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Vikings Moments That Really Upset Fans The Most

The life and times of legendary Viking Ragnar Lothbrok remain some of the most epic adventures ever told. A fascinating mixture of mythology and actual history, these sagas gained new life when historical drama "Vikings" hit the airwaves. This complex series brings Ragnar's tale to thrilling life through action-packed battle scenes, powerful performances, and utterly wild storytelling.

It's no wonder, then, that "Vikings" developed a devoted fandom over the course of its six-season run. These aficionados devoured the show's heart-wrenching deaths, shocking betrayals, and fascinating approach to real-world history with ever-increasing gusto. But, as anyone who's spent any time on social media knows, fandom isn't an undifferentiated lovefest. Like all avid fanbases, "Vikings" viewers haven't always adored the writers' decisions. Which events earned their ire? Hop into the longship and join us on the road to glorious Valhalla as we take a look at the "Vikings" moments that had fans ready for combat.

Ragnar struggles with his faith

In Episode 1, "Rites of Passage," Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) sees a battlefield vision of the Norse god Odin gathering Viking spirits for Valhalla. Later, other characters openly mock him for claiming he is descended from this deity. This claim ends up supported by Odin's appearance to Ragnar's sons upon his death.

But after encountering Christianity, Ragnar's view of the Norse gods becomes less certain. For a while, he seems torn between these faiths, and even experiences a vision of Odin and Jesus together in "The Turning Point." He later seems to turn his back on all gods in "All His Angels," proclaiming, "The gods are man's creation, to give answers that they are too afraid to give themselves." This makes it that much more perplexing when he meets death with a speech about greeting Odin in Valhalla. 

Ragnar's oscillation on the matter doesn't sit well with some fans, and was the subject of much debate both during the show's run and after its ending. Reddit and Quora are full of threads speculating on Ragnar's faith, with various factions arguing he ends up an atheist, a Christian, or a true follower of Odin.

Ragnar kills Yidu

Because we're rooting for Ragnar, it's easy to overlook his ugliest tendencies. Sure, he makes many positive contributions to the Viking way of life — but he also racks up a pretty high kill count over the course of the series. Some deaths might feel justified, but others definitely don't. One homicide that stands out as especially unforgivable to many fans is Ragnar's cold-blooded murder of Yidu (Dianne Doan).

The illegitimate child of a Chinese emperor, Yidu is sold into slavery and eventually purchased by Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland). Having lived a good deal of his life as a farmer, Ragnar sniffs her pampered history out by the inept way she manages a chicken. The two hit it off, and a few long talks later, they strike up a fling. When things between them eventually turn bitter and she tries to use his secrets to gain freedom, Ragnar flies into a rage and takes her life.

Fans were incensed by Ragnar's betrayal. Some found it unforgivable, while others were quick to point out the moment is meant to punctuate the depths of his plummet from grace. Although some might question why one death would be more upsetting than Ragnar's countless other murders, his relationship to Yidu makes this death especially distressing. She's not just someone on a battlefield — she's someone Ragnar has history with. For a lot of fans, that makes her death uniquely upsetting.

Rollo's betrayal

Although we first meet the two brothers as they're celebrating their post-battle triumph together, Ragnar's relationship with Rollo (Clive Standen) is a fraught one. Rollo continues to hold a torch for Ragnar's wife long after the two are wed, and there's even some speculation that Björn (Alexander Ludwig) might be his child. As Ragnar's victories bring him increasing wealth and notoriety, Rollo's resentment of his brother grows and festers. Things eventually come to a head when Rollo takes advantage of Ragnar's absence from Paris, accepting a deal that will make him Duke of Normandy at the cost of brutally betraying his brother.

While many fans feel Rollo gets a raw deal before he turns on his brother, they were still stunned by his willingness to fully betray everyone he once knew and loved. The move finally gives Rollo a chance to stand on his own, but, as Redditor Much-Technology7448 observed, "Problem is he stands on his own ... hated by the people he loves." Others felt that even if Rollo's side-switching is justified, the fact that he seems to feel no remorse is hard to stomach. Moreover, Rollo's deal can be seen as a seriously missed opportunity. Once inside the royal household, the brothers could have built a potent alliance between the two peoples — but only if things had shaken out very, very differently.

Athelstan's death

Arguably the most important relationship in Ragnar's life is the one he has with Athelstan (George Blagden), the Anglo-Saxon monk he enslaves while sacking the Lindisfarne Monastery on his first trip to England. A Christian and a scribe, Athelstan speaks several languages including Old Norse, something that initially makes him quite valuable to Ragnar. Despite his status as a slave, Athelstan forges a powerful friendship with Ragnar, who shares his intellectual curiosity. As the years pass, Ragnar gives Athelstan his freedom, and the two share a bromance that endures through shifting alliances and disagreements. This makes Floki's (Gustaf Skarsgård) eventual murder of Athelstan that much more distressing.

