Sunday, 30 December 2007

Lucy Griffiths tribute: Marian R.I.P.

Did Marian love Robin Hood? Of course she did. It was written long, long ago, in Faith systems older than Christ, that when the Green man comes down into the village from the forest during the first days of Spring, and takes a Maid (virgin) for his bride, then the harvest will be rich and plentiful, and only good will return to the land. Did they marry? Of course they did. But probably not in Edwinstowe Church. The Green Man would have married his Maid in a simple Pagan ceremony, deep in the forest, and long before subsequent faith systems made Pagan sound like a dirty word.
This is surely the basis of the Robin Hood legend: Two characters of equal importance, whose love provides a source of hope for all. So it's not too difficult to see how, decades later, the tale incorporated teenage youths from the streets of Nottingham, desperate to try and improve the circumstances of their families. Neither is it hard to see how that tale was extended to include the Royalist propaganda that King Richard's return to England (a country he disliked), would mean a return to happier times. Therefore, even though I don't subscribe to the theory that the "real" Robin Hood was ever Lord of Loxley, nor had anything whatsoever to do with King Richard, the fact that the relationship between Robin and Marian was a story of hope and optimism against all the odds, was central to Lucy Griffiths' role. It was her skill in portraying that aspect of the legend which made her particular Maid Marian not only so very popular, but arguably the main character in the series itself.
Our Marian, the old Sheriff of Nottingham's daughter, fell in love with Lord of Loxley during their teens. It was a "first love", but no less the serious for it. We never knew too much about their early courtship, but Marian's slightly petulant outbursts when Robin returned from the Holy Lands, exhibit both a degree of immaturity, and her obvious feelings for him. This is in part a teenage girl feeling deserted by the man she loves, embarking on who knows what adventures abroad (with the enemy and with the girls); but it is also a young woman who has witnessed at first hand the suffering caused at home by the neglect of an absent King. She sees the truth which Robin Hood will never see: the King has deserted them. And it is this reality which pushes Marian towards adulthood. A "maid" she might indeed remain, but she will reach a level of maturity beyond that of Robin Hood.
We all remember those early days; Lucy in her "Top Shop" styles, the cause of much good humoured comment here. But that was a part of her charm; the "girl next door" (if an ex-Sheriff's daughter might be considered "next door"!). And it was a tribute to Lucy Griffiths that she quickly gathered a huge and loyal female audience. We all remember her typically teenage problems with her father, Edward. He of course only wanted what was best for her, and once Robin of Loxley had lost his title, Gisborne soon seemed a more appropriate match. Such is the way with fathers.
Lucy Griffiths' Marian was not the first Maid Marian to be a capable fighter, archer, or spy. All these qualities were prevalent in the first successful television series of the 1950s. But what was new was her determination to "go it alone" on behalf of the people. Not for Lucy the waiting around in expectation that Robin Hood would "see the light". Witnessing the horrors of war would never change Robin the way it did Much, and so it was that on several occasions Marian donned the Night Watchman costume to deliver food to the people of Nottingham. Her tactics were quintessentially female: No more violence than was necessary (we never knew where she acquired her fighting skills), and if all else failed there was always her beauty and her feminine guile. Sadly, it was her reliance on these latter qualities which led to her fate.
Marian never loved Gisborne. As an inexperienced young girl she was not unaware of his physical attraction (Armitage with his armour off was an attractive sight), but it never went deeper. However, true to the tradition of Marian being a symbol of hope, Lucy did harbour thoughts that Gisborne might somehow be "saved" from himself. She believed that, if anyone could change him from being a simple beast with a basic urge for power, it was her. That was the charitable side of her disposition. It's what Marian, the "original English Rose", was all about. But she was wrong. Gisborne's pulse only ever quickened when some kind of abuse was involved, such as the threat of killing either her or her father if she didn't comply with his demands. On the one occasion when Marian really seemed willing to lower all resistance, offering herself to Gisborne if the Sheriff were dead, Gisborne loses all interest and gives her up for execution. The fact that Series 2 ended with Gisborne riding away on the back of the Sheriff's horse, just as Series 1 had ended with Marian riding away on the back of Robin Hood's, was an iconic and meaningful image not lost on this reviewer at least.
