Beowulf: Return To The Shieldlands episode 8 review

Slean and Kela's relationship continues to be one of the strongest elements in Beowulf: Return To The Shieldlands...

This review contains spoilers.

This episode was a marked improvement on the last, with three main plot threads, all of which were fairly engaging. In part, this may be because none of them focused on the lead character, who is still utterly bland (though we did find out he likes apples in this episode, so that’s something).

The weakest story was Breca’s, but this was at least in part because that story is still unfinished, and next week may provide a stronger resolution that improves the beginning by association. One of the problems with Breca and Lila’s ongoing arc is that we have almost no context for their relationship – we hardly ever see them together and when we do, they are rarely talking about anything other than the plot. However, we have seen more of Breca and Vishka together, and the level of affection both Lila and Vishka appear to feel for Breca even in the face of the accusations against him is rather sweet. Their story also crosses over with Abrecan’s towards the end of the episode, linking up the otherwise rather disconnected threads of the story, which helps to hold the whole thing together.

Abrecan’s story gives his character a little more depth by demonstrating his drive and determinism, along with the fact that he really does care about the people of Bregan, even if he is dragging them into an unnecessary war. Both his physical achievement catching the fish (which seem to be some kind of salmon, just given a funny name), and his charisma and ability to stir up the crowd make him appear a much more serious opponent than he has up to this point. Having said that, his “woman”, who it turns out is his mistress rather than his wife, continues to manipulate him by managing to turn his anger towards her back onto Rheda, leading to a major plot development, as he has finally come out and declared all out war on his sister – it will be interesting to see where this leads in the following episode.

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The strongest plot thread in this episode was the marriage of Slean and Kela, which continues to look rather promising. Kela demonstrates early in this episode that she is the only character other than Varr with any level of intelligence, as she realises she is about to be poisoned and sets a trap for the poisoner. The real core of the episode, though (following a somewhat unnecessary poor man’s gladiatorial show), is the wedding ceremony.

Herot weddings have a lot of peculiarities, clearly designed to fit this particular plot development, as bride and groom are required to speak the truth in front of significant stones and each other, but out of earshot of anyone else. This, and a well-timed assassination attempt, provides the perfect opportunity for Slean (who has changed sides yet again, abandoning Abrecan a mere episode after swearing to fight with him) and Kela to come clean to each other about their past misdeeds, and to confirm to the audience that Kela did kill her sister (not in the less direct way I had initially assumed, by withholding medicine, but by actively poisoning her).

All this leads to the pair developing a much better understanding of each other, and resolving to work together, and with no one else. For a moment, my heart sank as the script actually quoted a line from Game Of Thrones – “We don’t choose who we love” – but the series pulled it back by putting its own twist on the sentiment, as Kela continues by adding, “or who loves us, but we can choose who we make our way through this world with”. The added part about the importance of being loved as well as loving is interesting, and her offer to make their way together, regardless of whether they feel romantically attracted to each other, is a solid argument and would be rather sweet if they weren’t plotting the deaths of half of Slean’s family.

Meanwhile, the lead character once again carries out a politically sensitive conversation within earshot of someone who should not hear it. This time, there is a curtain in the way and he thinks that she is asleep, but this is no excuse, especially as he follows it up by having equally audible sex behind the same curtain. Then he kicks his friend out of town without pausing to ask if there is any more to the story that the friend did not want to reveal in court. It’s getting difficult not to root for Slean and Kela at this point…

Read Juliette’s review of the previous episode, here.