Vikings Valhalla ending explained: breaking down the Netflix finale’s big twists

Vikings: Valhalla ends with a bang, not a whimper. Its various interlocking story arcs all come to a head in Kattegat while, across the Channel, change is afoot in England. It’s not quite Ragnarok but, after the finale, it might feel like the end of the world for some of your favorite characters.

With so many moving pieces in the Valhalla finale, it can be a little tricky to keep track of who we should now be rooting for and who has taken a few steps towards the Viking dark side. The show completely changes in its final moments as key characters shuffle off this mortal coil to head for the afterlife. As such, it’s worth taking a step back to get the lay of the land after the Netflix series capped things off with a thunderous battle.

Below, we’ll run through all the key moments from the Vikings: Valhalla ending and, crucially, what they all could mean for the show moving forward. Spoilers follow, starting with a recap of all the major scenes from the eighth (and final) episode of Vikings: Valhalla’s first season. 

Vikings: Valhalla ending: what happens in the finale?

Harald in Vikings: Valhalla

(Image credit: Netflix)

As the finale begins, the Vikings are on the precipice of war in Kattegat and the winds of change are blowing in England.

In London, Emma is banished from her court and back to Normandy by the combined forces of Queen Aelfgifu and Sweyn Forkbeard. Despite Emma’s exile, Queen Aelfgifu does not give Forkbeard the location of Canute’s remaining fleet. Instead, Aelfgifu wants to “prove her worth” by trying to bring the region of Mercia in line.

Over at Kattegat, the Viking forces (including Leif, Freydis, and Haakon) are preparing to wage war against the imminent threat of Kåre and his religious zealots, who are now bolstered by the aid of Harald and Olaf. Leif once again finds his ‘pagan’ faith tested after witnessing a human sacrifice to the Allfather in Kattegat. 

Despite a parley to avoid conflict, Kåre begins to attack Kattegat and gains the upper hand by putting a dummy fleet out to sea and attacking from elsewhere. Kåre, believing he will be betrayed, also captures Harald. Fortunately for the young prince he is then saved by Olaf, who reveals he has enlisted Kåre’s help for his own ends: to rule Kattegat and use Kåre’s men (and Kåre himself) as part of a suicide mission.

Haakon is mortally wounded by arrows during the assault. With her dying breath, she tells Freydis that she “must survive” because she is “The Last.”

Harald is stabbed by a Kattegat warrior, then Freydis kills Kåre by decapitating him. Freydis then saves Harald and rides to safety; Olaf grievously wounds Liv.

Olaf takes his place as ruler of Kattegat, though there’s one final wrinkle in his plans: Sweyn Forkbeard sails for the port. Olaf, likely to be killed by Forkbeard for his betrayal, looks despondent in the throne room and gives up his newly-won royal garb.

How did Forkbeard get his fleet? Emma (and Godwin) have been busy in England, revealing her exile was a ruse to help buy Forkbeard time to find his fleet. She’s now sitting on the throne with Queen Aelfgifu frozen out.

As Forkbeard hits land, Liv dies in Leif’s arms. Worse still, she does so without Leif committing to the pagan faith. In the final moments of the season, Leif murders some of Olaf’s forces in a fit of rage and screams at one of Forkbeard’s grandchildren.

What happened to Leif?

Leif in Vikings: Valhalla

(Image credit: Netflix)

Throughout the season, Leif has been torn between his old ‘pagan’ religion and the hot new thing on the continent: Christianity.

By the season’s end, Leif seems to be firmly on the side of the Christians, though the death of his beloved Liv may have given him pause for thought. He “promises” Liv that he’ll see her in Valhalla, though it’s hard to believe Sam Corlett’s Leif given how he waited until after Liv died to pinky swear on their afterlife plans.

The whole ‘Leif is a pagan again’ theory doesn’t exactly fall apart though. Leif descends into a beserker rage in the finale’s last moments, killing several of Olaf’s men after they attempted to rape some of Kattegat’s women. As a final, bloody cherry on top, he roars at Forkbeard’s grandchildren.

Why? Leif’s final act might not be the smartest move for his short-term future, but he’s clearly beyond the pale at this point in time. 

The moment can be seen as a hugely significant and symbolic one: post-Liv’s death, he has been ‘reborn’ as an animalistic, almost stereotypical Viking. He may not have renounced his Christian faith entirely, but he’s certainly not singing from the same hymn sheet as his peers. Instead, he is now set up to be the show’s loose cannon: a man who doesn’t align himself with anyone and is instead consumed by rage at the loss of his loved one. If that’s the case, expect Leif to be Viking: Valhalla’s major wildcard (and possible leading anti-hero) moving forward.

What will Sweyn Forkbeard do now?

Sweyn Forkbeard in Vikings: Valhalla

(Image credit: Netflix)

Sweyn Forkbeard is not a happy man by the time of Vikings: Valhalla’s ending. He’s left England in the more than capable hands of Emma of Normandy, and has some “traitors” firmly in his sights.

Chief among them is Olaf, who has decided to go into business for himself to take control of the Norse port. Expect that to form one of season 2’s main conflicts – if Olaf isn’t swiftly dispatched in the premiere, that is. 

What next for Freydis and Harald?