The relationship between the Beauty Marian and the Beast Gisborne confused many. I've always thought that was due to "wishful thinking" on the part of many fans, that Gisborne would reveal himself as a dark, romantic type; a roguish lover. But that was never, ever in the script. Gisborne watched Marian's hair shorn in public (Series 1, episode 4). It's how he got his kicks. Nevertheless, the relationship was the most important in the series because it contrasted Marian as a symbol of what England could be about, against Gisborne as a symbol of brute force and ambition driven solely by a desire for power. It was fascinating to observe Lucy Griffiths rise to the challenge of this role, and develop as an actor. Remember Series 1, Episode 7, when she was locked in the bedroom with Gisborne, and Robin was on the balcony? We were all terrified because she took us inside her mind; terrified at the balancing act she was having to perform between preserving what she could of the England she remembered in her father's day, and the risk of physical attack from the man threatening her in the privacy of her own quarters. I think it was from that moment on that we knew Lucy Griffiths was the star of the show, her character representing what "the cause" was all about. It could only be Gisborne's small blade which scarred and drew blood from that character at the end of Series 1, a climax by which Lucy's acting skills had developed beyond all criticism.
On that occasion, Marian didn't die. She rode away with her true love, and the prophesy of the Green Man of the forest and the village Maiden was fulfilled. It could have, maybe should have, ended there. The confusion which followed, often expressed within the comments boxes on this site, was never anything to do with Lucy Griffiths who retained her popularity throughout. It was to do with the depiction of her character. And maybe that was inevitable. After all, what role is the village Maiden to play once her love is given, and the harvest is good?
All of Marian's problems in Series 2 came not only from the Beast she thought she could control, but from the man she loved. As Robin Hood stubbornly refused to turn his attentions from the King in the Holy Lands, Marian became increasingly embroiled in her own intent to fight for causes closer to home. But in doing so she quickly got out of her depth: Even Count "Fruitcake" Freidrich could see through her feminine advances when she pretended to serve the Sheriff, and later on, holding a dagger to the spine of the Sheriff's armour maker was just asking for trouble, and she ended up spending the next part of the series confined to quarters.
The true climax of Series 2 is the climax of Lucy's character between Episodes 6 and 8. We were promised a "darker" series than the first, and this was where it truly culminated: In Episode 6, when Gisborne leaves her room and meets the Sheriff in the corridor, we know he will only ever really be the Sheriff's "boy", and that Marian has really pushed her luck too far in trying to control this Beast who then watches her pimped out to Winchester. In Episode 7 Lucy gives another award winning performance when her father is slain. Award winning? Well, it should have been. I can understand the accolades poured upon Billie Piper for her performance as Rose in Doctor Who. It helped re-launch the series. So I fail to understand why Lucy Griffiths hasn't been applauded in the same way by the industry at large. Possible because of perceived faults in Robin Hood as a whole, and certainly not because of her contribution.
Episode 7 could have (should have?) been the end. Once again, as with the end of Series 1, the Green man prophesy is fulfilled as she rides towards the forest. But for Episode 8 at least there is still a kind of insane logic to the proceedings. Accusations have been levelled about a lack of continuity, but by now the whole world in which Marian is living has turned upside down: She is a young woman now. Nothing makes one embrace adulthood quicker than the death of a parent. But she does not giving herself a chance to grieve for her father, distracting herself instead with her fight for justice in Nottingham. And of course, because of Robin's attitude, she doesn't only find herself alone in that fight, but also witnesses Allan's desertion from the ranks. Marian has surely never felt so alone as she felt at this moment. When Robin Hood proposes in Episode 9, of course she agrees. But her words echo back to us now like someone alone and confused: "Who will give me away?" These are no longer the words of the focussed, energetic, youthful Marian we knew. Her time (England's time?) was running out; if not actually been and gone.
In the end, with her judgement impaired by confusion, Marian stood too close to the Beast one too many times. She was boxing far above her weight, and it was inevitable that Gisborne's blade would not fail a second time anymore than his naked, animal aggression could ever be tamed or controlled. His greatest desires were neither romantic nor sexual. His greatest skill was to kill.
This is not a fan site. This is not simply about Lucy Griffiths, however excellent she has certainly proven to be. This site is about the BBC's "Robin Hood" in relation to the whole legend. And it is the death of Marian which has effectively killed, though not necessarily ended, the BBC's series. In the timeless legend of Robin Hood, it is the love and future plans between Robin and Marian, which bring hope of a brighter future. The death of Marian, and the meaningless waffle Robin Hood came out with in response to Much's more moving and personal revelations about the horror of war, meant an end to all optimism. It is a cynical ending, devoid of true innovation, and one destined to prevent this particular interpretation of the Legend of Robin Hood from becoming an enduring classic through the years ahead.
I know everyone here would like to wish Lucy Griffiths a long and successful career.

