Thursday, 31 January 2008

Robin Hood, Series 2, Picture Gallery 16.

Robin Hood (Jonas Armstrong) keeps an eye on Sherwood Forest, whilst Guy of Gisborne (Richard Armitage), does the same in Nottingham.
Marian (Lucy Griffiths) stands revealed as the Night Watchman, and Gisborne demands to see the scar he inflicted on her a year ago. (See sidebar for a picture of that scar).
Robin Hood gets down on one knee to propose to Marian in the middle of Sherwood Forest. Little did they know how sad the circumstance of their final wedding vows would be, taking place as they did on the blood stained desert of the Holy lands.
The Sheriff of Nottingham seemed ever too eager to drive a wedge between Guy and Marian. On route to Plymouth the Sheriff discloses that Guy was indeed the assasin who atempted to kill King Richard.

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Saturday, 26 January 2008

Sam Troughton is just Too Much!

This latest TV version of Robin Hood has received a LOT of negative comment recently. Most of it in response to the ending, but to be honest, quite a bit of it had been building up since about half way through the second series. So I thought I'd offer a couple of posts emphasising positive aspects which, in my opinion, continued to shine.

Sam Troughton as Much was a favourite character of mine from the outset. Troughton himself has a gift when it comes to delivering his lines, showing the comic timing of a real pro. A good example would be his comment in Episode 6, as they pass the guards dressed as minstrels. When the guard's curiosity is aroused at the unlikely sight of Little John in all that garb, Much quickly retorts "he's the drummer". And Troughton also knows exactly how to react to the teasing comments directed against him, as when the boys in Episode 3, identifying each outlaw in turn, say "oh you must be the servant".

But of course it's not just the humour that we get from Sam Troughton's character. In a series which featured only two female roles, both reluctant to exhibit their softer side in the male domain of Sherwood Forest, Much was never afraid to wear his heart totally on his sleeve. He would worry terribly about Robin Hood's often reckless courage, as when he was dodging the booby traps in Episode 2, and he would frequently seek reassurance that Robin still cared for his companionship, especially after hearing of the leader's engagement to Marian (the news of which brought unseen tears to Much's eyes). Amidst all this pathos, as Much increasingly deliberated upon his future as "the lone outlaw", it was only ever Djaq who took a moment to express her friendship and gratitude to Much with a simple kiss on the cheek.

And yet, more than all of this, I think there is another reason why Much has been so well conceived in this series:

As stated elsewhere in my Robin Hood blogs, Much was only ever a small but significant part of the legend. Whereas the other outlaws line up like a positive medieval team of super heroes; the giant Little John with his staff, beautiful Marian the spy, Friar Tuck (sadly missing here) with a bible in one hand and a sword in the other, it befell Much (the Miller's Son) to simply be the common man. Much represented what Robin Hood was fighting for; indeed the very reason he became outlawed, when saving Much from the Sheriff of Nottingham's men after being caught poaching.

All that changed of course in series 1 which introduced a new Much; Robin of Loxley's servant and subsequent Brother in Arms. But that's where the new concept gets particularly brilliant, whether by intention or default. As opposed to being the symbol of what Robin Hood's cause should be about (remember "rob from the rich and give to the poor"?), he became a barometer of Robin Hood's worth as a leader. And, I'm sad to say, this Robin Hood was found lacking.
Jonas Armstrong's Robin Hood was a poor leader of men, and one who lost sight of the common man. He neglected to pick up on the signs that Allan A Dale and Will Scarlett had such concerns about their future that Allan even deserted him altogether (both outlaws having already left him once in the past). Little John and Marian also engage in acts of defiance, trying to return to the basic cause of serving the people of Nottingham, but Robin Hood is blinkered in his blind faith that the clue to the future is King Richard. And as he looses sight of the common man it is no wonder he loses sight of Much.

When the outlaws play Djaq's honesty game, whilst preparing to make their last stand, they all nod in agreement when Much expresses his feeling that he has been taken for granted and undervalued. The greatness of Sam Troughton's Much is in the fact that he has learned from the horrors of war, and returned a better man. (Remember the tears in the bathtub at the start of series 1?)

