For once the shoe is on the other foot: Askeladd’s ploy to influence politics has led his men down a bitter road. This episode focuses on the road that leads to a mutiny against Askeladd.
Though the mutiny is largely the ‘surprise’ of the episode, it is still so heavily implied throughout the episode it is not meant to serve as a genuine surprise. This is yet another episode where Askeladd’s penchant for murder and torture manage to make me uncomfortable even as I expect them. As usually Askeladd shows he is a mercenary with his own desires at heart as we see him cut off a man’s fingers to torture him. I’m always surprised by how graphic Vinland Saga really goes, stopping short of showing us the cutting process for this one but then showing us the bloody stubs. This is definitely a war show and this episode in particular really captures feelings of discomfort and aversion for me. I may understand Askeladd now but his humor has definitely waned as he loses most of his luck. His men notice that their luck seems to be dwindling and so they all begin to discuss overthrowing Askeladd and joining Thorkell. What they don’t know is the later kills all the men who desert Askeladd, so they’re really asking for trouble here.
It’s very strange to see a show cover so much ground. Askeladd made so much money men would clambor to join them as he went on a new expedition. But even as they admit he is a good leader, they now plan to kill him in order to survive this confrontation with Thorkell. Hysterically the man trusts Thorfinn to protect the Prince in this squabble. He has come to learn Thorfinn wants a clean victory against him and so he probably anticipates he will just follow him until another duel comes. Meanwhile his impatience led Askeladd to brusquely reveal Ragnar’s death, meaning the Prince has no illusions about who killed him. His plan is slowly crumbling as his men lose morale, and it’s an interesting dilemma to see the man who was recently grinning and covered in treasure slowly become a desperate man making subtle mistakes.
I’m not surprised to see his men betray him. The entire series thus far has shown us the Danes who travel with Askeladd don’t really care much for honor or sacrifice, their main goal is wealth and survival and they act accordingly. Even after Askeladd has given them money and taken then wisely to different places, these men are set to pounce on him. We’re left with a cliffhanger and for once I’m genuinely not sure what will happen. I can’t say I know if Askeladd will make it out of this alive or if something will happen. He has contingencies that can now be put into place, but will they work? I’m not sure. I think Vinland Saga has done an excellent job thus far because of this: it’s realism leaves me with the gnawing feeling that I don’t know what will happen or how the players of this game will change.
Next week we watch and see if Askeladd’s intuition will be enough to save him.