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Saturday, 29 December 2007

Robin Hood. Series 2, Episode 12 "A Good Day To Die", and Episode 13 "We Are Robin Hood".

Episode 12: "A Good Day To Die"

The outlaws are in a (rather familiar) barn in Nettlestone Village, Much having planned a surprise birthday party for Robin Hood. But the real surprise comes when over 100 mercenary soldiers surround the barn, word having been leaked of Robin's presence. Their attack on the barn is stopped by Djaq's use of some "black powder" she had kept concealed from Robin (remember last series?), but it is only enough to delay their seemingly inevitable fate. The mercenaries have orders not to burn the barn down, because the Sheriff wants Robin Hood's head on a stick, so they content themselves to starve the outlaws out.

Meanwhile, in Nottingham Castle, Guy of Gisborne tells Marian he has to go away for a while and seeks her reassurance that she won't masquerade as the Night Watchman in his absence. Later, Allan A Dale tells Marian that Guy's trip also involves himself, but that all he knows is they are bound for Portsmouth. However, as Portsmouth is the port most likely to be used by the King, it doesn't take her long to figure out that an assassination attempt must be involved. Allan refuses to help her, and when she goes in search of Robin, she of course finds his hideout empty.

Returning to Nottingham Castle, Marian takes desperate measures, punching Allan to the ground and stealing his sword, intent upon killing the Sheriff of Nottingham. (Apparently this is okay now? The Sheriff having been given total immunity by the outlaws before this?) Anyway, as she is creeping up behind him, the Sheriff catches her reflection in a glass and steps aside.

Marian is now chained before the Sheriff, when Guy and Allan come to the room. Allan confesses that she did indeed manage to steal his sword, and that "she's good, but I'm better". This comment costs Marian dearly, for it reveals to the Sheriff that Allan and Guy knew of her combat skills. Guy now goes one better and admits Marian was the Night Watchman! The Sheriff's reaction is predictable, and after he calms down he decides Marian should accompany them to the Holy Lands; his master plan now incorporating a deadly twist. On route to the Holy Lands, the Sheriff also reveals to Marian that Guy is the assassin who once tried to kill the King. (This is only a brief scene, but probably quite important if we are to believe Marian's changing attitude towards Guy in this episode; an attitude which has caused some concern amongst Hoodies for its lack of consistency. There is a similar very brief moment on the journey when Guy asks Allan if Marian still loves Robin Hood.)

Back at the barn, Robin Hood's Merry Men are not feeling too merry. Arguments are breaking out due to all the stress. So Djaq suggests a game of "Kaleela". (A kind of Truth or Dare game, the spelling and true name of which escapes me). Djaq goes first, speaking of her affection for all those present, but suddenly confessing that it is Will Scarlet she truly and actually loves! Not only that, but Will reciprocates in kind, now professing undying love for Djaq! And it doesn't stop there. Pretty soon Little John is screaming like a banshee, having a complete breakdown, wanting his "good day to die" to come a few hours earlier than scheduled! (Sorry guys, I found this complete sequence involving Djaq, Will, and John, unconvincing and faintly ridiculous).

As their final dawn approaches, Much and Robin Hood will each undergo a turn at Djaq's truth game. Much takes the opportunity to say how he feels undervalued, and "taken for granted". His speech is a particularly good one (Sam Troughton once again on brilliant form), about once being "brothers in arms" with Robin, suffering the horrors of war together. When Robin Hood speaks, he confesses he hasn't been able to face those horrors for fear of losing his ability with the bow, and that trying to avoid killing now is his way to try and atone for what happened in the war. If the intent here is to clarify the relationships between the main characters at the end of the series, then the bizarre sequence which follows gives us even more of the same: Guy is having what might be construed as an erotic dream, being massaged from behind by both Allan and Marian in alternation. However, when he awakes he finds the hands on his shoulders are those of the Sheriff, saying "I hope you're not too disappointed", before informing him Allan (his "boy"), has run away. The Sheriff says to let Allan go. (Apparently three's company!)

Allan A Dale has of course gone to help Robin Hood, blagging his way past the mercenaries, and entering the barn under the pretence of taking the outlaws back to Nottingham. Allan tells Robin Hood of the Sheriff's plan to kill the King in Holy Lands, but once the mercenaries realise what he is up to the outlaws are forced to fight their way through 100+ mercenaries and escape. (It seems 5 outlaws couldn't take on 100+ mercenaries, but 6 can!?) Allan then tells Robin Hood that Marian is with the Sheriff and Guy on route to Plymouth, so all go in pursuit as Robin cries out "I'm coming my love"...

(Pictures for Episode 12 appear here).

Episode 13: "We Are Robin Hood".

As both episodes ran together in the UK I am guessing that the start of Episode 13 is when Robin Hood reaches the Holy Lands, Marian having now been chained in prison by the Sheriff of Nottingham. The Sheriff's plan is simpler than the editing would have one believe. Basically he is having someone imitate Prince Saladin's envoy, have him go to King Richard to arrange a peace conference, and then kill Richard when he turns up. In an attempt to foil this plan, and not knowing Robin Hood has survived the ambush, Marian offers Guy her hand in marriage if he will kill the Sheriff.

