Robin Hood. Series 3, Episode 9: A Dangerous Deal.
Isabella does however state that she intends to be the best Sheriff that Nottingham has ever had, and the following day Robin Hood and the Outlaws go into Nottingham to see her in action as she presides over the case of a young girl called Meg. Isabella identifies with the way Meg has been mistreated by men, and sets her free, proclaiming at the same time that Nottingham is to be a fairer place in which to live. She also informs the crowd that her brother Guy is to be executed for his deeds. But the applause her comments induce is interrupted when her husband Thornton steps forth, announces himself as Sheriff, and has his men escort Isabella inside. Isabella has to surrender to Thornton simply because she will be perceived by Prince John to have broken “God’s Law and Man’s law” by running off and leaving him. But just as he is about to have Isabella locked up, Meg attempts to reciprocate her earlier kindness by “buying” Isabella’s safety with information about the whereabouts of some Viking treasure. So it is Meg who is then put in the dungeon whilst Thornton takes Isabella (spade in hand), to investigate. And who does Meg find in the cell next to hers? Guy of Gisborne! Meg knows who Guy is, and taunts him about his fall from grace. She expresses the hope that he will go to Hell, to which Guy responds that he is already there.
Meanwhile, another couple have been embarking on quite a different relationship. Kate and Robin stayed behind in Nottingham after listening to Isabella’s speech as the new Sheriff, and it wasn’t too long before a heated quarrel turned to passionate kisses. So now, as they observe what Isabella and Thornton are doing in Sherwood Forest, Kate raises the subject of romance. Robin feels that would be “difficult”. Kate wonders if he cares for Isabella, or is it his concern for Much which makes him hesitant? At this stage nothing is resolved, but it is interesting that Marian’s name is not mentioned once. Whilst they continue to observe, Isabella and Thornton are successful in finding the Viking treasure. Furthermore, Thornton’s violent conduct towards his men, makes Robin Hood decide he has to be got rid of.
Back in the dungeons the situation between Meg and Guy is taking a different course. Her questions begin to disturb him, as she talks about being prepared for death, and having a clear conscious: “Is your life so empty that you don’t care if you live or die?” she asks, whilst Guy’s emotions begin to unravel. By way of answer he makes the simple gesture of dusting the soil from her crust of bread and handing it to her. “There must be some good in you yet”, she says smiling, and perhaps for the first time in his life Guy of Gisborne forms a friendship.
In Sherwood Forest, Thornton is preparing to take the new found treasure back to Nottingham, as Kate has a quiet word with Much, asking him to make it clear to Robin that they are just good friends, thus leaving the way open for Robin and her to become lovers. Much barely conceals his hurt, but agrees to do as she asks. But, as the Outlaws then attack Thornton’s troops, Much is so distracted by his emotions that he lets the Treasure slip away. After the fight, when the Outlaws catch up with Isabella who has fled into the forest, she is petrified at what Thornton may do to her, and agrees to work together with Robin Hood in order to gain his protection. Kate looks on, wondering if her feelings of jealousy are justified or not.
Whilst escorting Isabella back to Nottingham, Little John tells her that he thinks Robin Hood only has eyes for Kate. (Not a good idea, John!) Isabella later goes on to release Meg at the first opportunity, but is enraged when the girl asks for Guy’s freedom also.
When morning comes, it finds Much sneaking away from the Outlaw’s Camp unnoticed, having decided to leave them for pastures new. Back in the dungeon, Meg visits Guy and offers him food. Guy thanks her for her supportive gesture: “You’ve made me think about someone I used to know”, he says. “She made me a better man, but I destroyed her”. And he hangs his head remorsefully. At this, Meg returns to Isabella’s quarters and steals the keys to Guy’s cell, but when she tries to release him, Isabella catches her in the act and determines to have them both executed together.
In Sherwood Forest, Much’s absence causes very little attention as the Outlaws prepare to meet up with Isabella and take possession of the Viking treasure she has promised them as part of the deal for the protection she will be given. Little John uses the opportunity to have a quiet word with Robin: ”She’s worth more than treasure”, he says of Kate. “Don’t let her slip through your fingers”.
In Knight’s Glade, where they meet up with Isabella, it is of course a trap and fighting breaks out. Just when the Outlaws seem out manoeuvred, Much appears from the trees and saves the day. They then decide to venture into Nottingham, where Guy’s execution will provide the perfect distraction for them whilst they steal back the treasure. (Wouldn’t you have thought Robin Hood would want to see Guy lose his head?)
Standing before the chopping block, Guy pleads for Meg’s life, but Isabella refuses to listen. Then, as the axe is about to fall, Robin Hood’s arrow sinks into the executioner’s side, causing his blade to go spinning wildly into the air. But where will it land? As the axe hurtles down towards the bare skin of Meg’s neck, a second arrow from Robin Hood causes it to change direction and it sinks into the guillotine next to Guy. But the excitement sustains when Thornton himself reappears from out of the crowd to resume his position of authority over his wife, and the Outlaws make a break for it with treasure in hand.
Once again, the two leading couples in this story take centre stage: Just as Guy seems to have broken free from the executioner‘s platform, a soldier thrusts at him with his spear and, attempting to save him, Meg takes the blow in her side. Simultaneous to this, Robin Hood has told Kate she must go with the Outlaws whilst he re-enters the Castle to ensure Thornton doesn’t kill Isabella. (He needn’t be concerned, Isabella has found enough courage to deal with her evil husband on her own…)
End bit: Guy of Gisborne carries the dying Meg to safety, coming to rest deep in the forest. “I’ve always quite liked you”, she manages to smile through the pain, and their all too brief relationship is sealed with a kiss to her dying lips as Gisborne lowers his head in grief. Meanwhile, around a camp fire somewhere, it is an altogether happier Robin Hood who is telling Kate how “Brave, and beautiful” she is. However, within her Castle chambers, a solitary Isabella is now vowing her next murder will not be Robin Hood himself…
Comment: Outstanding writing by Michael Chaplin. One can only imagine what the original cast could have done with scripts like this.
Lara Pulver continues to excel. She is absolutely fabulous; so much so that I don’t even care to get pre-occupied by the concept of a female Sheriff in that century. Also, full praise to Holliday Grainger in the role of Meg. (Yet another in the long list of characters we would all like to have seen much more of, but alas it's not to be.) And, for me at least, the Kate - Robin romance now seems perfectly believable. Yes, I know, the concept of Robin Hood having a different love than Marian remains a tricky one if not down right wrong historically. But sadly, these are the cards the previous poor writing / direction, left us with. So, taking that into account, I think a fantastic job of recovering this series has been done by all concerned. Excellent stuff all round. More please!