ROBIN HOOD: SERIES 1 (2006)
(Can't find the official theme tune on YouTube, but frankly, I like this better.)
I first came across this show shortly after getting cast in faire.I was flipping through the channels and found it on BBC America and flipped back to it a few times during commercials on Jepoardy!. It's this kind of behind-the-scenes stuff that makes this blog so worth reading.
(It's a bit of a handicap, not being able to see. At least I'd think so. And thank God he stopped wearing those chaps after this episode.)
THE EXTREMELY LONG DESCRIPTION OF THE PLOT OF THE PILOT: Yeah, you just try to get through the first 15 minutes of this without retching. The first bit, where Robin and Much save Alan from soldiers after he’s caught poaching is fine, until you find out that they were just passing by and are not yet outlaws living in the forest, so the system of ropes Much is using to make the soldiers think they’re surrounded is a leeetle unbelievable. Then the two of them walk through the woods, where we learn that Robin is a noble back from the Crusades and Much is his servant. They stop off for a break at a weaver’s house, which seems to be missing walls, the more dramatically for his cloth to flap. Robin starts making out with the 30-something weaver’s 20-something daughter, who looks to be in her ‘30s because she’s wearing too damn much makeup. Weaver and Robin swordfight, there’s some backflipping… Oh, god, we’re only 10 minutes in. So Bobby H and the Muchster head back to Locksley, which is looking like a ghost town. Rob talks to Dan Scarlet, which I find to be a hilarious name for some reason, and says hi to his insanely boring kids, Will and Luke. Dan, the best carpenter in town, had his hand whacked off after taking the blame for his kids stealing some food. The ungrateful little bastards haven’t learned their lesson, though, because the oily, unshaven, sleazy lord of the Manor, one Guy de Gisbourne, comes a-ridin’ on in looking for some stolen grain.
Guy is an absolutely hideous example of humanity, and immediately commences to the arresting and hand-choppery, all the while bearing a crooked sneer, bad hair, and a flop sweat. I‘m sure the first fawning websites and romantic fan fic were up halfway through this scene. Robin stops him and tells him to step the fuck off, it‘s my Locksley now, bitch. Guy skulks away, but that’s not really his fault. Skulk and rampage are like his only two settings. And there’s your 15 minutes. Robin and Much return home, and Robin goes off to see his good pal the Sheriff. But the old Sheriff has lost his position and taken up a job as Old Coot, with his daughter Marian as Robin-hating doorperson. She will have none of this flirting thank you so much. Next day, Robin heads off to Nottingham town for the council of nobles. The town is as empty as Locksley was, and much is made of it, though every other time we see the town in the series, it’s downright bustling, so I guess the extras budget was expanded. Either that, or outlawry bolsters the economy. Gisbourne is seen complaining to the new Sheriff about his treatment at the hands of the guy whose house he was living in, and the Sheriff, a big ball of catchphrases that studied at the Brian Blessed Academy of Hammery, berates Gisbourne, as Sheriffs are so fond of doing. Hood gives everyone a lesson in supply-side economics, thus proving himself to be a fiscal conservative, and a social liberal. Sherrif tax-and-spend gets angry and decides to execute all the Locksley prisoners, (now including Alan-a-Dale, who got caught again and figured claiming to be Alan-a-Locksley might get him rescued again.) and Robin will read out the charge. On execution day, Robin’s attempt to save everyone with legal loopholes fails, and as the prisoners dangle helplessly, his face begins to glow and he spins around, thumps a guard, steals his bow, and shoots the nooses down, all the while shouting his new mission statement. It’s actually pretty cool. Much is taken hostage, and Robin throws a broadsword about 30 yards and knocks out the two men holding him. This is silly, but also cool. Then a guy holds Robin at arrow point and Marian throws one of her hairpins through the guy’s hand from the balcony. This is just stupid. Our Heroes escape, the Scarlets run off somewhere, though we can assume at least one of them will be back, and Robin and Much settle down in the forest. Soon they are accosted by a big hairy guy and his outlaw band, and here we end our episode.
("Nice pants. Where'd you get them?" "Time machine." "Cool.")
THE BAD: I’m starting off bad, because the show is good, and I’d rather end positive so you could keep that in mind. The worst of the bad is the show’s love for modern times. Not so much in the look of it, which is aggressively modern, what with the hair gel and the scruffy beards, and the fact that Marian’s whole wardrobe seems to be from the Gap. I’m used to that sort of thing, and at least the show’s look is consistent. No, the problem lies in the shows desperate need for relevance. Time and time again, the show awkwardly tries to cleverly mirror the modern world. And it sucks at it. Taxes, prisoners of war, fighing over the Holy Land, and other typical Robin Hood fare is paralelled with the modern age with all the subtlety of having John Goodman dropped on you playing the tuba. I'm amazed there's not a running plot about the high price of horse food. Oh, and you or he could be playing the tuba. I'm not picky.