The outlaws reach Bassam's House (he being the chap with the pigeons). With Djaq's support Robin Hood is able to convince Bassam that he only wants to take King Richard home, and help bring about peace. However, one of the servant girls hears Robin and informs those working with the Sheriff of Nottingham of his whereabouts. The Sheriff is delighted, and embellishes to his plan: Now his fake envoy from Saladin will not only lure Richard into a trap, he will also tell the King that Robin is an assassin working for the Black Knights! And so it is that, when Robin Hood goes to the King's camp, to be greeted by the Crusader Carter as a friend, he also finds himself arrested by the King as a traitor. However, rather than execute Robin, King Richard "lets the desert decide" their fate and has them all tied to stakes under the hot sun.

As they are suffering under that sun the Sheriff decides to add to their number. Guy of Gisborne has told the Sheriff that Marian asked him to kill him, but that he has decided to remain loyal. All he asks in return from the Sheriff is that he be allowed to take Marian "by force" as his bride upon their return to Nottingham. But the Sheriff decides otherwise, and they bind Marian to the same stakes as Robin Hood. Once the Sheriff rides away, Robin and Marian begin to trade wedding vows with one another, but their ceremony is interrupted by the arrival of Carter, who sets everyone free.

The action now quickly moves on to the meeting between the Sheriff's fake Saladin envoy, and King Richard. But it is Robin Hood pretending to be the King, and a fight ensues between both sides before the Sheriff and his group retreat to a nearby town and wait in ambush for the pursuing outlaws. The Sheriff now enhances his reputation by plunging a sword deep into Carter, and even shoots an arrow into King Richard's back! But the climax is yet to come…

As King Richard lies wounded, Guy of Gisborne advances to finish him off. Only Marian is close enough to stand in his way. She cannot step aside and watch England be killed, but what false promises can she offer Guy now that haven't been broken a million times before? In one fatal act of defiance she proclaims her love of Robin Hood, and that she would never marry Guy if he were the last man in the world. Guy's response is swift, and his sword plunges deep into Marian's stomach before he rides away behind the man he has devoted his murderous services to.

Laying in the dust, Marian's first reaction is to laugh: "Am I beyond even Djaq's amazing talents?" But she soon realises Djaq cannot withdraw the blade without killing her, and that the situation is deadly serious. Smiling as best she can, Marian has Robin continue with the wedding vows they began earlier in the desert, but this time with King Richard's ring for blessing. Then, slowly, painfully, she herself extracts the blade….

End piece: Not everyone gets to go home. King Richard (true to history) stays in the Holy Lands. Djaq and Will embark on a new life together, as Robin Hood looks on with envy at their happiness, reminding him as it does of the girl he has lost forever.

The BBC tell us Robin Hood will return next year for a third series.

Comment: I may no doubt be in a very small minority here, but I thought that was a very disappointing finale to the series. Where to start?

The "truth game" outbursts from Djaq (who hasn't really said a word all series) and Will were totally unconvincing, and even the actors knew it. The writing here felt like a "quick fix" to allow two main players out of the series. Little John's contribution in this scene was equally out of character, and devoid of the conviction Gordon Kennedy has delivered elsewhere. Poor script. But if I thought those scenes were unconvincing, they were as nothing when compared to the sight of King Richard spouting "We are Robin Hood". Give me a break.

Recently there has been a lot of comment about the Guy / Marian relationship. Although I have been critical of the Guy character (not Armitage himself), I had thought that had resolved itself for the better in Episode 11. Seemingly not. Once again Lucy Griffiths proved herself the star of this particular series during those final scenes, but I for one felt oddly removed from events I no longer found convincing. Sorry. End of series 1? Tears all 'round. End of Series 2? Not a one.

(Pictures for episode 13 appear here).

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Monday, 17 December 2007

Robin Hood. Series 2, Picture Gallery 11.

Robin Hood (Jonas Armstrong) takes aim against the Sheriff of Nottingham (Keith Allen); arch enemies destined to do battle across decades past and those yet to come.
The Night Watchman (Lucy Griffiths) prepares for what could be her final mission!
A romantic encounter in Sherwood Forest. Teenage lovers find their affections and their relationship, complicated by England's troubled times.
Robin Hood fires an arrow through an alignement in the mystical stone circle, to locate the whereabouts of hidden treasure.

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Saturday, 15 December 2007

Robin Hood. Series 2. Episode 11: "Treasure of the Nation".

