The following contains major spoilers for Season 2 of Vinland Saga and mentions of physical abuse toward women.
One of the most intriguing aspects of Vinland Saga Season 2 is how it dives deeper into the slave trade in the Viking Era. Season 1 nodded to it briefly, although fans knew that would change once Thorfinn got taken to Ketil's farm. This painful journey does help Thorfinn realize how he contributed to this trade when he worked under Askeladd.
However, Thorfinn heals a bit when he becomes surrounded by other kind folks sold into servitude. This has him learning about all walks of life. Although, when King Canute plots to seize the farm, tragedy and death ensue. In the process, Vinland Saga homages Russell Crowe's Gladiator, remixing the heartbreaking finale for two sympathetic characters.
Vinland Saga Season 2 Gives Gardar a Maximus Death
In Ridley Scott's Gladiator, Crowe's Maximus lost his family to the evil emperor, Commodus. After a coup, Commodus made it clear he'd rule Rome his way, but little did he know Maximus would become enslaved and enter the gladiator's arena. Maximus died in the Colosseum, but he did bring Commodus' reign to an end, inspiring the city. The Oscar-winning film moved fans with its conclusion, with Maximus reuniting with his family's spirits in the fields. It's all he wanted, so as tragic as it was, it was a happy conclusion for a man torn asunder.
Vinland Saga Season 2 mimics this with Gardar, who debuts in Episode 13, "Dark Clouds." He runs away from a nearby estate, killing folks, but when he gets to Ketil's farm, it's revealed he's Arnheid's husband. It shakes the series up in a big way as fans learn she and Gardar had a son. Unfortunately, when he went off to war, the child was murdered, and Arnheid was taken as a slave. Little did Gardar know when he'd get placed into bondage, she'd be just a few days' ride away.
Sadly, Gardar succumbs to his wounds after trying to escape. What makes it even more heartbreaking is he dies begging Arnheid to flee with him, although she can't because she's pregnant with Ketil's baby. However, as Gardar crosses over, seeing as he didn't know his son had perished, he keeps envisioning meeting Arnheid and the boy in the fields back home. It's very reminiscent of Maximus' final fate, with Gardar being someone who clawed tooth and nail to get back to his kin. It speaks to mortality and final visions as well, as fans see Gardar depart at peace, knowing his sentimental paradise awaits on the other side.
Vinland Saga Gives Arnheid the Maximus Fate, Too
Unfortunately, Arnheid suffers a similar swan song. While she struggles with knowing how Gardar died, Ketil arrives and physically abuses her. He's angry she tried to help Gardar, not realizing she's with child. What makes this even more harrowing is she would have stayed with Ketil because she knew it'd be the only way to keep the baby safe. It's worth noting he did care for her more than the average slave master. But she ends up paying the price for showing temporary love, compassion, and empathy to her husband.
When Canute's forces arrive and begin sacking the place, both Thorfinn and Einar (who loved Arnheid too) try to escape with her. But, like her husband, she dies in transit on the outskirts of the farm. That said, she also sees visions of her family playing in the fields. In this case, her other child is there, leaving Arnheid glad to be released from such a cruel world. Ultimately, it's a violent yet slow-burning death, which Thorfinn and Einar realize is for the best. After all, while Arnheid's dream couldn't be achieved in reality, like Gladiator's Maximus, they're hopeful she finds that elusive peace in the afterlife — which this ethereal reunion implies.