History’s Vikings left its fans with quite a cliffhanger Wednesday night. After Ivar (Alex Andersen) sprung a tactically genius bait and attack on Aethelwulf (Moe Dunford) and his army, the screen quickly cut to black over what looked to be an upcoming bloodbath. It was a wonderfully shot and action-packed episode that showcased Ivar’s tactical brilliance to a tee, all while giving viewers the sort of tense action they so desire. What comes next however might dispel the ongoing notion of the Vikings as an unstoppable force of nature.
Enter Johnathan Rhys Meyers. The Golden Globe winning actor is set to appear on next week’s finale in a role that spells trouble for Ivar and his berserkers. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, creator Michael Hirst explained the role which will be pivotal from both a historical and canonical standpoint.
“I was looking at the history books, and I came across these warrior bishops, The antecedents of the Knights Templar: these are people who were absolutely religious, yet they put on armor and they fought. They were crazy! They believed totally in Christianity and the message, and yet, on the battlefield, they were totally berserk.”
The name which struck Hirst head on was Heahmund, a bishop who was renowned for both his faith and his savagery. “He’s a man of Wessex, and he’s gonna come in as a worthy opponent to Ivar. His whole life is about deeply passionate commitments. He’s a wild card who happens to be Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who is himself kind of a wild card! Johnny is just perfect for this crazed, religiously obsessed guy, who is also a sinner. He’s a passionate guy, drawn towards women. He sins, and then when he sins, he punishes himself.”
Hirst and Rhys Meyers have worked together in the past on Showtime’s The Tudors where Rhys Meyers portrayed King Henry VIII. A well-traveled performer on both the big screen and television, he is known for portraying characters from Elvis (for which he won a Golden Globe) to Dracula with an eerie, though undoubtedly enthralling, screen presence. The Irish actor’s role on Vikings will certainly play off his dark countenance and unmatched charisma.
If Vikings has taught us anything however, it’s that action is not all that defines a program about perceived barbarians. Adding a brutal but devout man of Wessex into the mix is bound to feature plenty of background and deep character development for viewers who constantly hunger for a healthy dose of information with their entertainment. Following a 2016 where countless villains rose up to become fan favorites, it will be no surprise if Rhys Meyers’ character soon works himself into the ranks of beloved but despised.
The Vikings season 4 finale airs at 9 PM next Wednesday on History.