Did we like it?
A thrilling adventure, but despite addressing some of the crippling weaknesses of the first series it still lacks the imagination and depth to be of enduring interest to anyone over the age of 14 who hasn’t long ago become cynical about the artificial nature of action dramas.
What was good about it?
• Guy of Gisborne is still the most interesting and beguiling character by some distance; allying an emotional profundity to Richard Armitage’s expressive face means that during his scenes the drama breaches the thick ice pack that divides the childish whimsy from mature complexities.
• Even though it seemed as if we’d seen this plot in an episode from the first series, the plot of Robin being deceived by the Sheriff’s mendacious sister, during which he had to inventively extricate himself from falling into a nest of vipers by converting his bow into a bolt thrower was pretty entertaining and intriguing.
• Keith Allen is still an irascible, if rather impotent Sherriff. Whenever the Sheriff threatens someone or something it merely acts as a cue for Robin to stop him. In contrast, when the much more menacing Guy threatens to do something – burn down Marion’s home or torture Allan – you know he will do it.
• A new overarching plotline that sees the Sheriff trying to raise an army of mercenaries to usurp King Richard upon his return from the Crusades. The Sheriff has enlisted the aid of the Black Knights, which will hopefully mean Robin gets to further a field than bloody Nottingham every week; the exotic climes of Rotherham for example.
What was bad about it?
• Much is still as much a gay anachronism as Mr Humphreys, even for a medieval drama. After Robin and his merry men had evaded capture by hiding in a den underneath the leafy forest floor, Much triumphantly shrieked: “I love a camp!” You half expected Julian Clary and Charles Hawtrey to ambled past quipping crass double entendres in an impromptu version of Carry On Robin.
• While that scene was made doubly awful by the unnecessary multi-angled repetition of Little John revealing their hiding place, it’s nothing more than a little den (or a “camp!”) so why the need to zoom in and herald this rather insignificant event from every conceivable position as if it was an FA Cup final winning goal was mystifying.
• The unwieldy execution of visual effects persisted (as if did through much of the first series) with the bewildering inclination to use slow motion during the action sequences as if the producers imagine that viewers have the visual acuity of a drowsy diplodocus. The worst crime here was that during one of the signature action sequences you are actually thinking about the ineptitude of the producers rather than being swept away by the drama.
• The hopelessness of the conflict between Robin and the Sheriff is in danger of diluting the plot at the heart of the programme. Robin, of course, can’t die (unless Jason Connery’s looking for new work), but now neither can the Sheriff as King John has decreed that if the Sheriff should die “an unnatural death” then effectively Nottingham will become a mediaeval Hiroshima. This creates a rather tiresome impasse between the pair and makes their weekly conflicts as frustratingly futile as Dick Dastardly’s attempts to catch the pigeon or Wile E Coyote’s bizarre persecution of Road Runner, and just as juvenile.
• Every week the plot seems to be the same. We hope the new story arc will alter this, but the predictable sight of Robin appearing on the battlements and firing a few miraculously accurate arrows before leaping down into the courtyard to face impossible odds before being (a) after 20 minutes, captured by Guy or the Sheriff; or (b) after 40 minutes being rescued in the nick of time by the depressingly marginalised merry men/Marion is now getting as repetitious as Compo sitting in a metal bath tumbling down the Yorkshire moors while Clegg and Foggy stumble after him.
• The grotesquely grating use of modern language that smacks of lazy writing rather than an effort to ingratiate lazy viewers. We don’t expect people in a BBC drama based in the 13th century to speak like Chaucer, but neither do we expect noble thieves to pilfer Two Ronnies catchphrases alongside the saddlebags of the wicked nobility – other semantic atrocities included: “Operation Shalimar must move to the next phase”; “Tell them the castle is locked down”; “Tell Gisborne it’s showtime”; “Get up to speed” – which are either vile Americanisms, language so corporate it probably has its own bank account or both.
• The worst one, however, was when Robin whispered to Marion “That kiss spoke volumes”, a phrase that simultaneously seemed ripped from the mechanised, mendacious throat of a property developer while lacking even the smallest shred of emotional sensitivity so much so that were it a grain of heroin it could be safely smuggled past any sniffer dog in the entire world.