This review contains spoilers.
This week’s Beowulf: Return To The Shieldlands introduced us to some significant new characters. The most important of these going forward with the series is surely Slean’s new bride, Kela.
At first, it looked like we were in for an angsty story about star-crossed lovers Mara and Rowan, and their attempts to extract Mara from her marriage to Slean, as promised by her father (played by David Bradley, in what is surely a deliberate casting gag). In the end, however, their story was largely immaterial to the main plot, as Mara’s sister Kela appears to have deliberately allowed her sister to die by withholding the medicine our heroes fought so hard to get, so that she could take her place and escape the sand-worm-plagued Isle of Dunes to marry the son of Herot’s Thane.
It will be interesting to see what effect her arrival has on Slean and his ever-revolving loyalties. Still trying to hold his uncle in his back pocket (if those rather nice tunics of theirs have pockets), Slean is nevertheless no more willing to be a pawn of his uncle than of his mother, to whom he showed rather more affection than usual this week. He also revealed a hitherto unknown skill for blacksmithing and, more importantly, a willingness to muck in and get things done that showed him in a rather better light than he has appeared in recent weeks. The character may yet be redeemable, though as long as he continues to try to play double agent between his mother and uncle, he will remain a difficult character to watch; not evil or unpleasant enough to love to hate, but far too unpleasant to like and root for.
Throwing a ruthless and ambitious fiancée into the mix may yet be the making of Slean as a character. At the very least, it may force him to establish some loyalties and show us what kind of person he is. Will he work out what sort of girl he is marrying? And if so, will he be horrified and spurn her, or will he embrace his dark side and plot with her? Either way, the combination promises to give us a bit more insight into his character than we currently have – if, that is, anyone in Herot becomes aware of just how cold she can be (it may not be a coincidence that Slean’s on-off girlfriend Elvina is the most likely to put two and two together on that score, having seen how well everyone but Mara recovered from the fever).
Beyond giving us an intriguing new character, the trip to the Isle of Dunes also offered up some more beautiful location shooting. Although the writing on this series can be a little bland and obvious (hearing Breca say, “What can possibly go wrong?” at the episode’s opening for example), the design, direction and production values are undeniably high and the whole thing is gorgeous to look at. We must hope for a return to the Isle of Dunes at some point in the future, if only to enjoy some more of the stunning scenery.
Read Juliette’s review of the previous episode, here.