The smash-hit television show ‘Vikings’ has finally returned to our television screens for one final season - and it’s come back with the biggest bang imaginable. If you’re a fan of the show and haven’t yet seen the first episode of the new season, which aired just a few days ago, then look away now. We’re going to delve deep into spoiler territory in this article. Read on at your own peril, and don’t say you weren’t warned!

There have been rumors throughout the filming period of the final season that a much-missed character would be making an impossible return, and those rumors turned out to be true. Against all the odds - and despite the fact that he very clearly died during the show's fourth season - Ragnar Lothbrok is back, and we don’t just mean in archive footage. Actor Travis Fimmel has filmed brand new scenes, and we’ve seen the first of them already. 

The show has found a way to bring the fan-favorite back without messing up established continuity. Ragnar is resurrected via the medium of flashbacks experienced by Lagertha as she approaches her new farm home - the place she's expected to live out her retirement. Lagertha remembers her past life as a farmer, seemingly a happier, simpler time with her long-dead husband Ragnar by her side. It's not known whether the fleeting shots of him from the final season's first episode will be all we see of him this season because the producers and stars of the show have already played a cruel joke on us by insisting that he wouldn't be returning at all. Now, it would seem nothing that they've told us in the past can be taken at face value!

As little as a week ago Katheryn Winnick, who plays Lagertha, had told reporters that Fimmel wouldn’t be in the show either as a resurrected character or as a flashback, but it now transpires that she was just committed to keeping his appearance a secret, and thereby surprising fans when they turned in. The surprise worked. No sooner had Kimmel’s face appeared on the screen, Twitter went into meltdown as delighted fans expressed their joy at his shock return. Winnick has hinted that Lagertha has a larger role than ever to play as the show draws to a close - her character has both ‘a new purpose in life’ and ‘a plan’ that will become increasingly apparent as the story reaches its end. 

It's hard to overstate just how big a success the 'Vikings' show has been both for the History Channel who created it and also for Amazon Prime, who have the rights to stream it all over the world. Numerous other television shows and forms of entertainment have been spawned around the 'Viking' theme since the first series aired, from comic books to online slots UK. 'Vikings' has been particularly popular at the casinos, with an official 'Vikings' online slots game and also a whole series of other slots that use Vikings as a backdrop. The themes used in online slots tend to reflect what's popular in entertainment, and so when someone's using your concept there, it's a strong sign that you've broken into mainstream popular culture. 

Fans are now eagerly looking ahead to what other tales may be left to tell before the show ends, but most of them expect there to be at least one significant twist left in the tale before everything is said and done. Previews and trailers for the season that have already been aired seem to show Lagertha being stalked and watched, and eagle-eyed viewers have posted on internet forums to say that there doesn't appear to be any sign of the character after the third episode. It's long been thought that she's destined to be killed by one of Ragnar's own sons. While viewers who love her character would probably hope that she'll be able to stick around until the end of the season, it may be the case that she meets her fate sooner rather than later. 

As fans of 'Game of Thrones' and other successful shows know only too well, and the rules go out of the window when a long-running series reaches its final episodes. Characters who had 'plot armor' - by which we mean they were never in danger of dying because they were too important to the show's overall plot - are suddenly vulnerable, and nobody is guaranteed to make it out alive. There's also no guarantee of a happy ending, which is something else that 'Game of Thrones' fans can attest to only too well! Everyone involved in the show will be hoping for a better reception to their finale than the one that 'Game of Thrones' endured earlier this year. The overwhelmingly negative response to that show's denouement saw millions of disappointed fans signing an online petition demanding that the entire final season be made again with competent writers. 

Whatever happens at the end of 'Vikings,' it would seem from all the clues that Ivar the Boneless will play a decisive role. The arch-villain of the piece has formed an evil alliance with Prince Oleg, and seem to have bonded over their shared enthusiasm for murdering their wives. Ivar has shown signs of redemption over the years, with his bone condition generating sympathy for him within some quarters of the fandom, but never quite to the extent where he's been viewed in a positive light. The few episodes we have left offer his final chance to demonstrate once and for all where his principles and his loyalties lie. Will his new friendship with Oleg proceed to its logical conclusion, or will he be the one to strike Oleg down and turn to the light? We'll be on tenterhooks all season as we wait to find out the answer to that question - and it won't take very long now! 

The final season of Vikings is on air now, with weekly episodes on the History Channel and Amazon Prime. The series runs to 20 episodes, split into two banks of ten. The first run of ten episodes will come to an end in early February 2020.