TV Show Review: BBC’s Robin Hood Episode 1.06 “The Tax Man Cometh”


Series Title: Robin Hood (IMDb)
Episode: 1.06 “The Tax Man Cometh”
Original Air Date: November 11, 2006
Length: 45 minutes
Director: Dwight O’Dwyer
Writer: Dominic Minghella
Lead Actors: Jonas Armstrong (Robin), Richard Armitage (Guy of Gisborne), Keith Allen (Sheriff of Nottingham), Lucy Griffiths (Marian), Anjali Jay (Djaq)
Synopsis: “Robin captures a tax inspector and plots to heist the year’s taxes, but a surprise is in store for both him and the sheriff; Marian makes her own preparations after a row with her father, and Gisborne makes his intentions clear.”
Recommendation: Another fun episode with lots of tricking going on. Probably a good entry point for someone new to the show, I think.

Key Thoughts

Allan A Dale

Aside from the entertaining villains, I really am liking Robin himself and the outlaws. They’re all appealing personalities, especially Allan A Dale. In fact, Much is the one who is becoming increasingly annoying. Not horribly so, but so far he has been stuck in the mode of “wimpy complainer.” He’s the butt of jokes, eternally frightened and over-earnest either about silly things, or about serious things in a silly way, and lacks any discernable toughness or sense of humor. I feel that any serious outlaw group would long ago have left him behind or found a way to keep him out of their important outlaw endeavors. In the first episode, he somewhat functioned as an extra conscience for Robin (despite Robin himself being generally the most upright character), but since then that role has been usurped by Allan. This may account partially for Allan being my favorite outlaw, but much also has to be said for his good sense, good humor, warm-hearted honesty, and considerable competence. On the whole, they are a proper band of capable young men out to fight injustice and have some fun along the way.

The outlaw with the least development thus far is the new girl Djaq, the “Saracen” with an anti-Christian anti-English chip on her shoulder (courtesy of the nasty Crusades). Considering she was just introduced last episode, it’s surprising that she should get no more than two or three lines this time. She’s not given any personality traits beyond “feisty” and “angry,” and so appears to be a pointless novelty.

Sir Guy of Gisborne is quite sympathetic in this episode. His concern for the (apparently wounded near death) “Abbess of Rufford” is genuine, even earning him scorn from the Sheriff. And he is consistently nice towards Marian, and almost romantic as he declares that he will continue to be kind to her and pursue her affections in spite of her rejections. He does not force himself on her; in fact, he almost seems a tad bit tongue-tied in her presence. In his wooing there is a certain gentleness and vulnerability. It’s no wonder he’s popular with fangirls. Of course he would make a terrible husband for Marian, being hard and intolerant of her outspokenness, and he has earned his villain-hood already (you’ll pardon the pun). Yet he is a character with layers and believability, and I like that.

Obligatory Marian rant

Of Marian herself, she continues to be selfish and arrogant while inexplicably retaining the show’s support. I suppose we are expected to cheer for her as some sort of feminist paradigm, and yet all I see is a spoiled brat who disrespects her father and her friends and gets away with it because of her pretty face. She manipulates everyone around her into thinking she is a brave little victim, when truthfully most of her troubles are her own fault. She is perfectly placed to be Robin’s help inside Nottingham and its castle, but she performs that role reluctantly, and almost with disgust. One thinks she would not be satisfied unless she were the leader of a band of outlaws herself, gaining her own fame by rubbing in the mud the faces of all those who annoy her.

Oh alright, she has her nice moments. Her concern for the oppressed peasants feels genuine, and the revelation of how deep is her father’s love for her brings out a nice tearful hug. But these moments almost feel like exceptions to the rule. At the very least, they do not excuse her poor behavior elsewhere.

TV Review: BBC’s Robin Hood Episode 1.05 “Turk Flu”


Series Title: Robin Hood (IMDb)
Episode: 1.05 “Turk Flu”
Original Air Date: March 31, 2006
Length: 45 minutes
Director: Dwight O’Dwyer
Writer: Dominic Minghella
Lead Actors: Jonas Armstrong (Robin), Sam Troughton (Much), Richard Armitage (Guy of Gisborne), Keith Allen (Sheriff of Nottingham), Gordon Kennedy (Little John)
Synopsis: “The Sheriff is importing slaves to work in a dangerous mine. In the meantime there is an archery competition at Nottingham Fair.” (Wikipedia)
Recommendation: While the story has some interesting aspects, including a different take on the classic archery competition, it also introduces the ridiculous character of Djaq, a “Saracen” girl, who so far has greatly annoyed me.

