In 11th century Europe, a war rages between the Danes and the English. In an Icelandic village, Thorfinn lives peacefully with his father, mother and sister until a group of Danes show up and ask his father to come back to the war with the young men. The boy stows away on one of the boats to join the war effort, but along the way, the group is attacked by mercenaries hired to kill Thorfinn’s father, Thors. After his father is killed, Thorfinn vows revenge on Askeladd, the leader of the mercenaries and stows away with them. This is the story of a young boy seeking revenge for his father in the most Viking way possible, an honourable duel to the death.
Thorfinn: A Boy Strays Off The Path
The first 12 episodes of the show focus a lot on Thorfinn and his growth from a wide eyed innocent young boy to a cold hearted assassin bent on revenge. It’s tragic to see this kid drift so far from the ideals his father set for him. Thors last words to Thorfinn were “a warrior doesn’t need a sword” but this kid is so mentally scarred from his death that he becomes one of the most ruthless killing machines in the show.
Askeladd, The Best Anti-Hero of 2019
The second half of the show focuses on one of the best characters in the series, Askeladd. He is so charismatic that you can believe that all of these men would follow him blindly into battle. He is incredibly smart and quick on his feet. Everytime he beats Thorfinn in a duel, he explains why and shows just how far Thorfinn is from ever beating him. Hands down my favorite moment in the series is when everything is falling apart around Askeladd and yet he still somehow makes it out and manages to get Thorkell on his side.
Thorkell: The Tall: The man who strikes fear into the hearts of monsters
Thorkell is one of the most fun characters to watch on screen. He is larger than life and full of charisma. He is comparable to Askeladd in terms of strength, combat prowess and likeability, but we never get to see the two fight head to head. When the two finally team up to join Canute’s forces, it feels earned and satisfying. His rivalry with Thorfinn drives most of his character arc, and knowing the two are related makes a lot of sense.
Vinland Saga feels so real and uncensored. At its core, the show is a revenge story, but it’s also so much more. It has a clear theme of not letting your past define you. Askeladd was able to break free from his past only to have it be his greatest weakness. Thorfinn spent his whole life trying to make up for the past, and now all his efforts are wasted. Canute had to completely abandon his past to move forward and become king. Vinland Saga is a realistic expression of the loss of innocence and becoming a man. The story has stood the test of time and is one of the best of the year.