'Vikings' - 'Blood Eagle': Michael Hirst says major death was always going to happen

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It has been done. After being set up in the last episode of "Vikings," Jarl Borg has been executed in the most torturous and inhumane way. At the conclusion of this week's episode, he the victim of a blood eagle by Ragnar, for attempting to bring harm to his family. The horrible method of killing involves detaching the victims ribs from his spine, until they are splayed out.

The episode is among creator Michael Hirst's favorites of the series, and he spoke with Zap2it about the importance of Jarl Borg's death and where things go from here. "I always knew that I was going to blood eagle Jarl Borg," he says, "because Ragnar would never forgive anyone who attacked his family and children."

The only confusion that may arise was King Horik's role in the ordeal. Throughout the episode, it looked as if Horik had decided to stand with Borg, though you know how that ended up. Hirst says, "We shot a scene, which we didn't use, in which someone asks King Horik, 'Why did you pretend you would free Jarl Borg,' and he says, 'Because I never would have freed him but people don't suffer unless they feel hope.'"

There was also hope given to Borg in the form of Bjorn bringing him food, though the intentions of Ragnar's son were not the same in the least. "Bjorn sees this guy who's going to suffer this terrible sacrifice and he just wants to commune with this guy for a moment," Hirst explains. 

That thought is what leads to a very spiritual subtext for the character as he continues, "Jarl Borg at this moment is like Christ. Jarl Borg is going to be crucified and, of course, people want to know what Christ was like the night before he was crucified."

For Hirst, the episode's intention isn't to be gratuitous. Instead, he says, "What it is about is genuine spirituality, genuine suffering." That theme has been heavily-weaved into the fabric of Season , as Athelston is in the middle of his own religious suffering while being held captive by King Ecbert.

"Athelstan is in spiritual crisis. He's lost between Paganism and Christianity," Hirst says. "I'm not trying to educate people, but it's also not just entertainment. This was happening, Paganism vs. Christianity, and we are the product of that."

While the spiritual impact of Jarl Borg's death can't be overlooked, there's also the question of what comes next. Without spoiling, Hirst adds, "There are lots of consequences about what happens on this night. Jarl Borg's wife is pregnant and will ultimately produce a son. Ragnar is going to get some pretty heavy opponents in the future."

His wife isn't the only one with child. In the episode, Floki learns that Helga is expecting his baby and marries her almost immediately. The interesting thing to note is he didn't want Ragnar there, but rather wanted something all for himself, without the Earl's influence.

While Ragnar lost one ally in Jarl Borg, he gained another in Lagertha. Now an Earl herself, she returned as an equal to Ragnar and is willing to help him in raiding Wessex. For his part, King Ecbert reached a deal with another King in his nation. The two are now bonded through their children marrying, making Ecbert an even stronger force for Ragnar and his army to oppose.

What did you think of "Blood Eagle"?
Photo/Video credit: History