Comic-Con International in San Diego was invaded by the cast and creator of the popular History Channel series Vikings, who discussed the first season, and what lies ahead for the characters.
Inspired by tales of the Norse hero Ragnar Lodbrok, the historical drama depicts the legendary Viking chieftain as a young farmer who leads the first raids into Britain, leading to conflict with a powerful earl, whom Ragnar eventually kills and succeeds.
Before the panel began, a short video recap of the brutal first season was shown to the appreciative audience. Then Vikings creator and writer Michael Hirst walked on to the stage, accompanied by stars Travis Fimmel (Ragnar), Katheryn Winnick (Lagertha), Clive Standen (Rollo), Jessalyn Gilsig (Siggy), Gustaf Skarsgard (Floki) and George Blagden (Athelstan).
Hirst told the audience that next season, "the stakes get higher, the armies get bigger and the characters have to make more sacrifices."
The first question regarded why Ragnar cheated on his wife Lagertha with Prince Aslaug, and what the consequences will be in Season 2.
Fimmel said Ragnar wanted to ensure his legacy would survive well beyond him, which is something central to his character. According to Winnick, the consequences will be felt deeply by Lagertha.
"She is and always will be in love with Ragnar," she said. "Her sense of identity will be tested. Her whole life has been tied to Ragnar."
Short-term, Winnick said she hopes her character will make her displeasure immediately known: "I think she needs to kick some serious ass!"
Standen, who plays Ragnar's brother and rival both for power and for the love of Lagertha, cracked, "She chose the wrong brother."
After the laughter died down, Standen addressed what will happen when the brothers go to battle against each other. "One man's weakness is another man's strength," he said, explaining that both brothers will use whatever advantages they have in what he promised will have destructive results for everyone around them. "What happens when a tornado meets a volcano? Some people aren't going to come out of it happy."
Gilsig talked about what’s in store for her character, who has already lost so much – her husband, her daughter and her place in Viking society.
"Well, sadly, the decline continues," she said. "The way I think of her is she has an identity that is formed by the absence of her family. She wants to get back up on the chair and she will do anything to do that. And I mean anything."
Skarsgard was asked if he was similar to his character Floki. "I hope I'm not as fucking crazy," he replied. "He's an incredible character to play. I let go of all the social barriers in life when I play him, and it's fun to do."
The coming season will test Athelsan, a young Christian monk who has been forced to live with the Vikings.
"All the characters in Season 2 have really difficult choices to make,” said Blagden, who plays Athelsan. “I would be disappointed if he had easy choices to make in order to become a Viking. It will be very difficult to make that decision. He's a very religious man."
He said he prepared for Season 2 by trying to grow beard, which was much easier for the other actors to do. Blagden said he’s also undergoing fight training, indirectly revealing his character won’t be spared from the violence.
Gilsig was asked if she thought her character will have a love life now that her husband is dead.
"I don't know if she is going to have a love life. She is going to be busy," she replied. "I don't think she believes in a romantic love any more. Relationships are only an opportunity to her. I think she loves Rollo, but she is in control of her emotions so she won't let herself be vulnerable."
Fimmel said there definitely will be more raids, revealing "there will be more boats this season."
As to the supernatural elements continuing in the next season, Hirst said the "real answer is that it's not really supernatural. It’s the Vikings who see Odin and the Valkyries" and not the viewer.
"For the Vikings it is real. To the Vikings, the gods walked amongst them," Hirst said, confirming there also will be more clashes between Christianity and the Viking faith.
There will be a time jump after the cliffhangers from the end of Season 1 are resolved, and one of the immediate effects of it will be that Ragnar's son Bjorn will be a warrior and no longer a child.
"I left a lot of cliffhangers at the end of the last episode, and I thought that was clever of me," the writer said. "I thought they will have to commission a second season."
The audience was then told it would get a sneak peek at a scene from Season 2 that would make them worried about the fate of one of the characters. With that, the lights went out, and a sequenced played depicting a bloody battle between the armies of Ragnar and Rollo. The last seconds of footage showed Rollo seemingly killing Flori with his long ax before the screen went dark.
Vikings returns to History in 2014.