...a blog by Richard Flowers

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Day 2152: ROBIN HOOD: Tattoo, What Tattoo?


Lord Blairimort is taking a leaf out of ROBBIN' HOODIE's book (and a FIVER out of his WALLET).

He is ROBBING from the rich (i.e. the Labour councillors) to give to the poor (i.e. himself)!

It is only FAIR; after all, even if they have NOTHING, he is TWENTY MILLION POUNDS poorer than nothing!

Soon he will be hiding in a FOREST trying to evade the officers of the LAW!

(That would be inspector Yates of the Yard with some questions about these 'ere peerages wot we did find cheap down Nottin'am market…)

Meanwhile this week's Robbin' Hoodie was about a grim frowning man and his plot to assassinate the king! How far fetched is THAT!
This felt like an episode from a whole different series.

The opening fight sequence, graded for dawn in the Holy Land, and choreographed like a fight where they mean it, is probably the best action sequence in the series so far. The issues raised – Robin's choice between being a vigilante and justice having to be seen to be done, and the outlaws' inability to function without Robin to lead, the duties of leadership – are finally properly addressing the questions that need to be raised rather than making glib allusions to the "War on Terror".

Instead of just dropping in some remark to the effect of MI6 saying: "we know that this is true but we won’t show you the evidence and you just have to believe us", this episode actually puts Robin on that spot. It shows us why, even when we know he is right, doing it this way he is still wrong.

And the acting, Richard Armitage is finally given some material worthy of his calibre and Jonas Armstrong finally demonstrates that he can do more than pout prettily.

The plot cunningly intertwines Robin's dual sense of betrayal: Marion has betrayed him to marry Sir Guy; Sir Guy has betrayed, indeed attempted to assassinate the king. It is impossible to say that the one does not play into the other, but of course Marion and the outlaws all believe that it is the former that has sent Robin off his head and so disbelieve the latter.

Quite why they've been wasting their time with the harmless but half-hearted pap like last weeks lightweight Twelfth-Century "Hustle" (without the panache) when they have this kind of complex and thoughtful drama to draw out of the bag completely eludes me.

You know you are watching a good episode when – in spite of the obvious continuing nature of the series – you are in genuine doubt as to whether the principal villain, and that's obviously Sir Guy this week, is going to survive. In fact, the episode allows for a complete reassessment of Sir Guy: rather than just being the Sheriff's thug in a black duster, he's here much more the powerful man of action. When the Sheriff schemes and twists, Guy actually goes out there and sticks his sword in.

Unlike the Sheriff, he is motivated because he believes it. Guy is not a cynical 21st Century power-grabbing manipulator plonked into the Middle Ages. Guy is a scary fanatic. And he thinks the King is a scary fanatic, so – being a scary fanatic himself – he thinks the king must die.

Suddenly he seems a much more menacing figure.

And this magnifies Robin and Marion too. By your enemies shall ye be known: and a dangerous, powerful Sir Guy makes Robin the more heroic when he stands up to him and even more so when he is persuaded to stand up to him in the noble and honourable way. Similarly, Marion gains depth when we know the risks she takes courting with Guy: he is a powerful ally who can protect her, but it is extremely dangerous for her to allow him to get close.

Much gets to play above comic foil and as usual is better for it, though ultimately he realises that his efforts to be Robin's conscience are futile and goes to fetch Marion to whom the role rightly falls. Saracen Safiya, still being known by her boy's name of Djac, also develops further, with an interesting reaction to Robin not coming to save her. (The Sheriff tragically suffers from the same blindness as everyone else, accepting her as a boy, but thankfully sees though her tissue thin deception before the episode is out.)

As Sir Guy, Armitage succeeds in endowing the bad knight with a kind of nobility of his own. It may be treason but he stands by his own actions. And he means what he says to Marion too. Oddly, you can trust him, cruel and sadistic as he is, because he has his own sense of honour.

The Sheriff, in contrast, you can trust about as far as you can throw Nottingham Castle. The strength in this episode is that when it comes to it, he actually surpasses both Guy and Robin. His is a ruthless and Machiavellian evil, quick thinking and not afraid to sacrifice a useful resource for long term gain: here using up Djac's Saracen acid to incinerate Guy's incriminating tattoo. With pain he both punishes and protects Guy and binds the knight closer to him. And he thwarts Robin.

The Sheriff springs his trap and Robin springs his counter trap and escapes, but this time the escape back to outlawry in the forest underlines that there is no justice, and he has lost the bigger game. For now.

The news has been announced that Robin Hood has been commissioned for a second series of thirteen episodes. If they achieve another one like this, it will be worth it.

And a Very Merry 7th Day of Advent to All of You at Home!

No comments: