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).