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There’s an ominous warning at the beginning of Season 5A of historical drama series Vikings (2013-current; Seasons 1 – 5A can be streamed on Showmax) that sets the tone of what’s to come: “There is going to be a war. A war between brothers.” Ragnar’s (Travis Fimmel) sons Bjorn Ironside (Alexander Ludwig), Ubbe (Jordan Patrick Smith), Hvitserk (Marco Ilsø) and Ivar The Boneless (Alex Høgh Andersen) will turn on each other as they fight for the throne of Viking city Kattegat. And they won’t be giving each other an inch of room to swing an axe…

“There is going to be a war. A war between brothers.”

Season 5 of Vikings is now on Showmax
Image: MGM

Un-united

“They have been united so far in taking revenge on those who executed their father when he was thrown into a snake pit [Season 4, episode 15], but now they will disperse to an extent that they are going to be at each other’s throats,” explains series creator Michael Hirst. “It’s almost inevitable that the brothers are going to turn on each other because that is something that happens in families where fame and power are at stake.”

First casualty

Sigurd Snake-in-the-eye (David Lindström) was the first casualty of the brothers’ discontent when Ivar killed him in Season 4, episode 19. And Sigurd wasn’t killed because he was going against the wishes of his brothers, but rather because he made an ill-advised joke about Ivar that his brother didn’t take kindly to. Sigurd mocked Ivar for being crippled and impotent, so Ivar laughed, lost his cool and threw an axe at his brother. “He was a sensitive guy who grew up feeling different from his brothers and his petty jokes cost him his life,” reveals Michael. “This starts the disintegration of the brotherly bond for Ragnar’s sons.”

Killer instincts

There’s always got to be that crazy, out-of-control man-with-a-crazy-plan brother and they don’t come better – or badder – than Ivar The Boneless. Forget that he’s been crippled from birth and has never stood unaided – he’s tougher than a Viking shield. And don’t be fooled by those tears in Season 5, episode 1, when he weeps over the death of Sigurd. “I know what you’re all thinking, but it’s not true. I didn’t mean to kill him. I am truly sorry,” sobs Ivar… before shooting off into a full-on rant, justifying his actions. “He made me kill him. He taunted me, he made fun of me, what was I supposed to do? What kind of man taunts and tells lies about his own brother?” And actor Alex warns that the worst is still to come from his character: “Ivar is dangerous and a psychopath this season. He is a ‘one thing at a time, but always three steps ahead’ kind of guy.”

Mad king

In Ivar’s warped mind, he’s the true and only king of Kattegat and there’s nothing he won’t do to claim the throne – even if it means murdering his brothers Ubbe and Bjorn in war after they side with their mom and the current ruler of Kattegat Queen Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick). Unfortunately, the pair are a little smarter than the brainless oafs that Ivar mistakes them for and in episode 8 they’re going to give Ivar’s Great Army the beating of a lifetime. “He starts doubting himself and that’s dangerous for him going forward. You can’t lead an entire army against Team Lagertha and not fully believe in your capability to win, and being a cripple on top of that,” warns Alex. “Confidence is key and one of Ivar’s major virtues.”

Brothers in arms

Unlike Ivar, his brothers Bjorn and Ubbe believe in the dreams of their father. “They are in many ways like Ragnar,” says Michael. “They really believe in Ragnar’s philosophy of finding farmland on the other side of the great ocean.” Bjorn will venture to the Mediterranean this season but he will return to Kattegat where his roots are. And Ubbe will go on crusades, conquering land in the name of the Vikings, but he too will make his way back to Kattegat. While these two brothers seem morally grounded, it’s Hvitserk who’s the wild card of Ragnar’s sons. Initially supporting Ubbe, Hvitserk throws a spanner in his brother’s plans when he decides to switch alliances and sides with Ivar in episode 3. “That’s a big moment,” Michael says. “I think even Hvitserk isn’t sure why he’s done it, but Vikings are always dealing in fate. ‘What is my fate? What am I fated to do? Who should I be with that justifies my fate?’”

Did you know?

While Ragnar is the most beloved of the Vikings characters, the actual Viking odes and sagas about Ragnar are all about his sons and how their escapades rivalled accolades that Ragnar could only have dreamed of.

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