The killing itself is brutal. Floki, who never much cares for Athestan or his Christian God, puts an axe in his head as the former monk is kneeling in prayer. To punctuate the impact of this loss, Ragnar gives his departed friend a proper Christian burial, rather than a Viking funeral. Fans were devastated by the coldhearted murder, especially since it severs Ragnar's final tether to humanity. As one Redditor put it, "Athelstan was such a light in Ragnars life, he believed he was the only he could trust." Others found the fact that Ragnar was able to forgive Floki and move forward just as tough a pill to swallow.

Ragnar's addiction

As Ragnar grows closer to Yidu, he gives her permission to stay in the home where he keeps the curiosities he's collected from around the world. To help ease Ragnar's suffering, Yidu gives him a dose of a mystery drug from her native land. He loves the effect it has — so much so that it becomes a problem. Ragnar gets so enraptured with the high life that he starts prioritizing it above everything else. Before you know it, he's getting high all the time, even when he's heading into battle.

Although his stash eventually runs out, Ragnar's life is never the same again. It's hard to tell if the drug is the chicken or the egg in this equation, but it certainly doesn't help. Watching this once-strong Viking go into freefall was a bridge too far for many fans, who found his decline incredibly hard to watch. Others found the storyline outright ridiculous. As one Redditor put it, "I'm left wondering wtf was the point in introducing such a convoluted side story just to end it like this." Although Ragnar eventually gets a chance to redeem himself, his end is a far cry from his former glory days, and his struggle with addiction is a major reason why.

Ragnar leaves

After losing Athelstan, Ragnar struggles to find his footing. Wrathful but unwilling to take out his ire on Floki (his last remaining friend), Ragnar heads to Paris to settle his score with Rollo, who has been sitting pretty in the French city the whole time. When Rollo proves a more formidable naval commander than he, a defeated Ragnar abruptly decides to peace out for a full decade, bidding a sorrowful — and weird — goodbye to his loved ones before taking off.

No explanation for his absence is given, leaving frustrated viewers to ponder what exactly goes down between the time Ragnar leaves and the moment he returns to his now-grown kids. But fans love to speculate, and Reddit is a veritable repository of theories on the matter. Tired of all that glorious battle and the inevitable loss it goes hand-in-hand with, a few fans speculated that Ragnar leaves to live a simple hermit's existence, perhaps retreating to a remote cabin like his son Björn. Although it seems unlikely, others posited that Ragnar sailed to China to keep the party Yidu started going. All of these explanations are pretty solid — but they're also Band-Aids covering the gaping wound that is Ragnar's unexplained absence.

Ragnar's death

After decades of carving out Viking history, Ragnar is surely due a glorious death and entry into Valhalla. But instead of a valorous battlefield fall, the death he gets — while interesting — is a strange, sad execution. The end comes after Ragnar travels with his son Ivar (Alex Høgh Andersen) to England. Upon arriving, they kill all of Ragnar's men before heading out to find King Ecbert's (Linus Roache) place, where Ragnar is tossed into a cage by Aethelwulf (Moe Dunford). Although Ragnar and Ecbert enjoy their time together, Ragnar is still in chains. He eventually convinces the king to turn him over to King Ælle (Ivan Kaye) for execution, secretly planning for his sons to kill Ecbert out of vengeance. Effectively persuaded, Ecbert hands Ragnar over to Ælle, who throws him in a snake pit to die.

Although Ragnar's snake pit death is in keeping with the figure's legend, fans hated it. Many believed it was beneath the larger-than-life character, and an out-and-out letdown: As one Redditor put it, "It was just very dissatisfying to me. No real closure." Other viewers consider the Viking's death to be the beginning of the show's decline. Finally, there's a fairly sizable contingent of "Vikings" fans who insist that Ragnar doesn't actually die in the snake pit, because we never see his body afterward. You might not agree with them, but they do make an interesting point.

Margrethe's meddling

Over the course of its six-season run, "Vikings" builds up its fair share of irksome characters. There's Jarl Borg (Thorbjørn Harr), a man so frustrating Ragnar turns him into a blood eagle. There's Queen Kwenthrith (Amy Bailey), whose traumatic childhood isn't quite enough to make her frustrating personality forgivable. But the one character who seems to be universally loathed among "Vikings" fans is the meddling Margrethe (Ida Marie Nielsen).

Originally one of Aslaug's slaves, Margrethe has affairs with several of Ragnar's sons. When Ivar wants in on the action, his brothers insist she oblige. After Ubbe (Jordan Patrick Smith) frees her to make her his wife, he continues to share her with Hvitserk (Marco Ilsø). Not content with this life, Margrethe goes down a more Machiavellian path, at one point ending up imprisoned for her plot to kill Torvi and Björn's children and ascend to the throne.

