Vinland Saga (Season 2), Episode 5: Vinland Saga is an action-adventure drama anime grounded in historical fiction and rich with Viking culture. Fans of anime and manga such as Attack on Titan, Dororo, and Berserk should feel right at home in its brutal, gory world.

Vinland Saga (Season 2), Episode 5 Recap:

Episode 5: “The Path of Blood”

The episode begins with a group of soldiers on the move, heading to places unknown, and their leader is none other than Canute himself. The scene then transitions into a flashback, taking us into late Season 1, where Askeladd draws his sword at King Sweyn. It is shown in its entirety, with a visibly shaken Sweyn trying to talk him down with promises of forgiveness for these actions. In return, Askeladd tells the king that ‘Askeladd’ is merely a nickname and that his real name is Lucius Artorius Castus. He then proclaims himself the rightful king of Britannia and beheads King Sweyn.

We then return to the present, with Canute at the helm and marching towards a still unknown destination, following which the scene transitions into a map. The narrator explains that in the year 1014, the Danes’ grip on England began to slip with the death of King Sweyn at the hands of Askeladd. We are then treated to a brief yet massive battle, with the narrator saying that the two countries went to war again and that Canute succeeded King Sweyn in his command of the Danish Viking Army in England.

However, things didn’t go as planned for Canute as Ethelred II (pronounced “the second”) came back from his exile in Normandy once word of King Sweyn’s death reached him. He also claimed to be the King of England, leading to a bloody, drawn-out civil war that has taken its toll on the people, who are tired of the never-ending warfare.

After this explanation, we see an assassination attempt on Ethelred, with his drink being poisoned and only discovered as a dog taste-tested it and died instantly. Although the man in charge of the drink pleads for his innocence and then begs for mercy, it is implied that he is executed.

Canute’s march continues alongside one of his advisors named Gunnar as they ride through a ruined and burnt field. Gunnar comments that it will take a long time for Mercia, “the gem of the Midlands,” to recover as the two witness its current state with their own eyes. Canute replies that they shouldn’t speak as though they were uninvolved, saying that it was their own forces who devastated Mercia.

They then observe the soldiers of Canute’s army dragging or carrying women with them, and Canute asks Gunnar what they are doing. Gunnar explains that they are pillaging the area and looking for women amongst the beggars so that they can sell them for profit. Canute coldly reminds him that he expressly prohibited that and orders that the perpetrators be beheaded and their severed heads displayed on spikes, presumably as a warning to the other soldiers.

Gunnar attempts to dissuade his king by stating it is customary to pillage and loot during the war, but Canute states that soldiers lacking discipline are not his soldiers at all and gives the order again. Defeated, Gunnar gives the order as commanded. The two then see Floki, another of Canute’s vassals, and Canute asks if the preparations have been made. Floki affirms they have and believes that Canute needn’t have bothered coming himself. Canute says that he was nearby to observe the war effort as it is and will meet them himself. Floki calls the man that Canute wants to meet, the Earl of Mercia, a coward and that he isn’t worth meeting.

However, Canute states that a man’s character and his worth are two completely different things and that he had an additional reason for coming. At this point, a warrior serving Canute, Thorkell, is seen racing toward him in anger. Canute says that he is there to calm him down, as Floki and his men would be unable to do so.

Thorkell, a battle-loving maniac is upset that the battle was stopped and that he hates it when that happens even more than he hates frogs. This comically confuses everyone who hears it. Canute congratulates Thorkell as Mercia officially requested a ceasefire for peace negotiations. Thorkell furiously responds that a battle isn’t over unless the enemy leader has been killed. Canute tries to reason with him, asking him to look at the bigger picture, but Thorkell responds by stating his love for fighting and war and not caring about anything else.

Vinland Saga (Season 2), Episode 5

This statement makes Floki speak up and request Thorkell’s aid in the fight against Ethelred’s son, but Thorkell declares that only he decides where to go and whom to fight. He reminds Canute that he decided to observe Canute when he first chose to follow him, seeing what he would do and who he would become. According to him, Canute is a nobody who isn’t even the King of England. Thorkell continues that war is unavoidable and that, like Askeladd, he has to create his path with blood and iron.

Thorkell then departs, and Gunnar advises Canute to not let him to talk to him like that in front of the soldiers, which Canute brushes off by pointing out the truth of what Thorkell said. He voices his envy of Thorkell and his way of life, believing it must be great to live like that.

