This review contains spoilers.
The action took a step up in this episode, as the stakes have started to become more personal for our heroes, resulting in a more tense and dramatic hour than we’ve seen so far. The addition of Spiral’s Grégory Fitoussi as a charismatic ‘mud-born’ leader also kicks things up a gear, starting to bring the various disparate groups of ‘mud-born’ together, allowing them to present a real threat to Herot.
It’s finally revealed that Elvina is a skin-shifter, a development hinted at as far back as Episode 2, making the revelation more of a relief than a real surprise, but a welcome one nonetheless. Her interactions with Beowulf in this episode also provided the most development his character has had so far; his backstory is a little by-the-numbers, but having a hero who has no problem with enslaving sentient humanoids and can’t understand that the enslaving might have been the reason they were angry is a fairly brave and reasonably interesting choice. His inability to either kill or accept Elvina is also unsurprising, but offers an opportunity to see him do a little more than stand around waving a sword, and finally gives actor Kieran Bew something to work with.
We also see the effect of Elvina’s supposed death on Slean, who continues to be one of the most interesting characters on the show, especially now that he seems to have stopped flip-flopping between different sides. He and Kela seem to be getting closer, and he’s a pretty good leader of his men. We see more of the guards in this episode as well, whose red cloaks may be designed to hide the blood, but they also look distinctly Roman-like, which is a nice touch; it increases the sense of them as an army unit, and it even makes a strange sort of sense, since we can imagine that the Roman Empire or equivalent in this fantasy world has only recently fallen (the Old English poem was transmitted orally in the centuries immediately following the fall of the Roman Empire in Western Europe).
Breca returned, but his story still feels somehow unfinished. Whether this is because there is more to know or a flaw in the story-telling remains to be seen, but there’s a good chance it’s the former. His scenes with Lila and Vishka showed a sweet chemistry and added more depth to their relationship that we’ve seen so far, and since he has come back with important information and will need to work with Beowulf, there’s certainly hope that we’ll finally get to know him a bit better in future episodes.
This was an enjoyable episode, with a good sense of dramatic tension and a decent payoff. Invigorated by Fitoussi’s slippery antagonist, the back half of this series is looking like a pretty interesting prospect. I’m still rooting for Slean and Kela, though.
Read Juliette’s review of the previous episode, here.