Saturday, 14 November 2009

Robin Hood Series 3: Spotlight on Jonas Armstrong as Robin Hood.

I still stand by the opinion I’ve expressed all along, that Jonas Armstrong was a great choice for the role of Robin Hood. Youthful, contemporary, capable of the physical demands of the role, and of conveying a greater range of emotion and grief than perhaps any previous actor who took on this part in the past had been asked for.

Jonas was not the first “contemporary” Robin Hood, and neither was Michael Praed (Robin of Sherwood). The first version to really break with all swashbuckling, Lincoln green tradition, was the fourth and final Hammer version called “Wolfshead” (Click on link to see review). There are similarities between the style of that film, with its low budget improvised costumes and bleak forest settings, and the Jonas Armstrong / Tiger Productions version. (Note: The DVD often sold on e-bay, under various titles such as “The Legend of Robin Hood” or “Adventures of the Young Robin Hood”, would seem to be a truncated TV edit). But what was “new” about Jonas was his own post-Britpop / boy next door charm. In short, to new audiences of the post millennium decade, he was believable.

So why am I left with so few memories of him from the third and final series of Robin Hood? Why am I left struggling to say more about him than what I’ve already said at the conclusions of series 1 and 2?

The underlying theme of the third series should have been (some might argue actually was), Robin Hood’s coming to terms with Marian’s murder, retreating from his role as protector of the people, before returning to his former heroic status, and even finding new and meaningful love. But instead, Robin’s passage through these 13 episodes is too often sidetracked by other issues, including the introduction of other characters, and I feel the title role is diminished. As a consequence, as far as this series is concerned, I tend to remember Jonas Armstrong more as a sequence of effective snapshots, such as burying the ring, and spitting the soup (episode 1), or flirting with Isabella, and escaping with her from the flooding dungeons (episode 7).

Series 3 had a lot of really good episodes (an opinion endorsed by my reviews below), but I do feel that, having lined Robin Hood up for what should have been a really interesting “come-back” from the depths of despair, the spotlight was too often shone elsewhere, and Jonas was simply pushed into what I have referred to in the past as his action adventure comfort zone. The result of this was that Robin Hood was either a bit player in his own show, or a rather shallow character in comparison with others. A good example being episode 9 in which his sudden love for Kate is compared frame by frame with Guy’s affection for Meg. Whereas Guy finds redemption in Meg, we are only left wondering why Robin has forgotten Marian so soon.

Of course this is only my opinion, and one might suspect from comments Jonas Armstrong himself has made, that the final episodes of Series 3 in particular were amongst those he enjoyed best, charging about with Richard Armitage, and clearly working hard to lay the foundation for a subsequent series with a new “Robin” called Archer. (We know Jonas was sorry to see the show cancelled).

In the end I think not only Jonas Armstrong, but Robin Hood, deserved more. When the final exit came, Robin Hood would fire no last arrow into Sherwood Forest, and there would be no comforting arms from his faithful friend Little John (or in this case Much). As with all three series, such superior stories from the original legend would be scrapped in favour nothing particularly imaginative. I couldn’t believe Much’s love and respect for his “master” (let alone John’s and Kate’s) would have allowed Robin to go off and die alone. I found the body posture as he slumped against that tree (not to mention the wobbly lily) vaguely amusing at a time I didn’t want to feel amused. And, although this will be an unpopular thing to say, I felt sorry for Jonas himself, that even in this his final hour he had to share the spotlight with someone else. Robin Hood’s death scene was “stolen” by Lucy.

However, to close on a more positive note, Jonas Armstrong certainly left his mark on the film and television annals of Robin Hood. Taking all three series as a whole one can certainly say that, in those episodes when he was given most opportunity to shine, then shine he certainly did. As with the rest of that original, young, enthusiastic cast, the reason for the show’s somewhat premature cancellation could never be laid at his door.

******


Robin Hood goes on. As do Maid Marian, Little John, Friar Tuck, Will Scarlet, Guy of Gisborne, Alan A Dale and the Sheriff of Nottingham. It is a rich and ancient legend, the popularity of which is no doubt sustained across the decades because of its fascinating links with contemporary affairs. Green issues? Environment? Recession? Banker’s bonuses? It’s all in there. Even, sadly, issues concerning East / West wars.

Robin Hood crosses all faith systems and cultures. If you care to visit the souvenir shop at Sherwood Forest Visitor’s Centre you will see children of all colours and creeds donning their Crusader costumes, or pink Maid Marian frocks, or buying their replica English long bows with rubber sucker arrows, and go charging about the forest paths. And yes, to such children Robin Hood still stubbornly wears his Lincoln Green cap. (Not even Jonas could change that).

But this particular blog now comes to and end.

