Sunday, 28 June 2009

Robin Hood: End of an era picture gallery.

Above: Guy of Gisborne's final moments. Below: A symbolic moment, assuming Archer will indeed take over from Robin Hood.

Above and below: Robin Hood's "final arrow". Not perhaps the one of legend, but final at least for him and Sheriff Vasey. Did Isabella manage to escape down some secret tunnel of her own?

Above and below: Robin Hood's final moments in Sherwood Forest.

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Saturday, 27 June 2009

Robin Hood, Series 3. Episode 13: “Something Worth Fighting For” Part 2.

The Story: As Alan A Dale’s body is placed in a casket, Robin hood is busily marshalling the outlaws and men of Nottingham into some kind of coherent fighting force. Robin and Guy then ride out to meet Sheriff Vasey, both sides issuing final demands and challenges. But Vasey is more keen to demonstrate his new weapon: A fleet of trebuchets armed with the Byzantine Fire he purchased from Archer.

Once back inside, Robin Hood gives Guy of Gisborne the chance to leave should he so desire. But Guy decides to stay and fight as long as Sheriff Vasey is alive. Then, before making their final preparations for battle, they “honour the dead” by cremating Alan’s body.

In the dungeon, Guy visits his sister Isabella, questioning her about her knowledge of Sheriff Vasey being alive, to which she expresses no prior knowledge. Guy also gives her a vial of poison “For our mother‘s sake“. He knows she will be shown no mercy after the battle, and that suicide might be her least painful option. Meanwhile, Kate has taken it upon herself to leave the city and go to Loughborough where she knows King Richard’s men are waiting for him. John assists her down from the battlements as she leaves saying “I’ll be back with an army”, words which will prove only too true…

Back in the Hall, the Outlaws are of course squabbling as usual, having found out that the Byzantine Fire was sold to the Sheriff by Archer. Archer in turn accuses them of causing more innocent deaths than he ever has, by virtue of them all being “untrained peasants”. Robin Hood then decides the only way to defeat the army beyond the gates is to destroy the trebuchets, a task he, Tuck, Guy, and John swiftly accomplish before escaping back to the castle. (The story is full of such little incidents which make you believe more is happening than actually is). However, during the fight Tuck has retrieved a bottle of the Byzantine Fire, and starts to analyse it so he can produce more.

Now without the use of their trebuchets (so what was the point in them?), the army ram the gates down and gain access to the city as the men of Nottingham fight them in the streets. Below those streets, Isabella has tempted a guard to set her free with the promise of a few sexual favours before she dies, but of course stabs him instead.

The advancing army is too powerful for the untrained peasants, and before long it is breaking through the Castle portcullis itself. Not only that, but they have captured Kate and now held hostage in return for Robin Hood’s surrender. Vasey also has news for Robin: King Richard has been taken prisoner and being held to ransom; a ransom that will bankrupt the country if paid. So now Robin knows that Richard’s men in Loughborough will not be coming to the rescue. Nevertheless, whislt he stands talking to Sheriff Vasey, Much has devised a way of pulling Kate up into the battlements and to freedom. Unable to gain access, Sheriff Vasey turns back, intent on using the “secret tunnel” instead.

Inside the castle, Brother Tuck discovers a few barrels of Byzantine Fire, and so he doesn’t have to make any himself after all. (Another useless dead-end detail in the story). Then, to the sound of the army breaking through the portcullis, everyone retreats to the main hall whilst Isabella is spotted leaving by a secret doorway. Guy and Archer go to investigate. The tunnel had of course been blocked last week by her own instruction (using Archer’s “knowledge of the East” no less). But when Guy and Archer hear Vasey’s explosion in the distance, they assume it is the tunnel being cleared, so Archer goes back to convey this knowledge to Robin whilst Guy searches for Isabella. When he finds her he learns she was in collusion with the Sheriff after all, and before too long Vasey, Isabella and the Sheriff’s captain, are locked in a fight against Robin Hood, Archer, and Guy. “Brother in arms”, one shouts.

