Why Travis Fimmel Didn't Return After Vikings Season 4

Vikings has been a truly massive success for the History Channel, and for the show's first four seasons, it was spearheaded by a larger-than-life main character. Travis Fimmel's Ragnar Lothbrok was a swaggering, yet surprisingly spiritual Viking warrior who went from a humble farmer to a fearless, history-making explorer and the King of Denmark, oozing charisma and unpredictability wherever he went. Unfortunately, Ragnar's escapades came to a dramatic end in the fourth season episode, "All His Angels." Captured by his longtime frenemy, the treacherous King Ecbert, the Viking was handed over to a vengeful King Aelle of Northumbria, whose brother Ragnar had killed in the first season. 

At first, it seemed like a rather typical TV show dilemma of the "He'll escape at the last minute" variety, and the captured Ragnar even had the opportunity to launch into an uncharacteristically bombastic speech about his ascension to Valhalla. However, Vikings is not a typical TV show. There were no diversion tactics or last-minute rescue operations. Instead, Aelle had Ragnar thrown into a pit of venomous snakes, where our hero died a brutal death. It was an astonishing, shocking moment that few viewers could expect. Why did the show allow its clear main character to perish at the hands of someone like Aella? And was Fimmel as surprised by Ragnar's shocking demise as the audience?

Travis Fimmel's fate in Vikings was written in the history books

Ragnar Lothbrok met his grisly demise in Vikings simply because history demanded it. No, not History Channel — actual history. Vikings might play a little fast and loose with the timeline of events, but the show likes to base its big beats on existing historical documents. The historical Ragnar may or may not have actually existed, but as Emma Groeneveld of the Ancient History Encyclopedia notes, some sagas indicate that he died in 866 CE or thereabouts, in the same way Travis Fimmel's character did. Likewise, Ragnar's slayer Aelle did bite the dust in the ensuing encounter between the Vikings and the Saxons, though Encyclopedia Britannia tells us he was killed in combat, not tortured to death with a "blood eagle."  

Knowing this, everyone involved knew that Ragnar's days were always numbered. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Fimmel and Vikings creator Michael Hirst revealed that, if anything, the charismatic Viking leader overstayed his welcome. "I was meant to die at the end of the first year," Fimmel revealed. "I ended up staying around for three more!" Meanwhile, Hirst noted that the show was always supposed to be a saga of several generations that shaped history with their adventures. "Ragnar is now a part of history," he said. "A part of our history. I was never afraid of killing him off, but I wanted the death to be monumental." 

He certainly succeeded.

What has Travis Fimmel been doing since Vikings?

Travis Fimmel might not portray a legendary Viking anymore, but don't feel sorry for the guy. He had a career-making role, and knew in advance that the character was going to die, so he's had a chance to line up a truly impressive array of acting work. In 2019, he starred in no less than three films: the heist movie Finding Steve McQueen, the bounty hunter thriller Dreamland (opposite Margot Robbie), and the war film Danger Close in his native Australia. 

It looks like Fimmel has no plans of slowing down, either. The movies he's currently involved in include It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia star Charlie Day's El Tonto, the awesomely named Die in a Gunfight, and the legendary Die Hard director John McTiernan's upcoming sci-fi movie, Tau Ceti Four. Somehow, the actor has also found the time for roles in a couple of upcoming TV shows. He's set to appear in a Ridley Scott-produced HBO Max sci-fi drama called Raised by Wolves. Interestingly, he'll also portray Wyatt Earp in an anthology show about the legendary gunslinger, proving once and for all that he's clearly born to play hardcore historical characters with impressive facial hair.

Meanwhile, Vikings has moved its focus from Ragnar Lothbrok to his sons, just like Michael Hirst said the show would. However, Ragnar's progeny will have a significantly shorter tenure than their father, seeing as the sixth season will be the last one in the series.