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The Truth About That Ivar The Boneless Scene In Vikings Season 6

How do you kill a living legend? Despite the disease that has crippled his legs since birth, Vikings has seen Ivar the Boneless (Alex Høgh Andersen) grows up to be a master manipulator, a clever battlefield tactician, a cruel tyrant, and, not least of all, a canny self-marketer. He is a genius at amassing power. His cunning and his amorality can turn each of his setbacks into a launching pad for a new scheme that will propel him closer to the top. 

And so, as Høgh Andersen explains, when series creator Michael Hirst set out to kill him in the series finale, he knew it would have to be a unique death, one that fit the character and the world he had helped shape. But what's a unique death on a show that has seen so many characters fall on the battlefield, or meet their end in combat, or get stabbed in the back — often by Ivar himself? 

Would Ivar be struck by lightning? Mauled by a polar bear? Getting smote by Odin himself? Not if Høgh Andersen had anything to say about it.

Why Ivar's actor thought his ending on the show was perfect

Instead, the show tacked hard in the opposite direction, away from the singular and toward the mundane. Rather than something outlandish, Ivar finds himself face-to-face with an anonymous enemy soldier on the battlefield. If he had a sword, he has lost it. He holds a small knife, which looks as if might best be utilized opening letters. They look at each other. Ivar tells him, or tells himself, "Don't be afraid," and then the soldier stabs him in the abdomen, over and over, quick and brutal before running away. The wounded man meets the eyes of his brother Hvitserk (Marco Ilsø), who perhaps believed he was fated to kill Ivar, and then falls. 

It was a controversial move, one that upset many fans, but Høgh Andersen feels it was the perfect choice for the show. "I really wanted him to go out in a completely different way than everybody else," the actor told ET. "Everyone on Vikings was getting this massive, heroic, almost religious death. I found it really interesting and very authentic and organic that the most religious guy of them all, the most extreme guy of them all, would go out in the most human and almost boring, in the most natural, just simple way."

Ivar's ending proved his humanity

Høgh Andersen said he and Hirst collaborated on the details of Ivar's death, the choreography and the circumstances, and that he "loved" the prosaic nature of his character's demise because it proved in the end that Ivar, who has spent so much of the past three seasons of the show building up his reputation as a kind of mythic figure, was an ordinary mortal after all.

"And I love the fact that he was afraid in the end," Høgh Andersen said. "That was really important to me, that the guy that had been the least human throughout this entire show, showed himself to be absolutely human in his dying breath [...] And he wasn't a god. He wasn't fearless. He was just a little kid that's more broken on the inside than on the outside [...] The most human thing you can ever be is be afraid when you're about to die."

How Ivar's final scene sent Alex Høgh Andersen out on an emotional high

Fear might not be the right word, but filming Ivar's death scene took its own emotional toll on Høgh Andersen, who said he went back and forth on the best way to play it, which emotion to bring to the forefront, what the proper amount of tears might be. All that went out the window once they said action, and Hvitserk rushes in to cradle his dying brother and tell him he'll never be forgotten. "I can just feel his teardrops landing on my forehead and face," Høgh Andersen said, and that's what ended up sending him over the edge. "We just started bawling while we were doing the line."

It was, he said, the final scene on his final day, and the perfect way for him to leave the experience of making the show. "I think we both were a little overwhelmed by the whole experience and everything that led up to it, and just being there in that moment with my brother. It was a very beautiful moment and I felt it." For Høgh Andersen, Ivar's death was "one of those moments that you live for as an actor."

Part 2 of the sixth season of Vikings is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.