Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Robin Hood and his Outlaws

Robin Hood and his diminished band of Outlaws as they stand at the end of Robin Hood series two: Robin Hood (Jonas Armstrong), John (Gordon "he'll always be Little to me", Kennedy), Much (Sam "don't call him servant", Troughton), and Alan A Dale (Joe "wanna buy a dodgy motor?" Armstrong). Okay, so Will Scarlett was off the roster, but everyone here loves Harry, so I included the picture. (Sorry Djaq!)

You can find earlier versions of Robin Hood and his Outlaws on this link.

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Friday, 4 April 2008

Robin Hood. Series 3. Episode 0: "Fantasy in the Forest".

Upon their return to Nottingham the Sheriff is less than enamoured with Guy of Gisborne's mental state. Totally pre-occupied with his murdering of Marian, Guy is given to calling out in his sleep, restless nightmares, and imagining he sees visions of Marian in her now ghostly bridal veil, come to haunt him. In essence, the Sheriff now perceives Guy as a liability, and starts to consider ways of getting rid of him.

When Robin returns to Sherwood with John, Much and Allan, the atmosphere is tense. Robin is suffering from bereavement, and even more reckless in his attitude than at then end of Series 2. Allan is still not fully trusted nor accepted, especially by John, and Much does his best to alleviate the situation, but to little avail. Before long, both John and Allan decide to go their separate ways, alone. John to resume his mission to "give to the poor"; Allan to wheel and deal his way through life as best he can. Only Much, the ever loyal "servant", remains. However, it is not long before Allan (never able to look after his own welfare too well), is arrested in the local tavern and thrown into the dungeons to await his fate on the gallows.

That night a dark, masked figure is observed distributing food to the townsfolk and villagers beyond. Of course the people of Nottingham know it to be the Night Watchman, unaware as they are of Marian's links with the character. News of the Night Watchman's activities naturally reaches the Sheriff, who appears a little less surprised than one might have expected under the circumstances. He dispatches Guy to investigateā€¦

At first Guy is convinced Allan has escaped and is responsible for the masquerade. But upon searching the cells (a search which results in a painful beating for Allan), Guy becomes increasingly convinced that Marian has somehow returned from the dead to plague him, and Allan witnesses the full extent of his former boss's mental breakdown before Guy flees into the night to put an end to the matter, one way or another.

Later on, the Sheriff of Nottingham visits Allan A Dale's cell. Stroking Allan's cheek, he cunningly confides that he might need a new second in command now that Gisborne's mental state is questionable, and releases Allan to "think it over". It is a win-win situation for the Sheriff. Whether Allan kills Gisborne himself, or brings Robin Hood into Nottingham to investigate the Night Watchman stories and face Gisborne, he stands to gain!

Carrying the bruises left on him by the earlier beating, Allan does the noble thing; he rejects the idea of killing Gisborne and working for the Sheriff, and goes straight to Robin Hood with news of the Night Watchman. The information of course distresses and angers Robin. Much is convinced Allan is once again lying and luring Robin into some kind of trap where the Sheriff will be waiting. But what choice does Robin have but to go?

The following night, all sides in this terrible drama are destined to clash. Whilst Robin and Much make their way to the Town, leaving Allan tied up back at camp, Gisborne's men are concealed on every street corner. They don't have to wait too long before a familiar, rather elegant looking, masked rider enters from one end of the street. Gisborne, now dictated to by his broken mental state rather than his usual military instinct, screams out "Marian!" The Night Watchman's horse rears, but when the soldiers close off all exits, escape is futile, and the masked rider slides down from "her" mount.

Guy staggers towards the Night Watchman, weeping and shouting in equal measure. He is insisting on seeing "her" scar, just as he did that time in the barn when Marian's secret identity was revealed. The Night Watchman complies, and slowly lifts the hem of her waistcoat. However, this time the scar which is revealed is not the mark left by Guy's small Saracen dagger, but the horrific and gruesome cut from his broadsword. Gisborne collapses to his knees in disbelief. Then, from behind, another voice screams out into the night: "Gisborne!" It is Robin Hood, enraged and confused by the vision before him, but hell bent on revenge! Gisborne orders his troops to stand back, and the two enemies lock swords for what they both know will be the final time.

At the peak of the fight, both men completely exhausted, Gisborne knocks the sword from Robin's hand! Defenceless, Robin looks up at Gisborne's raised blade, but still taunts him to the very end, proclaiming that even as he dies there are other outlaws poised to replace him and fight for justice in England. Dead he may well soon be, but his spirit will never be defeated. Then, just as Gisborne's blade is about to fall on Robin's neck, the unmistakeable tone of a girl's voice calls out from behind the mask of the Night Watchman as she throws him her sword! In one movement Robin catches it and, with ironic justice, plunges the Night Watchman's blade deep into Gisborne's stomach.

As Gisborne dies Much and the Night Watchman run to Robin Hood's side, prepared for a fight against the overwhelming number of soldiers. But without their leader, Gisborne's troops melt away into the night, unwilling to take on the enraged, now legendary outlaw. So Robin and Much, together with the Night Watchman, make a hasty exit and return to camp.

