THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER – San Diego Comic-Con took a somber turn late Friday when History’s Vikings staged a first for the massive pop culture confab: a funeral.
The marketing stunt came after the drama parted ways with leading man Travis Fimmel as his Ragnar Lothbrok was killed off in season four, with Friday’s traditional Viking funeral offering die-hard viewers a chance to say a proper goodbye to the former king of Kattegat in style. The service featured History setting a Viking ship on fire as the cast and attendees looked on and celebrated the show’s upcoming rebirth.
“I remember the first year we were in a small room at the convention center with just a few hundred people and now it’s utterly staggering,” creator and showrunner Michael Hirst said before the ship was set ablaze. “It’s beyond comprehension, really.”
Katheryn Winnick, who plays Queen Lagertha, agreed. “This is a show that I think grows by word of mouth. Friends tell their friends to watch, family members tell their family members to watch,” she said. “I’ve really seen a big shift in the last few years of die-hard fans, they get tattoos of our characters on their bodies. It’s crazy!”
That faithful fan base was out in full force, with many in cosplay as various characters, showing off their unique body art and trumpeting their Viking blowing horns as they paid their respects to the character. Finally, when the time came, the crowd was led in a chant that sent Ragnar off to Valhalla once and for all and the ship erupted in flames.
The flames raged on while the audience cheered. For Alex Hogh Andersen, who joined in season four as Ragnar’s son Ivar the Boneless, it was the perfect end to his first Comic-Con experience.
“I’m in awe, this is amazing the amount of people that showed up,” he said with a smile. “I didn’t even know what was going on, it’s been a circus the entire day.”
Given the controversial moves Ivar makes onscreen, Andersen admitted he didn’t expect such a warm welcome for his first meeting with the show’s fans. “The amount of positivity is through the roof, it’s crazy,” he said. “And he’s a little bit of a bad boy so for people to be this nice to me is a little weird but it’s amazing.”
That feeling is appreciated by the entire cast, who film most of the series isolated in the Irish countryside, outside of Dublin. “It can be really, really lonely and really testing,” said Alexander Ludwig (Bjorn). “But when you come to something like this and you see how many people it’s affected and you watch how big the scale of the show is, it’s a great reminder that at least we’re making something special.”
And while fans and the cast were able to bid farewell to Ragnar, they’re not necessarily saying goodbye to Fimmel. The actor made a surprise appearance at the show’s panel, dressed in a kangaroo costume and posing as a fan asking a question.
Vikings returns to History on Wednesday, Nov. 29, with a two-hour premiere.