Freydis Vikings: Valhalla

(Image credit: Netflix)

The star-crossed lovers are united by Valhalla’s conclusion. But where next? In the immediate future, Freydis and Harald will likely reconvene and re-assess their plans. With a power vacuum in Kattegat, things are suddenly looking more volatile on the continent. We don’t like to dive too far ahead into history (because spoilers!) but that could soon involve Harald’s plans to one day become King of Norway. Canute might have something to say about that, however.

Freydis, meanwhile, is destined to be “The Last.” Essentially the great last hope of Vikings, Freydis could have her own eye towards a handful of thrones, or even uniting Kattegat’s people (and beyond) under one banner. If that’s the case, expect her to lock horns with King Canute and Sweyn Forkbeard in future. 

Who rules Kattegat now?

Leif and Canute in Vikings: Valhalla

(Image credit: Netflix)

For now, no one. But Forkbeard certainly lays the biggest claim (and biggest fleet) to ruling over Kattegat. Olaf knows it, too, acquiescing his place as Kattegat’s ruler almost immediately after claiming it.

Others who might soon have Kattegat in their sights include Harald, Freydis, and Canute. That power struggle centred around one of Scandinavia’s most important locations could be an interesting one as the show hurtles towards a second season.

How is Emma back on the throne in England?

Emma of Normandy in Vikings: Valhalla

(Image credit: Netflix)

Blame that pesky Godwin. His subterfuge aided Emma. She tricked Aelfgifu into thinking she was being sent back to Normandy. That ruse allowed Forkbeard to find his fleet and remove Aelfgifu’s influence over the court. From there, Godwin pretended to draw Aelfgifu in, all while making plans for Emma to return to the throne. Classic Godwin.

What will happen to Queen Aelfgifu?

Queen Aelfgifu in Vikings: Valhalla

(Image credit: Netflix)

In short, it’s not good news for Queen Aelfgifu. But her trust in Godwin is unlikely to be a fatal flaw on her part. For now, she’ll be on the outside of the halls of power and likely plotting her next move. Given that Canute has re-married, she might yet turn to the region of Mercia for help (and forces) to help turn the tide back in her favor and make a play for England’s throne.

Where is Canute?

Canute Vikings: Valhalla

(Image credit: Netflix)

Speaking of Canute, the Danish king was conspicuously absent from the finale and is still fighting unseen battles in Denmark. Expect him to return as a major player in the second season. As far as we know, he’s still alive and still hunting for glory. England feels settled and safe with Emma by his side, though he may have to deal with the twin threats of Godwin and Aelfgifu should they arise. 

On the continent, Kattegat will likely prove to be a similar headache; Harald and Freydis could have aspirations of their own, and we wouldn’t put it past a father-son showdown in future if things get messy as Forkbeard increases his grip on the port settlement.

Will there be a time jump?

Canute and Harald in Vikings: Valhalla

(Image credit: Netflix)

Time jumps are all the rage nowadays. The Walking Dead and Avengers: Endgame flipped through months and years to good effect, while the original Vikings series also sprung forward a handful of times during its run.

Vikings: Valhalla is likely setting things up for a similar situation. As per IGN, William the Conqueror is set to appear in an upcoming season of Vikings: Valhalla. If you know your history, you’ll no doubt be aware that the future king of England doesn’t take the throne until around 50 years after some of the events depicted in Valhalla. 

Couple that with the suspiciously out-of-nowhere inclusion of Canute’s children/Forkbeard’s grandchildren and there’s every chance they could form part of the core (aged-up) cast in future seasons if Valhalla decides to jump ahead further decades. It could even be presented in a similar fashion to Ragnar’s sons playing a pivotal role in later seasons of Vikings, especially if they have to deal with the impending threat of William the Conqueror in the pre-1066 era.

What can we expect from the second season?

Harald in Vikings: Valhalla

(Image credit: Netflix)


The first thing to say is we can expect a second season. Netflix may have an unfortunate track record for cancelling shows after just one season (RIP Cowboy Bebop 2021-2021), but Vikings: Valhalla season 2 has actually already wrapped filming.

If the likes of The Witcher are any indication, Vikings: Valhalla will get a nice bump up in budget: bigger battles, bigger sets, and bigger scope should all be the name of the game.

In terms of story, things are a little less clear-cut. The core cast of Leif, Freydis, Harald, Canute, Emma, and Godwin will almost certainly drive things forward in their own way.

Leif is the hardest person to pin down as we enter a second season. He is flooded by grief and lashing out at people. That’s a bad combination for anyone, let alone a bloodthirsty Viking. If he continues on this downward spiral, he could be joining Liv in Valhalla sooner than later. Freydis might be the one to calm him down if the two are able to find each other.

Freydis and Harald could be the show’s new power couple, while its other loved-up duo, Emma and Canute, also have messes to tidy up from England, to Denmark, and Kattegat. Godwin will also do whatever it takes to worm his way into power, should an opportunity arise. And we can’t rule rule out the emergence of Harald’s brother Sten, who was briefly glimpsed during the first season.

The first season was defined by the Vikings versus the English and then, latterly, in-fighting based on religion. The second season could be altogether more complex, presenting things in various shades of gray as various kingdoms and regions become up for grabs. On top of that, certain historical figures could become emboldened by the events in the season 1 finale. We’re looking at you, Harald. It might not reach Game of Thrones levels of deft political manoeuvring and power grabs, but it’ll probably make a good attempt at taking the crown left behind by HBO’s epic.

We’ve also dug down into two of the show’s most pressing questions away from the action: is Vikings: Valhalla a sequel? And when is Vikings Valhalla set?

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