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Countdown to Vikings Season Two: Creator Michael Hirst Talks S2 [INTERVIEW] 

Photo Credit: Bernard Walsh Copyright 2014
Photo Credit: Bernard Walsh
Copyright 2014

WARNING: Spoilers for Season Two

TV Goodness is continuing to countdown to the return of HISTORY’s Vikings with an interview from last year’s Comic-Con. Along with a round table of reporters, we were able to chat with Vikings creator Michael Hirst about the second season.

On whether he could imagine how much of a success this show would become

MICHAEL HIRST: You are stumbling around in the darkness when you start a show. I felt very privileged that I…someone had given me the opportunity to do something about the Vikings. And I had a hunch that Vikings were somehow in the zeitgeist. I mean I just…people responded when I said I was writing the Vikings, people immediately responded and were very positive about it and excited about it. So I hoped. I hoped and prayed. And when I started to see the rushes then I felt even more comfortable with that. But you never know. The difference between a hit and a miss is sometimes quite a thin line.

On a time jump between the first and second seasons

MICHAEL: I left a lot of cliffhangers at the end of the first season which have to be resolved in real time, that is to say, almost immediately. Even though we do recast Bjorn [Ragnar’s son], he doesn’t appear immediately. But I’m not telling you exactly where he does appear. The second season is…is still a lot to do with the family pressures and lives of the main characters. But also about Ragnar’s continuing rise to power and how that impacts on all the people around him and the people he loves. And it’s just bigger and better. We’ve learned a lot from the first one. We have some more resources. We have bigger armies. We have more boats. But the central issues, the central core is still the family saga.

On religious superstitions continuing to play a part in season two

MICHAEL: It’s not superstition. It’s just pagan belief. It was one of the things that I really was interested in and fascinated about when I started researching the Vikings. The Vikings’ pagan belief or the Norse pagan belief was a much, much older set of beliefs than Christianity. Christianity was relatively new at that period. There was a very prolonged and violent history between paganism and Christianity which was only resolved 400 years later when the last Scandinavian country became Christianized and then they destroyed all evidences of their pagan past, pulled down the pagan temples, destroyed anything else they could find and built Christian. But personally I’m just fascinated. I mean, if you read the Sagas, they are incredible. They’re weird but they’re absolutely incredible. And yes so there’s a lot of that in the second season, you know, a lot. And a lot of conflict for Athelstan as a result.

On Athelstan’s journey in season two

Photo Credit: Jonathan Hession/HISTORY Copyright 2014
Photo Credit: Jonathan Hession/HISTORY
Copyright 2014

MICHAEL: Well, Athelstan is still trying to prove in a way that he’s become a real Viking. And he feels in some ways that he has. Floki never believes him. Floki is kind of a fundamentalist pagan. And doesn’t believe him. And then various things happen to Athelstan which cause him to think again about his beliefs and who he is. So this season is very torturous for him, very dramatic, very spiritually difficult.

On Ragnar’s relationships in season two

MICHAEL: He has to deal with a lot of things when he gets home. And the death of his daughter which is very meaningful to him. And he has to come to terms with that. And there’s a wonderful scene in which he does come to terms — or partly comes to terms with it. When he does return home he has some huge issues to deal with in terms of his personal life and his relationship with Lagertha. And certain things happen that make that situation even more complicated and even more difficult and even more dramatic. And so a lot of this season will be to do with resolving the issues that were left open at the end of the first season. So it’s not easy to resolve them. But it’s been wonderful to write about them. And I love that sort of triangular — the relationship with [Princess] Aslaug and Lagertha and Ragnar is very basic to the second season.

On topping an epic battle scene from the season two premiere that was sneak peek’d at Comic-Con 2013

MICHAEL: That sets the benchmark for us. You know? I mean I wrote it like that. I mean I said look guys, we are really going to have to up our game, you know? I think people will expect us too, anyway. And we know more of what we’re doing. But I also said let’s set this battle in a different landscape. Let’s do something new. But even I was impressed by that trailer. The way it was made — the choreography of the action and the violence was extraordinary. We have some great guys who organize those things for us. It was very exciting for me the first time I saw that trailer. All I see are dailies, a few dailies. And it’s not until you start putting things together you go ‘Oh wow, that’s fantastic.’

On his relationship with History Channel

MICHAEL: It’s an incredibly good relationship with HISTORY. Considering that they took a huge gamble. If this had gone wrong, they would have suffered. They were trying to reposition themselves in the marketplace; they’ve gone to do drama. And so it was a gamble. But considering that it was such gamble, all they really said to me is that we want to care about the characters. Obviously, initially, when I pitched it and we would talk about it, they wanted to know that it had something to do with real history. This is the History Channel and if you make everything up we’re gonna look pretty silly. But if you can reassure us that at least it’s based on historical research or reality, it’s just the kind of niche we need. And it fits in with — obviously HISTORY has got a primarily male audience but we wanted to also bring women into it and I think that through Lagertha — there’s no female character I think on TV like Lagertha. Well, she’s a mother and a wife and she kicks ass. She’s a fighter — what’s not to like?

The second season of Vikings premieres on HISTORY Thursday Feb. 27 at 10/9c.

Clip from Vikings S2 Premiere: Ragnar and Lagertha fight over Rollo

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  1. Richard Fanning Snowdon

    I love the Viking Series.
    When I retired in 2010 I did some research on my paternal grandmothers Irish ancestors, to my amazement they were a famous Viking family, Swedish Rus who became Varangian Guard.
    When they left the Byzantine Empire they removed the remains of St. Nicolas, they first took the remains to Bari Italy, then to Nice France, they were laid to rest in the town of Newtown Jerpoint around 1200AD. My ancestors had built a graveyard, the Church of St. Nicolas (which strongly resembles a Viking feast hall) and a toll bridge over the River Nore to collect fees from pilgrims.
    “Whatever cause the Fannings upheld they entered into it with spirit, determination and patriotism.
    These are some of the chief characteristics that have pervaded the family from the beginning- patriotism and true devotion to country and cause, regardless of consequences.
    It has been said no Fanning was ever a traitor to country or creed. Truly their lives were never peaceful, and their history is a story of confiscation, sacrifice, and martyrdom from the earliest times”.
    The Varangian Guard –
    Seizure of all lands owned by the Fanning family in Ireland.
    I would like to share this history of my Fanning family with the world.
    I would appreciate if someone could supply me a contact e-mail for Michael Hirst to see if he has an interest.
    Richard Fanning Snowdon
    Nova Scotia Canada

    1. Tina Charles

      I really wish I could help you out, but I don’t know that information. So sorry. 🙂

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