‘Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands’ episode guide

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Kieran Bew leads the cast of ITV’s epic re-imagining of one of literature’s greatest and most enduring heroes; Beowulf.

Created by James Dormer, Tim Haines and Katie Newman, the 12-part drama series is set in the mythical Shieldlands and also stars William Hurt (Humans) as Hrothgar and Joanne Whalley (Wolf Hall) as Rheda.

Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands also stars Edward Speleers (Downton Abbey), David Ajala (Black Box), Ellora Torchia (Indian Summers), Gisli Orn Gardarsson (Spooks and Spirits), Laura Donnelly (Outlander), Elliot Cowan (Da Vinci’s Demons), Ian Puleston-Davies (Coronation Street), David Harewood (Homeland), Joe Sims (Broadchurch), Lee Boardman (The Interceptor), David Bradley (Broadchurch), Ace Bhatti (The Shadow Line), Gregory Fitoussi (Mr Selfridge), Susan Aderin (The Last Detective), Kirsty Oswald (Ripper Street), Edward Hogg (Indian Summers), Alex Price (Father Brown), Jack Rowan (Silent Witness) and Itoya Osagiede (Okora: The Prelude).


Episode 1

Sunday 3 January 2016, 7pm

Heroic legend Beowulf (Kieran Bew) gallops through the epic and mythical Shieldlands, to his childhood home of Herot, hoping to set right past wrongs.

Having left the rugged frontier town twenty years earlier, warrior come mercenary Beowulf, returns to pay his respects to ailing ward and Thane of Herot, Hrothgar (William Hurt). However, his gesture of goodwill soon opens old wounds. Beowulf is met with cold steel leaving him no choice but to fight his way into the Great Hall to be heard by new Thane Rheda (Joanne Whalley), wife of Hrothgar, whose appointment has caused controversy within Herot and afar.

With its defences fast fading, Herot falls under attack from within and when Rheda’s loyal servant is killed, Beowulf vows to remain until the enemy is routed out, justice is served and Herot is safe once more. It’s a race against time for Beowulf as he seeks to protect the town and catch the killer, be it human or beast…


Episode 2

Sunday 10 January 2016, 7pm

Herot is bustling as the town makes preparations for the Gathering at which the next ruler of the Shieldlands will be elected. With the other tribal leaders due to arrive in Herot at any moment however, the pressure mounts to catch Herot’s killer before another victim is claimed.

In a bid to buy themselves more time and avoid panic amongst the tribe leaders, Rheda (Joanne Whalley), Slean (Ed Speelers) and Abrecan (Elliott Cowan) ride out to stall them whilst Beowulf begins his search. Keen not to let Beowulf investigate alone, Koll (Alex Price), the deputy Reeve, joins him in the hunt and their enquiries lead them from the working heart of Herot, the smelting pits, to the upper echelons of the Golden Hall. The discoveries they unravel shock Beowulf and those around him to the core.

Meanwhile, a member of Rheda’s riding party – one of our heroes, fails to return to Herot, signalling further danger may be in their midst.


Episode 3

Sunday 17 January 2016, 7pm

With Slean (Ed Speleers) and Thane Scorann (David Harewood) missing, Beowulf (Kieran Bew) and Rate (David Ajala), Thane of the Varni, charge out into the forest in search of them.

But with the Gathering fast approaching and Rheda’s (Joanne Whalley) bid for leadership depending on the hope of ever-loyal Scorann’s vote, Beowulf questions whether their disappearance might be more than a simple coincidence.

Beowulf and Rate continue their journey, tracking deep into the forest and are soon reminded that the Shieldlands are a dangerous place when they are set upon by Warig creatures. With their pride firmly at stake, some one-upmanship ensues and the men race after the creature, which leads them to a bigger, more dangerous situation where their steel is put to the test.

Having overcome the Mudborn who were baying for their blood, they soon close in on Slean and Scorann’s trail, and an Outcast straggling behind the main group holding the Thane and Rheda’s son Slean captive, leads them one-step closer to uncovering the truth behind the kidnapping.

Now, almost in touching distance of their people, Beowulf hatches a plan to secure their release, however their success is not without injury or cost and one of our party pays with their life during the battle for freedom, whilst another realises the shocking truth of Herot’s traitor.


Episode 4

Sunday 24 January 2016, 7pm

The day of the Gathering. The fate of the Shieldlands lies moments away, but having lost some of her closest allies, Rheda’s (Joanne Whalley) chances of becoming leader of these great realms and thus preventing civil war looks bleak and her worries escalate. With the odds against her, Rheda knows that if she loses, she must fight to the death.

