Did we like it?
A mediaeval romp that defenestrates historical accuracy for thrilling plots and iconic heroes and villains.
What was good about it?
• Jonas Armstrong as Robin of Loxley/Hood makes the most of a pretty insubstantial characterisation over the first couple of episodes. Immediately likeable, Armstrong manages to instil in his Robin enough infectious inspiration to make the viewer forget some of the ropey dialogue he has to spout.
• Sam Troughton as Much who, despite a rather cruel script, brings dignity and charisma to a character obviously marked as the Mr Humphries of Sherwood Forest. He wears a garish rainbow-coloured tunic, frets about a rabbit being cooked, looks adoringly at Robin and is rather timid and meek.
• Troughton is the grandson of ex-Dr Who Patrick Troughton and on a quick trip to the IMDB we also learnt that Harry Lloyd who plays Will Scarlett is a descendant of Charles Dickens (which might explain why he always looks so morose), and Joe Armstrong (Alan-A-Dale) is the son of Alun “New Tricks” Armstrong. And of course Keith Allen has now been superseded in the fame stakes by daughter Lily.
• The clear moral division between good (Robin and his band of merry men) and evil (the Sheriff, Guy of Gisborne and their henchmen). The Sheriff and his men all wear black chainmail and have nothing other than evil on their minds. This may get a little boring if it wasn’t for…
• Richard Armitage as Guy of Gisborne. He broods and exudes a depth and sympathy uncommon to the rest of the villains (even the Sheriff). Guy has already expressed his shame of having no lands to govern despite having a lordly title, and genuinely seems to want to be accepted by people. His usurpation of Robin’s land and titles appear to be provoked by a need for love of the subjects rather than an amoral desire to commit evil acts for the sake of the plot.
• Keith Allen as the Sheriff. While he could easily get a job in any pantomime this Christmas, there was enough malevolent intelligence to suggest that he may prove a decent foe for Robin to battle.
• One of Little John’s men, the one who was in attachments, seems to have had Vic Reeves’s voice dubbed on to his speech.
• The daring rescue in episode one was exciting, even if the nooses to hang Will Scarlett, Alan-A-Dale et al were just waiting to be targeted by Robin’s arrows a la Clint Eastwood in The Good, The Bad And The Ugly.
What was bad about it?
• The fights are a little too choreographed and have too much of the A-Team non-violence about them. Despite swinging swords and maces around with little care for the surrounding environment, the Sheriff’s men are often git with shields, the blunt edge or hilt of a sword or the unbladed side of an axe. Sure we understand it’s going out at 7pm, but when you have Daleks blasting people with their X-ray death ray and Cybermen slicing and dicing humans until they become cyborgs with a brain it is all a little tame.
• The clumsy allusion to the modern day to make simplistic social comments, such as the Sheriff muttering about “camps in the Holy Land where men are taught to hate their own land, to return home to wreak havoc and destruction”, as he tried to blacken Robin’s name. And the argument between Guy and Marian that was an obvious nod to the US’s policy of judicial tyranny, both of which lacked the subtlety of Dr Who’s Aliens of London when the satire of reducing the Earth to waste only to sell its resources on wasn’t revealed until well into the story.
• Robin and Much going on and on about how they fought in the Crusades. They’re in danger of becoming Nottingham’s very own Uncle Albert forever seeking some sort of moral piety for their selfless toils, whereas everyone is becoming very bored of them very quickly.
• Robin’s omnipotence with the bow strips away much of the tension whenever he is called upon to make a crucial shot. Can’t the Sheriff batter one of his hands with a hammer to at least restore some of the doubt as he is currently like Mitchell and Webb’s Angel Summoner who can solve any crisis by summoning a horde of angels to defeat any foe.
• The plots in episodes one and two were very similar – Robin or Robin’s men get captured by the Sheriff and are sentenced to hang the next day in his castle courtyard but are saved in a daring rescue. We are sure this won’t continue, but already have the first inklings of dread that Robin Hood’s rescues in Nottingham castle will become the new Last of the Summer Wine monotony of Compo in a bath on wheels hurtling down some precipitous Yorkshire moor.
• Little Little John’s limp disappeared.