During the fight Guy saves Robin Hood from Isabella’s blade, which still manages to knick the outlaw leader’s neck. In the process, Guy himself is fatally wounded and, although Vasey, and Isabella are ably standing by, Guy still manages to compose and deliver a few final words: “Marian, the love of my life, but she was always yours”, he says, looking up at Robin. “But because of you, I die proud”. As Guy passes away, Robin Hood is forced to face his own mortality: The blade Isabella cut him with had been smeared with the poison Guy gave her, and therefore Robin Hood will be dead by nightfall. Speeches over, and Vasey and Isabella scamper away.

When Vasey and Isabella return to the castle with their army, they find Robin Hood and all his followers have managed to escape. (So who was in charge of the tunnel?) Sheriff Vasey’s attention is caught by a stash of barrels, but in the same moment he identifies them as containing Byzantine Fire, Robin Hood’s flaming arrow finds the top barrel and the whole of Nottingham Castle is blown sky high.

Back in Sherwood Forest, celebration soon turns to “time to say goodbye” as Robin Hood bids each individual farewell. To Much he says: “You are more of a man than I’ll ever be. You are my best friend”. To John he professes “It is a good day to die”, whilst to Tuck he expresses his opinion that they will find a new leader. Kate he addresses as “Brave Kate”, before telling them all he has to “do this alone”, and walks away into the forest.

Now out of sight, and resting by a tree, an angelic chorus announces the arrival of Ghost Marian. “I have waited for you”, she says, taking his hand. “The greatest adventure is yet to come”.

End bit: Brother Tuck gives one of his speeches (of course), about Robin Hood “goes on”, as they carry their leader’s body (complete with Huge Lily), deeper into the forest.

At the close of the show the announcer made no statement about Robin Hood coming back next year.

Comment: Okay, these past few weeks, after what had been a really good series from episodes 4 - 9 inclusive, I’ve been approaching these reviews with some trepidation. I know others who’s faith in this show has been far less tested than my own, might disagree with what I write in these reviews (although in truth, the comments boxes herein tend to be even more critical lately than myself). But I can only express my own honest opinion:

The really important scenes in this episode, indeed the most important scenes in the whole 3 series, should have been the deaths of Robin Hood, Guy of Gisborne, and maybe the Sheriff of Nottingham.

They were squandered.

Just look at how many silly “red herrings” pad out this story. We have trebuchets? Whoops, no we don’t. Tuck is going to make some Byzantine Fire? Oh look, no need to, we’ve found a few barrels. Kate’s off to bring an army? Whoops, she’s captured. Is she a hostage? Well, only for about 10 seconds. And on and on. Action adventure or the Keystone Cops?

What the fans of this show wanted was to see these characters who they’ve grown to admire and form fan clubs for, given the space and opportunity to make a more significant final exit. What would have been so wrong about seeing Robin Hood shoot a final arrow into the forest? Marian would have still been able to find him there, and I’m sure the heavenly choir wouldn’t have been far behind. Who thinks the Giant Lily on his chest was a better “interpretation of the Legend”?? Who??

Yes, it was nice to see Lucy. (We all guessed that scene would happen long, long ago). Yes it was nice to hear Robin make his peace with Much. But these words and scenes could have and should have been much better screened and presented.

Thank you all for your patience regarding the “comment moderation” of this past week. (Now lifted). Whilst the BBC were circulating rather specific details of the script well in advance, and others claim the glory on YouTube, I prefer to “wait and see“. I guess I’m just an old fashioned “traditionalist” in the end. (I wonder how many times Jonas burst out laughing with that Giant Lily on his chest?…)

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Thursday, 25 June 2009

Alan A Dale, R. I. P. : A Tribute to Joe Armstrong.

When I was a small boy I hated Alan A Dale. You see, whilst it was relatively easy to make my plastic Little John toy “soldier” fight my plastic Sheriff of Nottingham, as Robin Hood fired his imaginary arrows and Friar Tuck bought his club down on their arch enemy, Allan A Dale could be made to do little else but stand there and sing a song. No wonder plastic Marian kept running away. (See this link).

