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The battle has just begun on Vikings. The penultimate episode of the fourth season ended Wednesday night with a mid-battle cliffhanger. In next week’s finale, the sons of Ragnar Lothbrok will have their reckoning with the army of Wessex. The results of that battle will reverberate throughout history — and will set the stage for the arrival of a new character on the show, played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers. The actor will appear in the finale, which sets the stage for his large role in season 5.

Vikings creator Michael Hirst, already deep into production on the 20 episodes of season 5, found Rhys Meyers’ character in his research. “I was looking at the history books, and I came across these warrior bishops,” he tells EW. “The antecedents of the Knights Templar: these are people who were absolutely religious, yet they put on armor and they fought. Don’t let their priestly status fool you, either. “They were crazy! They believed totally in Christianity and the message, and yet, on the battlefield, they were totally berserk.”

One figure jumped out at him in particular: a warrior bishop named Heahmund. “He’s a man of Wessex, and he’s gonna come in as a worthy opponent to Ivar,” Hirst promises, comparing the character to Richard III. “His whole life is about deeply passionate commitments. He’s a wild card who happens to be [played by] Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who is himself kind of a wild card!”

Credit: Jonathan Hession/HISTORY

Hirst previously worked with Rhys Meyers on Showtime’s The Tudors, and is thrilled about the energy he brings to this series. “Johnny is just perfect for this crazed, religiously obsessed guy, who is also a sinner. He’s a passionate guy, drawn towards women. He sins, and then when he sins, he punishes himself.”

EW is excited to share the exclusive image of Rhys Meyers above. He will appear in the Vikings finale next Wednesday at 9 p.m. on History. Season 5 of Vikings will debut later this year.

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