Robin Hood, episode 11 (an episode which wipes clean the previous slate on Marian and Guy's relationship to draw it afresh), begins with Robin's men ambushing a convoy of grain being escorted through Sherwood Forest by Allan A Dale. Later, whilst concealing the grain in one of their many secret locations, Robin Hood ponders upon the sheer amount of sacks, thinking something must be afoot back in Nottingham. At that very moment they are attacked by yet another blonde haired blue eyed Crusader, Legrand, returned from the Holy Lands. (Is there anyone left over there fighting the wars with King Richard?) However, he turns out to be another messenger from Richard, speaking that immortal catchphrase of old, (all together now!): I have a message from the King".
The message turns out to be a cryptic picture, which none of them can understand. (No, not even Djaq). However, learning that a second message is located at Paxton House, they go in search. Sure enough, Paxton himself does have a matching cryptic picture, and combining the two they at least understand that the Latin thereupon means "Treasure of the Nation" (thanks Djaq), but are no wiser as to the whereabouts of that "treasure". However, holding the paper before the heat of a candle flame, several more marks are revealed, which appear to correspond to an arrangement of buildings. Meanwhile, Loxley Village is being requisitioned as a military garrison by order of the Sheriff of Nottingham. Marian is trying to resist these measures, and arguing with Guy of Gisborne, but to no avail. Guy is especially angry with Allan for the loss of the grain, and forces Allan to lead his troops to where he knows it will be hidden. (Not the main hideout). This Allan does, observed from the surrounding trees by Marian.
When Marian goes to tell Robin Hood of Allan's latest act of treachery, plus the fact Loxley Village has been commandeered, they meet with a passionate embrace. But Robin explains that until the King's message has been decoded and dealt with, there's little he can do. He also makes her promise not to go it alone. She gives this promise but as he walks away, goes on to mutter under her breath that, whilst she will not intervene, the Night Watchman might… Robin Hood returns alone to the outlaw's camp, where they have identified the marks in the picture to be a map of a stone circle with which they are familiar, and to which they immediately embark, leaving only Paxton behind. Upon reaching the Circle, Robin fires an arrow through an alignment in the stones, and all follow to see where it falls to ground. Where that arrow marks the spot they discover an entrance to an underground bunker, and further clues therein which indicate that Kirklees Abbey is where the Treasure of the Nation will ultimately be found. However, no sooner do they make that discovery than the Sheriff appears. He has been following them, led by Paxton! Trapping Robin Hood and the outlaws in the bunker, the Sheriff makes for Kirklees, but not before rewarding Paxton with a blade to the gut! Later, only Little John's mighty strength against the stone doors, aided by his new friend Legrand, will free them.
Back in Loxley Village the entire Robin Hood series is about to turn on its axis as the Night Watchman goes into action single handily against the military presence there. Allan is the first to intercept the masked vigilante in a barn, and does try to reason with "her". But suddenly Gisborne appears, and a huge fight ensues. It is an impressive battle. Every blow, every kick Gisborne delivers makes us wince because we know whose figure lay beneath that mysterious outfit. The Night Watchman puts up a good fight, but the outcome against the master assassin is inevitable. Gloating, Guy approaches the defeated people's warrior, reaches out, and….Pulls off the mask!!!!
"Not you…" are the only words he can muster, before turning away, and running distraught from the barn. Marian pleads with Allan to let her escape, but Allan refuses. As far as he is concerned all Allan has left is his future with Gisborne. Suddenly (speak of the devil), Gisborne returns carrying the small Saracen blade he stabbed the Night Watchman with one year ago! He demands proof from Marian that she was in fact that person he stabbed, and Marian raises her garment to reveal the scar on her side. It is all he needed to see before, sending for the Sheriff and arranging her execution. Meanwhile, Robin Hood has realised the Sheriff misinterpreted the instructions on the cryptic map, and that Barnsdale Church is the more exacting location for the Treasure of the Nation than Kirklees. And indeed, when they themselves reach the church, the Treasure stands revealed: It is nothing less than the Queen Mother, tricked and imprisoned by her wayward son Prince John! The Queen is particularly curious about two of the outlaws: the Saracen, Djaq, whom she quickly takes a liking to and expresses a wish to get to know better, and Little John, for whom she takes quite another kind of liking. Indeed, John's rear is in for a good pinching from the flirtatious Royal before the day is through.
Suddenly, the outlaws are once again surrounded by the Sheriff's men, but they manage to escape without too much incident. However, when ambushed a little further down the road, Legrand is fatally wounded in his defence of the Queen, causing John to offer an epitaph akin to that spoken once before over Marian's dying body: "Him, I liked".

