Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands Episode 1 Review

“Some say heroes are born, others are made.  I only ever knew one…”

Beowulf is based on a legendary English poem.  In fact the oldest surviving long poem in Old English dating between the 8th century and 11th century.  The author is unknown but the events described in the poem have been dated by archaeologists to Scandinavia of the 6th century.

The poem details 3 very specific battles in the life of Beowulf, so the series will definitely be taking liberties with both characters and stories so they can expand it to not just a 13 part season but to, theoretically, many after that as well.

Kieran Bew as Beowulf 2

When the show begins we are thrown in to the scenes mid-action.  First, when a young Beowulf (Jack Hollington) and his father are being pursued by giant horned trolls that resemble a mix of goblin and satyr.  Secondly when, not 4 minutes later, we meet an adult Beowulf (Kieran Bew) and his apparently new companion, Breca (Gísli Örn Garðarsson), whom they make mention he saved from a mob, on their way to see an old friend of his and come across a dead man.  Killed by something unknown to Beowulf.

The whole feel of the show is exactly what the creators wanted, a mix of “Game of Thrones” and “Lord of the Rings”.  You sometimes feel you are watching a history of the Rohan vs a series called Beowulf.  There are even several sets in the village that look taken directly from the Rohan village in the Two Towers.  Which is to say sets, costumes, scenery and cinematography are all thorough and beautiful, epic and movie worthy.   The script, while not overly original, has some truly clever moments and dialogue to it, and I am especially appreciating all the strong women characters.  From the queen, Rheda (Joanne Whalley), to the healer Elvina (Laura Donnelly), to Lila (Lolita Chakrabarti), the owner of the smithy and her daughter, they all give the impression of being able to handle themselves in this rough world full of murder, mayhem and trolls.

Joanne Whalley as RhedaLaura Donnelly as Elvina

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beowulf is wrongly accused of the murder of an old friend shortly after arriving in Herot.  He was banished (unofficially) as a child years ago, and the new Thane and her son do not remember him fondly and are eager to place judgement upon him.  But death is not so simple in the Shieldlands.

Based on the legendary English poem over a thousand years old, Beowulf tells the story of a disillusioned and damaged hero. The 13-episode, one hour drama will chronicle Beowulf’s return to his home Herot, to make peace with his past.  Unwittingly in search of a cause to believe in and a community to fight for, Beowulf finds himself wrongly accused of murder and hunts down the true perpetrator to avenge the death of his fellow kinsmen.  Beowulf becomes Herot’s tough but unconventional hero, responsible for upholding the law and protecting the town from danger. The last of a dying breed, Beowulf is a man capable of shaping the world around him by his actions and force of will.  While this may seem like a familiar tale, Beowulf unearths the full story of the complicated, driven man behind the lore.

beowulf

The series stars Kieran Bew (“Da Vinci’s Demons”) as Beowulf; multi-award-winning actor William Hurt (“Damages”) as Hrothgar; acclaimed actress Joanne Whalley (“Wolf Hall”) as Rheda; Ed Speleers (“Downton Abbey”) as  Slean, Laura Donnelly (“Outlander”) as Elvina and David Ajala (“Black Box”) as Rate. “Beowulf” is produced by ITV Studios with Tim Haines and Katie Newman serving as Executive Producers along with James Dormer (“Strike Back”), who writes the series. It is distributed internationally by ITV Studios Global Entertainment.

Beowulf premieres Saturday, January 23rd at 10pm ET/PT.

 

Favorite quotes from Ep 1:

You don’t think I’m good for it?” – Breca

Does being judged by your appearance trouble you?” – Smithy

 

You don’t think a woman can rule?” – Elvina

Many do.  Few are seen to.” – Beowulf

 

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