When we said episode 6 of “Vikings” was going to be Season 3’s most intense episode thus far, we weren’t kidding. But we have to admit, even we didn’t know just how powerful -- and dare we say, bloody -- “Born Again” would be.
Before last night’s installment aired, it was teased that the birth of Porunn (Gaia Weiss) and Judith’s (Sarah Green) children would also lead to death. So, which character from creator Michael Hirst’s historical drama met their demise? Ultimately, it was Ragnar’s (Travis Fimmel) most trusted friend, Athelstan (George Blagden), who ended up coming face-to-face with his own God after a religious epiphany.
“Father, hear my prayer, and let my cry come unto thee!” Athelstan said after his rebirth into the Christian faith. But the monk’s devoutness to God wasn’t always concrete. Ever since the pagans captured him in Season 1, Athelstan’s spiritual-conflictions have wavered.
He battled between the cultures of Christianity and the ways of the Vikings, challenging his very own beliefs daily. (Did God exist? Or were the “Vikings” Gods the true deity?) While Ragnar saw his curiosity as brave, Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård) noted Athelstan’s flip-flopping behavior as treacherous.
However, it was Athelstan’s devotion to the foreign religion that truly caused Floki to freak out -- especially after the monk threw his arm ring into the water, casting away his value for the Viking’s beliefs. Following Athelstan’s seemingly disrespectful act, Floki received a message from his own Gods as to what he was expected to do. Wanting nothing more than to please the divinities, Floki decided to kill the priest with the swift swing of a hatchet.
According to Hirst, killing Athelstan was the most difficult decision he’s ever had to make in “Vikings.” But the creator revealed he needed to resolve the monk’s “major issues,” which involved him jumping between two different beliefs. So, Hirst decided to put an end to Athelstan’s anguish and confusion by having God return into his life.
“The relief that he feels, the joy that he feels, the certainty that he feels that God is alive and with him -- it resolves a huge part of his agony,” the showrunner told Entertainment Weekly. Hirst then explained that with Athelstan’s rebirth into Christianity, he also needed to die.
With his head on a chopping block in Kattegat, Athelstan knew it was only a matter of time before he was killed. That’s when he decided to approach his dear friend to let him know that he was planning on leaving the Scandinavian village. Ragnar, however, had a royal meltdown at the mere though of the monk he loved so dearly fleeing.
The King added that he would protect Athelstan from all who wanted to hurt him (a promise that would eventually be broken by the end of episode 6). Hirst explained that this was a very selfish thing for Ragnar to do because Athelstan was finally ready to meet the God he so furiously worshiped.
But by the installment’s conclusion, Athelstan finally got what he had wanted when Floki walked into his room carrying an axe. Blagden explained to Entertainment Weekly that although it seems Floki had the upper hand, it was actually Athelstan who was in control of the situation. “You see Athelstan accepting death, and maybe knowing that it’s coming. And when it does arrive, it’s like he’s already accepted it,” he said.
The actor then revealed that the most tragic part of his character’s death was the fact that Athelstan would never meet his child, Alfred. In a previous episode of “Vikings,” Athelstan told Ragnar how lucky he was to have offspring, which is what makes his demise even more emotional.
Hirst divulged that the story will come full circle -- after all, Alfred will not only be a future King of Wessex, but he’ll also become the future King of England! “He is Alfred the Great. And the real Alfred the Great, who was born to Ecbert’s (Linus Roache) son, ended up fighting against Ragnar’s sons. So all that’s to come!” he dished details on the future of "Vikings," which was recently renewed for a Season 4.
What did you think of episode 6 of “Vikings”? Did Athelstan’s death surprise you? Sound off in the comments section below and don’t forget to tune in to “Vikings” on Thursday, April 2, at 10 p.m. EDT on the History Channel.