The punches begin, and even after twenty of Drott’s best, Thorfinn is still standing. Among the warriors watching, only Wulf realizes that Thorfinn is subtly positioning himself so that the punches don’t impact his core. Einar believes this to be madness and wants to stop it, but won’t interfere; he owes that to his friend.
When Snake arrives with Olmar, Thorfinn is distracted enough not to make the right move, and the thirty-second punch lands true, sending him flying to the ground. Snake tells Thorfinn there’s no need for this; if talking could have solved this conflict, they would have done so. Thorfinn disagrees: Did they really exhaust all avenues of conversation?
The answer, of course, is no. When Canute’s men raised their swords, Ketil’s men raised them in turn. But what follows is one of Thorfinn’s best and most noble and badass moments to date.
He stands back up, points at Drott, tells him his punches hurt less than bug bites, and tells him to hurry up with the remaining sixty-eight, as he’s a busy man with things to do.
Drott isn’t angry. Instead, he regards his indomitable opponent with the respect he deserves, and gets back to the punching. Snake moves to intervene, but Einar grabs his arm and tightens his grip. Thorfinn must be allowed to see this through.
The sun is low by the time Drott reaches one hundred punches, and by then, he is so exhausted they have no power at all. The hundredth is merely a gentle tap against the grostesquely swollen but still-standing Thorfinn’s chest. Drott falls to one knee and apologizes to Thorfinn for doubting him. He is a true warrior.
Drott then begs Wulf to let Thorfinn have an audience with the king. Under the cirsumstances, Wulf cannot refuse this request, and has the other solders make way for Thorfinn and Einar. Whatever else happens from here, Thorfinn and his “first method” has prevailed. He has shown everyone present that 100 punches from their strongest man aren’t enough to break his will.
Canute hears Wulf’s plea and grudgingly allows Thorfinn to approach, respecting his men’s feelings. Canute begins their talk by remarking that Thorfinn must hate him for enslaving him. However, Thorfinn offers the king his gratitude for sparing his life after he struck Danish royalty.
He also apologizes for giving Canute the scar on his face, and Wulf puts the remaining pieces together: despite being so young and tiny, this is the Thorfinn who is a match for that man-beast Thorkell himself. Canute acknowledges Thorfinn’s words as commendable, but when asked to leave the farm, he must refuse.
He explains that Ketil began this dispute, while his son killed ten of his men, and then Ketil refused demands to surrender and grossly overestimated his ragtag army’s strength.
All these things are true, but they are also excuses. We know that because we were in Canute’s private chambers when he decided he needed to make an example of the landowners and requisition farmland to feed his armies. Despite not having been privy to that context, Einar still calls Canute out for what he is: nothing but a thief, no better than a Viking chiefs who raized his village and killed his family.
Canute admits that is true; he’s not only a Viking Chief, but Chief of Chiefs. Thorfinn asks him if he still intends to build a paradise for those who suffer. But just as Thorfinn changed in the last four years into someone like his father who rejects war as nothing but a waste, the past four years have hardened Canute into someone who embraces war as a tool.
Like a farmer tills a land with a hoe, he shall till the very world itself with his vast armies of Vikings. Only then, when he has the power to defeat a God who has denied happiness to all who walk the earth, will he truly be able to build the paradise he envisions.
As Canute gestures for his men to menacingly surround Thorfinn and Einar, it is clear these two men, once boys, share the same dream of paradise but hold diametrically opposed philosophies for achieving it.
Having spoken his piece (and letting Einar speak his as well), the only two options remaining for Thorinn are to die right there on that beach, or flee and live until such a time as his arguments are persuasive enough to convince Canute, or some other king, that war solves and achieves nothing.