Key Thoughts

This episode includes many references to modern-day issues, such as the suspicion of Middle-Easterners in the West, Britain’s 2006 bird flu, and Muslim resentment towards “Christian” nations (yet interestingly, nothing about the dangers of radical Islam). The vehicle for these “themes” is the arrival in Nottingham of a batch of “Saracen” slaves that the Sheriff has bought to work his deadly iron mines, represented by the spunky girl-poorly-disguised-as-a-boy Djaq. Unfortunately, both the character and the references are basically ham-handed liberal rants against the West that threaten to interfere with the more fun aspects of this episode’s story. Djaq is less a character than a mouthpiece, and despite being apparently a teenager, she seems to be this wise (yet fiery) receptacle of all Arab science and knowledge. Her lines are few, but annoying. Her actions and reactions are mostly illogical, especially her ill-explained decision to join Robin’s group at the episode’s end (or was there even an explanation? Everyone seemed to take it for granted).

Apparently all English believe that "Turks" have a contagious and deadly flu. Or at least, that's what Robin hopes they believe...

Robin’s men intercept the slaves as they are being conspicuously transported in a wagon, and once our boy Hood realizes the situation, he resolves to strike at the Sheriff twice with one stroke; firstly, by using the slaves to help him infiltrate and destroy the mine, and secondly, to free the slaves. Ah, but that’s not all he has to worry about! For the Sheriff is holding an archery contest—for the express purpose of trapping him, naturally—and even though Robin knows it is a trap, it pains him that the job destroying the mine is keeping him from attending. But of course, you know things will work out so that Robin gets to win the contest and accomplish his other noble goals. Of course!

I think my favorite moment is the look on the Sheriff’s face when—reclining happily at the archery contest, waiting for Robin to arrive—he is told that his precious iron mine has been destroyed and all the slaves set free. It’s a look of absolute horror and panic, followed by he and Guy galloping desperately to the mine in time to see Robin mock them and escape.

Would I watch it again? Probably not, unless I was bored. All of the Robin Hood episodes seem pretty interchangeable. The fun comes from the fast-paced adventure and abundant roguish quips, making the increasingly-frequent “political commentary” quite annoying and out-of-place.

TV Review: BBC’s Robin Hood Episode 1.03 “Who Shot the Sheriff?”


Find my other reviews of this show at my Review List.

Series Title: Robin Hood (IMDb)
Episode: 1.03 “Who Shot the Sheriff?”
Original Air Date: October 21, 2006
Length: 45 minutes
Director: Richard Standeven
Writer: Paul Cornell
Lead Actors: Jonas Armstrong (Robin), Sam Troughton (Much), Richard Armitage (Guy of Gisborne), Keith Allen (Sheriff of Nottingham), Gordon Kennedy (Little John)
Synopsis: “With the people of Nottingham being attacked by a mysterious archer, Robin finds himself blamed.”
Recommendation: At last we have Robin leading a band of outlaws, fighting the Sheriff from the (sometimes elusive) safety of the greenwood and being a pretty decent chap to all the poor oppressed townsfolk even when they turn against him. Exactly what I signed up for. Overall it’s another fun episode with a good bit of roguish action. Much like the others.

Key Thoughts

As usual, the story is fast-paced and entertaining, if not always brilliant, and I’m pleased that Robin’s defining character traits are his dual senses of honor and justice, and his unwillingness to sacrifice either. The show likes to throw tough moral decisions his way, which is as it should be, and while they don’t elicit quite the gravitas that a show like Doctor Who, or even Highlander, does, they still help to give the proceedings a bit of depth and redeeming value. The action remains just this side of cartoony, and is a good deal of fun.

Also, I note with interest the presence of a black British character in a high-ranking position, whose anachronistic presence (like the anachronistic clothing, weapons, and just about everything else) goes uncommented on. This should be a clear indication of the kind of show Robin Hood is.

Also noteworthy: while this is a family show, moreso even than Doctor Who is, by my reckoning, it’s not afraid to kill off side characters. This episode in particular involves a number of innocent people getting shot with arrows, and Robin himself blamed for their deaths. Nothing is bloody or dwelt on, but some parents might consider it too intense for their children.

