The lion and the mouse.
What They Say:
Episode #19: “United front”
Thorfinn suffers a serious injury in his fight against Thorkell. Thorfinn is told to think about what he has to do to beat Thorkell. Askeladd treats Thorfinn’s wounds so that he may fight again someday, and proposes a joint strategy to help the two of them survive longer.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Thorfinn, much to everyone’s surprise, survives his short flight through the air and crash landing. Dazed, he soon regains his feet but his arm is dislocated and his ribs are cracked. He’s in no condition to keep fighting against Thorkell, but his pride and rage won’t allow him to quit.
Not even after he learns that Thorkell is his great-uncle on his mother’s side.
Thors was, once, the favored inheritor to the jomsvikings. The chief gave his daughter’s hand to Thors, which might explain the desire for someone to want Thors out of the way. After the battle which had Thors fall into the ocean Thorkell fell into a funk. He was perhaps the only one alive who knew Thors had survived and was not about to let his comrade leave the jomsvikings. It’s clear to see just how much respect Thorkell had for Thors.
Thorfinn doesn’t give Thorkell the satisfaction of learning what became of Thors after he left the jomsvikings. Thorkell really wanted to know what had changed in Thors and what made him tick. When Thorkell realizes Thorfinn actually knew very little about his father’s feelings he taunts the boy and the duel begins again.
Askeladd has his life riding on Thorfinn and had to repeatedly talk the boy down from rushing in and dying like a dog. He patches him up and comes up with a plan on how to take the monster of a man down. Askeladd had once, many years before, witnessed Thorkell stagger after a blow. Thorkell may be something out of legend, but he is mortal and has weaknesses. With a deftly directed beam of light, a distraction, and a swift kick to the jaw Thorfinn gets his KO. Then he lets his rage get the better of him and things get bloody.
Just as it looks like all is lost, Canute returns. The prince approaches Thorkell and asks him to work for him now. Thorkell thinks the lad is a joke but realizes that he’s changed in short order. A battle of wills ensues that results in Thorkell seeing a resolved look in Canutes eyes. With the prospect of more battle on the wind Thorkell agrees. Askeladd and Thorfinn join Canute, along with Thorkell’s 500 men to march to King Sweyn. It’s time for the next generation to take over.
Canute’s transformation still feels sudden, and the idea that he would make the transition from a child to a driven man in a matter of hours feels unlikely. After all, Thorfinn struggles when faced with the same reality. Canute was just made of different stuff, ambition, and religious riotousness. I think I’m waiting for the moment where Canute shows some weakness again for his personality shift to feel more believable.
There is a really weird line in this episode where Askeladd says “Battle isn’t like shogi.” Apparently, Askeladd is a time traveler. I’m really not sure how that word made it through when in earlier episodes hnefatafl was correctly mentioned as the strategy game of choice for the vikings. Sloppy mistake on the writer’s part.
The animation is this episode seems to recover from last week’s not-so-impressive showing. The fight is nice and dynamic, and the final attack vicious and impactful. It still isn’t the best this show has looked, but it is an improvement.
Thorfinn versus Thorkell round two ends in a draw as the giant and the tiny killer square off in a battle to the death. The reveal of Thorkell being a relative doesn’t faze Thorfinn as much as it should. Those around him are learning, changing, and growing while Thorfinn only sees red. Battle is all he’s known for ten years, and to break free into a different line of thought and purpose will require something equally dramatic to happen to him once again. Onward, we march to the final episodes of part one of Vinland Saga.
Episode Grade: B +
Streamed by: Amazon