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Vinland Saga Season 2
Episode 20

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 20 of
Vinland Saga (TV 2) ?
Community score: 4.7

© Makoto Yukimura, KODANSHA/VINLAND SAGA SEASON 2 Project

“Far to the west, and beyond the sea, there is a land called Vinland…”

Years ago, when he was still just a boy—when he was still free—Thorfinn heard his father utter these words to a dying slave to offer him one possible moment of peace in his final moments. They are the kind of words that might begin a fairy tale, which is fitting because the Vinland that Thors spoke of was a little more than a dream of a dream in the minds of anyone who even knew its name. It was a good dream, though. A kind dream. The kind that might not be so bad to have in your heart as you leave this world for good.

Now, as Thorfinn holds the dying Arnheid in his arms, he finds himself speaking those words again. In uttering that melancholy spell that is half-dream, half-prayer, he finds himself not just understanding his father for perhaps the first time in his life, but becoming him. Thorfinn is the rare fictional hero who isn't just likable and compelling, but a figure to aspire to. This is the kind of pitch-perfect character arc that requires years' worth of carefully crafted plotting and development to set up. Although I may risk repeating myself, yet again, I am obligated to point out that the way Vinland Saga has executed this long-term gambit is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

We rarely get the opportunity to watch a wayward young boy grow into such an admirable young man in any medium, and I remain thoroughly amazed at how well this anime has handled such a task while also delivering on its promise of an epic, historical drama on such a scale as we have seen this season. I am also professionally required to continue shouting at anyone who will listen about the world-class voice acting throughout this season. Mayumi Sako's work as Arnheid, especially, is bound to be remembered for years to come.

We haven't even gotten to the stellar sequence of the Battle of Ketil's Farm, which fulfills this season's other thematic promise: to prove to us once and for all that war is a savage and pathetic affair. If the action of the Prologue Season drew upon the grand spectacle you might expect from the likes of 300 or The Lord of the Rings, this is much closer in spirit to the opening massacre of Saving Private Ryan. The fighting on display is well-animated and expertly paced, but only so we can watch all of the sad, bloody ends that befall Ketil's ill-equipped "warriors" in graphic detail. Thorgill is maimed and utterly humiliated in his attempt to assassinate Canute, and Ketil is brought down to the same lowly positions as the slaves he's been so eager to exploit as the King's army decimates the Iron Fist's meager resistance.

The killing has to stop, somehow, and when Thorfinn takes it upon himself to face the mad King alone and end the bloodshed, it is impossible not to be moved by how easily this boy has become the man his father hoped he might be. Once, there was a man named Thors, who fled his life as a killer to try and make a peaceful world for the ones he loved. He failed, in the end, but his son has come back around the circle, and as soon as he deals with the mess that the mighty killers of the world have made, he will try the same thing again. If he cannot free himself to achieve that impossible dream in Europe or Iceland: he will have to push himself harder and travel farther. Far to the west, and beyond the sea.


Vinland Saga Season 2 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

James is a writer with many thoughts and feelings about anime and other pop-culture, which can also be found on Twitter, his blog, and his podcast.

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