Within the Nottingham Castle, Marian is trying desperately to escape by lighting fires in her room. But to no avail. Neither can her charms seem to work so well on Gullible Guy this time around, even though there does seem to be a growing realisation upon her face that her previous deceptions might have hurt the "human" side of Guy more than she had right.

The episode climaxes as the Sheriff returns, angry at the loss of the Treasure of the Nation, and in desperate need of a good hanging to calm his senses. The gallows stand prepared in the background as the Sheriff consults with Guy. Then Marian steps forth and says: "I am ready". But of course the Sheriff doesn't know she is the Night Watchman, and simply invites her to witness the hanging! At which point "the Night Watchman" himself appears on the battlements, raining arrows into the courtyard below!

Guy glances at Marian. Is this his planning? As the Sheriff goes into another fit of rage, the soldiers go in pursuit. After they pass an overlooked water well, a dark masked figure emerges in safety. He removes the mask. It is Allan a Dale!

At the conclusion to all this activity, and no doubt with the Sheriff still screaming somewhere in his chambers, Marian, Allan, and Guy are alone in her chambers. She hugs Allan with a genuine "Thank you" for saving her life. Guy is now smiling (!), and tells Allan to burn the Night Watchman's outfit. Once they are alone, Guy asks Marian to stay, saying she is the "only thing which makes this place bearable". Marian embraces him, not with a deep kiss, but certainly with genuine affection: "I will stay…"

Comment: Wow! Will we ever see the Night Watchman ride again? Has Guy truly captured a part of Marian's heart? Where does this leave Allan? (Allan could now be in an even more precarious position. He not only has links to Robin, but has witnessed Guy's actions to conceal Marian's identity). A lot to digest here, especially as we have a whole third series before us next year!
I loved the little references to Stone Circles and Kirklees. (Follow the link and you'll find how they are indeed related to the legend of Robin Hood). And I loved the Queen Mother's advances towards Little John. (So did he!) Another good couple of guests here, in both the Queen Mother and the Crusader Legrand. (Can we please have one of these guys stay and join the gang?) Loved this episode.

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Monday, 10 December 2007

Robin Hood. Series 2. Picture Gallery 10

Fagin? No! It's our cunning Sheriff of Nottingham, in disguise and in the secret camp!
Gisborne, the Man in Leather stares down the Man in the Hood, having to ask his arch enemy for help.
Gisborne doesn't bow to many. But here he goes on one knee to propose to Marian.
Brothers in Arms once again. As the steel circle of troops gathers beyond the gates of Nottingham Town, Allan A Dale and Will Scarlet fear that this battle will be their last.
Much contemplates life as The Lone Outlaw after Robin Hood marries Marian.

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Saturday, 8 December 2007

Robin Hood. Series 2, Episode 10. "Walkabout".