Alan A Dale was really popularised by elaborate book illustrations, decades ago; the ballad singer who could relate the tales. The only filmed version of Robin Hood to successfully incorporate the singing outlaw in anything like his original manifestation was Disney’s "Story of Robin Hood", where he functions very much in the style of a narrator. Apart from that movie, versions such as Errol Flynn’s tended to merge Alan’s minstrel qualities with the bright attire of Will Scarlet, and the “foppish dandy” version of Scarlet was born whilst Alan A Dale all but disappeared. (There was one notable exception in “A Challenge For Robin Hood”, but any film which had Robin Hood’s toupee as a co-star was doomed to failure).

If the Tiger Productions / BBC version of Robin Hood has one positive lasting legacy, something totally original which had not gone before, it will surely be Joe Armstrong’s Alan A Dale. Whilst some of the very best Robin Hood stories, like the meeting on the bridge with Little John, were being cast aside, the character of the singing outlaw was brilliantly re-drawn, but with respect to his origins. The outlaw who once sang his tales in ballad form around the camp fire, would continue to tell his tales, but this time of a different nature. Alan A Dale would be the teller of “tall tales”; “little white lies” designed to get him out off a sticky situation, or indeed talk him into one of benefit. And if his silver tongue and wide blue-eyed innocence failed to save his skin (as was usually the case), then his frustration turned to “one liners” which cut his enemies down to size in other ways, leaving their dimmer witted minds unsure how to respond. For example, who else could have gotten away with his comments to Gisborne in Series 2 and survived? The casting of Joe Armstrong in this laddish, street smart, wise cracking, jack-the-lad role was inspired, and Joe certainly seized the opportunity and ran with it.

When Alan turned traitor in Series 2 I thought I’d have problems with the idea. But it turned out to be perhaps the best thing about that second series. We all remember it for the stupidity of Marian’s murder, or the frustrations of following a de-railed script which put Marian back in Nottingham straight after her engagement. But the backdrop to all this was a series of outstanding performances from Joe Armstrong, culminating in those scenes in the cellar fighting Robin Hood. A few weeks ago I think I set the train of thought in motion that Jonas Armstrong is at his best when placed opposite a strong actor. Well, those scenes opposite Joe are ample evidence of that.

I wish there was more to say About Joe Armstrong’s performances in Series 3 but, sadly (and has been mentioned many times in our comment boxes), he was largely neglected in the scripts. The temptations and jealousies of having a girl living in the camp would have been perfect subject matter for Joe’s Alan to explore in greater detail. Better still, the fact that Gisborne is now living and fighting alongside the outlaws would have been a great opportunity for some Alan style jibes at his former boss. But more importantly than that: Alan’s previous treachery and disillusionment are what happens when leaders pursue “lost” and dubious causes, neglecting the needs of those closer to home. Alan wasn’t the only outlaw to have left Robin Hood, even though the extent of his desertion was the most extreme.

As the end approached, and perhaps for the first time in his life, Alan A Dale was lost for words. His large blue eyes filled with tears as he pleaded his innocence. No-one wanted to know. Ironically, only Guy’s expression seemed to show a hint of understanding, as if it said “Hey, this is not my team, I’m not involved”. But even after that rebuttal, together with his own long held conviction that King Richard’s return would never prove beneficial to a common outlaw like himself, Alan still turned back to try and warn Robin Hood about Prince John’s approaching army. And at the very end, he was shot in the back, as if from an enemy afraid to face his cutting sarcasms any longer.

Alan’s lifeless form was placed with some degree of care and respect at the gates to the City of Nottingham. Yes it was intended as a show of power on the part of Sheriff Vasey. But as it lay there it took on an iconic quality, a symbol which spoke not of the impending invasion from the enemy without, but of the strength and resolve of those within. Alan’s body became the demarcation zone; the “line in the sand” which said: “Over this you will not pass. It ends here”.

Alan A Dale, R.I.P. "Him, we liked."


For more Alan A Dale posts and information see links here:

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Saturday, 20 June 2009

Robin Hood, Series 3. Episode 12: “Something Worth Fighting For”.

The Story: This action packed episode begins on the North Road as Robin Hood shows off to Kate his prowess with a “three arrows at once” shot intended to stop the passage of one of Isabella’s messengers. The messenger is carrying a letter to Prince John, telling him she has been forcefully enlisting soldiers with which he can fight against King Richard, whose return seems to be imminent. Wasting no time, Robin Hood and the outlaws run to Loxley and immediately engage in battle there against Isabella’s troops, after which they escort their freed village men into Sherwood Forest.

