The first season finale of Netflix's Vikings: Valhalla left Leif Erikson (Sam Corlett), his sister, Freydís Eiríksdóttir (Frida Gustavsson), and Prince Harald Sigurdsson (Leo Suter) in shock after the tragic fall of Kattegat at the hands of Olaf's forces. It's a destiny-changing turn of events that reflects the real history that ushered in the beginning of the end of the Viking Age.
Season 2 premieres on Netflix today, Jan. 12, and as showrunner Jeb Stuart explains to SYFY WIRE, the story picks up just a month or two after that devastating battle. Our trio of heroes are still smarting from their losses, healing but also doing some soul-searching about their near futures.
"They're like, 'Holy cow! I thought I was here and now I'm way down here,'" Stuart says of his character's forced self-assessments. "Dramatically, it's always fun to start like that. And I'm really blessed with a great cast who love that challenge of storytelling so that you can throw different character turns and twists at them, and they pick it up immediately."
Stuart says he started plotting this season's adventures as they were shooting Season 1, and he called each actor into his office to get their feedback on his proposed character's arcs.
"I asked, 'Where do they want to be? How do they want to feel?' It is really important," he explains. "And that went on throughout Season 2, as we were looking over the horizon to Season 3."
In the season finale battle, the murder of his love, Liv (Lujza Richter), introduced us to the berzerker version of the character as he violently wiped out a swath of Kåre's followers. Sam Corlett says that the release of grief and rage has freed his character to move forward.
"In Season 2, he has to come to a certain acceptance of who he is and the different parts of himself that he's denied," the actor explains. "I think with the guidance of Harald, and the brotherhood that he has with Harald, there's certainly a partnership that really helps him track his way forward in terms of finding his purpose in life again. It's kind of like the falling apart of a man and how do we rebuild and find one's purpose?"
And, that journey also applies to Prince Harald, who is now a fugitive in Scandinavia, says actor Leo Suter.
"A lot of this series is, for me, that transformation of Harald Sigurdsson to Harald Hardrada. This is a guy who was a prince and everything was fairly easy when he was living in Scandinavia. And now he's exiled and he's going to start from zero, and fend for himself," Suter says. "And that's cool, because it puts the character in a whole new space where he's got to figure it out."
But, he's going to do it, at least for some time, without his love. Freydís feels compelled to stay with her people and travel to Jomsborg.
"Historically, we know that Jomsborg existed. Archaeologists think they have found it, or they may have found it, but we don't know that definitively," Stuart says of the real-life events that shape this season's storyline for Freydis. "We do know that the Jomsvikings existed. We know that some of the Jomsvikings fought with Olaf in their pagan days raiding England and things like that. We know that they were incredible warriors. And we know that they were the last sort of real pagan read out of the old beliefs. And so, I always wanted to go there, and what better person to take there than Freydís, who is a fugitive from Scandinavia?"
Actress Frida Gustavsson says Freydís' choice is deeply important to her growth in starting to "right the wrongs that are haunting her" based on some of the decisions that she's made and now regrets. "We meet her in the beginning of Season 2 with her love but they're hiding in the forest. They're refugees and struggling with survivor's guilt at having left all of the pagans behind and just kind of fled. But she's given a message that points to the Seer's message for her destiny, and she decides to trust her beliefs and really embark on this journey that's going to take so much from her. Yet ultimately, really shape her as a leader in a very beautiful way, I think."
Vikings: Valhalla Season 2 is now on Netflix.