Beowulf: Return To The Shieldlands S01E03 “Episode 3” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on ITV 1, Sundays
Writer: Guy Burt
Director: Julian Holmes
Essential Plot Points:
- Skinshifter Koll’s wife, Sylvi, goes on trial for knowingly marrying a mudborn.
- Lagrathorn taunts Rheda that she doesn’t have the guts to order an execution.
- But Rheda tricks the evidence she needs from Koll’s step-daughter and sentences Sylvi to death by smelter’s wife (no, really).
- Angered at the news, Koll escapes and goes on a rampage. He’s killed by Abrecan, but in the confusion Sylvi and her daughter escape with Elvina.
- Meanwhile, in the woods, Scorran and Slean are being taken by their captors to some caves where they’re to be handed to a guy named Vlade in exchange for money.
- But Beowulf and Rate save them, killing Vlade (apparently) in the process. Scorran dies too, but not before he’s told Rate that his vote in Thane Factor must go to Rheda. Rate isn’t happy about this, and Scorran whispers some “condition” pertaining to his vote in his brother’s ear, then carks it.
- Slean recognises Vlade and, when back at Herot, confronts Abrecan in secret. He says he knows that Vlade was Abrecan’s man and realises that Abrecan has been orchestrating things behind the scenes so that he can become Jarl without being seen to make a move. He killed Koll partly to stop him from revealing the truth.
If you rate TV in terms of scuffles per hour then Beowulf episode three scored high. On any other scale of measurement, though, it was flailing badly. After a couple of middling episodes that showed some sparks of promise, episode three decided to stamp out any sign of those sparks and go big on all the dull and cringey stuff instead.
So back at base we get possibly the single most unexciting trial in TV history while down the woods we get lots of trudging, some occasional running and blokes growling at each other. There’s even a totally pointless escape and recapture. Admittedly the stunt with the tied-together Slean and Scorran is impressive but it takes the plot nowhere.
Beowulf and Rate banter a bit but it’s hardly sparkling. Beowulf at one point is reduced to providing Rate with punchlines to try to make him sound like a witty, urbane warrior. It doesn’t really work and simply highlights the fact that the episode is seriously lacking in Breca/Beowulf banter, one of the best things in the series up till now.
Oh yeah. Breca. He’s back in Herot being a prat. Okay he’s been a bit of a prat before but an amusing, roguish prat. Here he’s an odious prat, goading Koll with all the wit, charm and sensitivity of Donald Trump. That’s not just a waste of a character, that’s character assassination.
The trial of Koll’s wife, meanwhile, is a weird sideshow when you would have thought the townsfolk would be baying for Koll’s blood more then her’s. It seems like a lot of screen time devoted to something it’s difficult to get excited about, and you can only assume it’s a means to an end: a device to reposition certain characters like Abrecan and Elvina.
There’s such an air of listlessness and boredom about Beowulf this week it’s difficult to believe the show’s only three episodes old and not 33. At this stage it should be all guns blazing trying to dazzle us with reasons why it’s new and different and essential to watch. Instead it feels like so, so many things we’ve seen before, using storytelling techniques that are as old as the poem it’s based on.
Thankfully, the trailer for next week looks a lot more interesting. Because we’re still holding out for some of that promise to be fulfilled.
- Although it would be nice to have a few more monsters (because they’re far more interesting than the human adversaries) the way the series uses the monsters in such a matter-of-fact fashion is still one of the best parts of the show. Such as when Beowulf and Rate stumble across a Troll scavenging dead bodies and they don’t bat an eyelid; or their amusement at the brazenness of the cheeky warig. It helps makes this feel like a world where monsters are as commonplace as deers or foxes.
- Good to see Rheda not wimping out and ordering the execution.
- The statues outside the cave were nicely sculpted… oh, okay we’re stretching to find nice things to say already.
- Seemingly endless trudging through woods with an added pointless escape-and-capture scene to really make things dull.
- The most unexciting TV trial ever?
- Lagrathorn is too much of an oaf to make a believable threat.
- Koll’s escape and rampage is laughably poor, with Huskarla seemingly throwing themselves out of his way as he approaches them. Maybe he has really bad BO.
- Rate and Scorran speak in far too middle-class accents to be scary warriors.
- Breca has had a charm by-pass operation between episodes.
And The Random:
- “Where I come from, we have a name for scum like you.” But it’s clearly either not PC enough or not pre-watershed enough to actually be uttered out loud.
- Varr’s hair changes from pointy top knot to a loop between the trial scene the next scene when he arrives just in time to stop Rheda having to use a knife on Lagrathorn to prove that no means no.
- Somebody has clearly tricked this horse with the old “boot polish over the end of the binoculars” gag.
- Why do Beowulf and Rate suddenly decide to have a “Who can run most like a girl?’ competition?
- Oh, and can we be all smug for a moment for being completely right about Abrecan in the first two review? No? Oh, okay then…
Review by Dave Golder