In a Reddit post dubbed "Margrethe's hate thread," "Vikings" fans laid out the case against her. While some criticized Margrethe's bedroom habits, most of the anger was directed towards her drama magnet personality and selfish machinations. Redditor borostepi lamented, "A glass of water has more depth and character than she does." Although some fans noted that Margrethe initially deserves empathy, many felt she's still poorly written and feels shoehorned into the show.

Lagertha's power trip

Early in the series, Ragnar's wife Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) proves to be a formidable woman. Lagertha is the light of Ragnar's life, a wise and trusted advisor, a faithful friend, a loving mother, and a hardworking custodian of household responsibilities. On top of it all, she is also a fearsome shieldmaiden who accompanies the Viking men into battle. While it's sad to see her relationship with Ragnar fall apart after he decides to dabble in polygamy, it's understandable that Lagertha would want no more of his nonsense and take off for greener pastures.

As a Viking woman living in the distant past, Lagertha needs to be a little ruthless, like when she kills her abusive husband Jarl Sigvard (Morten Sasse Suurballe). But her earldom seems to go straight to her head somewhere during the time jump, and older Lagertha becomes every bit as vile as the Viking men in her world. Although some fans contend that critics hold Lagertha to a higher standard than the men in her periphery, others posit that the criticism isn't just about what Lagertha does, but how far she falls ethically. Early in the series, Lagertha stands out as a moral bright spot among the Vikings, even saving a woman during a raid and refusing to blame Aslaug for Ragnar's foolishness. Her fall serves as a warning that power corrupts even the most moral leaders. 

Ivar becomes a tyrant

Due to his mother's perseverance and his father's eventual encouragement, Ragnar's youngest son, Ivar the Boneless, grows up to become a fearsome warrior and a battlefield leader. With parents like Aslaug and Ragnar, as well as the challenges he's forced to navigate in life, it makes sense that Ivar grows up to be a little rough around the edges. But what doesn't make sense to many fans is what an absolute tyrant he turns out to be as king of Kattegat.

Ivar's violent nature is evident from childhood, especially when he splits another child's head open with an axe while playing a ball game. At another point, Ivar even tells Margrethe that he enjoys killing. By the time he kills his own brother, Sigurd (David Lindström), with another axe to the head, many viewers have reached their limit vis-à-vis Ivar's total disregard for life. The show works hard to demonstrate that Ivar isn't a complete monster by offering glimpses of his humanity and emphasizing all the abuse he suffers from his brothers. But to many fans, this is simply not enough to excuse his worst moments. 

Lagertha shoots Aslaug

When Ragnar introduces Lagertha to his new Götaland princess, his wife is understandably not amused. But she accepts the situation for what it is, and tries her best to be cordial to Aslaug. Unfortunately, all of the resentment she feels for the woman who steals her man eventually comes back to haunt them both when Lagertha returns to take back Kattegat in Season 4. With her sons imprisoned and fresh out of moves, Aslaug agrees to give up her throne in exchange for safety. Lagertha seems to accept the offer, but as soon as Aslaug turns her back, she draws her arrow and shoots the queen dead.

While many viewers feel Lagertha's desire to reclaim Kattegat is understandable, they find her decision to shoot the queen while her back is turned dishonorable. Many couldn't get over the simple sadness of two women who once respected each other coming to this bitter end. However, a few sharp viewers have honed in on a clue in the queens' final interaction. After Aslaug asks Lagertha for safe passage, her counterpart smiles and tells her she understands before drawing her bow. While subtle, these fans see the interaction as Aslaug's plea for Lagertha to send her to Valhalla. This puts a whole new spin on the scene — but not everyone finds it convincing.

Lagertha's death

Of all the controversial moments in "Vikings," the one fans just couldn't let go of was Lagertha's heartbreaking death. Like most of her Nordic neighbors, Lagertha takes the words of the Seer very seriously, which means she believes him when he tells her she'll be killed by a son of Ragnar Lothbrok. This prophecy is eventually fulfilled, although not in battle or out of vengeance as she might have expected. The queen's death comes at the hands of the gentle-natured Hvitserk. Like his father before him, Hvitserk turns to mind-altering substances to ease the pain of his PTSD. When a bad trip finds him facing off with an imaginary serpent, he stabs it, only to realize he's slain Lagertha. 

While her death shakes the people of Kattegat, it's nothing compared to the fallout in the "Vikings" fandom. Arguably one of the best characters on "Vikings," Lagertha's demise sent shockwaves through devoted viewers. While any death would have been a crushing blow, many fans contend that this death hurts more than others might have. Seeing a powerful shieldmaiden put down by accident is simply too much to bear, as well as somewhat unbelievable. As Reddit user Ana9895 put it, "Where is the Kattegat watch during all this?"