“Vinland Saga” Season 2 Has Tough Lessons In Leadership For King Canute  |  Column from the Editor 

“Vinland Saga” Season 2 is a vast departure from last season, featuring a slower pace with more focus on character development than gory anime battles. 

It’s also seen King Canute (Jesse James Grelle) — who was a prince last season — undergo a complete 180-degree turn in terms of his character. Season 1 Canute was a passive participant in his own story, with Askeladd (Kirk Thornton) being the primary decision maker and leader. Until the finale of Season 1, Canute was treated like an expensive chess piece by Askeladd to get closer to his goal of protecting his home of Wales. 

In Season 2, Canute learned how the power game for the English and Danish thrones is played, using manipulation and murder to first claim the crown of England, before poisoning his own brother whom he loved and had no quarrel with to secure the throne of Denmark. Throughout Season 2, he is visited by the apparition of his dead father, King Sweyn (Jamieson Price), whom he befriends as the only person who can understand him. 

Compared to where he was in Season 1, Season 2 Canute has fallen from grace in terms of his character. His motivations are clear and just — he wants to create order and security — but he has stained his soul through the methods by which he has implemented to achieve it. He shares more in common with the “Final Season” iteration of Eren Yeager from “Attack on Titan” than any standard Shonen protagonist. 

With the Season 2 finale on the horizon, Canute has recently learned some hard-earned and nearly deadly lessons in leadership, particularly with making unnecessary foes and underestimating the enemy. He’s become a character no one can trust, first selling Thorfinn (Aleks Le), his only friend, into slavery as a “mercy,” then betraying Thorgil (Earl Baylon), one of his most valuable members of his guard, by framing his brother in order to commandeer his father’s farm (he needs it to pay for his occupying forces in England). He will literally sell out his closest friends and family members if it means gaining an advantage in his unattainable goal of peace within his realms. 

During this week’s episode, he nearly paid with his life for his transgressions against Thorgil’s family, as the hardened military veteran took advantage of the fact that Canute didn’t take his father’s ragtag army seriously. Thorgil exploited Canute’s recall of his rear guard, very nearly killing the young king. 

As I pointed out on TiKTok, the battle for Ketil’s farm could have easily gone very differently for Canute, who assumed Ketil (Thorgil’s father) was not the same man as the famed Iron Fist Ketil he pretends to be and intentionally took a small group of Jomsvikings, who were outnumbered in the fight. Had he been wrong and went against the real Iron Fist Ketil, it’s possible he would have put himself into a situation where he was outnumbered against a superior military tactician. As it stands, it’s arguable that he faced one anyway in Thorgil. 

The one person that I think can save Canute is Thorfinn, who has pledged to follow a path of nonviolence, and who has the same goal as Canute of pursuing a peaceful world. Peaking at the manga, this appears to be the case, but we’ll see how Season 2: Episode 21 brings their long-awaited reunion to life on screen. 


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