And now for my…

Obligatory Marian Rant

While this episode does end with Marian being slightly less hateful than previously, it precedes this with a particularly irritating example not only of her hypocrisy, but of her determination to disrespect Robin at every turn. Part of this is the writers’ fault, and part the actress’. The scene involves a night where Robin has snuck into the castle to deal with the Sheriff and hides in Marian’s bedroom to escape from searching guards. While Marian doesn’t hesitate to hide him, she has the gall to castigate him for never showing his feelings and acting as if he can’t be hurt. Apparently, this is how she interprets his righteous anger at the Sheriff’s violent oppression, his anguish at the tragedies that befall his serfs, and his unhesitating self-sacrifice for others. She’s seen it all herself—in fact, I complained about a similar scene in the previous episode where her illogic is even worse. Rather, it is Marian who comes across as arrogantly untouched by Robin’s selfless sacrifices. While it is revealed that she does have her own ways of combating the injustice of the Sheriff and Guy of Gisborne, she doesn’t emote it at all, and lack of emoting is her very accusation against Robin! Marian is presented as cold and immature, whereas Robin—though he’s not my favorite interpretation of the character—does appear to have considerable self-control.

Like we can't tell you're a girl when you pose like that, really.

[SPOILER] The end of the episode reveals that Marian herself is the mysterious Nightwatchman, who is also handy with weapons and was doing some minor fight-the-oppression-and-help-the-poor work before Robin returned from the Crusades. Since I knew this show wanted to make Marian a “tough action girl,” I wasn’t surprised or unduly annoyed by this. I mean, it is annoying because the show doesn’t need it and her character doesn’t deserve it, but to be honest, when she finally had to confess it to Robin, and he was amused but kind of pleased, she actually became less annoying. Who’d have thought?

TV Show Review: BBC’s Robin Hood Episode 1.02 “Sheriff Got Your Tongue?”


Series Title: Robin Hood (IMDb)
Episode: 1.02 “Sheriff Got Your Tongue?”
Original Air Date: October 14, 2006
Length: 45 minutes
Director: John McKay
Writer: Dominic Minghella
Lead Actors: Jonas Armstrong (Robin), Sam Troughton (Much), Richard Armitage (Guy of Gisborne), Keith Allen (Sheriff of Nottingham), Gordon Kennedy (Little John)
Content Advisory: Light PG-13 violence of the swashbuckling sort, the threat of someone’s tongue being cut.
Synopsis: “While the Sheriff and Guy of Gisborne take control of Locksley, Robin, Much, Allan and Will encounter Little John and his gang of outlaws in the forest.”
Reason for Watching: Had a spare hour and decided to continue on from Episode 1.

Recommendation and Key Thoughts

There’s more fun swashbuckling in this episode, and I quite enjoyed it. You can’t take it seriously, of course – it’s pure camp, winking at the audience the whole way and just generally trying to have a good time. That’s why I’m finding it easy to accept the offenses against history, logic, and physics, so far.

It’s also why I’m getting increasingly annoyed by the character of Marian. All the other characters seem half aware that they are in a swashbuckling comedy (Robin more than half), but Marian takes herself far too seriously. Consider this: near the climax of this episode, Robin has turned himself in to the sheriff in order to save the peasants of Locksley from the Sheriff’s violence. Robin is sentenced to hang the following morning, but naturally Marian visits him in prison with the intention of helping him escape. Before she does this, however, she tries to chew Robin out for being a selfish “fool.” Her reasoning is this: Robin gave himself in, which means he’ll die, which means he won’t be around to protect the people of Locksley, which means he did the wrong thing. Robin laughs at this nonsense, but likes her too much to point out just how illogical she is. Because, following her reasoning, Robin should be protecting his people by doing something which leads directly to their gruesome mutilation. She won’t even admit to his honor and integrity in doing this. Now, to be fair, much of her frustration with Robin comes from her own hurt feelings regarding him leaving for the Crusades while they were still engaged—but then who is being selfish? At any rate, Marian is the only character who is a complete bore when onscreen. She doesn’t seem to realize that in a Robin Hood show, you’re supposed to have fun!

The Sheriff of Nottingham

Fortunately, the other actors get this very well indeed. Special mentions here go to Keith Allen as the entertainingly despicable Sheriff and Gordon Kennedy as Little John. The former is quite a cunning fellow, as he quickly deduces that Robin values the lives and freedom of others far above his own life, and will not kill unless it is the last resort to save lives. And the latter gives this episode its emotional weight, as we learn he has a son in Locksley that he’s never seen, on account of his being an outlaw for so long. Kennedy is older and appears far more mature than the other young men onscreen, and that works greatly in his favor. This isn’t a buffoonish Little John, or a simple one—he may express himself forthrightly, but there’s lots of thought behind his eyes. I like this portrayal—he’s easily my favorite of the band so far.

