Vinland Saga Episode 9: Recap & Review

The Battle of London Bridge

In October 1013, a fleet of Danish and Viking ships arrive in England. They are prepared to take London Bridge. Askeladd’s army is hired by Denmark, hoping to get rich with an easy victory. However, things get more complicated, with the deflection of Thorkell the Tall. Askeladd sends Thorfinn after Thorkell. A battle obsessed “madman,” Thorkell fights against his own countrymen for the challenge. When Floki asks the English for their surrender, Thorkell throws a massive boulder at them. He misses, but shows that he’s a major obstacle. The highlight of this episode is the fight between, Thorfinn and Thorkell. Armed with two daggers, Thorfinn takes on the unarmed Thorkell.

This fight is spectacular. They use of dramatic camera angles is really effective. Thorfinn use of superhuman acrobatics when dodging Thorkell’s massive blows is a sight. Thorkell duels Thorfinn one on one. Thorfinn quickly notices that despite being unarmed, Thorkell could kill him with “one hit.” He notices the weak points of Thorkell, attacking low, he manages to stab Thorkell in the hand. However, this allows Thorkell to grab Thorfinn. Slamming Thorfinn into the ground repeatedly, Askeladd and the fleet retreat. Thorfinn escapes after cutting off two of Thorkell’s fingers. He then jumps into the sea after informing Thorkell that he’s named Thorfinn, son of Thors.

Thorkell is excited to have battled such a warrior. He hopes for another battle on day. Realizing that they can’t spend so much time in one city, King Sweyn plans to move West. He will leave 4000 troops to overtake England, handing over command to the young Prince Canute. Ragnar continues to challenge the Kings wisdom in this regard. Every time he does this I expect the King to have him killed. It seems to be foolish to constantly tell the King that he’s wrong without any consequences. Although maybe the King simply responds well to criticism. Meanwhile, Thorfinn returns to land, with a dislocated shoulder, a sprained right ankle and several broken ribs. As they march on to Wessex, Thorfinn struggles to understand why anyone would love battle so much.


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Vinland Saga Episode 8: Recap & Review

Grom, Askeladd’s uncle

Beyond the Edge of the Sea

Askeladd, Thorfinn and the rest of the vikings return home to their village in Jutland. Planning to spend the winter there, they return with the spoils won from the Frank battle. They’re welcomed back with open arms. Thorfinn and Askeladd’s duel is to occur here. As they begin to fight, Thorfinn appears to have an advantage. However, Askeladd being smarter, manipulates Thorfinn into becoming enraged. This results in Askeladd taking control of the duel and winning. Despite Thorfinn maturing he’s still just a child or teen. Regardless, he’s learned how to be violent but not how to fight smartly. He has much to learn before he can kill Askeladd.

Askeladd defeats Thorfinn again

As the men celebrate inside, Thorfinn is on the ship. While there he has a vision of his father. In this vision he’s reminded by his father that “no one has enemies,” and “a true warrior doesn’t need a sword.” It seems that Thorfinn may learn indirectly from his father’s wisdom. How long it takes is really the question. When he speaks to the slave girl, Hordaland, she asks him “if there is anything on the other side of the ocean.” She believes that there’s nothing in the world but wars and slave traders. Thorfinn tells her of Vinland, in this moment we are reminded that Thorfinn despite his brooding nature still has some compassion. After winter passes, the Danish army and Vikings begin their attack on England. Finally, we see some new characters mainly Canute and Thorkell.

Introducing Thorkell

Askeladd continues to prove that he’s more sophisticated than you think. While he’s willing to accept, commit and permit terrible acts, his morality is more complicated. His views on slavery were more nuanced than expected. He understands that everyone’s a slave to something. When talking to a kid about it, he says “It’s terrible. The guy who’s a slave to money holds a whip, and pretends to be the master of the slave he bought with his money. Everyone is a slave to something” Which begs the question “what is Askeladd a slave to?” We’ll probably find out the answer to that question later.


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Vinland Saga Episode 7: Recap & Review

Jabbathe

Normanni

This episode is about showing off the might of the vikings. The King of Dane temporally halts the attacks for the winter, as Askeladd look for jobs raiding. They head to France. Askeladd plans on stealing the treasure from the French. He sends Thorfinn to negotiate on their behalf , giving him the additional goal of bringing him the head of a General. Thorfinn lets the Frankish General know that Askeladd wants to help for half of the spoils. The Frankish General agrees. Once the battle begins, Thorfinn rushes ahead to collect the head of the enemy commander.

Thorfinn’s mastered murder

Askeladd and the rest of the Vikings arrive in grand fashion. Carrying their boats overhead, rushing and yelling. It’s odd liking them considering that their murderous rapist, but I did enjoy their showmanship. One thing about this episode is it’s tone. It feels a little out of place in the very serious series. There wasn’t much character development in this episode, it’s not necessary but the episode did feel odd. Another factor was the French General Jabbathe. He had a frog like appearance and over the top personality. Also his first name is the first two words of “Jabba the Hut,” which is funny but ridiculous. Although now I’m primed to look for clever name puns. Regardless, Askeladd and the Vikings sail into the fort.

Askeladd gloating

The slaughter the men and steal all the treasure. They escape on their ships, as Askeladd gloats about collecting all the spoils. Of course, Thorfinn gets his trophy. Thorfinn will get his duel. While he has mastered the art of killing, I’m not sure he’s ready for Askeladd just yet. The dynamic between Askeladd and Thorfinn is interesting. Despite his claim that he doesn’t care for Thorfinn, I think that Askeladd is as fond of him as he can be. He also seems to be string him along with the promise of a Duel. Is he doing this to make Thorfinn become a better warrior and to get something out of him? Or is there some other motive? This episode was out of place, but I still liked it.