Whilst this worthy cause is being fought, Archer (revealed in recent episodes as Robin Hood’s and Guy’s half brother), is looking for personal gain. He locates Isabella, and tells her he is her half brother. Ever defensive of her mother’s reputation, Isabella orders him to be locked away, but Archer goes on to tell her his “I have travelled far and wide” story, explaining that he knows many “exotic ways” to kill a man, and that he can help her kill Robin Hood. She is not impressed and Archer is arrested, but escapes the guards on the way to the dungeon.

Sheriff Isabella (in fine form in this particular episode), then conceives a plan of her own. She sends for Kate’s mother, offering her safe passage to Doncaster in exchange for her services. Isabella’s plan involves breaking one of her own mother’s lockets in half, and then having Kate’s mother give one half to Kate and the other half planted on Robin Hood. The idea is that the two halves symbolise a “love pact”, and that if Kate discovers Robin has a half of Isabella’s locket then she will think he has betrayed her. (Are you with me so far? It sounds more complex than it is). Kate’s mother agrees to the plan, and carries it out as instructed.

Meanwhile, in Nottingham, Archer is looking for a way to raise enough money to buy his way out of the city. He consults an old informant he knew, and learns of a secret tunnel into the Castle; a tunnel built by Guy of Gisborne using prisoners. Simultaneously, Guy is telling the outlaws about his tunnel, persuading them it is the route by which they can enter the Castle and prepare to defend it against the advancing soldiers who have been conscripted in neighbouring villages. Kate is totally against any plan which comes from Gisborne, but her objections are overruled. Not only that, but later when she is alone, she finds the half locket by Robin Hood’s possessions, thereby believing he must love Isabella, and leaves for home.

Isabella now launches a second cunning plan. (Was Vasey ever this clever?) She has it announced in the streets of Nottingham that Alan A Dale has been given a full pardon. This results in Robin Hood and all of the Outlaws thinking Alan has betrayed them again. As a consequence they tie him up and leave him in camp whilst they embark for the Castle. When they later assemble to say “This might be the last time we will see each other”, Allan is sadly not in their number.

Archer reaches the tunnel before them, and sneaks up on Isabella. Once again he offers her his services, telling her about the tunnel, and of the risk that Guy will surely use it with Robin Hood to attack her. In return for money he constructs a trap within the tunnel. (No doubt something he learned during his wide travels in the wide, wide East). However, when she pays Archer for his work, she is so insulting towards him that he begins to doubt what he has done.

As Robin Hood, Guy of Gisborne, and Much, are entering the tunnel, Brother Tuck and John are readying to approach the Castle gates. Kate herself is pouring her heart out to her mother about her unrequited love for Robin. Seeing how upset she is, her mother tells all about the locket, at which point the “feisty village girl” (I love her), runs to join the rest of the outlaws.

Beneath the Castle, Archer’s trap springs on Robin, Guy, and Much, as limestone cascades down from the ceiling to “drown” them all. (Limestone being what an executed prisoner’s body would be cast into). Willing to sacrifice himself for his one time “master”, Much screams out that it is Robin Hood who has to live, and he and Guy join arms to lift the outlaw leader towards the grate above whilst the white chemical swiftly engulfs him.

Outside the gates Brother Tuck is about to launch into his third “sermon” (err, sorry), speech of the day when the rescued men from the Village of Loxley come to support them. Tuck had been wanting to train them to fight, but John saw the folly in achieving that. So now Tuck turns to Ghandi for his inspiration, (okay, he doesn’t actually say “Ghandi”), and arranges for a peaceful “sit-in” demonstration when the army arrives. (Don’t worry. It’s better than it sounds, and I resisted going off to make a cup of tea).

Back at camp, Allan has been able to cut himself free from his bonds, and is leaving. He is obviously upset at not being trusted. However, he is soon defending himself from an attack by soldiers, and determines to reach Robin Hood and warn him of their gathering presence. But it is a journey he will not complete, as arrows begin to fly from out of the surrounding forest, finding their mark deep in his body. With his last breath Allan looks up to see who is responsible. We do not see the face of the person who has led this attack, but Allan recognises them: “You!”

