With its premiere on January 10th, 2023, the highly anticipated second season of “Vinland Saga” follows its stellar prologue with a new setting, storyline and cast of characters on Netflix. Once again, the critically acclaimed anime series dons its serene soundtrack, beautiful scenery and mature themes of brutality, warfare and trauma.
Season one ended with a grand climax that was set up by the complex character developments of three core leads: Thorfinn, Askeladd and Prince Canute.
At the beginning of the show, Young Thorfinn witnesses his father murdered by Askeladd in a duel, vowing to one day slay Askeladd honorably. With ideals of revenge and honor, Thorfinn ends up joining Askeladd’s mercenary band and becomes a tool to kill, spy and invade innocent villages. Thorfinn anger fuels his drive throughout the entire show and Askeladd manipulates Thorfinn’s desire to avenge his father by granting him duels whenever he accomplishes a task.
Askeladd leads a mercenary Viking group to profit. While he is capable of absolutely vile deeds, he strangely served as a father figure to Thorfinn at moments. Askeladd’s character was complex insofar that he not only led the Danish Vikings but had also come from a Welsh upbringing and planned to one day rule Wales. With his large aspirations along with his cunning strategies and incredible charisma, Askeladd became a fan favorite, stealing the show as one of the best-written villains.
The joining of Prince Canute was a result of one of Askeladd’s schemes as Canute was the King of England and Askeladd sought to profit off of his value. After personally witnessing battles and bloodshed while traveling with Askeladd, Canute would go into his own development from a shy, cowardly prince to a strong man of character who wants peace for his nation.
The first season would end with Canute killing Askeladd as part of Askeladd’s plan to replace the king. Askeladd executes this plan mainly to protect Wales as the then King of England planned to invade the nation. Out of rage, Thorfinn makes an attempt on Canute’s life and is contained by his guards. Consequently, Thorfinn is then sold off to slavery, paving the way for the second season of Vinland Saga.
In its three episodes out on Netflix, the story follows Thorfinn as a slave and a new supporting character in the form of Einar, an enslaved man from North England who tragically witnessed the death of his family. Both characters are then bought out by Ketil, an oddly caring farm owner who promises to grant both their freedom if they can clear a vast forest to prepare space for a wheat farm.
Thorfinn and Einar set forth their own narratives based upon warfare, slavery and redemption, building towards another dramatic narrative taking place during the age of Vikings and English conquest in 1013 AD England. While they end up in the same positions, they respond in opposite ways toward their environment. The narrative is set up to introduce Einar as Thorfinn’s foil, foretelling how their fates will intertwine in a spectacular climax.
Thorfinn is set on a path to find a new purpose. However, he is unable to move forward, emotionally freezing over and losing the will to even live. He finds himself lost as his whole journey into adulthood has been eclipsed by his path of vengeance. Goals, aspirations and dreams are all lost on Thorfinn, which may be where his meeting with Einar will change Thorfinn.
A former farmer living in peace, Einar carries his newfound trauma of witnessing his entire family slain at the hands of Vikings and, subsequently, becoming enslaved. Unlike Thorfinn, Einar finds strength in his emotions, raging at those who have taken away his freedom and finding any way to fight. Anger and optimism fuel his motivation to earn back his freedom and stay alive.
Watchers of Vinland Saga not only enjoy its action-packed battles and thoughtful fight choreography, but also its ephemeral still backgrounds accompanied by serene and quiet moments. The rugged, dirty garments these characters wear work to accentuate a natural beauty of their environment in the form of horizon backgrounds and the sunlight beaming on farms.
Verdict: With the masterful twists and turns of season one, “Vinland Saga” again continues its epic setting up another powerful climax.