Welcome to Anime Rants. Today, we’re trying to catch up on the recent episodes of Vinland Saga season 2. This article will briefly cover episodes 12 through 14. In the next week or so, you can expect a post with reviews of episodes 15 to 17.
Episode 12 Review
A group of low-ranking royal guards mocked Olmar for his poor sword performance in front of the king. Olmar lost his temper and started a fight with the guards. The captain of the guard, Wulf, secretly interfered in the duel and allowed Olmar to kill one of the guards. (What he did was throw a coin into the guard’s eye, so Olmar could kill him while he recoiled in pain.) Olmar’s brother, Thorgil, killed the other guards in the group. A second band of king’s men arrived and these, too, were slaughtered by Thorgil.
The whole thing was a set-up to give the king an excuse to arrest Ketil and his family. Now that they had killed royal guards, they were criminals. Ketil, Thorgil, and Olmar managed to escape by making a deal with Leif. He would hide them on his boat if they bought all his merchant goods. While Ketil’s family sailed away with Leif, Canute moves forward with the plan to seize the old man’s farm. He will leave in three days and attack the farm with 100 men. Thorfinn and Einar have no idea what’s coming.
I have a few thoughts to share. I’m not going to comment much on Canute this time, since I wrote a lot about him in a previous post. My thoughts are only related to the other characters in this episode. First of all, To me, Wulf’s whole thing with using a coin as a projectile weapon was both funny and very anime-ish. Normally, Vinland Saga isn’t absurd, but I guess there are exceptions. Other than his difficult-to-believe ability, Wulf seemed like an interesting guy and I hope we see more of him.
Surprisingly, this episode made Olmar seem somewhat like a sympathetic character for the first time. He’s an annoying idiot, but he’s also a victim of the toxic warrior culture around him and the schemes and mockery of those smarter and more capable than him. Olmar didn’t voice any thoughts about his first kill other than profound shock. I would have been interested to know what he was thinking in the hours following this experience.
Finally, the violence and slaughter caused by Thorgil was quite a spectacle. He’s a terrifying character because while he has the usual run-of-the-mill warrior’s bloodlust, it’s coupled with amazing skill far beyond that of his peers. While I don’t sympathize in any way with this character, I find him and his bloodthirstiness interesting and sort of beautiful in a way.
Episode 13 Review
The episode begins with a rebel slave who kills his master and most of the master’s family. He then leaves the burning house behind, vowing to find the lover he was separated from. Back at the more peaceful parts of the farm, Thorfinn and Einar spend some time around Pater and Snake. Pater is getting old and frail. He collapsed in the field and would have died there if not for Snake finding him and bringing him back.
Snake helps care for Pater in some ways, including reading him sections from the Bible, since the old man cannot read. Thorfinn takes interest in the readings, and listens from the window. While he is not a Christian, he’s interested by the Gospels – particularly the parts about loving one’s enemies.
Much to the delight of Einar, Arnheid shows up to help take care of the old man. She cooks a glorious meal for everyone at Pater’s house. Thorfinn, Einar, Snake, and Arnheid have a fun meal together. Everything was going great until the runaway slave from earlier showed up. Fox is chasing him and trying to catch him for a reward. When Arnheid sees the rebel slave, she runs toward him, calling him by his name. The fearsome man then reveals that he is here to pick up Arnheid, his wife who was ripped away from him. The episode ends on that surprising reveal.
I don’t have as much to say about this episode as usual, since it was straightforward and easy to follow. However, I’m mildly surprised by this whole subplot with the rebel slave. I thought this would be the episode where everything went to hell and King Canute attacked the farm. But it seems we’re not yet at that point. I’m not sure how the rest of this subplot will play out, but I’m anxious to see what will happen to Arnheid.
My main thought in episode 13 was about the references to Christianity. Vinland Saga season one touched on this topic a lot, exploring different characters’ ideas of the supposedly loving Christian God and his relatively progressive son Jesus. It was good to see the topic resurface in this installment. It makes sense that Thorfinn is interested in Jesus’ words, since he now believes in peace, redemption, and love for one’s fellow man. It’s also interesting to think that Pater’s kindness was probably at least partially informed by his Christian beliefs. As usual, Vinland Saga discusses important topics, including religion.
Episode 14 Review
The rebel slave, Gardar, asks Arnheid to flee with him. However, Snake and Fox stop this from happening. Snake manages to capture Gardar alive, tying him up and dragging him off the mercenary’s fort. Einar wanted Arnheid to be free, and tried to interfere and attack Snake. Luckily, Thorfin convinced the brash young man to stand down. But later that evening, Einar was still worked up. He proposed sneaking into the fort with Thorfinn’s help and rescuing Gardar. This time, it’s Arnheid who objects.
The young woman says she wants to “wait for the storm to pass,” rather than take action. She then tells the story of her past to try to make Einar and Thorfinn understand. Gardar and Arnheid were a happy Swedish couple with a baby son. There was a conflict over land containing iron, so Gardar and the young men of the village went to fight and claim the land. While the men were away, Vikings attacked the village. They slaughtered the old and captured the women as slaves. Arnheid’s baby son was also killed.
Arnheid explains that she’s afraid of the man Gardar might have become. The suffering of war and slavery have made him insane. Additionally, Arnheid is pregnant with Ketil’s child. She wants to live quietly on the farm and raise the new baby, even if it means she never gets her freedom. After hearing all this, Einar gives up on the rescue plan.
Despite everything she said, Arnheid is deeply conflicted. She wakes in the middle of the night and tries to leave for the fort, thinking she can at least tend to Gardar’s wounds before he is executed. Pater tells Arnheid that, based on his own past, even if one waits through the storm, it still wreaks havoc. I’m not clear on whether the old man was encouraging Arnheid or not, but he didn’t get up to try to stop her as she left. Arnheid is now on her way to the fort against her own better judgment.
As for me, I just have a couple of thoughts about Gardar and Arnheid. The helplessness of the woman was difficult to watch, both in the past and the present. Although she was much happier in the past in Sweden, Arnheid still lamented the fact that she had no power to sway the men of the village. As she put it, “The women could not overturn a decision by the men.” It’s a stark reminder of the rampant sexism that was just the normal way of life in 11th century Europe. As long as you’re a woman, there was imply no such thing as true freedom.
I find it interesting that Gardar is so savage now. He seems to be insane, being without any fear and driven by a crazy rage. Fox said “There’s something wrong with him,” and Snake called him “a runaway slave who lost his mind.” While I don’t think that wanting to be free is a sign of insanity, I can clearly see that Gardar is unstable. He is so different from how he was in Sweden in the past. So, I can understand why Arnheid was afraid when she saw him, despite still loving him.
On a final note, the title of this episode is “Freedom.” I think it’s an in ironic title, given that Arnheid is the least free person in the series. That being said, she did at least get to make her own decision at the end of the episode. She made the choice to go see her husband one last time, even though doing so could risk her very life. I respect her choice to take action.
Thank you for reading~