We came to the showdown, in Vinland Saga Episode 04: How will the clash between Thors and Askeladd end? Will Thors stick to his principles, or will he kill Askeladd?

And finally, we have reached the end of the very first narrative cycle of Vinland saga. THU we have summarized the events of the manga, while Thu, Thu and here we reviewed the first three episodes of the series!

Now, with Vinland Saga Episode 04, Entitled A true warrior, we come to a very important turning point. Here, we face face to face how Yukimura tackles the issue of violence, with all the consequences of the case.

Of course, if you haven't seen the episode yet and don't want spoilers, don't read this review!

Bjorn in full frenzy from hallucinogenic mushrooms, in Vinland Saga Episode 04
Bjorn in full frenzy from hallucinogenic mushrooms, in Vinland Saga Episode 04

Vinland Saga Episode 04: the plot

Vinland Saga Episode 04 starts from Thors who continues to knock out the members of Askeladd's crew, punching them one after the other. There fistfight, which alternates rather raw still images with scenes like Bud Spencer, closes when, from the bottom of the ship, Bjorn stands.

The second-in-command of Askeladd, however, is out of his mind enough to kill his comrades, before pouncing on Thors, who realizes that Bjorn is under the influence of berserker mushroom. However, even Bjorn does not pose a danger to Thors, who confronts him with punches without too many problems.

In the meantime, though, Askeladd's second ship approaches menacingly the one on which Thorfinn, Ari and the other young Icelandic warriors stand. The pirates are already looking forward to catching them easily to resell them as slaves, when Bjorn, launched by Thors, crashes on the catwalks that have descended.

Askeladd is not happy to have miscalculated that shot!
Askeladd is not happy to have miscalculated that shot!

The duel between Thors and Askeladd

Thors orders the pirates to leave, as they have already lost half of their men. However, it is soon clear that the enemies will not leave without a fight, and with the ships so close, it is difficult for Ari, the boys and little Thorfinn to not end up in the middle of the fray. So, Thors has an idea.

Scrutinizing the opposing ship, Thors identifies Askeladd, recognizing him as the leader of the marauders. So, pointing at the sword, Thors challenges him to a duel: if he loses, Askeladd will have to leave them alone, but if he wins, he can do whatever he wants with Thors.

Askeladd, seeing what happened to Bjorn, accepts, proving he knows Thors, who therefore understands that he has been betrayed by Floki infamous. Making sure that Askeladd has no wife and children (and realizing that he cannot leverage them to convince the enemy not to fight), Thors finally draws his sword.

The duel itself is short, since Askeladd cannot compete with Thors' skill. After wounding him with what was supposed to be a lethal blow in the pirate's plans, Askeladd finds himself fighting on the defensive. Finally, Thors manages to disarm Askeladd and aim his own blade at his throat, asking him to surrender to save his life.

Poor Thorfinn is not doing well at all in Vinland Saga Episode 04
Poor Thorfinn is not doing well at all Vinland Saga Episode 04

The negotiation between Askeladd and Thors

It is evident that Thors doesn't want to kill Askeladd in order not to fail in his vote, Askeladd candidly admits that he cannot give up, since, in this case, his men would no longer follow him. The pirate, however, recognizes Thors' skill, asking him why he retired to Iceland, when he could command an army.

Thors, however, does not see her in the same way and claims that he is not yet a master fighter, since he had to use a sword against Askeladd. A true warrior, however, according to Thors, does not need a sword.

Thors' words strike Askeladd, so much so that the pirate suddenly asks him to become the leader of his group of soldiers, leaving their men speechless. Thors, however, does not respond and Askeladd, disappointed by the denial, tries to save appearances with his soldiers, saying that it was just a joke.

However, Bjorn, who in the meantime has regained his senses and hindsight, does not appreciate the joke. Realizing that his friend now has no more cards to play and is forced to get killed, Bjorn jumps on the opposing ship and grab little Thorfinn. Pointing to his throat the dagger that Thors himself gave to his son, Bjorn tells Thors not to move.