Meanwhile, a furious Slean (Ed Speleers) must also make a sacrifice for his mother’s campaign and play his part, but in doing so, his loyalties become deeply conflicted.

Later, at Rheda’s request, Beowulf and his gang are tasked with a mission to help cement Rheda’s position as Jarl of the Shieldlands, and they must make a significant journey across the epic landscape.

En route, Beowulf’s party are ambushed, their mission is compromised and thus, Rheda’s leadership hangs in the balance.


Episode 5

Sunday 31 January 2016, 7pm

Our group continue their perilous journey to Mere to bolster the new treaty, but now without Roth to guide them, the dangers they face look far from over. As they tackle various assaults the group’s situation goes from bad to desperate. For Elvina (Laura Donnelly), this is a return to her homelands; she recalls her mother’s old tales of Mere as she guides them past the rivers and dunes towards the hidden tribe.

Anticipating a warm welcome, our Herot heroes are shocked to be met with hostility by aging Thane Gorrik (David Bradley). Eventually however, as his icy demeanour slowly melts away, they are introduced to the tribe and Gorrik’s daughters Mara (Olivia Chenery) and Kela (Holly Earl). Mara (Olivia Chenery), the eldest of the two and Slean’s (Ed Speleers) future bride, is taken ill and whilst Elvina tries to heal her, her attempts are redundant without the necessary cure.

Only found within one of the Shieldlands’ most dangerous Mudborn creatures, retrieving the cure will take courage, stealth and no small amount of skill. With Gorrik unable and reluctant to risk his depleted warriors, even for his own daughter, Beowulf (Kieran Bew) sets out with Breca (Gisli Orn Gardarsson) to get the remedy on which Mara’s life depends.

Rowan, Gorrik’s Reeve (Sam Hoare) and Mara’s true love, joins them to help save her. But with Gorrik growing suspicious of the Herot party, fuelled by Rowan’s words of distrust, could his intensions in joining Beowulf and Breca be less than heroic, and will Mara get the antidote she desperately needs to save her life and to secure the marriage?


Episode 6

Sunday 7 February 2016, 7pm

Beowulf (Kieran Bew) gets to work re-building the town’s defences – a need that becomes even greater when iron-miner Greff (Joe Sims), is attacked by one of the most dangerous Mudborn creatures known to humans – a Troll. Usually able to keep these deadly creatures at bay, such an unprovoked attack spells unquantifiable danger for the people of the Shieldlands and must therefore be investigated immediately by Beowulf.

Elsewhere, Slean’s (Ed Speleers) frustrations and impotence about his impending marriage to Kela (Holly Earl) escalate further when he misconstrues a private conversation between Elvina (Laura Donnelly) and Beowulf; tensions spill over, leading the men to blows. It’s the last straw for Slean who leaves for Bregan to see Abrecan (Elliott Cowan) – marking an end to his loyalties to Rheda (Joanne Whalley).

With the threat of the Mudborn creature looming, Beowulf heads to the forest with Breca (Gisli Orn Gardarsson) and Greff to steer off any further attacks. Beowulf soon discovers that the Trolls, who are usually fed salt to keep them equable, have been deprived of it, in an act that reeks of treachery against Herot.

First things first however, with the Trolls on the rampage thirsting for salt, they’ll soon come looking for human blood which means Beowulf must act now to placate the threat – and then unravel the traitor working against Rheda.

Unaware of Beowulf’s revelation, Slean arrives in Bregan to meet with his uncle Abrecan. Tensions are high but their deliberations are cut short as Bregan falls under attack leaving Slean forced to pick where his loyalties lie…


Episode 7

Sunday 14 February 2016, 7pm

With Slean (Ed Speleers) and his uncle Abrecan (Elliott Cowan) failing to warn Herot about the Wulfing Raider attack, the marauders arrive at the peripheries of an unsuspecting Herot and set their Barghest wolves free to terrorise the town.

As Herot’s townspeople flea in all directions, Beowulf (Kieran Bew) rushes to action, but whilst he’s saving lives in the smelting pits, one of our characters is abducted from the bosom of Herot and, later, Rheda (Joanne Whalley) agrees to meet old enemy Jogan (Jefferson Hall) to negotiate an exchange for the hostage.

With tensions at boiling point as the exchange takes place, an unexpected turn of events forces Beowulf and Varr (Edward Hogg) to join forces and face the threat head on before Rheda loses authority and control of her town.

Meanwhile, with Slean en route back to Herot, armed with his uncle’s treacherous plot against his mother, Abrecan begins to question his nephew’s nerve to do what must be done against Rheda.