THE GOOD: Sometimes, the show remembers to be fun! When it's a crazy funny actiony show, it's fabulous. The acting is great, particularly from Robin, Much, and Alan. The sheriff is hilariously over-the-top. Most of the reworking of classic characters is done smoothly. You know what? Saving the good for later was dumb. Good isn't funny.
(Little John is so strong, he gets imprisoned using the same methods Rasputin used on Hellboy.)
THE OTHERWISE WORTHY OF MENTION: Everybody wears freakin’ scarves on this show. It’s not really distracting, and they work with the costumes, mostly, but still. Scarves everywhere. And I almost put this under “The Bad”, but it has no real effect on the episodes, so it’s here. The cutesy titles. See if you can guess the episode title from the plot description.
1- The Sheriff is cutting out the tongues of all the people in Locksley. One an hour until Robin turns himself in.
2- An assassin is gunning for the Sheriff and accidentally claiming innocent lives, and the populace thinks Robin is to blame.
3- The sight of Sir Guy’s tattoo marks him as the man who tried to kill King Richard, and Robin sets out for revenge.
4- Robin and his friends are conned by the Sheriff’s taxman while they think he’s helping them.
5- Roy is forced to betray Robin and the band to save his mother’s life, while the band is trying to protect a baby left by Gisbourne to die in the woods.
A- “Tattoo? What Tattoo?”
B- “Sheriff Got Your Tongue?”
C- “The Taxman Cometh”
D- “Parent Hood”
E- “Who Shot the Sheriff?”
(He's better than he looks. But then, he'd have to be.)
ROBIN : He’s a great microcosm of the whole show. As played by Jonas Armstrong (As opposed to Joe Armstrong, who plays Alan. I guess it’s like smith over there), he can be alternatively fantastic and annoying. When the show‘s in a good mood, he’s one of the best Robins ever. Fun loving, acrobatic, and a master of trick archery. When the show’s in a bad mood, he’s a smug douchebag, his archery is a lame gimmick, his fighting is pathetically modern, and his stupid haircut becomes his stupid stupid stupid haircut. He’s a dedicated pacifist after being exposed to so much horrible bloodshed in the Crusade, now outright refusing to kill. But he convinces the Sheriff that he would if he had to. This kicks off a whole lot of “Well, if you do this, I’ll do that” back and forth upper-hand-getting until Robin Hood and the Sheriff have essentially the same relationship as Inspector Gadget and Doctor Claw. “I’ll get you next time, Locksley! NEXT TIIIIIIME!”
(I hate his hair more than anyone's. It's not even that modern, it just bugs me for some reason.)
LITTLE JOHN : I’ve called out past Little Johns for coming off as stupid, but this is the first time that I feel it was done on purpose. Anyway, As per usual, he’s the leader of a small band of outlaws in the forest that Robin takes over. As per unusual, there’s no bridge fight. His guys just jump Robin, Much, and Alan in the forest. They’re stripped and tied up and called fancy-lads, then Will rescues them and they jump the others and strip them, then the other guys come back from it and strip… Well, there’s a lot of homoerotic episode-padding on this series in general. Given the amount this comes up, I’m beginning to think gay subtext is as inseparable to Robin Hood as it is to Fight Club. His catchphrase is a tendency to make big pronouncements in a Yoda-esque fashion, like “KILLING… we do not do.” or “TAX MEN… we do not like” and presumably “BATHS… I do not take.” He’s got a fun example of when the show finally became more good than bad. See, in the early episodes, he was just “John”, and the son he never knew, born after he was outlawed years before the show starts, is called “Little John” in his honor. That’s basically the creators’ way of saying “There’s your little treat, fan boys, now feck off, we’re making SERIOUS RELEVANT DRAMA. We’ve no time for silly nicknames.” Then halfway through the season, everyone’s calling him Little John, because that’s what he’s called, you stupid asses. Now stop with the moping and make with the ziplines.
(Here's a picture of a wall, which I like because... oh, hi, Will. Didn't see you there.)
WILL SCARLET : Who? Oh right, the guy with the mustache. Forgot about him. Seriously, though, he’s so boring. He’s the son of the local carpenter in Locksley, and occasionally uses his knowledge of carpentry to save the day. Also he fights with two axes. And um… that’s it? There’s an attempt to give him a personality later by having him admit that he’s in love with Jack (That is actually not as gay as it sounds.) but guess how much nothing is ever made of that.
TUCK : Gone daddy gone. They claim the reason for not including Tuck is that a comedy relief character would be out of place, but we’ve seen plenty of serious Tucks, and the show’s pretty damn goofy anyway, so I’d guess the real reason is to avoid offending religious types. Pussies.
(Much likes to eat and sleep, and complains a lot, and dresses like this... Much is basically a Hobbit.)
