Vinland Saga Episode 17: Recap & Review

Season 1, Episode 17 of Vinland Saga. Thorfinn enraged at the though of someone else killing Askeladd
Thorfinn enraged at the though of someone else killing Askeladd

Season 1, Episode 17: Servant

Thorkell finally gets his duel with Thorfinn

When we last left Vinland Saga, the traitors surrounded Askeladd, Thorfinn, Bjorn and Canute, while Thorkell and his men approach. Askeladd tells the traitors that “all they need to do is line up in the river to join Thorkell.” However, Torgrim counters that they need the Prince. He tells Askeladd that he doesn’t want to kill him. Considering that Askeladd has survive battle with both Thors and Thorfinn, Torgrim is in over his head. Meanwhile, Thorkell and his men continue to scale down the mountain. Askeladd tells his men that despite spending so much time together, he “hated them.” He calls them “worthless Danes,” that are “worse than pigs.”

Askeladd decapitates several men with one swing. Torgrim panics, telling the men to get the Prince. Thorfinn attacks them with daggers, while, Askeladd cuts down the others. Bjorn rides off with Thorfinn, the priest and Prince Canute. Torgrim orders his men to follow. Thorkell watching, notices that they’re fighting. Thorkell is outrage. He doesn’t understand why they would start fighting without him. He begins to run down the mountain. Elsewhere, the men on horses gain on Bjorn and the others. Thorfinn is out of daggers. Atli tries to reason with Bjorn. However, the only way to stop Bjorn is to kill him. One of the men hits a horse in the head with an ax, causing Bjorn to crash.

Thorkell preparing to face off against Thorfinn

Askeladd verses 50 traitors

Thorfinn grabs a horse and runs in the opposite direction. Meanwhile, Bjorn and Prince Canute survive the crash. He eats a mushroom, telling the remaining men to prepare to die. Thorfinn rushes to “save” Askeladd. Meanwhile, Askeladd is struggling to defeat all the traitors. He frantically tries to find an opening to escape as Thorkell is coming. When he’s struck in the back by an ax he becomes enraged a cuts the man in half. Seeing how Askeladd cut through the helmet of that man reminds the men of what there up against. Weirdly, Askeladd apologizes for getting mad and losing his temper. The men begin to use their arrows. Seeing the unlikely hood that he would survive, Askeladd tell Torgrim that he “needs him” if he wants to get the Prince from Thorfinn and Bjorn. Torgrim orders his men to “aim for his legs.”

Askeladd is hit with several arrows in his legs. The traitors surround him. Thorfinn arrives and charges to save Askeladd. At the same time Thorkell and his men arrive, killing several of the traitors. Torgrim tries to gravel to Thorkell, but he quickly deduces that Askeladd was the leader. When he learns that Thorfinn is alive and not involved in the rebellion, he orders his men to kill them. One of Thorkell’s men tell them to pick up their weapons and fight like warriors. As the traitors are being slaughtered, Torgrim faces off against Thorkell. We’ll kinda. In the face of such a powerful foe, Torgrim loses conscience. Meanwhile, Thorfinn pushes through the fighting to reach Thorkell and Askeladd. Excited, Thorkell kills Thorfinn’s horse with one punch. Of course, Thorfinn only cares about saving Askeladd so that he can kill him. Thorkell and Thorfinn will duel for him.

Read More: Vinland Saga Episode 16 Review


Vinland Saga Episode 16: Recap & Review

Thorkell excited to kill
Thorkell excited to kill

Season 1, Episode 16: History of Beasts

Askeladd deals with betrayal

In Vinland Saga Episode 16, Askeladd tells Prince Canute that Ragnar died fighting the English. Askeladd wanted to kill Ragnar to help strengthen Canute’s resolve, but he also felt that Ragnar got in his way. Bjorn thinks that Canute’s “weakness” makes him easier to control. Askeladd is making a “gamble.” He thinks they might get lucky and Canute will turn out to be a great leader. However, Bjorn wonders what would happen if he just becomes depressed. Askeladd says he would just abandon him. Meanwhile, Askeladd’s men are torturing a Christian captive. As they compete to see who can kick him the hardest, Askeladd asks for some “shears.” Askeladd wants to know three things. First, how many reinforcements there are? Secondly, how long until they get here? Finally, how did they find their location?

