Vikings season 6 returns for its second half on December 30 to conclude the series, but rather than airing weekly on the History channel, all ten episodes will drop on Amazon Prime Video. Those without a subscription will still be able to watch the final season on History, but not until 2021, begging the question: has the haphazard manner in which Vikings has aired contributed to its cancellation, or is there another reason?
Even before the deal with Amazon, some may have wondered if the separation of the later seasons into two halves, each with large gaps in between, alienated Vikings fans who were never sure when the show was airing. Although each half-season contained ten episodes, the same number as the earlier un-split seasons, the uncertainty may still have been a factor.
Others may blame the loss of Travis Fimmel as Ragnar Lothbrok at the end of Vikings season 4 for the decline in ratings. However, while many felt Ragnar’s sons have not measured up to the charisma of their father, the loss of viewership after Fimmel’s departure was only slightly more than the drop between previous seasons.
More specifically, Vikings season four lost just less than two-tenths of a share and an average of 180,000 weekly viewers when compared to season three, according to TV Series Finale. After Ragnar journeyed to Valhalla, season five proceeded with another 370,000 fewer viewers per episode on average and a full two-tenths lower rating in its key audience demographic than the previous season.
According to showrunner Michael Hirst, bringing Vikings to an end was a choice rather than a consequence of a shrinking viewership. In a Variety interview, Hirst said, “I always knew where I wanted the show to go and more or less where it would end if I was given the opportunity… After six seasons and 89 episodes, that’s what I felt, finally, I’d done.”
Then again, perhaps Vikings just ran out of historical material to adapt. The show took liberties with the tale of the Age of the Vikings and its legendary hero and could have continued to do so, but details about the actual raids on England and France have always been fairly thin. The scripted drama was already well outside the normal History channel fare in terms of historical accuracy as it was.
Whatever the reason might be for what some consider a premature end for the highly successful Vikings, Hirst promises fans a dramatic ending saying, “If you have tears to weep, be prepared to weep them as you watch season 6. I’m very proud of the show. I did what I wanted to do; that’s the truth.”