Brother Tuck’s methods are successful in blocking the Castle gates, and the troops themselves are reluctant to draw their swords against the seated peasants. (Not how it was in Gisborne’s tongue cutting days). Whilst Archer looks on from the sidelines, Isabella appears on the battlements. She is impatient, and shoots a crossbow bolt into Tuck’s arm. (A pity it wasn’t his larynx). But still the soldiers will not fight. However, when Kate turns up, Isabella instructs one soldier to kill her or die himself. This is the moment Archer can idly stand by no more and, as he throws his Eastern style throwing thingy into the soldier’s back to save her, all hell breaks loose and the battle begins.

Archer and Kate then run to save Robin. Pulling the three of them from the limestone, Kate tells Robin about the locket plot, and all is well. In the Castle above, Isabella’s captain is deserting her. The captain’s words are ominous: “You don’t realise what’s happening here do you? It’s over Isabella”, and away he rides.

Having taken possession of the Castle, Robin Hood is renewing his vows on justice to the people, but their victory celebrations are cut short when a tearful Much brings news of a grim discovery. Allan’s lifeless body has been delivered to the gates of the city. Not only that, but a mighty army has assembled on the horizon. And guess who’s leading it: Vasey! Yes folks, our beloved Sheriff of Nottingham is back. Not only that, but Isabella’s captain is with him, and turns to him saying: “The plan is in place”.

Comment: Putting aside all our grievances and concerns of the last few episodes, in which the entire history and premise of the show seemed to have been turned on its axis, this episode was a guilty pleasure. Full of action and (apart from Tuckie), quite stirring. I think the reason I enjoyed it is simply because I finally got to see all the “merry men” getting involved for a change. For once, the cast which is at the heart of the show’s success, were given chance to interact. (There was a nice little moment when they were all embracing prior to battle, and Guy stood and observed their camaraderie).

Lara Pulver’s Isabella continues to impress throughout, and I’m keen to see her meet her predecessor. I suppose, given the more ridiculous aspects of the show’s track record, the simple fact that Archer chose Kate to rescue Robin with him, means she and Archer will be "involved" before Jonas even exits by the stage door. (And is John wearing make-up on his eyebrows now?) But hey, fans of Archer, and this “new direction”, will have enjoyed watching tonight for sure.

And what can we say about Joe Armstrong? I shall save a more embellished review for a future post, but suffice to say his scenes here were what we’d been waiting for. Albeit relatively short in duration, Joe once again conveyed the richness of the character he’d developed and made his own. He’s already been much missed this series, and now will be so for the series to follow. Another original cast member who won’t ever quite be replaced.

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Saturday, 13 June 2009

Robin Hood, Series 3. Episode 11: “The Enemy of My Enemy.”.

The Story: Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne are riding side by side through the forest, heading for the Outlaw’s camp, and arguing about their respective parents. A fight ensues, which is observed from a distance by Alan A Dale. Alan then runs to inform the rest of the Outlaws that Robin must be in trouble, thinking other soldiers must be near by. When the Outlaws reach Robin and Guy, it is Kate who manages to loose the first arrow directly at Gisborne’s heart. But Robin Hood pushes his former arch enemy out of the way just in time, and commences to explain to them all that Gisborne is now ”one of us”. The two outlaws that protest most strongly are Kate, who’s brother was killed, and John, well, because he’s John. (Even though he’s looking more like Roy Wood by the hour.)

Robin Hood tells everyone about their half brother, Archer (Clive Standen), awaiting execution in York, and also that Archer has “travelled widely” and has “knowledge of weapons brought back from the East”. (Oooooooo….) As Robin and Guy prepare to leave for York, Kate kisses Robin and asks him to “come back safely”. A little later on, whilst riding to York, both men are spotted by one of Isabella’s informers. She becomes concerned about what could have brought two sworn enemies together like this, and sends word to the Sheriff of York that they are on their way, offering a reward into the bargain.