MUCH : Much isn’t in this. Well, there’s someone called Much. But he’s not annoying or useless. So he can’t be. He’s funny and well-liked, and while he’s still not a great fighter or thinker, he can certainly hold his own. Oh, also he’s not a miller’s son. Or a miller’s anything. Or an anyone’s anything. What he is is Robin’s servant, and has been since they were children. In return for his faithful service in ye Holy Land, Robin is intending on giving him the estate on Bonchurch, which is apparently a suburb of Locksley or something. Then they get outlawed, so tough noogies to him. He gets captured by the Sheriff once (Yes, only ONCE!), and the Sheriff frees him and gives him the estate and earldom. He hires a girl to spy on Much, but she falls for him, and he falls for her, and holy crap, Much is getting really good plots devoted to him. This shit is bananas.
(Probably the least anachronistic thing she's ever worn)
MARIAN : A higher social ranker than the other Marians, as she’s Queen Bitch of Crabbyland. Seriously, Robin comes back from the crusades, and he’s all trying to get flirty with her, and she’s having none of it. And I know I’ve said I like a Marian who’s the inside man, but not if she complains about it this much. She’s all holier-than-thou to Robin because she’s been helping folks at home while he’s been off Crusading. And help them she does, as the masked Night Watchman, who beats up guards, and gives food and money to people and basically does all the stuff Robin does, only with boobs and a mask. Speaking of, It’s amazing how many times Gisbourne fights her, and believes she’s a man. She’s not hiding anything there. Special skills: Crabbing, whining, complaining, naysaying, gainsaying, backflips, and promising to marry people. All joking aside, her denial of Robin despite her obvious attraction and her attraction to Gisbourne despite all common sense is kind of refreshing, and having the two of them chase after her is better than 13 episodes of Robin Bond and Maid Moneypenny.
(Just try to ignore the hair.)
ALAN A DALE : Man, Alan’s great. He’s the first character we see, by dint of being the poacher Robin and Much save. He spins a yarn about his wife and kids to get out of it, despite not having either. This is Alan’s major character trait: that he is a liar, and a dang good one. He’ll try to talk his way out of anything. Also, he’s completely unmusical. Given that the two best characters so far have been the farthest from the classic interpretations, I can’t help but wonder if the show wouldn’t have been better off just changing everyone’s name and going by the title “The Forest Outlaws”. Hair report: The modernest of all, but I like him, so he gets a free pass. Catchphrase: The least annoying one. He prefaces a criticism or an observation with “Look, I’m not being funny, but…”
(Little Miss Can't Be Wrong)
JACK : Whose name is apparently spelled “Djaq”, but I think that’s silly. She’s the lady-type of the gang and the Moor-type as well. So there’s a twofer. Since she’s two minorities, she’s super-pretty, super-capable, a super-genius, and all the boys are in love with her. Well, Will and Alan like her lots, but as I said, It’s not an issue. Maybe next season. The political correctness is INSANE here. Jack, despite not having a career of her own, is an accomplished physician, not to mention a chemist capable of making gunpowder out of shit the Sheriff keeps lying around. She literally is flawless. Same goes for the other Saracen with a speaking role this season, who‘s a brilliant peacemaker who can sure insanity with accupuncture, despite never having done it before.. This show is just so afraid of offending Arabs they don’t seem willing to portray a single flaw. Of course, they don’t seem too willing to hire them, either. Both named, speaking Saracen characters are played by actors of Indian descent. My guess is the casting directors watch Lost.
(More catchphrases than an episode of Little Britain.)
SHERIFF :This somewhat Schryvery lookin’ fella is just a fantastic Sheriff. He has no motivations, morals, or redeeming qualities. None. At all. Whatsoever. And it works fantastically. Like I’ve been saying, the show works when it’s over the top, and this guy is nothing but. And when I say no motivations, I mean it. It’s like he just walked into the castle, realized he was playing the Sheriff on a show called Robin Hood, and by gar, that’d make it EVIL TIME. Time to be EVIL. As I mentioned before, he attains several victories over Robin, mostly by doing something what else but apeshit crazy. Like pouring acid on Gisbourne’s arm to remove an incriminating tattoo. Nice. He’s played by actor/comedian/musician/documentarian Keith Allen, who is awesome. Also, he gets multiple catchphrases. The dismissive: “Oh, la dee dah dee dah.” The mocking: “[Rhetorical yes/no question]? A clue… NO.” And the angry: “You blithering oaf!”
(My guess is his legion of lady fans are also the ones who drippily fawn over a certain deformed stalker/murderer with a psycho crush, willing to run your life into the ground so you'll have no choice but to stay with them. Oh, that's ROMANTIC.)