The Sheriff of Nottingham suffers not only from nightmares about Robin Hood, but also about his missing beloved Pact; the document which contains the signatures of all his Black Knights, sworn to support his attempts to overthrow King Richard. And after one particularly disturbing nightmare, the Sheriff finds himself sleep walking alone out into Sherwood Forest. When he is attacked he acquits himself well. (The script writers should thank Richard Armitage for knocking Keith Allen's tooth out in real life. It has been the source of a running gag ever since). Eventually the Sheriff comes across a rather tough outlaw beggar woman and her family of three boys. Seeing her potential he hatches a plan by which they can enter Robin Hood's camp; she to take the loot, he the Pact.
When the Sheriff is discovered missing Guy is reminded by Prince John's messenger that if anything happens to the Sheriff, Nottingham will be burnt to the ground. Although Guy doesn't know it yet, the Messenger has a vested interest in this happening: He has relatives in the re-building trade! Alarmed at the prospect of losing his position of authority, Guy sends his soldiers out looking for the Sheriff. Meanwhile, Marian comes up with a suggestion for Guy: She could ask Robin Hood into the Castle, knowing he would come to save the people. Guy appears to like that idea.
At the outlaw camp Allan A dale tells Robin Hood that Marian is asking for his help, and offers Marian's engagement ring as proof it is not a trap. They immediately set out for Nottingham, leaving no-one behind (for a change!) However, as they reach the gates John becomes increasingly concerned about the number of beggars that continue to accumulate in the streets. He believes the group should not all enter the Castle, as the poor are so dependant on them for their future welfare. Robin agrees and enters alone. As he stands before Guy and Marian she outlines the predicament the town is in: Unless the Sheriff is found, Nottingham is destroyed. Will he help? Robin smiles. He wants Guy to do the asking, which he eventually does between clenched teeth. As the outlaws once more re-group and head for Sherwood Forest Robin leaves Will behind to guarantee Marian's protection should the town be attacked.
Whilst searching the forest for the Sheriff, Robin Hood and Much pair up. "Just like old times", says Much. In the ensuing dialogue Robin tells Much of his engagement to Marian. As Robin then turns away he fails to notice Much holding back the tears…
The other pairing of Djaq and John are having a discussion about the task in hand. John feels there are already enough people looking for the Sheriff, and that they should be attending to the poor. Of Robin's plan he says "Even leaders can be wrong". They then come across the Sheriff disguised as a blind beggar, with his accomplice and her three boys. Of course the outlaws fail to recognise them, and decide to lead them back to the camp for food.
Back in Nottingham the advancing army has begun to enter the city in preparation to destroy it. Guy suggests Marian run for her own safety. She replies she will not leave him in trouble, a statement intended to support her disguise, but one he of course misconstrues. Guy will learn later that he is free to leave the town by virtue of the fact he is a Black Knight, and that if Marian was his wife by sundown, then she could leave to.
Within the courtyard Allan and Will Scarlet are arguing. Allan is asking, when it's all over, can he come back into the gang. But Will responds with a resolute "There's no coming back". His opinion might soon change as the army beyond the town's gates mount in number, forming a "ring of steel", and Guy, Allan, and Will are practically all that stands against them, the Sheriff's men having been dispatched to the forest in search of him. As this realisation sinks in, Allan and Will do indeed shake hands. Guy himself goes one better, and goes down on one knee with a proposal of marriage to Marian, saying he needs her answer by sundown. Indeed, the situation seems so bleak, even Will takes Marian aside and suggests she accepts Guy's proposal just to survive!
Within the forest Robin and Much have come across the man with whom the Sheriff swapped his black silk pyjamas for rags. They realise his plan, and rush towards the hideout. Only taking the Sheriff back to Nottingham can save the town and its people from destruction. Of course back at the hideout the Sheriff has been active in not only overcoming the giant Little John (thanks to the rather silly and unconvincing aid of the three small boys), but locating the Pact itself.
Call Gisborne what you will, but he has never been a coward. When Marian rejects his proposal on the grounds that she cannot desert the people of Nottingham in its hour of need, he retorts:" Your wilfulness will be the death of you!" Marian ponders his words as if they strike a chord somewhere deep inside, and that she suspects this indeed will one day be her fate. Guy then rides out towards the gathering army as if leaving. But he rejects their invitation to do so, and turns back to fight them using an army of his own: the amassed poor of Nottingham. As Marian stands at the ready by his side, taking his arm, Guy turns to her: "Marry me now. Make it the last thing we do".
She looks up at him, just as a familiar voice calls from outside: "Gisborne!" It is the returning Sheriff…

Comments: A good episode in which it seems every one of the main cast got a little moment to shine: Much holding back the tears at Robin's news about the engagement; Guy showing some nobility, and possibly a genuine affection for Marian which transcends lust; Allan and Will shaking hands; John disregarding Robin's orders about the search, to go and attend to the poor. (Gordon Kennedy speaks!) So there were lots of very good little bits of character development; the kind we all love to see. I could have done without the boys overcoming John. And John's silly line to the Sheriff as his disguise fell away: "I know you". Well I hope you do John. This is the chap who once had you padlocked into an oak stock whilst heating his torture irons in the fire, and that you subsequently pinned to the ground threatening to kill. But maybe a good pair of contact lenses are hard to find in Sherwood Forest.

Next Week: The return of the Night Watchman. But for how long? Cheers Hoodies!

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Monday, 3 December 2007

Robin Hood. Series 2, Picture Gallery 9

Above: Allan A Dale says he counts his money in the morning, with a clear conscience. Below: Gossip in the camp about all the couples pairing of. Is that a sad expression on John's face? Remembering perhaps his own courting days with his ex-wife. Watch Gordon Kennedy carefully. He's never given much dialogue, but often conveys these little nuances of character in silence.
Above: Trapped and surrounded!
Above: In the midst of their dilema, Robin Hood makes the engagement official with a ring. (We hope you bought that one with your own money Robin, and didn't just rob it from the rich!)
Above: Marian accepts Robin Hood's proposal of marriage beneath the leaves of Sherwood Forest.

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Sunday, 2 December 2007

Robin Hood pictures. Lucy Griffiths and Anjali Jay

The "Lucy Look" once centered around her retro costumes as much as her acting. But there's no doubting the tremendous acting skills of Lucy Griffiths as Marian.
The concept of including a Saracen outlaw amongst Robin Hood's "merry men" started with Mark Ryan in Robin of Sherwood. In Series 1 of the current "Robin Hood" I actually thought Djaq (Anjali Jay) was even better than the high standards he achieved. But in Series 2 she seems to have less to say. One hopes Anjali will soon have the opportunity to do more than just express that big brown eyed "Djaq look". She's certainly more than capable of it.