Thanks to all who engaged in comment and debate, particularly at the height of the series. I shall leave all such comment boxes open for the immediate future. I myself will of course continue to review other Robin Hood films in the rest of my blogs. (See links in the sidebar).


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23 Comments:

Blogger robin hood said...

Robin Hood Series 3 Cast:

Robin Hood - Jonas Armstrong
Kate - Joanne Froggatt
Guy of Gisborne - Richard Armitage
Toby Stephens - Prince John
Tuck - David Harewood
Sheriff of Nottingham - Keith Allen
Little John - Gordon Kennedy
Much - Sam Troughton
Allan-a-Dale - Joe Armstrong
Isabella - Lara Pulver

14 November 2009 at 16:09  
Blogger robin hood said...

Recommended for Lucy Griffin fans: "Collision". I'm not too impressed with the show, but she is GREAT.

14 November 2009 at 16:10  
Blogger Clement of the Glen said...

Excellent summary Robin.

I shall miss visiting your blog after each of the episodes and reading the comments.

Congratulations, this had to be the number 1 website for the millions of fans of the BBC series.

15 November 2009 at 19:14  
Blogger robin hood said...

Thanks Clement,

And may I say, as I have done before, all Robin Hood fans passing through here really should also add Clement to their bookmarks.

15 November 2009 at 19:24  
Blogger evielyn said...

Hi Robin- I have really enjoyed reading all of your blogs and all the comments after each story. Saturday nights are never the same any more it has been a most enjoyable experience and I wouldn't have missed it for anything.

I always thought Jonas was terrific in the role he had a lovely smile and I am sure they all had great fun filming together, three years is a long time

I did watch Collision and I thought Lucy was very good she certainly has charisma it was nice to see her on TV again

15 November 2009 at 20:14  
Blogger robin hood said...

Hi Evielyn,

I certainly feel the same way.

I never thought for one moment, when I started a simple blog with a post card of Robin hood's Tree, that the BBC would then be doing a series, and I would end up doing all this.

Great fun.

Sharing the Legend, and the enthusiasm, is what it's all about.

15 November 2009 at 23:59  
Anonymous Rav said...

Aw, it finally comes to an end (although hopefully we'll get to see some kind of review when Russell Crowe's Robin hits the scene?)

Thanks so much for this blog. Even though I bombarded season 3 with snark, it was still a great place for reviews and discussion, and plenty of good pictures.

In terms of Robin's death scene; the lily and the awkward pose were rather strange, and the last arrow was dearly missed, but I had assumed that Robin's decision to go into the forest alone was that he wanted his friends to remember him in his prime (instead of whatever effects the poison may have had on him) and because a part of him could sense that Marian was coming for him (in which case, he was probably trying to avoid Kate instigating another cat-fight).

Sorry, couldn't resist a last bit of snark.

I too have seen (blonde!) Lucy in "Collision," and though her part is low-key, it was certainly nice to see her alive and well (the level to which I affliate her as the definitive Marian means that an obscure part of my brain was actually concerned that she'd really died).

For Jonas Armstrong, I'm looking forward to seeing him the adaptation of Agatha Christie's "Secret of Chimneys" in which he plays Anthony Cale (for those who haven't read the book, he's perfect for this part).

20 November 2009 at 22:23  
Blogger robin hood said...

Hi Rav,

And thanks for that last bit of snark. Always appreciated.

Yes indeed, Russell Crowe will be reviewed over on my main Robin Hood blog www.robinhoodblog.com

My gut feeling already is that Ridley Scott hasn't made as good a film as it sounded in the very beginning. (There is some info on my other blog).

I think he should have kept to the idea of Crowe as a "good" Sheriff. But we shall see...

20 November 2009 at 22:54  
Anonymous Annie said...

Hi, Robin,

Let me second (third, fourth) those who have loved having a place to come to praise, discuss and vent about the BBC Robin Hood. I'll definitely be checking back now and then for news and reviews of new RH adaptations.

Speaking of which, the SyFy channel is debuting a new version on Saturday (28 November) called Beyond Sherwood. There are supernatural elements and dragons!

You can't keep a good legend down!

Annie

26 November 2009 at 20:13  
Blogger robin hood said...

Hi Annie,

Thanks for letting me know about Beyond Sherwood. Sounds entertaining at least, and I have bookmarked their page.

26 November 2009 at 22:10  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your description of Jonas Armstrong as "post Brit-pop" falls in line with what I told friends when the show first aired: "They're more Indie Band than Band of Thieves."

