealed publicly. That is a big part of the early on drama.
Have you aged Ragnar's children this year, since this story eventually becomes about them?
Yes, the children are a little older. We haven’t pushed the boundaries too much, but we have recast some of the sons and they are starting to develop and show their characters. They can play a bigger part in the stories, we can begin to see how important they are, both to Ragnar and to the story. Historically speaking the only thing that Ragnar Lothbrok, really feared was that his sons would become more famous than he was. So we’re beginning to see some of that anxiety on Ragnar’s part, even though he loves his sons. So yeah, we're going on with developing the sons and they will play a bigger and bigger part in season four. That’s very important to me, this has never been the Ragnar Lothbrok show, this is a show about Vikings. And again historically speaking, a couple of Ragnar's sons did become more famous than he was. I’m thinking particularly of Bjorn and the wonderfully named Ivor the Boneless. Ivor’s story is a crucial and amazing part of season four.
What's in store for Bjorn?
Ragnar and Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) have from time to time suggested to Bjorn that he might want to grow up and that he’s not quite the full Viking, even though he was incredibly brave in Paris. Ragnar has been slightly condescending to him and Bjorn wants to prove to himself and to everybody that he’s worthy of being Ragnar Lothbrok’s son. So he does something quite extraordinary to prove that, and that plays out over the first three or four episodes of the new season. It’s a big storyline where we went to Canada to shoot some of it. It’s a very important part of the season.
Will Lagertha try and reclaim some of her old power or authority?
She has an amazing story arc this season; something so unexpected that I can’t even begin to talk about it because I would immediately say too much. I’m so proud that Katheryn and I have created one of the few female characters on American TV who is a mother, a wife and kicks ass. I can promise that she does all those things. She will always be in the mix and she to me is Ragnar’s equal in so many ways. Even I’m sorry they’re still not married. They are meant to be together, I know that. But it wasn’t to be, fate didn’t ordain that. Her trajectory and role though are just as significant as Ragnar's.
With Ragnar sick, is an Athelstan vision out of the question?
If it was up to me George would be hovering around the whole time. In reality and in spirit Athelstan continues to exert a big influence not necessarily on Ragnar, but on King Eckbert (Linus Roache) in Wessex and on Athelstan's son Alfred, who of course will become almost the greatest English King of all time, Alfred the Great. In that very superstitious time the dead played a big role in the lives of the living.
Could Kevin Durand reappear as Harbard?
I think there’s a very good chance of him returning, though I couldn’t promise. But there is a very good chance.
What can you tease about the new characters in season four?
We have two new Viking brothers, King Harold Finehair (Peter Franzen) and his brother Halfdan the Black (Jasper Paakkonen), two Finnish actors who have actually already played brothers in three different languages; this is the first time they're doing it in English. They come on board because they want to go raiding with Ragnar to Paris. But of course they have ambition -- all Vikings worthy of their name were ambitious for fame -- and so that becomes an issue. Then we have Yidu (Dianne Doan), a Chinese slave captured in the Red Sea. Who knew the world was small enough even then for people captured by pirates in the red sea might to end up in Frankia, and then in Scandinavia? But I checked with our historical consultant and he said it’s all possible, it’s all plausible, it almost certainly happened.
Vikings returns for season four on History in 2016. A specific date has not yet been announced. Do you think this will be the final year for Ragnar Lothbrok? Sound off in the comments below. To sign up for Live Feed TV alerts for news and scoop on your favorite shows, please go to THR.com/FeedNews.