A history lesson from Askeladd

Askeladd uses the shears on the man’s fingers. Cutting them off by “accident.” After the third finger, then man still refuses to relent. He calls the Danes “beasts” for burning down his village and for killing his wife and daughter. When the man claims that this land belongs to the English, Askeladd gives them a history lesson. According to him, the first inhabitants were the Celts. Ancestors of the Welsh, the lived in the forest. Until the Romans came. The Romans ruled the lands, in turn they gave the Celts, knowledge, technology and culture. When the Romans left, the Anglos and Saxons arrived. They gave nothing to the Celts, merely driving them off the land. Before Askeladd can cut the man’s nose off, he’s interrupted. Soldiers are coming. It’s Thorkell and his men.

Thorfinn, Canute and Bjorn surrounded by enemies
Thorfinn, Canute and Bjorn surrounded by enemies

The news of Thorkell’s arrival spread through the village. He tells his men to surround the village and kill anyone but Prince Canute and Thorfinn. Attempting to flee, Prince Canute is unwilling to abandon Ragnar’s corpse. Sensing that the men are faltering at the thought of face Thorkell, Askeladd tells them to choose their leader. They will march until Thorkell reaches them. The men that deserted Askeladd are chopped to pieces by Thorkell. He found their cowardice to be off putting. Askeladd and his men cross the bridge then destroy it so Thorkell’s men can’t follow. Despite the fact that they haven’t meant Thorkell in direct combat yet, his presence has already had consequences.

The traitors among them

Several of Askeladd’s men have deserted him and now several more are preparing to betray him. Torgrim has convinced half of the men to join Thorkell and take the prince as a gift. We already know that this will be a death sentence for the traitors, as the Thorkell already made clear he hates cowards. Of course Askeladd won’t allow them to take the prince without a fight. Torgrim tires to convince Atli to join him. Destroying the bridge turned out to be a waste of time. Thorkell’s men took another route. With a smile on his face, Thorkell hurls a spear through several men. The sight of Thorkell strength sends the men over the edge. Torgrim becomes feed up. Askeladd knows that they can’t defeat Thorkell. He asks Torgrim for “one more day.” As the traitors surround Askeladd, Thorfinn, Bjorn and Canute, Thorkell and his men begin to move.

Read More: Vinland Saga Episode 15 Review


Vinland Saga Episode 15: Recap & Review

Askeladd learning the Kings plot to kill Prince Canute
Askeladd learning the Kings plot

Season 1, Episode 15: After Yule

The father, son, and holy spirit

Episode 15 of Vinland Saga begins with Thorkell. One of his men tells him that the nobility wants to end the war. They’re even willing surrender the throne. King Sweyn will be recognized as the “Bretwalda” at the next “Witenagemot in Wessex.” Thorkell is disappointed by the surrender. Elsewhere, Askeladd and his men continue to toil in the village during winter. Prince Canute, Ragnar and the priest pray to God, begging to be forgiven. However, the priest doubt’s God’s love. He asks why God “didn’t give us his power.” If God loves “good and bad men equally, then why does he test them despite their powerlessness?” Canute has heard enough. He questions the Christianity of the priest. Believing that all fathers love their children.

The young girl from the previous episode manages to reach another village. She informs them of what happened and the number of men that Askeladd has. The local lord has asked Thorkell and his men for assistance. Thorkell, realizing that Canute and Thorfinn are likely at the village becomes excited. After learning that the English army has found them, Askeladd tells them they need to escape, while Bjorn prepares the men for battle. Canute, Ragnar and Thorfinn have a lovely meal. It will turn out to be Ragnar’s last. I predicted that Ragnar would die, but I thought it would be at King Sweyn’s hand. Regardless, Askeladd tells that his “death will cause him to grow.” Loyal to the end Ragnar only seems to care that Askeladd promise that he will protect Canute.