I stumbled onto your sites just yesterday, and I hope you keep watching (and responding to) comments for a little while longer--not just for me, but for U.S. viewers who will see the show finale tonight. Your insight (and that of the regular commenters) helps one better understand this show's triumphs and flaws, since not everyone grew up hearing all the stories. As handsome as the cast is, I'm much happier to read how well they fare with their given characters--and I'm sure the actors would appreciate it, too.

Finally, Mr. Hood, at first I thought you were female. What tipped me off? That you engage in an honest critique of Kate, rather than raging Kate Hate :) We women can get pretty harsh towards other females, in ways that only women can.

Kuromi

6 December 2009 at 21:36  
Blogger robin hood said...

Hi Kuromi

I certainly try and respond promptly to all comments on all my Robin Hood blogs. I think sharing the Legend makes it more fun.

And I am male. I actually did grow up I Sherwood Forest! True.

6 December 2009 at 22:01  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Much was made about this BBC America rendition as being "younger" and "more hip." But I was wondering if, historically, the ages of Robin and his merry band actually would have been in their 20s, like this version, rather than in their late 30s/early 40s as has been portrayed everywhere else. Back in medieval times, wasn't 40 a ripe old age (and the age at which an "elderly" Robin Hood was said to have died, I believe)?
-Kuromi

17 December 2009 at 03:11  
Blogger robin hood said...

Hi Kuromi,

Absolutely right.

For example, Kevin Costner was FAR too old (and dull) to be playing Robin Hood.

17 December 2009 at 10:28  
Anonymous kitty said...

Miss this blog probably because it is the only blog I can think of that can handle diverse opinions offered in a positive fashion .
Though I must disagree over opinions in relation to Lucy Griffiths in collision I found her a bit stereotypical in relation to the character .
Happy New year to all

4 January 2010 at 22:31  
Blogger robin hood said...

Hi Kitty,

I agree. Even though it was a hectic race to post the reviews before bedtime on the evening of the broadcast, it was great fun. As was the chance to read people's differing opinions.

I also miss the show. Yes it got crazy towards then end, but I would have liked it to continue even if it meant another actor inheriting the title. (It worked in Robin of Sherwood and it might have worked here).

5 January 2010 at 23:35  
Blogger Jordan said...

hey...!

robin hood is so awesome! I haven't seen all of season 3 yet. Ive seen the first epidsode, and as i type i'm buying the next one. it's very good. i think i like season 2 best so far.
its hard tp pick my favourite characters!
i love robin.
guy is so evilly cool.
will was the best (why did he go!!?)
and allan is actually pretty cool.
i have a slight obession perhaps...
are they making a season four...?

9 May 2010 at 08:52  
Blogger robin hood said...

Hi Jordan,

No chance of a Season 4 I'm afraid. The BBC scrapped the show due to dramatically falling viewing figures. (Something I feel they were responsible for in the end by killing Marian).

9 May 2010 at 10:39  
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12 June 2010 at 10:43  
Blogger Wayno said...

I would have to agree. As I remember Series 1 and 2 being much better than the 3rd. I remember Robin a.) making many more remarkable shots with his bow. And b.) It had Marian in it.

To me after she left the show, the dynamic just changed. There was much more intrigue and subterfuge when she was in the plot, making the show much more unpredictable in my humble opinion.

I mean don't get me wrong I liked Kate, but she wasn't the same character type as Marian.

And as for my first comment with the bow. I mean, when you think of Robin Hood, you think marksman with a bow. Shortbow, longbow, crossbow, doesn't matter. Put a bow in the man's hands and you have a dead man walking on the receiving end if he so chooses. Yes, he was a master with the sword as well, but again, Robin Hood = Bow. My point being in all this, there weren't enough difficult off the charts shots that Robin Hood would have pulled off. I mean, ya there were a couple here and there. I mean, most being in the 1st and 2nd season...but getting into the 3rd season it was all the same stuff, multi-shot, dual-shot etc. I wanna see more unique stuff with a bow. I mean honestly, how many times did you see him take down multiple enemies with one shot? Not many if at all that I can remember...maybe once in the first season I think?!?! But that's the stuff Robin Hood did.

Anyway, I'll leave it at that.

-Z

20 July 2011 at 00:46  
Blogger robin hood said...

I agree with most of what you say, Wayno.

For me, once Lucy's Marian was gone, the series was never quite the same. Marian is such a vital part of the legend.

20 July 2011 at 10:32  
Blogger MChris Wsh said...

Many years later, seen on DVD.
I liked season 3 best. Lots of RA liked the cliche evil gone good. Helped me through a very tough time in life.

23 April 2017 at 21:48  
Blogger robin hood said...

Hi MChris. Time flies.

I've not watched any of these series since the time of their broadcast.

Certainly when "tough times" come along one can't beat a bit of Robin Hood.

24 April 2017 at 10:18  

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