Vinland Saga Episode 6: Recap & Review

Askeladd “saves” Thorfinn

The Journey Begins

Thorfinn appears to have unofficially joined the mercenary band, lead by Askeladd. Viking are explained. Largely, Danes from Denmark they were pirates or thieves. Their goal was to live in England. Naturally war broke out. Askeladd and the others arrive at bloody shore, littered with corpses. Askeladd offers the services of his men. They strike a deal, Askeladd men for women, treasure, food and five pounds of gold. As they continue to talk, they’re attacked. Many of Askeladd’s men are killed, as Thorfinn watches. He draws his dagger, but is attacked. Askeladd kills his assailant (stabbing Thorfinn in the process). It’s a small wound. He claims that “he didn’t know Thorfinn was still alive.”

The woman is devastated to see Thorfinn’s behavior

Thorfinn finally get his first kill. We are shown a series of battles as Thorfinn gains his experience. It’s brutal. It feel wrong somehow. Knowing that his father didn’t want this for him, made it feel tragic. As he ages he become more and more proficient at killing. Losing more and more of his innocence with each kill. Thorfinn is chased by men with dogs and manages to survive. He’s then found by a mother and daughter passed out by a river. They nurse him back to health. The mother hides Thorfinn, seemingly believing he’s a replacement for he dead son. Knowing this series, I could anticipate that these women were not going to have a happy ending.

The new “feral” Thorfinn

Life for most men are terrible, for women almost hopeless. Thorfinn was sent to scout. He knows whats going to happen to all of the villagers. Thorfinn had change. He looks more feral or rabid. We still get to see a glimpse of his remaining humanity. How long can he hold on to it. Vinland Saga is becoming a must see series, it’s not a very cheerful one. However, having watched Attack on Titan, I am certain that they will find some moments of happiness to balance out the dreariness. I believe that Askeladd wants to see Thorfinn survive. He fully intended to save Thorfinn, but he refuses to do so directly.

Vinland Saga Episode 4: Recap & Review

Bjorn vs Thors

Episode 4, A True Hero

I’ve known the fate of Thors from the beginning and have been dreading it. I think this is a testament to the great characterization Vinland Saga has given Thors. Even with so few episodes, I feel I know him. Or at least I want to know more about him. Exactly what happened that made him hate fighting so much. From the first episode it seems that he was a bloodthirsty warrior. I may be the birth of his daughter that softened his heart. Regardless, he turned his life toward peace and put his sword down. He even seemed to develop a hatred for violence. However, when the village is threaten he has no chose but to prepare for war once again.

Thors begins this episode quickly defeating many of the bandits. He avoids shedding any blood (when possible) focusing on punches, throws and breaking bones. On of the men, Bjorn goes “mad,” his pupils turn white and he indiscriminately attacks his own men. Thors notes that he’s eaten a “berserker mushroom.” Thors knocks him out with his bare hands, however, Bjorn gets up. Meanwhile, the last ship gets closer to Thorfinn and the other villagers. Thors arrives, after defeating Bjorn. Having defeated half of Askeladd forces, offers to allow him to leave. He assesses the situation and because Thorfinn is present he’s handicapped.

Askeladd vs Thors

He challenges Askeladd to a duel. He accepts. After Askeladd calls him the “troll of Jom,” he quickly understands that Floki is responsible. When they begin to fight, Askeladd gets the first strike. As Thors approaches him he cuts the boats sails, causing them to fall. This distracts Thors long enough for Askeladd to slash him. The hit is too shallow. Askeladd is impressed by Thors, believing his trip was “worth it.” Accepting, Askeladd strength, Thors knows he can’t go easy on him. He begins to dominated the fight. Chipping away at his sword, Thors is relentless. However, Askeladd is able to predict the arc of his sword. He shatters it.

This was what Thors was waiting for. When Askeladd “swing wide,” he takes advantage. Thors hits Askeladd’s arm, disarming him and takes his sword. Despite winning, Thors refuses to kill Askeladd. He would accept a surrender all the same. However, Askeladd is unwilling to say it in front of his men. He tell Thors that the “duel won’t end until Thors kills him.” He asks why Thors is “wasting” his talent. Thors responds that a true warrior doesn’t need a sword. Bjorn awakens and grabs Thorfinn, holding a knife to his throat. Despite Thors winning the duel, Askeladd breaks the rules. With no choice, Thors accepts his death. Askeladd commands his archers to shoot.

Thorfinn after

Thors asks Askeladd to keep his promise and allow the villagers to go. He then asks Leif to bring his head to Sigvaldi, the leader of the Jomsvikings so he knows that he didn’t refuse to fight. Released, Thorfinn hugs his father on last time. Devastated, he vows to kill Askeladd. The look in his eyes shocks the other men. Askeladd, decides to leave him assuming he will die anyway. First, Thorsfinn’s lust for vengeance, while I would like to see it, is not what his father would have wanted for him. He really emotional right now, so we’ll see how long his rage will carry him. However, he hasn’t learned the lesson his father taught him regarding violence.

A common theme in this series so far is to “value ones life.” Basically, do recklessly throw it away. Obviously, Thorfinn not going to die anytime soon but he seems to be reckless by nature. In contrast with this theme or in accordance to it, Thors life had literal value (Askeladd was paid to kill him), and according to Askeladd he was worth than a “hundred warriors.” In the end his life was valuable enough to save his men and most importantly his son. I’m not sure Thorfinn will learn that lesson until later in the series. I think he’s going to have to go through the same journey his father did, first through violence then to peace.