This article incorporates spoilers for, nicely, just about the entire God of War sequence.
Throughout the journey in God of War (2018), Kratos and Atreus maintain on to the reminiscence and literal ashes of a beloved one. Her dying want to be scattered on the highest peak propels them by way of the realms of Norse delusion, confronting and defeating gods and monsters. The plot of God of War, like windsurfing, is pushed by holding on. While taking part in, you are feeling this, like ropes round your wrists, dictating your given path. True North within the form of a cage.
The sequel, God of War Ragnarök, nonetheless, is about severing these ropes — or, fairly, letting them fall. The issues that characters held on to, we understand, have been prisons, not protections. While letting go can really feel like falling, the characters quickly understand they want that launch as a result of in that launch is the liberty they’ve been craving. It’s not merely Kratos and Atreus who, collectively and individually, endure from the plague of “holding on.” Every main character does — and their lives are worse for it after they refuse to let go.
This virtually symmetrical distinction to me is why Ragnarök felt like a agency finale and correct send-off of Kratos’ Norse adventures.
Kratos and Atreus
In God of War (2018), Kratos and Atreus maintain on to a bag containing the ashes of Laufey, Kratos’ spouse and Atreus’ mom. The easy aim of “scatter me from the highest peak” adjustments all of the Norse realms, as Kratos and Atreus change into targets of Odin however evade seize. Throughout their trials, they maintain on to the aim, regardless of its growing futility and issue.
Kratos’ recommendation to his son is to behave extra like a soldier, telling Atreus to “close your heart” to the struggling he sees from others. (It’s no coincidence that the title “Atreus” comes from a courageous Spartan soldier Kratos deeply revered, and he instructions the boy as a soldier’s normal.) Kratos’ coronary heart has been closed for the reason that gods betrayed him, opening up solely briefly when he lastly noticed his daughter within the afterlife, in Chains of Olympus.
Rage just isn’t merely what Kratos hangs on to however is actually a mechanic that permits him to change into briefly invincible and highly effective throughout fight. Holding on to this rage has allowed Kratos to defeat whole pantheons of gods. It dictates the best way he speaks, his usually muted actions, and his distance from his latest baby (Atreus). Kratos is a sufferer who refuses to take care of the extent of his trauma, crushing it right into a hardened rock of rage he shops deep inside.
Ragnarök, nonetheless, sees Kratos’ icy resolve considerably soften regardless of an apocalyptic winter setting in. Not solely does he acknowledge that his son’s power is drawn straight from Atreus’ compassion for others, however he additionally acknowledges the necessity to let Atreus go — each for brief bouts of particular person exploration, the place Atreus turns into for the primary time a playable character, and, on the finish, the place the younger man ventures into the world by himself. Atreus’ compassion just isn’t folly however high quality: his understanding extends not solely to what numerous creatures are saying but in addition to how they’re feeling. This proves useful all through their journey, undermining Kratos’ view that closing your coronary heart to others advantages the mission.
Seeing this in his son, we’re introduced years later in Ragnarök with a Kratos who says thanks, regularly shows affection to this son, and is prepared to assist these in want. For me, I noticed how far Kratos had are available his interplay with Freya.
Like Kratos, within the first sport, Freya was completely pushed by “holding on”: she held on to a maternity woven by deception and selfishness, a poisoned bond as a result of it spouted from the fruits of a poisoned household tree.
In God of War (2018), the raging menace, Baldur, seems to be her son. He holds nothing however hatred for Freya since she solid a spell when he was younger that prevented him from ever feeling ache or getting damage — nevertheless it additionally means he feels nothing in any respect. As a end result, Baldur at all times felt minimize off from the world, remoted regardless of wandering freely, imprisoned regardless of his Dionysian methods. Just as Freya nurtured a ghost of a maternal bond, Baldur nurtured a revenge that involves full poisoned bloom by the top of the sport.
Kratos, refusing to observe one other godly cycle of “children-killing-parents,” stops Baldur, killing him, regardless of Freya submitting to her son’s deadly response. Freya swears revenge.
Ragnarök begins with Freya’s revenge, the continuation of her refusing to let go: that which was as soon as a dream of motherhood is now however a ghost. We uncover that within the years for the reason that finish of the primary sport, Freya has been pursuing Kratos and Atreus, craving for Kratos’ loss of life. However, regardless of being viciously attacked, Kratos — our new, developed Kratos — refuses to kill and is making an attempt all he can to not damage her. He is not going to give in. His rage is not going to be stoked by somebody who he cares for.
This reveals us a fact: the one who refuses to let go is the one who suffers.
Eventually, Freya does let go. She acknowledges the error of her methods, the folly of the ghost. She turns into Kratos’ new companion, they usually forge a brand new, stronger relationship — specifically, by the top sport, the place each are united in having let go of their sons.
Brok and Sindri
When we first meet the Haldur brothers, they’re separated. A wall is maintained between them, sustained by each holding on to a feud. By the top of the sport, they launch that feud and are available collectively. But even from the primary sport, what made each of them two of the healthiest characters was how they regularly let go of their issues: their work, whereas they have been pleased with it, was at all times for others. The Leviathan Axe, Mjolnir, upgrades, objects — all of those are bestowed on others.
Ragnarök is, in fact, tragic as a result of Sindri has been freely giving a lot. He himself talks about how he has given his house, his life, his work. And lastly, he gave away his brother. They have been fused collectively within the first sport, however, as is the theme with Ragnarök, by the top, Sindri needed to let go. There’s a purpose the funeral scene at all times brings tears, except for Bear McCreary’s most lovely piece serving as background.
But, compared to all of the others, just one individual’s obsessive craving to carry on to data, to seek out extra issues to carry on to, brings in regards to the finish of the world: Odin. If obsession is the mindset of holding on to one thing, Odin is nothing however an obsessive. Everything takes a backseat to his craving: his household, his lands, his realms. It isn’t any shock then that, in contrast to Kratos, Atreus, Frey, and Sindri — all of whom be taught to let go, nonetheless reluctantly — it’s Odin who dies. It is Odin who kills Thor, not Kratos.
Indeed, if ever there was a second of recognizing that Kratos has change into a greater man, it’s his refusal to kill Thor regardless of defeating him. It is, in fact, considerably ironic that Odin kills his personal baby when it was the cycle of youngsters killing their dad and mom that Kratos wished to cease. In a way, Kratos obtained his want.
Odin dies by the arms of those that let go as a result of he won’t ever be considered one of them.
The phrase “ragnarok” has been translated to imply “doom of the gods” but in addition “fate of the gods.” That is, the results of gods’ actions. It is becoming, then, that those that survive, those that thrive, are those that acknowledge the impact of their actions. Those who’re prepared to “let go” of the poison they thought they wanted to proceed.
God of War and its sequel inform a robust, lovely story. Viewing it by way of this lens — of the primary sport about tight grip and its sequel, an opened hand — helped me see this world in a brand new mild.
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