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.

Reviews of the Other Episodes