Ragnar meets his end, but tries to help Prince Canute anyway
Ragnar meets his end

The real father of Prince Canute

Before he succumbs to his injuries, he tells Askeladd that he needs to prepare for a fight over who will be the next King of Denmark. Two factions have formed, one backing Canute and the other backing Harald. The King decided that he would avoid this by killing one of the princes. His plan was to have Prince Canute die in battle. Ragnar warns Askeladd that Canute’s biggest enemy is the King. The first part of this episode was rather dull. However, it really turned towards the end. Once again, Askeladd does something terrible but I end up on his side. Ragnar clearly loved Canute and that was beautiful especially considering the fact that the King didn’t. However, Ragnar coddled Canute, leaving him too weak to become a strong King.

He would never leave Canute willingly, death was the only way. Although, Askeladd seems to regret his action (at least a little) after learning of the Kings plot. The theme of fatherhood was important in this episode. The priest questions God (humanities father), while Canute sticks up for all fathers. This reminds Thorfinn of his own father. However, Canute’s biological father hopes for his death, undermining his view. King Sweyn has failed as a father towards Canute but seems to excel at it towards his other son Harald. Finally, Prince Canute’s real father figure, Ragnar, dies. Meanwhile, he gains a new one in Askeladd.

Read More: Episode 14 Review of Vinland Saga


Vinland Saga Episode 14: Recap & Review

Season 1, Episode 14: The Light of Dawn

Vinland Saga has given us hints at the importance of religion. This episode focuses on what it means to be a Christian in this series. The episode begins with Anne, a poor girl that has stolen a beautiful ring. Despite being against the teaching of Christianity, she is elated ate her theft. However, she is aware that she is at least suppose to feel guilty and ashamed. She hides the ring in a hollow out tree. She occasionally sneaks out to put it on her worn-out hands with chipped nails. While eating dinner with her family, they pray. Her little brother asks “why.” His father tells them of God’s “judgement.” All good men will go to heaven, while the evil ones go to hell. In what would be the theme of this episode, one of the son notes that the “Danes are evil men.” The father responds “they’re really evil.” The Danes, Askeladd and his men, are running out of supplies.

He tells Ragnar that his men will do what they do best, ” attacking and plundering villages.” If the last few episodes gave us the impression that Askeladd was more complicated than expected, this episode wanted to remind us that it doesn’t mean he good. After dinner Anne rushes out to admire her spoils. She wonders how to atone for her sins. As she contemplates throwing the ring away, she sees Askeladd’s men and hides. As they count the food supplies they concluded that there’s not enough food to feed everyone. Askeladd cannot afford to feed them and his men, so he orders his men to kill all of them. Anne watches as Askeladd’s men massacre men, women and children (including babies). It’s a horrific sight. Anne wanders off, asking God if he’s watching. Anne asks God if her family arrived.

Considering that this is Vinland Saga, this is without a doubt the saddest episode of the series. This episode does a good job humanizing everyone. Great detail is paid to the hands of Anne. Clearly a sign of poverty, it also explains why she would steal the ring. She feels guilty of course, but ironically her thief saves her from death. If she wasn’t admiring the ring by the tree she would have died with her family. Is it better to be alive, but having to witness the death of your entire family? I’m not sure. At the same time, the mass-murder committed by Askeladd and his men is a necessary evil. Askeladd has a responsibility to himself and to his men. Why would he let himself and his men died for strangers? You can’t suggest that his actions are good of course, but needed. It wouldn’t have been better to let the people starve to death. Sharing the food might have worked but Askeladd probably was right that they couldn’t have feed everyone.

Anne may have survived the massacre, but what does she have left? The world of Vinland Saga isn’t pleasant for almost anyone, it’s probably worst for a young pretty woman. I doubt the series will simply move on, but it has in the past. I think Anne’s life will get worst if they show her in the next episode. Finally, what does her Christianity provide her? Is it sufficient to help her through this tragic moment? Will she see it as her punishment? I obviously don’t know the answer but it seems that it will be up to her what she will take away from her horrific experience. Vinland Saga’s ability to focus on even small characters and still make you care is something that most series wouldn’t even attempt to do. It can be risky, but I think it’s paying off.