Meanwhile, in the dungeons beneath York Castle, Archer is called out by the guards. The prisoners assume it is to be hanged, but the truth is that naughty Archer is administering a bit of what he’s brought back from the East to the Sheriff of York’s wife, between the bed sheets. He is hoping that his services here, plus a promise of knowledge in Alchemy, will soon save him from the gallows. But when he is later given chance to prove his ability to turn a rusty nail into a nugget of gold before the Sheriff of York, it isn’t long before his ruse is discovered and he is thrown back in the dungeons.

John cannot be pacified regarding Guy of Gisborne’s collaboration with Robin. Tuck tells him the collaboration makes Robin Hood seem all the more powerful that his enemies are persuaded to join him (yawn), after which Kate herself does an about face and supports Robin’s decision. At this point John symbolically drops his staff and leaves. Alan later goes in pursuit and, after a skirmish with Isabella and her troops bound for York, John is naturally persuaded to return to camp and warn the others of where she is headed.

When Robin and Guy reach York they devise a plan to have one of them captured, so he can locate Archer within the cells. (Although that plan makes no sense at all, the scene helps show a little male bonding and good humour). It turns out to be Guy who is captured, who in turn soon locates Archer and identifies him by his birth mark. Archer is not impressed to have found he has a half brother, especially one with a titled name but no money. Meanwhile, outside the Castle, Robin Hood steals some expensive clothing, and enters the Castle pretending to be a nobleman apologising for Guy’s behaviour and come to buy his freedom. The Sheriff of York accepts the bribe and Robin is shown the way to the dungeon to fetch Guy. However, whilst he is below, Isabella’s man informs the Sheriff of York about Robin and Guy and the alarm is raised.

As for Isabella herself, well she and her troops are still riding full pelt towards York, but strangely enough, the Outlaws (on foot) have overtaken her and now wait in the bushes. Kate lets fly an arrow at Isabella, (it would seem to be “Get a Gisborne Day“ for the feisty village girl), but Isabella manages to knock it to one side with her sword. (Like you do). So now, with the Nottingham contingency taken care of, it’s onwards to York the Outlaws stride.

Having to fight their way out of York Castle gives Archer a chance to display his skills, and provides another platform for a little more male bonding and bickering. Suffice to say Archer himself is even less impressed by finding one of his half brothers is a poor outlaw than he was that the other is a man with a meaningless title. When the fight becomes hopeless, Archer attempts to bribe his way out of the situation by holding a knife to Robin’s throat and offering his life as a bribe. But in the end all three end up side by side on the gallows.

At this point enter the Outlaws, refreshed from their jog. Archer and Robin Hood are quickly freed, whilst Guy is left waiting at the end of a rope. However, arrows fired simultaneously by Robin and Archer cut him loose, as Robin looks across at Archer seeing he’s met his match where marksmanship is concerned. During the fight in which everyone escapes, Guy significantly saves John from an attack, whilst Archer steals Guy’s white horse and rides away into the distance, preferring the mercenary life…

End bit: Back at camp Robin Hood persuades Kate she has to “move on”, giving himself as an example of someone who has had to do this in relation to Marian. Kate agrees to try, but confesses she can never trust Gisborne.

The best line in the show is the last one: Guy turns to the Outlaws and says, “So where do you want me to sleep?” (I loved that bit. Breaks me up every time).

Comment: How does one judge this show any more? On what basis are we to judge anything? Any and all comparisons to the Legend of Robin Hood, are of course null and void. But so to now are any comparisons to Series 1 and 2, because of the total lack of continuity. Do you know what this most reminds me of? (And I’m showing my age here). “Dallas”. When Bobby Ewing died in a car crash, but then one series later stepped out of the shower and it had all been a dream. However, I shall try to be constructive:

Positives: Although much of what I like about the way Gisborne was being written during Series 3 has now been changed, Richard Armitage himself is doing a great job; albeit (it seems to me), with tongue firmly in cheek and a glint in his eye. I’m enjoying watching him purely on the basis of an entertaining adventure, with no regard for the show’s history.

Negatives: Archer just doesn’t work for me. It’s over the top. Bedding the Sheriff’s wife; “widely travelled in the east”; etc., etc. A recipe of clichés, shaken but certainly not stirring. Pass. On top of which, Tuck's "worthy speeches" induce sleep so rapidly he's set to put Horlicks out of business.

