Season 1, Episode 24: End of Prologue
Askeladd’s end is just the beginning
From the start of Vinland Saga, Askeladd has been the most interesting character. Thors the former warrior turned peaceful family man was more predictable, even if his end was a tremendous act of sacrifice. Thorfinn becomes a bitter, angry young man. While it’s completely understandable, it means that Thorfinn is the simple character. At least for now. Vinland Saga has also emphasized from the beginning that violence should never be engaged in lightly. Most important, a warrior should value his life. Askeladd seemed to be the cold and calculating villain. He turned out more complex than that. While capable of horrific acts, he never made them out of simple cruelty. There was always a reason them. Askeladd valued his life, but he always was prepared for it end.
Askeladd’s final plan
When King Sweyn announced his intention to invade Wales, Askeladd is caught of guard. He can’t figure his way out of this one. When Sweyn insults his lineage once more, Askeladd becomes enraged. However, he never loses his reason. Askeladd begins to insult and threaten King Sweyn, he’s already set in motion a plan to had Canute the throne. For Canute to successfully become the next King, he cannot be seen as responsible for his father’s death. Before decapitated King Sweyn, Askeladd announces the name he was given by his mother. Lucius Artorius Castus, true heir of the English throne. In his “madness,” Askeladd begins cutting down the soldiers. Canute tells Thorkell to “wait” to cut down Askeladd, while pointing out that he knows exactly what Askeladd is doing.
This is an important moment that proves that Prince Canute has learned from the master. Askeladd had always intended to make him King, this was the nail in that coffin. Thorkell despite his appearance and personality is also aware of the moment. If Prince Canute is to become King in the eyes of them me, he must be the one to “put Askeladd down.” He does so, solidifying himself as a leader in the soldiers eyes. Askeladd’s death grants Canute his crown, but what of Thorfinn. It was always his plan and desire to be the one to kill Askeladd. I expected rage from Thorfinn, what we got was desperation. While, both he and Askeladd pretend that they couldn’t care less about each other, neither was telling the truth.
What’s left for Thorfinn
While I believe that Thorfinn still wanted revenge, his relationship with Askeladd was more than that. Whether he noticed or not, Askeladd became a father figure. Before Askeladd dies, he imparts some wisdom to Thorfinn. He asks him “how will you live?” Reminding him that he’s the son of “Thors,” Askeladd tells Thorfinn to become a “true warrior.” Blinded by his rage, Thorfinn didn’t consider what would become of his life after Askeladd death. After Askeladd dies, Thorfinn gives Canute a look of bewilderment. He has no idea what to do with himself. Running on instinct he resorts to one thing that has remained constant in his life, violence. In the final moments of this season, Thorfinn drops the dagger his father gave him. It’s difficult to know what will become of him now that he’s lost both his fathers. I can’t wait to find out.
It’s not certain whether there will be another season (I doubt there won’t be), but a series of this quality will probably take years to produce anyway. I very tempted to begin reading the manga. Vinland Saga’s managed to balance realism and over the top action well. Blending the stories fantasy elements with historical ones was a nice touch. The violence itself is presented in typical epic anime fashion, it’s purpose isn’t only to entertain. The deaths never felt cheap or for shock value. Crying after Thors death made sense, but I never though I would be in tears over Askeladd’s. Vinland Saga wasn’t perfect, some of the middle episodes didn’t add much in my opinion. However, with stunning direction, impressive animation and great characters, Vinland Saga is as good as an anime can get.