Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Beowulf Return to the Shieldlands, Season One, Episode Four

It's time for the vote to decide who will be the next Jarl.  Rheda is not the least bit certain that the vote will go her way and is worried that should it not, she will be forced to fight to the death.  The only thing that Rheda has determined is that no matter what happens on this day, she will emerge victorious and claim the title of Jarl.  This determination leads to an unexpected alliance.  It seems that while Rheda is not willing to tie herself to a man for the sake of power, she is not above forcing Slean to marry.  Rheda does this with the full knowledge that Slean is in love with Elvina.  Later, Rheda justifies her decision to Beowulf claiming that that she has seen the way that Elvina looks at him and it's certainly not the way that she looks at Slean.

Slean does have one card to play.  He knows that the traitor is actually his uncle Abrecan.  Instead of coming clean with this fact, Slean decides instead to blame Rate and his people.  How this makes any possible sense is beyond me.  At any rate, as far as Slean is concerned, Abrecan now owes him one and Rheda got to have her show of strength by pushing Rate and his people out of the alliance. Abrecan however makes it clear that he is better suited to ensure that Slean becomes Jarl than Rheda. The only that's clear thus far is that Slean is clearly hedging his bets.

To complete her position, Rheda must now send a dowry of swords and so she tasks Beowulf and Elvina with this task.  Naturally. Brecca tags along as Beowulf's second.  After a small run in with Vishka. in which she claims that Brecca is not man enough to be her mother, Brecca is irked to say the least.  Really, for Vishka, this is about the fact that despite being a good fighter her gender keeps her from having any excitement at all.  Vishka decides to follow along behind and not having any experience, stumbles into a sacred burial ground and takes a sacred item. It seems that Vishka took on more than she could handle.  This leads to Vishka being injured and the crew having to go on the run for the offence she unintentionally committed.

On one hand, I think that the fact that Vishka got into so much trouble and is injured evidences that she lacks real life experience.  No matter how skilled she is with a sword, nothing makes up for that. On the other hand, it also feels a bit like punishment for Vishka daring to step outside of her gender role and seek adventure, rather than being content to just listen to the stories and celebrate the male heroes that she is presented.  I hope that as this little journey moves forward,  Vishka will have a chance to show her skills beyond weapons forging.

Now that Rheda is officially Jarl, she is not content to follow Abrecan's lead and this pisses him off to the point that he gets snippy with her and has to apologise.  Rheda is forced to make it clear to her brother that she intends to rule.  For her, this means making a set of standard rules which all will follow.  This will take power away from the Thanes, who are used to presiding over justice in their territories.  It's a bold move considering that her rule hangs by the balance and she has yet to solidify anything, I'm not certain it's the wisest.  At this point, I have really become a fan of Rheda.  She is a strong character who refuses to hide behind a man and intends to leave her own mark.

One of the themes that has been running through Beowulf Return to the Shieldlands is colonization. As aforementioned, Vishka stumbled in what appears to be holy land and has a huge consequence to pay for it. Vishka's actions make it clear that though the Shieldlands have been claimed, the land doesn't belong to them. They are colonizers and don't have respect for the spiritual beliefs of others. Beowulf willfully burned the holy space and watched as the beings screamed their pain and torment. Not only did he do it willfully, he justified it as a means to an end and seemed to take a small amount of pleasure in his actions.  The colonization theme has been subtle to date but it seems to be a thread that the writers are determined to follow for which I am glad because it makes up the most interesting part of Beowulf Return to the Shieldlands.

I would like to name this episode where is Grendel.  I cannot believe that we are four episodes in and have not officially been introduced to Grendel.  All that we have had thus far is political intrigue. Other than having a character named Beowulf, I really don't recognize Beowulf Return to the Shieldlands as having much to do with the original poem. Should we put a missing person's report for Grendel?  I do however wonder if the mudborn which seems obsessed with Elvina will turn out to be Grendel? That's about the only hint we have had so far.  Is Elvina in fact mudborn?

I care little for the political intrigue in Beowulf Return to the Shieldlands; it's obvious and ridiculous. I wonder if they are ever going to get to the heart of the story?  Beowulf Return to the Shieldlands is at times beautiful to watch in terms of the cinematography but that's not enough to make up for a plodding plot and characters who remain two dimensional despite this being the fourth episode.