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Saturday, 1 December 2007

Robin Hood. Series 2. Episode 9. Lardner’s Ring.

Guy of Gisborne is celebrating his birthday in “his” Loxley Manor when a messenger from King Richard arrives. But before Guy is informed of his presence someone tells the messenger Robin of Loxley no longer lives there and he flees into Sherwood Forest, to be hotly pursued by Allan a Dale and the soldiers.
Robin Hood and Marian (who incidentally prefers an English bow to that of Robin’s Saracen design), are too late to save the messenger’s life, but not too late to hear his last words: “Lardner‘s ring”. The note he was carrying from the King asks for reinforcements, and to send Lardner with a return message.
Back at Gisborne’s party, whilst awaiting the capture of the messenger, a jester has started telling jokes about King Richard. These go down very well, but his similar jibes about Prince John enrage the Sheriff and he is arrested. In an attempt to save himself he tells the Sheriff he knows about Lardner’s ring. The Sheriff is as confused as Robin Hood, and throws the jester into the dungeons.
Meanwhile, events are to take a romantic turn in the most unlikely of settings. Robin and Marian have buried the messenger, and she asks him if he wants to say a few words over the grave. The few words which leave Robin’s mouth are “Will you marry me”! Then, on bended knee, fumbling for the right things to say, he tries to express how important Marian is to him by comparing her to his bow! Marian can’t help teasing him about this, but agrees to marry him. They plan to wait until King Richard returns, so the King can give her away in place of her late father. So now they really must find Lardner, whoever he is, and get a message to Richard so he might be persuaded to return to England.
When Allan A Dale arrives back at the Castle he explains he was too late to capture the messenger, but that he did hear the last words spoken: “Lardner's ring”. This sends the Sheriff into a rage as the mystery deepens, and Gisborne is dispatched to find out if the villagers know who this mysterious Lardner might be. Gisborne sets about the task with some relish, confiscating everyone’s ring. As he is poised to cut the ring finger itself from an old woman a nearby Djaq overhears the word Lardner. She knows what it means, and her and Will save the woman by causing a diversion. The old lady is saved, but Will Scarlet is captured.
When Djaq reaches the outlaws camp she explains that Lardner is the name of the Sultan’s best carrier pigeon, and that if she is correct, they could locate the pigeon and send it back to the Holy Lands with a new message for the King. (Note: There is a touching edge to this scene which almost goes unnoticed as Djaq realises that if the Sultan’s best carrier pigeon has been captured then the Sultan himself may have been taken. Because of her Saracen roots this worries her, but the moment quickly passes before we see how the other outlaws react to her concern and noble cultural loyalties).
In Nottingham Castle both the Jester and Will are thrown in the dungeon, but not before the jester manages to take the cell door key from Allan A Dale’s belt. Allan does in fact realise he’s done this, but chooses to let him proceed, because it might also enable Will to escape the gallows.
Knowing now that Lardner is a bird, Robin and Marian go in search for it at the place where the messenger died, whilst the rest of the outlaws (you guessed it!) stay behind. (These outlaws only work a three day week!) They do indeed locate the pigeon, but as they do so the Sheriff of Nottingham, Gisborne, and Allan arrive with many soldiers, and trap them up the tree. At first, Gisborne doesn’t know Marian is in the tree with Robin, and he prepares to burn it down.
Against Robin’s wishes, Marian eventually persuades her new fiancé to tie her up and hang her from the branches as a pretend hostage. She is keen to return to Nottingham Castle anyway, feeling she can be of the most use there. Before Robin complies he produces an engagement ring from his pocket and places it on her finger. As Marian then hangs in space beneath the leaves of Sherwood, the outlaws arrive, enabling Robin to escape into the smoke with the all important Lardner.
This leaves only Lardner to be released, carrying a message from Robin Hood to the King. It takes flight… the soldier’s arrows skim close to his wings… and miss! But wait… the Sheriff of Nottingham has come back. And is that a hawk on his arm!?
Comment: Mixed opinions about this one. The proposal was great. We all wanted that to happen, and Robin’s shy delivery, trying to explain his feelings in simple terms, was amusing and touching. One of the funniest scenes involved Much speculating that when Djaq and Will went off to “get some honey”, they weren’t just after honey at all! And the basic premise of the story was quite good. But, I couldn’t help feel at times that the direction of the story was unnecessarily cluttered; things didn’t ever seem to really get going. And then, at the end of those frustrations, Marian was mad keen to get back to the Castle anyway.

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