Sadly, this Robin Hood has not. He responds to Much's comment by saying he is afraid to confront those horrors for fear it will impede his abilities to be the leader. He doesn't realise it would have strengthened them. And it is the new Much character through which we now not just illustrate what traditionally Robin Hood was all about, but judge his current failure.

Sam Troughton was absolutely brilliant at realising all aspects of his role.


Find out more about Much (the Miller's Son) on this link

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Sunday, 20 January 2008

Robin Hood, Series 2, Picture Gallery 15.

Guy of Gisborne promises Allan A Dale his services will be rewarded. We all know that Gisborne's rewards are invariably a blade in the gut. Allan seems to be the gullible one this time.
Marian contemplates the gallows, whilst Allan A Dale plays the Night Watchman.
The King's Mother takes a curious interest in Djaq, a Saracen amongst the Saxons.
Marian is foolish enough to think she can influence and control Gisborne, but only the Sheriff of Nottingham is ever capable of that.
Marian's last smiles. For many more pictures of the death of Marian follow this link to the Robin Hood Pictures blog.

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Saturday, 12 January 2008

Djaq and Will went down the hill?

Will Scarlet quietly makes his mark.
By the end of Robin Hood series 1, Harry Lloyd's dark good looks had certainly established him as probably the most popular male cast member with the teenage viewing audience. However, his Will Scarlet character was still lacking in definition. The direction he received from the producers often seeming to amount to little more than "strike a pose". So, along with the Harry fans, I awaited Series 2 with interest; wondering how Will Scarlet would develop.
I had wanted an "angry" Scarlet, of the kind Ray Winstone instigated with "Robin of Sherwood". After all, the producers of Robin Hood had made several disparaging remarks about that earlier series, and so surely they were going to show us how it should be done? Well, not exactly. Poor or inconsistent character development would be a running criticism of the programme.
Between Robin Hood Series 1 and 2, Harry Lloyd appeared in two episodes of Doctor Who as the "possessed" school prefect Jeremy Baines, and he was really good. Given a well defined, well directed role, I actually think that performance was his best to date. Therefore, when Robin Hood returned to our screens, we anticipated that both Harry's popularity and proven ability would merit a higher profile. We were wrong.
Will Scarlet's big moment came in episode 4, "Angel of Death", when he witnessed the murder of his father. For that one episode, I at least got the "angry Scarlet" I had wanted. But you know what? Good performance though it was, it just wasn't quite right for Harry Lloyd.

Then, for the next eight episodes Will Scarlet became a figure in the background, as plot lines increasingly revolved around Robin Hood (Jonas Armstrong), Allan, A Dale (Joe Armstrong), and Guy of Gisborne (Richard Armitage). This lack of attention to Will's character is precisely why "that love scene" between him and Djaq in episode thirteen was so painful; neither the viewers nor the actors had been given the opportunity to find it at all convincing. A little prior development would have been all it needed to make it work; a walk in the forest, or a few exchanged "looks". But all we got was Djaq's response to Will seeing her in a dress. Fans were otherwise left guessing as to whether or not he seemed to be sitting rather close to her in any given ambush scene, and as soon as the script relies on the wishful thinking of the viewer, rather than the written page, trouble looms. (Witness the Gisborne / Armitage divide for example).
To end on a positive note, now the series has ended, I find myself more aware of Harry Lloyd's version of Will Scarlet than I had been during its transmission. And maybe (like Gordon Kennedy), this is where Harry Lloyd's strengths lie; making a lasting impression through a succession of small opportunities. I find myself really liking this new angle on Scarlet; an inventor, the person who designed and constructed the hide out in Sherwood Forest; the person who turned musical instruments into deadly weapons; the outlaw Robin Hood most confided in (above Much and John), when it became apparent a traitor was in their midst. I may not have got my "angry Scarlet" (and thank goodness I didn't get a 1930s / 50s style minstrel in a red coat!), but I did get a new interpretation of the outlaw that has proven more interesting in retrospect than was perhaps apparent at the time.