Canute then meets the Earl of Mercia, Eadric, who offers a total of 8000 pounds in gold and silver for Canute and his army leaving Mercia. Eadric tries to convince Canute to agree, leading to him asking if he was giving him Danegeld, which was a land tax levied by Ethelred to raise funds for protection against Danish invaders. Eadric asks for an answer, and Canute responds by saying it is cheap. Canute steps onto the pile of treasure, and the Earl claims that they are favorable terms to withdraw.

But this is denied by Canute, who tells the Earl that he is telling the Bretwalda (an Old English term for kings who held dominion over kingdoms beyond his own) to take gold and leave his own territory. He then asks if 8000 pounds is worth such a request. Canute them reminds Eadric that he is the king who came here to quell a rebellion, not for treasure.

Eadric’s son loses his patience and angrily declares that their king isn’t Canute but Ethelred. Canute muses that there is indeed another who claims to be king and then asks if Ethelred has given his blessings for this deal. When Eadric reveals he hasn’t, Canute further asks him if Ethelred would forgive one of his own subjects for abandoning the war against the enemy to save their own landings. Floki and Gunnar, who have been watching silently until now, comment on the cruelty of the question and how it is very much like Canute.

Canute says that the kingdom lacks order as there are two kings, and for there to be order, one of them must die. He names Ethelred a coward for fleeing from the previous war, forsaking both his people and his throne, and asks Eadric if it is foolish to leave the future of the country in his hands. Eadric asks if he is being told to betray Ethelred, to which Canute says that he has already betrayed him. He then asks Eadric for his help in getting rid of Ethelred, as Eadric was a loyal servant for a long time and would know his weaknesses. Thus, Canute’s terms are Ethelred’s head in exchange for leaving Mercia.

This proposed deal greatly angers Eadric, and he calls off the ceasefire, saying that they will fight down to the last soldier against a man like Canute. Canute then tells Floki that the Earl has a backbone after all, and Floki wonders if they should test it. They take Eadric outside the hut, where a massive bonfire has been erected. Canute orders for it to be lighted, and it functions as a signal fire for some unknown purpose, prompting Eadric to ask what it is for.

In response, Canute is silent, and Eadric’s son frantically notices similar signal fires in the distance. Canute then says that this is what happens when one fights him and asks the Earl to imagine what it would be like if Mercia burnt to ashes, and boldly claims he could do it if he wanted to. A terrified Eadric drops to his knees in shock, and Canute restates his terms: Ethelred’s head for peace.

The scene then cuts to Ethelred, with the narrator’s voiceover resuming and informing us that in April of 1016, Ethelred died due to a supposed illness. His son, Edmund, succeeded him and fought well against Canute but also died due to an illness just seven months later. Though not stated, it is clear that Canute was behind the “illnesses” by poisoning them.

A sullen Thorkell is then seeing with another soldier, who says that conquering England took King Sweyn ten years, yet Canute did it in just three. He then adds that Canute has officially been accepted as King of England by a council and that his coronation is next year. Thorkell does not wish to talk of Canute since that ruins his appetite.

The episode ends with Canute taking up the mantle of King of England at his coronation in 1018.

Vinland Saga (Season 2), Episode 5 Ending, Explained:

Canute has matured a lot since he was first introduced, and this is obvious in both his appearing older and more masculine as well as how he rules. He is now ruthless, not only threatening his enemies with total annihilation but executing even his own men for not following orders. That same ruthlessness and cunning sees him assassinate other claimants to the throne and become king.

Since Canute is king, it does give us the expectation of peace, at least for a time. Given the nature of the anime, no doubt some enemy will show up on the battlefield or in the king’s own court in time.

It will be interesting to see where Thorfinn and Einar, excluded in this episode, fit into the narrative going forward, as they can’t toil away cutting trees forever. Thorfinn is slowly regaining his will to live, while Einar seems to have accepted Thorfinn and his past, at least to an extent, despite nearly killing him in his sleep. The curious relationship between the two should form the core of much of the season as it evolves with time. The reaction of the two, especially Thorfinn, will be intriguing once they find out that Canute has become King of England.

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Vinland Saga TV Series (2019- ) Links: IMDb
Vinland Saga TV Series (2019- ) Cast: Yûto Uemura, Naoya Uchida, Mike Haimoto
Where to watch Vinland Saga

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