Robin Hood is one of my favourite BBC series. It combines adventure with fun, great characters, intriguing themes, a brilliant cast and a lovely setting. It’s definitely a family show, so the writing does have a few twists here and there, but it’s nothing too complicated (which isn’t a bad thing at all). The show is entertaining throughout, but as much as I love it unfortunately the strength of the series decreases over the three seasons in my opinion.
Robin of Locksley, Earl of Huntingdon, has returned from the Crusades in the Holy Land with his faithful servant Much. Back home he finds that much has changed and the new Sheriff of Nottingham is applying cruel taxes and making the people suffer. He finds himself taking up the fight against injustice with bow and arrow and from then on lives as an outlaw in Sherwood Forest and quickly gathers a following of like-minded men. His sweetheart Marian is still unmarried, but Guy of Gisborne is wooing her and he is not a man that will take no for an answer.
The story is supposed to take place around 1150 AD. This said there are quite a few anachronisms around, not least the colloquial language. I don’t think that jarring, though. It is part of the adventure family show package. For me the costumes were more of an issue. Most of them are wonderful, especially Robin’s and Guy’s. But I simply have to mention Marian’s costumes here. They are more on the modern side of design and while I don’t mind historical inaccuracy, I find a bright blue does stand out among the other more natural colour tones. But that is nit-picking, really.
I think the characters are all excellent (in Series 1 and 2). This is such a rare thing, but actually all main characters, protagonists and antagonists alike, are likable. Because of that you have twice the fun while watching. You do kind of root for the good guys, but the bad guy scenes are also quite a treat.
Now Robin is one of the best carefree heroes you could wish for in an adventure series. He is charming, bold and a little cocky. But you can also see the tormented side to him and that it’s not easy being the hero. He has to make so many sacrifices along the way, but he always keeps coming back to what he feels is right. Marian is such a sweet lady, but not in a cute way, as she is not to be underestimated. She can fight as well as any man and she is very headstrong. A perfect match for Robin, even when they often disagree. But they fight for the same values and both go to great lengths to do the right thing. Marian and Robin feel very genuine and that makes the characters so appealing. Robin’s band of Merry Men is excellent, too. Little John, Will Scarlet, Djaq, Allan A Dale and Much of course. For me Will stands out as incredibly loyal and Much as an “annoying” character, that is only too right, though, and even though he is underappreciated by everyone would give his life for Robin.
The Sheriff is just too evil to loathe. He loves being the way he is and as he is so far on that side of the scales you cannot help but laugh at his cruel, but so excellently portrayed villainy. I love it when he kicks his own guards in frustration – it’s simply hilarious. Guy of Gisborne is of course one of the main antagonists, but in his case the potential for redemption makes him such an intriguing character. It also looks like he could be a good match for Marian and manage to steer clear of the evil influence of the Sheriff. There is still good in him and remorse, even though it takes him very long to realise and act upon it.
The cast is simply brilliant. Keith Allen (Sheriff) presents us with such a memorable pantomime villain. It seems like he is having fun and so are we! Lucy Griffiths (Marian) gives her role that special touch that makes her feel alive and real. She is not just a character on the page, but she lives and breathes, which makes her so likable as heroine. Jonas Armstrong (Robin) pulls off such a great hero seemingly effortless. He’s great at the swashbuckling and cheeky flirting, but also in emotional scenes. He can make you feel for him and cry. Speaking about crying… Richard Armitage (Guy) had me tears in so many episodes. He puts so much honesty and emotion into his acting, it’s really incredible. The way he can show his character grow and long for redemption is truly touching. I noticed the series first because he was in it. I’m a huge Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fan, so when I saw that Thórin Oakenshield was in a BBC series I thought I should have a go at it. And I was not disappointed. While the whole series just fits so beautifully together and all the actors are such a great match for their respective characters, Richard Armitage’s performance still stands out for me.
Series 3… This is where the spoilers come in! Skip to the print in bold if you don’t want this. You’ve been warned! Marian is killed off at the end of season 2, so this season could have focussed on the repercussions this has caused. It didn’t. While Marian’s death was a logical story choice and also emotionally very important for the story, the writers somehow lost track of what made Robin Hood so brilliant (I think they changed the original writers and/or producers and it makes me a little sad). The side characters are simply side characters and don’t do anything anymore. Much had such a great conflict going on and it was never really touched upon again. He simply exists, just like the other non-main characters. They just hang around, sadly. Robin got over Marian quickly (despite that heart-wrenching ending they gave us) and did not only flirt with Isabella, but also with Kate.
Now Kate… Where do I start? Marian was such a great character and now we get Kate? She complains, she makes so many mistakes and then she keeps blaming other people for it. She claims she can look after herself, plays tough, and then gets kidnapped or stabbed or threatened, almost every episode. Brother Tuck was just scary. I wasn’t quite sure what he was doing. He seemed a bit vague. This series was really saved by Guy of Gisborne and his journey. He never forgot Marian. He suffered from the events of the previous series. But he also found his way to become the person he always wanted to be. Everything is destroyed and everyone you hold dear dies at the end though and it left me feeling so empty. Good thing I can just watch the episodes again from the start 🙂
Now Robin Hood is the perfect example of many things done right in filmmaking. Casting, writing, passion and fun all mixed up with a nice setting, interesting characters and a great deal of adventure. If you like Doctor Who or Merlin, this will also be something for you (but it’s definitely different in terms of tone and style). If you are looking for deep, brooding plots you will be disappointed. But if you want some light and refreshing entertainment with heart and soul – look no further and enjoy watching and re-watching this series again and again.