Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands, Season One, Episode Three

The race is on to see if Rheda can get enough votes to become Yarl and to that end, it's absolutely essential that Beowulf and Rate return with Slean and Than Scorann. Without Thane  Scorann's vote, there seems to be some doubt as to whether Rheda can come out ahead.  This takes Rate and Beowulf into the woods to chase down the captors.  This should have been exciting but I actually found it rather boring and disappointing.  Unfortunately, Slean lives and Thane Scorann dies but not before telling his brother Rate, that his vote goes to Rheda.  Scorann did however whisper a condition into his brother's ear which the audience is not privy to.  The problem of course is that I don't care in the slightest.

As we saw in the last episode, Koll the skinshifter has been captured.  Koll made it very clear that he did what he did to protect his family.  This means that someone figured out who and what he is and blackmailed him to destablize Herot during the time of the Moot.  The people of Herot who are either unaware of the larger plot going on or simply don't care have decided that they want justice from Sylvi, Koll's wife.  Elvina speaks beautifully in Sylvi's defense pointing out that none of them knew what Koll is, including the former Yarl, Hrothgar.  The question of course is, is Elvina sympathetic because she doesn't want to see the woman dead and her child left an orphan or does she have something to hide herself, given that she chose to strip in front of Beowulf last week instead of burning her hand to prove that she isn't Mudborn.

It's clear from the outset that Rheda wants to give Sylvi a pass and says to her people that Sylvi will be judged based on the law.  Rheda is sympathetic to the idea that Sylvi would chose to make a life with Koll, given that her former husband used to beat her and Koll took her away from all of that. I think Rheda knows all too well what it is to be a woman negotiating this hyper masculine world and how vulnerable it would have made Sylvi; however, this does not stop Rheda from tricking Sylvi's daughter into indicting her mother.  I suppose female solidarity only goes so far in the Shieldlands.

In my review last week, I pondered whether or not Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands is attempting to discuss colonization.  This week, we saw that when Brecca taunted Koll, Koll responded by making it clear that he came from a line of priests, who advised the giants, who used to rule the area. Koll is quick to say that his people were important rulers and advisers when the Shieldlanders were living in caves.  Even Sylvi accuses the Shieldlanders of being savages when she is sentenced to death.  Clearly, there's more to the Mudborn than the creatures that we have seen.  They had a society and perhaps even a rule of law.  Calling them savages and depriving them of land is simply the justification of colonization.  I am fascinated by this line and hope that it continues on.

In the other big revelation this week, we learned that Abrecan as it turns out is just like every other man we have seen thus far - power hungry.  It's Slean who figures out that the ambush which ended in the death of Scorann was orchestrated by Abrecan.  What does Slean do with this knowledge? Does he tell his mother? Why of course not.  Slean keeps this information to himself.  As I said in episode one, Slean is a weasel.

If I had but one word to describe this week's episode, I would have to say that it would be underwhelming.  I don't feel like the story is progressing at all.  We already knew that Rheda is in a tough situation and would need to negotiate a world of men determined to see her fail. Last week, Elvena was already suspicious with her little strip show.  The only thing we learned is that Abrecan is not to be trusted and that the Mudborn had a functioning society before the Shieldlanders arrived. The entire episode was a stand still as far as I am concerned and with the exception of Laura Donnelly who plays Rheda, the acting was horrible.

I know that a television adaptation of the Beowulf is going to have to make some changes but was Beowulf even remotely necessary in this episode?  We have no idea what the hell motivates him. He is supposed by be a mysterious stranger and not a blank slate.   If we are supposed to be rooting for Beowulf, this needs to change and it needs to happen very soon.  In fact, while they're at it, the characterisation needs to develop yesterday.  I don't know who these characters are and at this point, I really don't care.  Beowulf should be epic and thus far, it's anything but. Finally, where the hell is Grendel?