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Vikings midseason premiere photos: Bjorn versus the Bear

Revenant, shmevenant

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On the new season of Vikings, Alexander Ludwig’s Bjorn walks into the forest looking for trouble in an attempt to prove himself to his parents. “Both Ragnar and Lagertha, in their own way, had tried to keep Bjorn as a child, not respecting him as an equal,” Vikings creator/writer Michael Hirst tells EW. “So Bjorn takes off into the wilderness to prove, both to himself and Ragnar, that he can survive in the most extreme conditions. He’s in the interior of Norway, over a winter.”

Vikings usually shoots in Ireland, but Hirst wanted Bjorn’s journey to feel extra visceral. “We sent Alexander to Canada, in the winter. We made him jump into an ice hole in the lake. We tortured him! Which,” Hirst hastens to add, “he was delighted by.” Filming Bjorn’s Revenant moment actually required two different bear actors trading off scenes. (Think the Olsen Twins, but bears.) “They’ve got a very good union, I guess,” laughs Hirst. “When they rear up, they’re like nine feet tall. Alexander’s about 6’5″, and they made him look small!”

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Although Bjorn will run afoul of the wildlife, Hirst teases that Bjorn may have even bigger problems. “There are other forces that turn out to be plotting against him there.” We’ll find out what — or who — those forces are when Vikings returns on Feb. 18 on History. For now, check out exclusive photos of Bjorn fighting a bear.