Vinland Saga Episode 13: Recap & Review

Askeladd and his mother

Season 1, Episode 13: Child of a Hero

It’s clear at this point that Askeladd is Vinland Saga’s most interesting character. Originally presented as a greedy mercenary that only existed to be motivation for Thorfinn to get stronger, Askeladd has step up to be the most complex character. We learn that Askeladd has Welsh heritage. Before the credits, we see a young Askeladd carrying his pale nearly dead mother back to her homeland. Kept as a concubine by his father, Olaf, his mother was abandoned when she became ill. Askeladd begins his negotiation with the leader of the Brycheiniog forces. The relationship between Wales and the Danes is terrible. Askeladd reveals his heritage to create some trust between himself and the negotiator. One of the last descendants of Artorius, a famous former commander of the Britannia army in the 5th and 6th centuries.

His mixed blood allows him to “blend” in with the Danes. However, Askeladd secretly hates them. He plans on becoming an insider in Denmark, making Canute King and becoming a high member in his court. With this new power, he could create a treaty of non-aggression with Wales. It’s possible that Askeladd is making some of this up or at least his goal regarding Canute. Regardless, he manages to get the Brycheiniog leader to cooperate. This episode once again highlights the importance of bloodlines in this world. Canute, Thorfinn and Askeladd all hail from strong bloodlines. Askeladd and his men are permitted to travel through enemy land.

After some teasing from Thorfinn, Canute finally speaks. He tells Thorfinn that he’s not a coward. He’s merely cautious. Being aware of his potion as a prince, his “words have political repercussions.” In a foreign land he must be careful and doesn’t have the power to enter into treaties. The men all stop in, shock of the broken silence. Thorfinn’s lack of respect for him seems to have forced Canute to step out of his shell. It seems like being in such close proximity to Thorfinn may have a positive impact on Canute. That said some potentially harrowing developments are beginning. If Askeladd does indeed mean that he “hates” the Danes, then his men are going to be possibly betrayed by him at some point. Furthermore, Bjorn seems to be doubting Askeladd more and more. For now, he seems resigned to follow him. As they had north, winter begins to approach.

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Vinland Saga Episode 12: Recap & Review

In Vinland Saga Episode 12, The Ear using his ability to locate Thorkell and his men.
The Ear at work

Season 1, Episode 12: The Land on the Far Bank

Askeladd runs into a man fishing. He asks if the fish are “biting,” the man doesn’t care, he’s operates the ferry. Askeladd tells him that he wants him to deliver a letter to an elder. Thorkell’s men continue to pursue, Askeladd and his men are able to detect them. Or I should say that the man called “the Ear,” can detect them. We have seen him at work before, however, in this episode his skill are put in more focus. Vinland Saga manages to give it’s characters almost supernatural powers, without sacrificing realism. The “Ears” talents are pushing those boundaries, but I think the shows realism remains intact. Anyway, he is able to hear the soldiers and their horse march. He determines that they’re only one day behind on foot. The Ear quickly detects two men on horse back. Exposed, Askeladd says that they can’t win in a fight, they must keep running until the reinforcements he sent for arrive.

Ragnar feeling angry after Canute is disrespected.
Ragnar angry

Askeladd’s men are exhausted and worried. However, Askeladd says he doesn’t care. Bjorn asks him why he’s behaving so strangely. Askeladd explains that he’s able to read people, just by looking at their faces. When seeing Prince Canute he realized that he’s doesn’t have the “face of a king.” As Askeladd and his men continue to evade Thorkell they finally reach the reinforcements. Thorkell is shocked that Askeladd was aided by Wales. Thorkell explains the history of Wales, a small mountainous region to the west of England. It was never unified under a single country. In East of Morgannwg Kingdom of Wales, Askeladd and his crew. He tells Ragnar that they must walk to Gainesborough on foot. Ragnar hates the idea, mainly because the people of Wales hate them. Askeladd tells him that he has allies in Wales and he will have Thorfinn act as Canute’s guard.

The general of the Kingdom, Gratianus, will help them to Gainsborough. He makes it clear that the only reason that their helping Canute is to receive a “non-aggression” treaty. He asks him to swear that “once he (Canute) becomes King of England he wouldn’t interfere in the affair of Wales.” Canute is quite. He barely speaks and when he does, it’s only to Ragnar. Canute’s demeanor doesn’t garner much respect. He can barely look people in the eyes and twirls his hair like a child. He appears profoundly innocent, especially when you compare him to Thorfinn. As they continue to travel, they are attacked. As Canute looks around in shock, Thorfinn get’s really for battle.