If this was an entirely different show, (which of course it now is), and was called something else, I’d be fine with it and fairly entertained in a light hearted kind of way. It’s not a show I would consider following over time.

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Saturday, 6 June 2009

Robin Hood, Series 3. Episode 10: “Bad Blood”.

The story: In Sherwood Forest (which seems to have undergone a change in season since last week), Robin Hood makes a chance encounter with Guy of Gisborne. Guy assumes Robin has been following him, and that more Outlaws are at hand, but this is not the case. So Guy puts down his bow and draws his sword, eager to engage in a duel to the death with Robin. Robin is at first reluctant to do so, saying that Guy is in no fit state for such combat. (Why should he care?)

Anyway, as their swords are about to clash, “poisoned darts” fly out from the forest, hitting both men in the neck, causing them fall drugged to the ground. As they lie dormant, a shrouded figure steps out from the trees.

Robin Hood and Guy awake at nightfall, bound and tied by a camp a fire. The shrouded figure is seated nearby, and tells them both they must listen to his story in order to “save a life”. After some bickering, this they agree to do, and the rest of the show is related in flash-back style to a time 20 years previous, recounting how both Robin Hood’s and Guy of Gisborne’s parents really died.

20 years previous: In Loxley, Lady Gisborne (Guy’s mother), has been having an affair with Lord Loxley (Robin’s father), whilst her husband Lord Gisborne is away on the Crusades. She believes her husband has been killed in battle, and (as a means of establishing a way by which her new relationship can be brought out into the open), states that her lands should therefore be acquired by Lord Loxley to maintain.

As the villagers are commemorating the loss of lives in the Holy Lands, the young boy Robin is showing off his archery skills to the boy Guy. (Yes folks, he already has a Saracen bow, which I assume was brought back from the Crusades by his father.) Robin’s behaviour causes a fire to break out, which in turn seriously injures a priest. In an attempt to stop Robin, young Guy grabs the bow from him. But the result is that the villagers then assume it was Guy’s arrow that started the fire, and so he not Robin is blamed for the priest’s injury. Not only that, but an opportunistic Bailiff, who wants the Gisborne property for himself rather than let the French Lady Gisborne inherit them from her dead husband, decides to hang the boy Guy there and then. And all this while, young Robin Hood is denying it was in fact he who caused the fire, seemingly only too willing to have Guy take the blame. (Yep, you get it. They want us to like Guy more than Robin).

At which point enter Sir Roger of Gisborne, Guy‘s father. It turns out that he is not dead after all. In defence of his son Guy, Sir Roger draws swords against the Bailiff. He wins the fight, and Guy is released when the priest’s injuries are seen not to be fatal. But during the fight a curious thing is observed by the crowd when the Bailiff’s blade goes clean through Sir Roger’s hand seemingly causing him no pain.

The boy Robin later confesses to his father, Lord Loxley, that the fire had been his fault, but receives no more than a little fatherly style talk for his wrong doing. Lord Loxley also continues his affair with Lady Gisborne, regardless of her husband’s return. During one of their secret meetings, Loxley informs her that only leprosy could account for the lack of pain in her husband’s hand when the blade passed through it. She in turn informs Loxley that she is pregnant. (Hmmm, from leprosy to pregnancy in one sentence.) All of this is observed from a safe distance by the dastardly Bailiff.

Lord Loxley (being the sensitive type that he is), tells Lady Gisborne to inform the village that her husband is a leper, because in that way her marriage will immediately be dissolved. After that, he suggests she could go away and have the child she is expecting, before returning later to unite with him. (Are you still with me?) All this she agrees to, but when she returns home her husband Lord Gisborne is waiting. Much to her surprise, he is not angry at her affair, wishing only that she has found someone to take care of her when he dies. This makes Lady Gisborne sorry for the plan she has agreed to, but it is too late to stop it now, and the Bailiff soon arrives with various other authority figures, who march the leprous Lord away to the edge of the village, where a ceremony banishes him for ever.

