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The reason Travis Fimmel left Vikings after season 4

For four seasons on History's historical drama Vikings, Travis Fimmel starred as Ragnar Lothbrok — father, fearless warrior-king of Denmark, and the bane of England and France. In exploits drawn from Dark Age historical record, he sacked and burned his way across the North Sea until the end of season 4, when he was captured by Kings Ecbert and Aelle, who were intent on punishing him at last for the death of Aelle's brother Aethelwulf in the first season — and punish him they did. 

It was a metal way to go out, too: Lothbrok was thrown into a cage, permitted to give a long, full-throated speech about his inevitable ascent to Valhalla, and then, in an astonishingly cruel move, he was chucked into a pit of venomous snakes for all present to witness. It's not often that a television series will kill off its central (very popular) character, so the departure and its sheer brutality came as a shock to most fans of the show. Why did it happen, and was Fimmel as blindsided by it as Vikings' audience?

History demanded that Vikings kill of Travis Fimmel's character

Unorthodox as it may have been for Vikings to do away with Lothbrok, history — actual history, not the History network — has to muscle in and take the credit for this one. Vikings is specifically a historical drama, emphasis on the latter half of that equation; it draws its plotlines from the 13th century medieval sagas of Lothbrok, who had died several centuries before. (Maybe; we're actually not completely sure that the man ever actually, you know, existed.)  

According to those traditional legends, around 866 CE, Lothbrok did indeed meet his end at the hands of King Aelle and his cruel and creative snake pit. As for Aelle, he died (this one's for sure, because history cares about kings) the following year in battle with the loathed Viking armies — although probably not by the same extremely brutal method (the "blood eagle") depicted in the show.

Lothbrok's exit, then, wasn't so much scripted as it was written into the historical record. Fimmel's departure had always been intended, because the program wanted to reflect the generational changes of Dark Ages royalty, so his character's demise came as no shock to the actor. In fact, he actually got to remain on the series for much longer than originally intended; initially, the idea was to have him die in the first season as a more direct consequence of murdering Aethelwulf. 

It's fortunate for us that the show's creatives decided to give Lothbrok a stay of execution. If he had died in season one of Vikings, we wouldn't have seen him fake his death as a Trojan Horse plot in France and pop out of a coffin, or been treated to the sight of the mighty warrior using an unlucky priest for archery practice. Really, it's a win for everybody that Ragnar got to stick around for so long before his glorious death; the only loser here is historical accuracy, and it's not like History (the network) ever much cared about that.

What's next for Travis Fimmel after Vikings?

Don't feel too bad for Fimmel; he may have lost a pretty sweet gig, but he's kept plenty busy since his exit from Vikings, and it looks like he's going to stay that way for the foreseeable future. In 2019 alone, he appeared in three feature films: the crime drama Finding Steve McQueen (opposite Forest Whitaker), the bounty hunting drama Dreamland (opposite Margot Robbie), and the Australian military actioner Danger Close. 

The star has no fewer than three more features in various stages of production, as well. He'll appear in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia star Charlie Day's comedy El Tonto, which has wrapped shooting; he's currently hard at work filming the amazingly-titled Die in a Gunfight for director Collin Schiffli (All Creatures Here Below), and he's slated to star Tau Ceti Four for action veteran John McTiernan (Die Hard), currently in pre-production.

On top of that, he has starring gigs lined up in two TV series: producer Ridley Scott's sci-fi drama Raised by Wolves (which will premiere on the upcoming HBO Max streamer), and a scripted anthology focusing on legendary lawman Wyatt Earp (whom he will portray) for History. All in all, not a bad slate of projects for a guy who was plucked from the obscurity of an Australian pool hall to become one of the hottest models Calvin Klein has ever employed.

As for Vikings, the show has gone on without Fimmel — but that, too, will soon come to an end. History has announced that the series' sixth season, which begins airing in December 2019, will be its last.