Why did Travis Fimmel leave Vikings? (How did Ragnar die?)

Travis Fimmel plays an important part of History Channel's historical epic Vikings, so why did he eventually leave the show?
2015 A+E Network Upfront
2015 A+E Network Upfront / Noam Galai/GettyImages

Most fans of the History Channel series Vikings adored series protagonist Ragnar Lothbrok, played by Australian actor Travis Fimmel. So it was a tough pill to swallow when season 4 aired and fans had to watch the Viking warlord's tragic downfall and eventual demise. Despite Ragnar's death, the show would continue for another two seasons before launching a sequel series on Netflix called Vikings: Valhalla.

Vikings is a historical drama series with epic scope following Ragnar and his Viking brothers and family, specifically as they yearn to travel the world and venture into the west. Throughout the early seasons, we watched as Ragnar rose to the top and became a Viking King, but in the fourth season, Ragnar spent the majority of his time planning his death in the hopes it would usher in a new era for his people.

During the fifteenth episode of season 4, "All His Angels," Ragnar's death is facilitated by the Northumbrian King Aelle. After careful plotting, Ragnar realizes the best way to create a future for his children is to give them a reason to avenge his death. He surrenders himself to King Ecbert and informs him of his overall plan. Ecbert then brings Ragnar to King Aelle who has Ragnar tortured, beaten, and finally dropped into a pit of venomous snakes.

Travis Fimmel didn't have a hard time saying goodbye to Vikings

While fans might have struggled to let go of Ragnar, and specifically Fimmel's excellent performance, the actor himself wasn't all that bothered to say goodbye to the series. In 2019, a few years after season 4 finished airing, Fimmel spoke with Collider about his movie Danger Close and responded to a few questions about Vikings.

He enjoyed the experience overall and made "lifelong friends from it," but he also didn't find it challenging to shrug off the Viking at the end of the day.

"No, not at all. As soon as the camera are off, I start talking to people. I’m not one of those actors that live and breathe the character, and take it home. It was such a great experience, and it was also a great experience to work in Australia. Where you’re working makes such a big difference."

Since then, Fimmel has stayed busy with other television shows, like the criminally underrated Max series Raised by Wolves and the Netflix show Boy Swallows Universe. He'll work with Max once again in Dune: Prophecy, an upcoming series set within Frank Herbert's iconic Dune universe.

Vikings writer and historian Michael Hirst offered nothing but praise for the star, at the time telling Variety that he "wept" when he saw the death scene, "knowing that this was the end of a journey that Ragnar and I and Travis and I had been on."

For Hirst, the death was pivotal and "really does pay off all the hours we've invested in him." There is plenty of death in Vikings, but this scene in particular is one that stands out most to viewers.

And now that Vikings is streaming on Netflix, countless new fans are likely to rediscover the series.

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