Vikings showrunner Michael Hirst explains that it was his decision to end the show after season 6. He said he wanted to do justice to all characters.
Vikings showrunner Michael Hirst has opened about the show's conclusion with season 6, detailing the circumstances that led up to the show's end. Inspired by the legendary Norse sagas, Vikings chronicles the adventures of the fabled Nordic hero Ragnar Lothbrok, his family, and fellow warriors as they rise to rule over Scandinavia following successful raids into England. The show premiered on the History channel in March 2013, and, with the help of streaming runs on Netflix and Amazon Prime, it transformed into a cult brand. Critics have generally praised the show for its stellar performances and for authentically capturing the ethos of the medieval era, although some have sporadically cited historical inaccuracies in the depiction of the Viking society.
When Vikings first premiered on the History channel, it was intended to be a miniseries. But due to its massive popularity, the network picked it up for a second and third season. During season 4 and 5, the History channel extended the episode order for Vikings from 10 to 20, before renewing the show for a final sixth season in January 2019. The first half of season 6 then premiered in late 2019, and it ended with a nail-biting cliffhanger involving the epic clash between the Rus and Vikings. On December 30, 2020, Amazon Prime released the second half of season 6 in the US, UK, Germany, Austria, and Ireland, effectively bringing the acclaimed historical series to a close.
Recently, in an interview with Collider, Hirst revealed why he decided to end Vikings with season 6. According to Hirst, it was his and not the network's call to drop the curtains on the show. Hirst had always planned for Vikings to end with the discovery of America and Newfoundland, and season 6 seemed to quite fittingly incorporate that time period. For the showrunner, it was significant that he does justice to all the characters and plotlines and wrap the show up in a way that is coherent and fulfilling. Season 6 then seemed like just the right time to do all that, as after five seasons several arcs were closing in on a climactic point naturally.
As Hirst had himself stated, writing and running a show for seven years is a grueling task, especially a 20-episode show like Vikings, which requires continuous creative input and fact-checking. In fact, later on during the interview, Hirst also added that while doing Vikings gave him immeasurable pleasure, the taxing job impacted his personal life to the point that his wife began complaining to him about how the show had become his "full-time life." Given the exhaustive nature of the task, after all, Hirst cannot be blamed for finding himself at a saturation point. It thus makes sense how Hirst knew that it was high time to call it quits on Vikings. Not only was the narrative drawing to a close inherently, but the showrunner also realized that he needed to wrap up the show because he had already put into it all the efforts that it deserved.
As it is evident by Vikings season 6's rave reviews and approval ratings on review aggregators, Hirst's insight about when to end the show seems to have bode well for it. In the final episode, Hirst took the harsh decision to kill off his beloved lead Ragnar, despite knowing that it would invoke the contempt of his fans. But he did what was right for the show and what was necessary to make Vikings' final run memorable. Had Vikings ran for any longer, its quality would have dwindled and the series would have become quite a stretch. Season 6, therefore, is a fitting ending for the celebrated historical drama, and also a suitable set up for the sequel series Vikings: Vahalla, which is in development at Netflix.