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Series / Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands

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Beowulf is a British epic fantasy drama television series from ITV, consisting of 12 episodes and created by James Dormer, Tim Haines, and Katie Newman. Dormer wrote the series based on the poem Beowulf and executive produced along with Haines and Newman, while Stephen Smallwood produced the series. The series began airing in the United Kingdom on 3 January 2016.

The story is a re-imagining of themes and characters from the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf, but with new characters and storylines added.

Beowulf is ITV's second major fantasy-based show of the 2015-16 season following Jekyll and Hyde (2015). Both series were shown in early-evening Sunday slots, fueling controversy about their violent content. Neither achieved its expected ratings, and both were cancelled, probably in favour of more "mundane" contemporary or historical dramas.

This series contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Location Change: The show changed the setting from Sixth Century Northern Europe to a fictional land called The Shieldlands. This is only the first of many major deviations from the original tale.
  • Alien Blood: The various types of Mudborn creatures are bound together by their black blood which is said to be a result of them being born from the black earth of the Shieldlands.
  • The Alliance: The Shieldlands are bound by one which includes Herot, Bregan, the Varni, the Wisdeth, the Banning and the Mere.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Herot is saved, Abrecan is dead and the Wulfings are defeated, but Breca and many others have been slain, Slean is still dishonoured and being influenced by his wife to overthrow his mother, Razzak and his army of Mudborn are still at large and making their plans for war against the Shieldlands, and Elvina and Grendel have been driven into exile and are likely now making their own plans. Also one in real life, given the series' cancellation.
  • Black Vikings: A whole tribe (the Varni), plus numerous other black or Asian characters.
  • The Cavalry: The Varni's arrival at the last moment to help drive off Abrecan and the Wulfings. Also, Grendel showing up to save his mother.
  • Duel to the Death: Varr fights and kills his half-brother Argat in one in the eleventh episode.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: The Mudborn creature following Elvina seems to be genuinely affectionate towards her, as she seems to be the only human it doesn't instinctively try to harm. Justified, because the creature is Grendel, and she is its mother.
  • Everyone Can See It: Slean is not good at hiding his feelings for Elvina. Not good. At all.
  • Fantastic Racism: The vast majority of humans within the Shieldlands clearly despise the Mudborn creatures, viewing them as monsters.
  • Great Offscreen War: Humanity's conquered the Shieldlands and overthrew the Mudborn hundreds of years ago.
  • Interspecies Romance: Slean is revealed to have known that Elvina was a skinshifter all along, yet his love for her does not waver.
  • In-Series Nickname: The Warig know Beowulf as "the Defiler" after he burnt their burial grounds. They also refer to their prophet leader, the skinshifter known as Razzak, as "Red Tongue".
  • A Minor Kidroduction: The first episode opens with Beowulf as a child losing his father to a troll which he amazingly slays by himself before being adopted by Hrothgar. We next see him as an adult returning to Herot, though glimpses of his life in Herot are seen through flashbacks.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Kela poisoned her sister to ensure that she was the one that married Slean. Slightly unusual, in that this wasn't driven by love or even lust - it was to ensure a Political Marriage.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: In episode 10, Beowulf ultimately decides to save Herot's pet troll, who has escaped from Herot, from being killed by a wild troll. He charges at the trolls with his sword and... cut to commercial break, he is next seen delivering Herot's troll back home.
  • Old Soldier: Though not much is seen of him, Hrothgar lived to a fairly long age and was renowned as a great warrior up to his death. Gorrik may be an elderly man twice Beowulf's age, but that doesn't stop him from making short work of the warrior.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: The death of Beowulf's father led to the boy being adopted by Hrothgar. In the present day, Hrothgar's passing by the time Beowulf returns to the city forms sows the escalating events throughout the series starting with his succession by his wife Rheda as Thane of Herot, who he chose over his son Slean, denying him his birthright. His death also leaves the position of Jarl, chief Thane of the Shieldlands, vacant, a role which Rheda seeks herself.
  • Stalker with a Crush: The Mudborn stalking Elvina seems to be this at first... until she reveals that it is her son, Grendel.
  • Translation Convention: For convenience's sake, everyone in this world of Norse mythology speaks perfect English.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Elvina gives Beowulf one for his prejudice against her being a skinshifter, in spite of the fact she saved him from being murdered by the Warig by revealing herself.
  • Wham Line: Elvina gets two in the final episode regarding the Mudborn creature that has been stalking her all season.
    Elvina: He has a name, the one I gave him...Grendel.
Elvina: He is my son.
  • Wham Shot: Everyone is left in shock when Elvina reveals herself to be a skinshifter.