This episode Askeladd’s men aim to capture Prince Canute with no help from anyone else. This sounds simple enough until you consider that 400 men are already enroute to free the Prince from Thorkell. So will Askeladd team up with them for the good of the realm and to help free an innocent Prince? No he sets the goddamn forest on fire, okay. Askeladd sets the forest on fire. Did you expect anything else from the dude who stole an entire treasure horde and called it half since he got none of the reputation? I did not.
There is a lot to be said before the giant forest fire and what comes during it. Much of the episode is Thorkell and his men elaborating on Norse mythos and wondering if Jesus or Odin are better ultimately. This creates a lot of interesting questions for viewers, but I don’t think the purpose is to really make us consider which is ‘better’. Instead the question becomes what is relevant to the characters. The Norse men even joke about converting about how popular it is and the kind of submissive woman it makes, whereas the Christian worshipers in the group don’t seem genuinely swayed. Except the priest. He gets drunk and worships whoever made alcohol.
As always Vinland Saga makes bold statements about what matters to people in times of war. The truly devout can cling to their fate, whereas those who enjoy battle for its own sake can change religious affiliation at a whim depending on what brings them the most enjoyment. War is war, personal motivations are what they are. Even Askeladd proves that when he shows he is unwilling to work with others if it means losing the prize he seeks.
And truly, even Thorkell shows that in this episode. He’s ‘smitten’ with the King and has an obsessive desire to confront him. His goals aren’t about realism but instead about a fight he is eager to engage in. When Thorfinn is sent to rescue Canute he faces that side of Thorkell, who willingly lets him take Canute because it is a ‘game’. But Thorkell also does something for Thorfinn that I was not expecting: he finally answered my questions about his recognition of the name ‘Thors’. According to Thorkell, Thors is the only warrior in the world who is more powerful than he is. He pays respect to the fallen warrior, who I suspect he does not know is fallen, in a way no one truly has in the show since his demise. This clearly impacts Thorfinn and it personally impacted me- I have grown to care so much for this journey of vengeance that Thorfinn is on that his loss has stricken me in a similar way. I find myself unable to dislike Thorkell because of his respect towards Thors, and because it seems he has provided a momentary acknowledgment that Thorfinn has lacked in all these years.
Though it is clear Thorkell’s fate must be sealed, I am eager to see where the journey is taking Thorfinn. Will he be the one to stop Thorkell in his tracks and live up to his father’s name? Man I hope so I’m crying over my child Thorfinn over here. Let me give you a hug you little murder hobo you!