Episode 8

Sunday 21 February 2016, 7pm

Herot, in the mirth and merriment of preparation, readies itself for Slean (Ed Speleers) and Kela’s (Holly Earl) wedding celebrations. Songs are sung, stories are told and mead is drunk, but will a deadly turn of events prove too much for Slean to bear and when some shocking secrets are revealed between the couple, they must decide if new loyalties are to be forged or irrevocably shattered.

Meanwhile, with Rheda’s (Joanne Whalley) new laws permeating the tribes, it’s time for Abrecan (Elliott Cowan) to make a choice, whether to step aside and accept his sister’s rule, or stand against her in a declaration of war, however, not before Abrecan sees his people through the most significant event of the year… The harvest season is upon them and the people of Bregan eagerly await the behemoth shoal of pandiri fish, soon to travel through their waters – an event on which their survival depends!

As Thane, the responsibility befalls Abrecan to call his tribe into action when he predicts the pandiri fish are within their grasp. But, having been distracted by events in Herot, many, including council member Harken, have sensed Abrecan’s growing distance from the tribe and doubt his ability and commitment.

To avoid another hungry winter, Abrecan must deliver a successful harvest to maintain his position and influence as Thane. Under ever-increasing pressure after his misstep the previous year, Abrecan cannot consider failure and he faces an unexpected fight for leadership…


Episode 9

Sunday 28 February 2016, 7pm

With danger lurking in every corner threatening the Shieldlands, Herot’s Huskarla patrol the forests looking for signs of the enemy. With the danger well known, Elvina’s (Laura Donnelly) decision to furtively enter the forests, without a guard, stirs a concerned Beowulf (Kieran Bew), who downs tools from fortifications and goes after her.

However, enjoying their newfound romance, the pair become distracted from the threats around them and are captured by a band of Mudborn creatures.

During their bid to escape, Beowulf learns a dark secret about Elvina and their feelings for each other are put to the ultimate test.


Episode 10

Sunday 6 March 2016, 7pm

Beowulf (Kieran Bew) grapples with the revelation of Elvina’s (Laura Donnelly) secret and the fact that he has fallen in love with her. He feels ultimately betrayed and his feelings of conflict are compounded by the news that Slean (Ed Speleers) knew the truth of Elvina’s past but loved, and still loves her.  Can Beowulf and Elvina survive and close this gulf that now separates them?

For now however, the more pressing issue is Herot’s defences, which are too weak to withstand any more attacks. Meanwhile, wanting answers to questions of loyalty that have arisen about Bregan, Rheda (Joanne Whalley) returns to her hometown to see her brother Abrecan (Elliott Cowan).

In Bregan, Rheda receives a warm welcome, though rather than being reassured, she is confronted with some alarming revelations, one of which is that a large Wulfing army is set for Herot, to take the Iron town, knowing, that whoever takes control of the seat in Herot, controls the wealth of the Shieldlands – can she rely on her brother’s support or will she be forced to accept his betrayal?


Episode 11

Sunday 13 March 2016, 7pm

Rheda (Joanne Whalley) returns to Herot alone, with news of familial betrayal and that the fearsome Wulfing army are coming for them all. Now desperate, she sends word, calling for the help of the other tribes in the Alliance.

But Beowulf (Kieran Bew), who knows the Varni, now foes of Herot, are the mightiest of warriors, appeals to Rheda to put aside her pride and seek their help despite having unfairly banished them.

Reluctantly, Rheda agrees and knowing the difficulty that Beowulf (Kieran Bew) and Varr (Edward Hogg) will face in their attempt to convince the Varni, she gives Varr a secret message with a last resort offering to Rate in the hope it will be enough to bring him back into the fold.

Elsewhere, Slean (Ed Speleers) rides out into danger to set right past wrongs, but whilst he puts his life at risk, is it too little too late?


Episode 12

Sunday 20 March 2016, 7pm

The battle of all battles falls upon the peoples of Herot. Weapons forged, loyal and armed, men, women and children brace themselves to wage a brutal attack with Beowulf (Kieran Bew) helming their defence.

Having bought some time holding the Wulfing Raiders and Abrecan’s (Elliott Cowan) army back at the Draca Bridge, Slean (Ed Speleers) awaits the troops from the Alliance to arrive, but when only a few, bedraggled Banning warriors arrive in Herot for the epic fight, it becomes clear that Slean’s efforts may have been in vain…

Nevertheless, the people of Herot band together and face the impending doom head on with valiant honour.

Along the way, secrets are revealed, new loyalties and friendships forged; whilst others are irrevocable shattered, and some of our characters make the ultimate sacrifice…


Watch the trailer…

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