Once back in the safety of Sherwood Forest, a weakened Robin approaches the Night Watchman in silence, and pulls down her maskā€¦. It is the Arab servant girl (played by Konnie Huq), who acted as a spy for the Sheriff when they were all in the Holy Lands! She confesses to Robin that she is a trained assassin, now working for the Sheriff of Nottingham with the express purpose of killing him. However, having seen the corruption in Nottingham, and heard positive tales about Robin Hood from the Townsfolk, she decided she could not go through with her mission. She does however make her loyalties to her own country, and distaste for King Richard, quite plain. It is only to assist the common people of England, who she believes do not themselves support the unpopular War, that she offers her services now to Robin Hood. Just how much Robin needs those services becomes apparent as he faints to the ground, blood coming from a wound in his side; a far more serious wound than he had hitherto disclosed.

It is the Night Watchman now who takes control. Robin Hood needs more than just rest, he needs medical attention. Much wishes Djaq was still with them, but in her absence suggests nearby Kirklees Abbey where the nuns might be able to help, and where Robin might claim a degree of sanctuary. Allan insists that just the two of them won't stand a chance if the Sheriff discovers where they are, and pleads to be allowed to go and find John. Much isn't keen to do this, believing Allan will go straight to the Sheriff. But they have little choice and, after a severe warning from the Night Watchman as to what she'll do to him if he betrays them (causing Allan to make a quip about previous warnings he's had from someone who once wore that outfit!) they set him free and depart for the Abbey carrying the weakened Robin between them.

Robin Hood is of course admitted to Kirklees Abbey, but the Sheriff's spies are everywhere in this corrupt district, and it is not long before a veritable army of his soldiers have the building surrounded. Much and Robin assume it is Allan who has betrayed them once more and led them here. For their part, the nuns of course will not give Robin up, but neither can they provide much protection beyond their prayers. So it is that the Night Watchman applies a tight field dressing to Robin's wound as the outlaw leader slips back and forth from a state of full consciousness, imagining for moments at a time it is his beloved Marian once more at his side, and both the Night Watchman and Much do little to dissuade him from his fantasy. All three now stand together to take the battle outside, in respect of the Holy nature of the Abbey's interior.

The battle is bloody, as the ninja like skills of the Night Watchman dispense with considerable numbers of the soldiers surrounding her before she and Much are themselves wounded. But it is Robin Hood who is the main target for the Sheriff's archers, and although Robin's arrows plunge deep into the hearts of all within his range, he in turn is struck by the bolts from their crossbows. Before long it would seem that all is lost, as the Sheriff gloats and barks his orders from a well placed and protected position at the rear.

Just then a cry rings out from the forest. It is John with Allan at his side, and a new band of outlaws which John has been gathering together whilst apart from the group! He calls out: "Men of Sherwood, will you tolerate this? Because I for one will not!"

As the giant of the forest now plunges forward swinging his half staff the Sheriff's men are scattered senseless in all directions. The sight of this brings renewed energies to Much and the Night Watchman as they plunge once more into the heat of the battle, whilst Allan alone notices the wounded Robin Hood slump to the ground and runs forward to stand over his former leader, defending him at all costs.

The wily Sheriff of Nottingham can see from where he remains hidden that the battle is lost and, discretion being the better part of valour, makes his escape alone, riding unobserved back to Nottingham. Having witnessed this uprising he is becoming convinced that Nottingham may not be a safe place to stay, and makes plans for a replacement to take over his badge of office whilst he moves on to operate his schemes elsewhere. Donning a suitable disguise, the Sheriff begins to pack and load his canary cages onto the back of a simple peasant cart.

Back at Kirklees the fighting has come to an end. The outlaws stand scattered amidst the malaise, bloodied but not bowed. Against Kirklees Abbey wall Robin Hood lay supported by the arms of Allan A Dale. They have this one final moment together, as Allan weeps and extends his heartfelt apologies for all he's done. Robin forgives him, they hug, but both men know this is their last conversation. As the outlaws gather round their dying leader he addresses each in turn. From John he extracts a promise to carry on his work; to "rob from the rich, and give to the poor". To the Saracen Night Watchman he makes a plea that she stay in Nottingham, to continue the good work of her predecessor, and to further her understanding of its people; an understanding which might one day facilitate peace in the Holy Lands. The last person Robin Hood calls to his side is the faithful Much who, as always, has been seated apart thinking himself forgotten.

Whilst Much holds the man he knew as "Master" in his arms, Robin Hood addresses him: "As much as any man can love another man, I have loved you." Then, through the pain and tears he asks John to pass him his bow. Supported by John and Allan alike, Robin draws back his Saracen bow and fires a last arrow towards his beloved Sherwood. His final words, almost a whisper, are once again directed towards Much: "Where that arrow falls, is where I wish my body to rest. In that way, I shall be with you all, always".

And so it is that Robin Hood, a legend in his own time, passes into folklore.

At the grave side each outlaw will have their own eulogy to express. But John's simple epitaph will be the final one: "Him we liked. But Robin Hood is not dead. For we are Robin Hood".


This has been a fantasy post.

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