Despite no lack of ambition (and a reputed £17 million budget), Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands proves a sore disappointment
“I was beginning to think you wouldn’t come”
Looking back at my review of Episode 1 of Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands, there really was a naive hope on my part that this would be something of a success, as ITV lunged for a slice of the epic fantasy TV market. But lawksamercy it hasn’t been good.
Cleaving so closely to the Game of Thrones template (seriously, those opening credits…) does the show no favours at all, as they can’t hope to compete with the meticulousness of the years of George RR Martin’s world-building or the heft of HBO’s cinematic-sized budget.
Instead, the comparisons are more apt with the BBC’s Merlin and I don’t even mean that as a dis, more a recognition of the realities of what British terrestial TV can achieve. But caught between these two stools, Beowulf never really found its happy place.
A lack of any meaningful characterisation undermines everything, motivations appear and disappear in the blink of an eye, and there’s an inordinate amount of stupidity from so many characters, the writers seemingly unable to weave together anything resembling momentum or a plot.
Given the talent in the company (the Bew! the Cowan! the Garðarsson!), it is hard not to be disappointed by something that ends up so boring but ultimately there’s nothing saving Beowulf. No wonder its five-series plans got cancelled within just a few weeks of the show starting.