Even Thors dies on his feet, like the best warriors
Even Thors dies on his feet, like the best warriors

The death of Thors

The new turn, however unexpected, is taken well by Askeladd, who takes advantage of it to pretend that, immediately, he would not have respected the rules of the duel. Thors realizes that Bjorn is really ready to kill Thorfinn, so he is forced to make the only choice given to him by his life philosophy.

Reminding Askeladd that he was the one who won the duel, however, and that pirates really care about having his head, Thors throws his sword into the sea. So, Askeladd admits Thors' victory in the duel. And then it gives the signal to their men on the cliff, which they pierce Thors with a swarm of arrows.

In the face of the dying enemy, Askeladd promises him that he will keep his promise, swearing on the name of his ancestor Artorius. Thus, Thors asks Leif to bring his head to Sigvaldi, the leader of the Jomsviking, in such a way that he does not believe that Thors has deserted again. Even Bjorn, in front of the body torn by Thors' arrows, lets go of Thorfinn, who runs to embrace his father in despair. Knowing that he saved his son and the other boys' lives, Thors dies.

A wild Thorfinn appears on the ship
A wild Thorfinn appears on the ship

The beginning of Thorfinn's revenge

Askeladd and his men return to sea with their two ships and Thors' ship, having spared the rest of the crew. Men are still happy with the loot, but Askeladd mulls over the events just passed. Among the many things that give him to think, the fact that Thors has not killed even a single man in his crew stands out.

Suddenly, though, his men call him: Thors' son infiltrated the third ship that are driving, otherwise deserted. Going to check, it is immediately evident that Thorfinn did not accidentally stay between them, but to take revenge. Askeladd's men are frozen when the child yells at them that he will kill them all, so much is out of his anger.

Askeladd does not comment on the situation and advises his crew to ignore the child, isolated on the third ship: anyway, he would soon die anyway.

Poor Leif didn't expect to go home without Thors so early
Poor Leif didn't expect to go home without Thors so early

Vinland Saga Episode 04: the connection point between past and present

Vinland Saga Episode 04 represents a turning point fundamental to the plot of the series.

In the anime, it acts as breaking moment between the peaceful life in Iceland and brutally shifts the viewer's attention from Thors to Thorfinn. Suddenly, everything that has been seen in the acronym acquires a new meaning and it becomes evident who, really, the protagonist di Vinland saga. In this sense, this change of protagonist is similar to that which occurred in Game of Thrones with the death of Ned Stark in the first season. Similarly, Thors' death in Vinland Saga Episode 04 should warn that everyone is in danger of dying in this series.

In the manga, however, the equivalent chapter is the link between the long flashback and Thorfinn's current life, shown us in the very first chapter of the manga. It is precisely that chapter that makes us understand how and why Thorfinn has changed so much.

The sword of discord, in its own way
The sword of discord, in its own way

Thors' death and the leitmotiv started by Vinland Saga Episode 04

In the end, Thors dies because he does not want to compromise with his life philosophy, and because he has not been able to put himself in a less dangerous situation.

These kinds of choices are key in Vinland saga: how right is it to stick so much to your philosophy of life? We see the Vikings adhering to the end to the idea that war is the just resolution of conflicts and that a man is worthless unless he is a warrior. On the other hand, however, we also see the limits of Thors' philosophy, which can hardly find a meeting point with that of others.

Whatever happens, Askeladd could not accept Thors' non-violent proposal, just as Thors could not accept Askeladd's violent solutions. In such a situation, the appearance of a person with few scruples and capable of carrying out his threats, like Bjorn, could only tip the scales on Askeladd's side. Although with his limitations, in fact, Askeladd has a moral that allows him much more room for maneuver than Thors.