When leaving, the noble Lord Gisborne asks only that Lord Loxley take care of his family, but the boy Guy is far less forgiving, and the seeds of future discontent are clearly being sown. Now, with Lord Gisborne out of the way, the Bailiff intends to take the Gisborne property for his own. Only this will keep him from telling the village that Lady Gisborne is pregnant with Loxley’s child. So Loxley hands over the land, believing it can easily be reclaimed when he weds the Lady. However, the marriage is doomed never to happen, and so Guy will lose those lands.

Unbeknown to Lord Loxley, Lady Gisborne continues to go into the forest and take aid to her dying husband in a small leper colony there. This causes even further resentment from Guy, who feels he is being cut off from his father. Guy’s choice at this point would be to return to France. But whatever plans he and his mother might embark upon are interrupted by the premature birth of a son. (Are you all still with me? So now Guy and Robin Hood share a “half brother”).

The baby has an arrow shaped birth mark on it’s chest, and so is given the name Archer before being taken to a safe place. (Hey, I didn’t write this stuff. I’m only reviewing it). Then, in an attempt to stop the marriage between his mother and Robin’s father, Guy goes to the leper colony to inform his father of the intended event. However, he is only angered more when he learns his father condones the marriage so that his wife will have someone to take care of her. So why (and I really don’t get this bit), in the very next scene, does the leprous Lord Gisborne go striding back into Loxley to try and stop the marriage!? (Answers on a post card please. It makes no sense to me).

As the leprous Lord enters the village, the boy Robin starts shouting “The leper is back! The leper is back!” (Don’t you just love this kid? No??) Suffice to say a fight soon breaks out between the two Lords, during which yet another accidental fire breaks out (how many is that so far?) this time started by Guy. Not only that, but Lord Loxley accidentally causes the death of Lady Gisborne in the process. (Kind of clumsy I guess). Outside the manor the dastardly Bailiff tells the villagers the fire must have been started to rid the place of disease. And so everyone readily takes up their burning torches to further that end, causing the deaths of those inside. To cut a long story short, after his father’s assumed death in the fire, the boy Robin takes possession of the Loxley Estate.

Now we go forward 20 years to see Guy’s and Robin’s reactions to this information regarding how their parents really died. “All these years I though it was my fault”, says Guy of his accidental fire starting that day, and we see a little more of the reason for his character.

Whilst Robin and Guy ponder their thoughts the mysterious man who has been relating this tale removes his cowl, and stands revealed as Robin Hood’s father. It transpires that he escaped the fire, but is now himself dying of leprosy. Furthermore, the reason he has tracked down Robin and Guy is that he needs them to “save a life”. (Yep, you saw it coming didn’t you?) Their half brother, the one with the arrow shaped birth mark on his chest, is about to be hung in Yorkshire, and they are expected to go save him. “I need you to unite,” he says. “Forgive each other to save a brother”. And then he shoots them again with his darts.

When Robin Hood and Guy next awake, it is Guy who first extends his hand to Robin as they depart for Yorkshire. (A move which will please Yorkshire Hoodies, and facilitate the change from filming the “Nottingham Castle” in Hungary to a different “Yorkshire Castle” apparently in the UK).

Comment: This episode will divide the fans for many reasons. Obviously the intention is to establish a premise for a new Robin Hood in Series 4. However, whilst I can accept the idea of a half brother inheriting the role, or a distant relation, I cannot accept any other part of this highly contrived episode which, in my opinion, undoes all the good will which the previous few episodes had helped restore.

What we have here is another appalling attempt to “re-invent” of the Legend, amounting to as much of a travesty as the murder of Marian was at the end of Series 2. Not only that, but the whole “story” holds as much “corn” as your average breakfast cereal. An arrow shaped birthmark? Calling the baby Archer? Guy accidentally meeting Robin just as Robin’s leprous father accidentally finds them both together, and informs them of their parent’s accidental deaths, soon after Robin had accidentally nearly killed a priest? Not to mention all the other little gems you have in stall if you haven’t watched it yet. (Look out for the Saracen bow on the Christian cross gravestone).

What would have been better? To perhaps see a young girl Marian in Robin Hood’s boyhood, or maybe a boy servant, Much. What I personally am left with is an overwhelming desire to go see a new Robin Hood film, (the Russell Crowe one can’t be far away); something to wash this crass nonsense all away.

Sorry Hoodies. I hated this silly concoction beyond intellectual comment.

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