The Winter 2023 anime schedule saw the return of Vinland Saga for another season of medieval mayhem and adventure, but this time, antihero Thorfinn Karlsefni is following a completely different path than Season 1. Thorfinn is no longer a vengeful boy with a knife, slaughtering Vikings in battle. His personal demons have followed him to his new life as a slave on a Danish farm.

Now that all of Thorfinn's conflicts are internal, he has nightmares every night about the people he has killed, whether they were guilty or not. Thorfinn's secret is also known to his new slave companion Einar, who brusquely remarked that the way in which he is currently handling his angst is far too selfish. Thorfinn is putting himself first in everything, but this won't ever make him happy.


In the Vinland Saga, Thorfinn's Selfishness Takes on a New Form.

Vinland Saga: The Biggest Problem With Thorfinn's Redemption Arc & How to Fix It_0

Thorfinn was on a mission for vengeance in the first season of Vinland Saga, hoping to find peace by killing Asekladd, his father's killer. He sought vengeance in order to quell his own rage and rid himself of his hatred rather than to protect others from Askeladd's wrath. The quest was solely motivated by self-interest. Because he wasn't trying to save or even just cheer up or inspire others, Thorfinn was somewhat of an antihero. It was a private family feud. Tragically, even if Thorfinn had been successful in his endeavor—which he was not—the world would not have improved, not even for him.

Thorfinn's self-centered ways have taken on a new form in Season 2. Without anyone to fight or even a reason to fight, he instead reflects on all the people he's killed, mostly Viking warriors but also a few innocent townsfolk. Thorfinn won't admit it, but he's consumed by guilt, aware that everyone whom he killed was a person, all with their own emotions, attachments and probably families.

Thorfinn slaughtered them all for his own selfish reasons, and now it's haunting him. It's good that he feels a strong sense of guilt, having these "what have I done?" nightmares every night, but that alone isn't the path to redemption. As Einer realized, Thorfinn is fixated on escaping these nightmares for his own peace of mind. In other words, he's being selfish again.


How the Vinland Saga Allows Thorfinn to Express his Regrets

Vinland Saga: The Biggest Problem With Thorfinn's Redemption Arc & How to Fix It_1

Thorfinn will never get anywhere if he just feels sorry for himself while having these guilt-ridden nightmares every night. Facing and vanquishing his own inner demons is just the start -- he must do that not merely to give himself peace of mind, but to set himself up to help others, too. He may then take action to improve the lives of other people, inspire them, and actively fight back against the warfare and misery that define Vinland Saga's Viking Age.

If Einar can convince Thorfinn to get over his selfish nature, then Thorfinn may realize his character arc is about others and what he can do for them. Then, maybe he can truly atone for past wrongs by deciding to create his own colony -- just like his real-life inspiration -- and establish a peaceful land where many other people can live happy free lives. He can help make a world where there are no Askeladds, no Thorfinns, and no slaves.

Manga readers are aware that Thorfinn will meet Hild, a tsundere woman whose father Thorfinn once killed back in the Askeladd era, through his quest. In her presence, the antihero's violent past will painfully come to life, and Hild will hate Thorfinn for what he did. He must demonstrate selflessness and show Hild that he is sorry, and hopefully, he will realize that. Once Thorfinn learns to prioritize others over himself and vows to never again act selfishly, his redemption story will start to take shape.