This episode would be a let down for anyone that only cares about Vinland Saga for the epic battles. I think that the series willingness to slow the narrative down and focus on the larger world and it’s history is refreshing. Canute is barely noticeable but is slowly showing his personality. He’s appears to be the foil for the brooding, angry Thorfinn. Time will tell if he will be “corrupted” by the realities of the world, but I think he will serve as a contrast to Thorfinn. Vinland Saga manages to balance the history of the world, realism, and deep characterization with epic violent action.

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Vinland Saga Episode 11: Recap & Review

The pretty Prince Canute

Season 1, Episode 11: A Gamble

Thorkell and his men talk about what’s great about fall. The food taste better, especially the fish. They talk about the “modest” Christian women, which pivots to a conversation about the religion itself. Considering the limits of Christianity, Thorkell’s men notes that “if your Christian . . . you can’t do this or that.” One of the men talks about the statue of Jesus on the cross and how “weak” he looks. It’s understandable that compared to Odin and Thor, Jesus despite his “magic” doesn’t really seem cool. Thorkell decides that they should ask a Christian. He asks Prince Canute which is better, Jesus or the gods in Asgard? Canute refuses to speak.

Suddenly, Thorkell and his men stop. Thorkell picks up a spear and hurdles it into the head of a soldier. They demand that Ragnar and Canute be returned. Thorkell returns them to the soldiers, but Thorkell tells them to “show him their best attack.” What we end up with is a stand off. The soldiers feel that Thorkell and his men are challenging them as warriors, and to retreat is to become a “coward.” Ragnar tells him that rescuing Prince Canute is the “victory.” Thorkell asks them if they’re “scared,” even with “2000.” They are provoked by Thorkell and attack. Meanwhile, Askeladd and his men start fires.

Thorkell with two axes, slaughters many of the soldiers, hacking pieces of them off. Thorkell realizes that the fire was started by a third party. Askeladd has his men pour water on Thorfinn and sends him to capture the Prince. He arrives just in time to “save” Prince Canute. Surrounded by fire, Thorfinn prepares to fight Thorkell and his men. When Thorkell arrives he asks Thorfinn two questions. He reveals that he knows that who Thors is and Thorfinn’s mother. Thorkell says that Thors is the only man stronger than him. He leaves as the fire rages. Thorfinn returns with the Prince. Askeladd offers his services as a “bodyguard” and asks to see Canute’s face.

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Vinland Saga Episode 10: Recap & Review

Season 1, Episode 10: Ragnarok

Prince Canute seems to be disinterested in fighting Thorkell. However, Thorkell becomes excited at the news that Canute is leading the Danish army. He rushes out to attack the them. Askeladd and his men are separated form the main army and are trying to make some money before the winter. A messenger from Prince’s Canute army runs into Askeladd accidentally and informs them of Thorkell’s attack. Thorkell has taken the Prince hostage and is going to confront the main army. Askeladd becomes excited at the possibility of recusing the Prince and holding him ransom to the Kingdom that offers him the best price.

There wasn’t a whole lot to this episode, but there’s some things of note. First it seems that Thorfinn’s consciousness is getting to him. He remembers his family and clearly misses them. I think they’re going to be his remaining source of humanity that prevents him from becoming a true monster. Another theme that this series always highlights is the decline of the powerful. Askeladd tells Thorfinn that he will eventually kill him. His age will cause him to get weaker, while Thorfinn will continue to get stronger. At some point Thorfinn will be stronger and win. He then explains this view further when talking about, the decline of the Roman Empire and the Saxons.

Thorkell’s excitement when hearing that Canute was leading was surprising. The distance in their fighting ability and experience is vast. It’s unlikely that he was excited to fight him, but by taking him hostage can force the main army to come rescue him. The immaturity of some of the vikings in Askeladd army is profound. Two of them get into a fight over name calling and literally fight to one dies. If Ragnarok, teaches us anything it’s how Askeladd and his men don’t value there lives or the lives of others.

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Vinland Saga Episode 9: Recap & Review

Season 1, Episode 9: 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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