Nevertheless, Thors does not deny its lifestyle choice and still believes that he made the right choice, adhering to it until the end. He tried, even in desperation, to act in such a way that no one died and that his loved ones were safe. In doing so, Thors was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, in order to combine the salvation of those he loved and adherence to his ideals.

"A true warrior doesn't need a sword"

In Vinland Saga Episode 04Moreover, another god appears for the first time leitmotiv di Vinland saga, one that we will review later in the manga. “A true warrior doesn't need a sword” is a phrase that will remain etched in Thorfinn's mind.

In general, this sentence means that a true warrior does not need to kill anyone, since he is capable of resolving conflicts without resorting to extreme means. Sometimes, because he is capable of not even causing conflicts, in other cases because he has managed to beat the enemy in cunning or skill.

There are many ways not to kill anyone and win anyway. But the path of non-violence is difficult and also requires great sacrifices. Obviously, it is not a road for everyone.

The morality of Askeladd is truly strange!
The morality of Askeladd is truly strange!

The strange morality of Askeladd: what does Vinland Saga Episode 04 tell us?

The nice thing about Vinland saga is that the characters' personality and way of thinking emerge naturally from their own body language. Of course, we still have the inevitable explanations of souls, when it comes to fighting, but the character of the characters is often left to a wise management of expressions.

This is especially true in the case of Askeladd, who is a character who lives on subterfuges and appearances, leaving much of what he really thinks of the unsaid. In Vinland Saga Episode 04we see Askeladd in turn dealing with moral and strategic dilemmas with not simple solutions.

First, when he finds himself with the sword of Thors pointed at his throat and asks him questions about why he isn't commanding an army, Askeladd is probably trying to buy his time. His expression changes when he hears Thors' reply: "A true warrior doesn't need a sword." From his small change of posture, we understand that this sentence has affected Askeladd a lot, who is therefore serious when he asks Thors to become their boss. So when Thors responds with calm silence, Askeladd is saddened that if Thors does not accept his offer, he will have to kill him by force.

When the most decent person is the infamous arrival

Because, ironically it is the infamous and disloyal Askeladd who respects Thors, not the respected but really infamous Floki. Between the two, it is Askeladd who understands Thors' worth and who understands that his non-violent philosophy does not make him less of a warrior than a Viking. On the contrary, for Askeladd Thors it is an opportunity, a way to change things and find a different way.

We explicitly understand this respect when Ari attacks Askeladd after Thors' death. The pirate respects the pact with Thors by not killing Ari, but by reminding him not to throw away his life, which he only had thanks to a person like Thors. At the end, it is sad to think that, of all, the only one who really appreciated Thors' philosophy and courage was the man sent to kill him. That is why Askeladd does not rejoice in the victory and the loot: that day, they lost an extraordinary man, and there is nothing to celebrate.

However, Askeladd does not shy away from completing his mission and does not scruple to break the pacts, just to get out of thorny situations alive. This does not mean that Askeladd does not have his own, particular and completely personal sense of honor. He is by no means a good person, but he is a character who is appreciated.

Ready to see a very, very pissed Thorfinn?
Ready to see a very, very pissed Thorfinn?

Conclusions

Vinland Saga Episode 04 it's a powerful one turning point throughout the plot. We see Thors' philosophy of non-violence reach a critical point, just as we see Askeladd's cynicism cracked. A protagonist dies, and his son seems to succeed him, distorted by anger and the desire for revenge.

Thorfinnfrom this point on, it will fully take place as a protagonist and we will be able to see how it reacts to the death of the father. We face a mixture ready to explode: between the pain, the resentment and the profound struggle between the Viking values ​​and those of the father, nothing good can be born.

Thorfinn is helpless in a world he does not fully understand, tossed about between people with incompatible philosophies. He does not understand why his father gave up, and unable to take it out on him, he just has to focus on Askeladd.

How will this tension develop? We will see it in the next few episodes, because yes, new episodes have been announced! These days the fifth episode has been released in Japanese. So our reviews will continue!