John Little

And it’s nice to see Robin effectively at the head of the outlaws by the end of this episode. Every Robin Hood movie or show wants to start with an origin story, so it takes an episode or two for him to make friends with the outlaws and become their leader. It makes sense to do this, but the part I really came for is all the robbing from the rich, giving to the poor. Hopefully, that may now commence with gusto!

TV Show Review: BBC’s Robin Hood Episode 1.1 “Will You Tolerate This?”


Series Title: Robin Hood (IMDb)
Episode: 1.1 “Will You Tolerate This?”
Original Air Date: October 7, 2006
Length: 45 minutes
Director: John McKay
Writer: Dominic Minghella
Lead Actors: Jonas Armstrong (Robin), Sam Troughton (Much), Richard Armitage (Guy of Gisborne), Keith Allen (Sheriff of Nottingham), Lucy Griffiths (Marian)
Content Advisory: Very light PG-13 stuff; goofy action, some suggestive dialogue
Spoiler-free Synopsis: “Robin returns home from The Crusades and discovers the oppression of the new Sheriff of Nottingham. He sees Marian again, to whom he had been betrothed before he chose to leave for the Crusades.”
Reason for Watching: My cousin lent me Season 1 so I decided to give it a go.
Episode Re-watchability: Minor, I suppose. It’s fast-paced and reasonably fun, though not particularly clever.
Recommendation: Fun episode that makes clear that you should not take this show seriously. Not brilliant, but fairly well-made and fun.

Key Thoughts

When the title zoomed onscreen to the exaggerated sound of arrows hitting a target, I realized just how proudly the BBC’s Robin Hood wears its camp on its Lincoln-green sleeves. This realization prepared me so I could laugh when, in later instances, Robin shows off his “Saracen” recurved bow (actually a modernized version of a Hun bow, but nevermind), fires two arrows at once to split some hangman’s ropes (a modest homage to Carey Elwes, perhaps?), and gets saved by a pointy hairpin thrown with deadly precision at a range of many yards by Marian. Historical accuracy and realistic physics are thus ignored, and I have no great hopes for the legend being strictly adhered to either.

The actors all seem capable and possessing of comedic talent, although I notice that not only are all the male heroes young (which makes sense for Robin and his outlaws), but they all seem to have the same lean, rather short body build. This, combined with their acting styles, makes them all seem like rowdy college boys rather than young men who are trying to find their place in the world.

Robin himself is good enough. He’s a bit more serious than his mates, but not without a roguish side or a touch of emotional depth. Much (in other versions called “the Miller”) is the comic relief, filling, at this point at least, the role of Robin’s best friend and former manservant during the Crusades. Allan A Dale looks like he’ll be a fun rogue when he joins the group proper, and Will Scarlet, while young and idolizing Robin, has a chance of developing a measure of maturity, if the writers so decide.

At this stage, I’m not too thrilled about Marian. She’s cold and haughty towards Robin, despite apparently being his childhood crush, and despite him clearly being a pretty cool and morally upright person who doesn’t think twice about standing up to corrupt and powerful officials for the good of his own people. She does save Robin’s life with the above-mentioned hairpin-dart, but otherwise is an annoyance for her self-perceived and nonexistent superiority.

Gisborne.

On the villain’s side, we have a typical, but not unwelcome, campy, beard-stroking, evil-chuckling Sheriff of Nottingham, but the real standout is Guy of Gisborne. He has been managing Robin’s lands while the hero is away on the Crusades, and has been managing them at the behest of the Sheriff, oppressing and over-taxing the people as medieval villains do. But when Robin returns to assume control of Locksley, Gisborne acknowledges Robin’s lordship and backs out. Not happily, mind you, but he does, despite having a troop of armed men nearby. The evil Sheriff quite naturally berates him for letting go of the lands so easily, but Gisborne seems reluctant to so flagrantly break the laws protecting a noble’s rights to his own land. Even if that noble is an annoying do-gooder who can’t keep his mouth shut like Robin. Whether this comes from respect for the law, for noble status, or from cowardice, I do not yet know, but I am intrigued at the possibility that a shadow of integrity lies within Gisborne’s grim, brutal façade.

What little I had heard about this series had not enticed me to give it a chance, but now that I’ve seen Episode 1 I think I can have some fun with it, at least for awhile.