SIR GUY : Is Gisbourne French for “Seen it, and better done, too”? Well, it can’t be, because that only really applies in this case. But honestly the only part of this Sir Guy that’s original is his ridiculous leather outfit. He’s the captain of the guards who’s ashamed of his landless status like the Robin of Sherwood Guy. He’s a noble who wants to marry Marian like Basil Rathbone. And he tried to kill the king in the Holy Land like Spooky Doughballs. Also he’s a big mopey jerk who tries to bully, trick, and blackmail Marian into marrying him while performing such acts as impregnating a servant girl and leaving their baby to die in the forest, then beating her up when she asks him about it. Needless to say, he’s got a devoted female fan base. This is probably because he’s played by the dreamy Richard Armitage, and however much they ugly him up, his budget-Hugh Jackman good looks come through. Armitage has said in interviews that he wanted the audience to feel uncomfortable when Guy is around Marian, with his leering glances and oily, unshaven romance. But fan girls have never let the clear intentions of writers, directors, and actors get in the way of their vision. GUY + MARIAN OTP!!!!
(I accuse YOU of being the Master of Mischief! Also, I think my jokes are getting too obscure for my own good.)
THE MAN: Always a presence, if never seen, for both of them. Richard is off fighting his Crusade, and hasn't been seen by anyone in England for so long, the Sheriff's able to use an impostor king in his eeeeeevil plot. Speaking of, there's reference that Ol' Notty is working very closely with Prince John, and John might be behind Gizzy's attempted offing of His Royal Frenchiness. So basically Ricky good, Johnny bad, let's mention them occasionally and get on with the show.
(Roy, about to meet his predictable fate.)
OTHER MERRY MEN: ROY! ROY ROY ROY! ROY ROY ROYYYYYYY! Roy’s neat. He’s one of Little John’s outlaws, and a full-time band member. For a while, he just handles the complainy crab-ass role, but soon develops an interesting and creative personality. Then he’s killed. Womp womp wahhhhhhhh. Tom-a-Dale joins the band in one episode, only to thoroughly cock up and get killed. He’s sort of like Alan if he completely gave in to all his vices, and his hanging would have been one of the more melodramatic if it weren’t tempered by one of the Sheriff’s all-time Magnificent Bastard moments: He announces the time of the hanging, knowing that Robin will try to save his men. Robin and the band go in, suspecting a trap, but not suspecting that Tom and his friends had been hung an hour prior to the announced time. Oh. Snap. And I guess I should give a shout-out to Sir Someone of Someplace, Marian’s father and the former Sheriff of Nottingham. He lends a hand when able, but is mostly there to dither around and fret over Marian, while espousing the very valid ‘Well, what the hell can WE do about it?’ point of view. Oh, and they get attacked by a camo-panted loon with PTSD and Kill Bill fighting moves. He’s axe-crazy at the start, but the aforementioned magic Turk cures him by sticking needles into his skull, which works perfectly first try, 'cause he read a book about it once. It was not the best episode.
(Sure, why not?)
OTHER VILLAINS: The sheriff’s cool black friend shows up in one episode with some fancy job and title, then Guy kills him and takes it. There’s a con team consisting of a fake tax collector, a fake black Mother Superior, and a third guy. If you’re saying “Hey! I think it rather unlikely that there would be black nobles and mothers superior in 1190s England!” then you are far more concerned with historical accuracy than this show is, and if you’ve watched far enough to see them, your brain’s probably exploded with rage already. Like as soon as you saw Alan’s hair. Anyway, there were some Saracen assassins who would distract you with a sexy dance before killing you. But really that’s it.
(Dress-up time in the outlaw camp.)
"You want to be loved! And I tell you something: it's not fair... I love you, and no one gives me any food. Yet people who DO NOT love you are fed. The world is wrong! We're feeding people who do not love us and... saving a man who wants us dead. [Pause.] I've changed my mind... I no longer love you. Now can I eat?"
Much is awesome.
(Yes, you love my bendy face. Ladies, you are now pregnant. Men, you are now gay.)
Unfortunately, I don’t have the episode on hand, but I’m not paraphrasing too much when I tell you that there’s one bit where Guy tells Marian that “Outlaws are now considered prisoners of war, and may be held without trial,” to which she retorts something a lot like “Just because we are at war in the Holy Land does not give you the ability to suspend people’s rights at home!”
I’m starting a new feature here in “Worst Line”, wherein I fix the offending dialogue:
Guy: We can imprison anyone we want for any reason because we’re rich and they’re poor and it’s 1192. Besides, they’re outlaws. They quite literally are outside the protection of law. That’s where the word comes from.
Marian: Works for me.
COMING UP NEXT: “Mine is the shortest in the company”; “Marian’s fingers paused. ‘That would not be so pleasurable.’”; all these out-of-context joys, plus Little John’s uncomfortably in-context oily, rippling muscles in “The Outlaws of Sherwood”!