Question: Harry Lloyd is in the upcoming Richard the Lionheart mini-series, playing "Lucas". Does anyone know if this is a totally new character, or is it meant to be Will in disguise? Also, If Lucas is indeed Will, where does Djaq fit in?Djaq, missing in action.
What happened to Djaq? After Robin Hood series 1, she and Much were probably my favourite characters. Anjali Jay in particular had proven most impressive in taking on the role of the Saracen outlaw that began with Mark Ryan in the 1980s, and which in 2006 (given the world situation as it is), had become an even more important role.
When I visit Sherwood Forest I see children from all manner of cultural and religious backgrounds buying their souvenir Robin Hood bows, arrows and hats. That's precisely the way it should be. Robin Hood is a hero of the people. All the people. The early legends about Robin Hood were never linked to King Richard's Crusades and, especially after Michael Praed's Robin of Sherwood dropped all that baggage long ago, I think it bordered on crass stupidity in 2006 to drag such links up again.
So for me, the Saracen outlaw tradition is not only an important one, but one that carries a certain responsibility. More so when that character is also an intelligent, independent, woman of action. At the outset, Anjali Jay absolutely shone in the role. The contrast between her scientific mind, and the superstitions of the Saxon outlaws, was good humoured and well written. One might say "It's only entertainment", but entertainment is where we get a lot of our ideas from, and can be a powerful tool in breaking down barriers.

After Robin Hood Series 1 Anjali Jay had a lead role in "Blind Dating", in which her ability to balance comedy with drama came across well. And certainly when Robin Hood returned to our screens for a second series we all expected to see more of Djaq, the woman who had "saved" Marian's life. We were wrong.
I hate what the writers and producers did to Djaq in series 2. Suddenly this strong female "warrior" was wearing a fitted waistcoat to enhance her curves, before making her only real subsequent contribution to series 2 in episode 2 (The Beauty and the Booby), when she was required to use her cleavage to distract the guards. And as if that wasn't enough, to add insult to injury, the very woman who had been able to perform surgery on Marian in Series 1, was now totally unable to help deliver a baby in Series 2.
Anjali Jay was wasted in Robin Hood Series 2, whilst the character of Djaq was systematically destroyed.
Okay Hoodies, over to YOUR opinons. The comment box beckons!

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Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Robin Hood, Series 2. Picture Gallery 14

Robin Hood carries Marian to her grave in the desert sands, as the original English Rose dies a long way from home...
There is a bronze age stone structure called Robin Hood's Stride in Matlock, Derbyshire, the site of several stone circles.
Robin Hood's magnificent seven are reduced to just four before returning to Sherwood Forest from the Holy Lands.

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Sunday, 6 January 2008

Robin Hood. Series 2, Picture Gallery for Episode 13

Robin Hood (Jonas Armstrong) in the Holy Lands.
Marian (Lucy Griffiths) in chains.
Did all UK Hoodies notice talented Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq in the role of the servant girl spy? (above).
King Richard (Steven Waddington) and the Crusader Carter. At the time of writing a mini-series about King Richard is already in post production. It will once again star Steven Waddington as Richard, and Harry Lloyd as "Lucas". Given the world situation as it is, one awaits with interest to see what angle this will take...
"Let the desert decide", as King Richard leaves his most loyal soldiers to their fate.
Robin Hood wears quite a different disguise to greet the King's would be assassin.
Marian lays dying. Not at all the ending we wanted, but another great performance from Lucy Griffiths.
An emotional goodbye to Djaq and Will Scarlet, as Robin Hood sees in their romance all that he himself has lost.
A full review of Robin Hood series 2, Episode 13, featuring the death of Marian, can be found below.
Next Weekend: "Djaq and Will went down the hill?" Did we get enough Harry and Anjali in series 2? Keep your opinions until then Hoodies!

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Saturday, 5 January 2008

Robin Hood. Series 2, Picture Gallery for Episode 12

Robin Hood's birthday is interrupted by the arrival of the Sheriff of Nottingham's mercenaries. But Djaq's exploding pig party trick is about to save the day.
Marian attempts to assasinate the Sheriff. It will be her final act of combat.
Robin Hood and his not so Merry Men engage in a truth game on what looks set to be their last night on Earth.
Djaq and Will express their love for each other in a scene which had even die hard Harry Lloyd fans cringing.
One of the most bizarre scenes in Robin Hood: Gisborne dreams of Marian and Will massaging his shoulders, before he awakes to find the Sheriff say "I hope you're not too disappointed"...
A full account of Robin Hood series 2, Episode 12, appears below.

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