Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Summer TV Rewind: Robin Hood 1.01: "Will You Tolerate This?"

Guest blogger Sarah is returning this summer to once again do a Summer TV Rewind of a British show. This summer, instead of "Merlin," she's going with the first series of the BBC's "Robin Hood." I've watched most of the first series, and I would definitely recommend it for its cheekiness. Enjoy Sarah's write-up of the series pilot, "Will You Tolerate This?"


“Show me an argument ever settled with bloodshed, and then I’ll call it winning.”
- Robin

We begin in Nottingham Forest, where a man is attempting to kill a deer. He’s stopped before he can fire, surrounded by several of the King’s men. They say the punishment for killing one of the King’s deer is the loss of his right hand. But if he admits guilt now, they’ll only take a finger. The man initially agrees to just the finger but says he wants to change his mind. Before they can even get the ax near him, arrows begin flying from somewhere off in the forest, and they land quite expertly between the soldier with the ax’s fingers. The man, wearing a hood, emerges and lands a well placed arrow in the saddle of the lead soldier. Lots of trees rustle as he talks and the soldiers believe they are outnumbered until the archer’s servant makes it clear there are only two of them. Bad move!

As they take off running, it becomes quite clear that the archer is Robin of Locksley (soon to be known as Robin Hood), and his servant’s name is Much. They’ve just returned to England after fighting in the Holy Land for five years. They end up evading the soldiers and make their way on towards Locksley. They stop at the home of a cloth worker and his daughter, and in exchange for a meal, Much and Robin dig a trench. It doesn’t take long though for Robin to get in more trouble. He ends up snogging the man’s daughter, and when the cloth worker sees, he’s goes bonkers. He and Robin end up in a fight (after trying to tell Much that there’s a new sheriff in town). First, Robin fends him off with just a wooden spoon, the top of a wooden barrel and some well placed kicks. I do have to say that the fight sequences in this show are phenomenal. More evidence of that comes when Robin does a back flip off the second story of the house to the ground in slow motion.

The next morning, Robin and Much arrive in Locksley. They are expecting a warm welcome, but they find people hiding in their houses and avoiding them. They finally find a friendly face in Dan Scarlett. He and Robin seem to be old friends (judging by the sadness Robin shows upon hearing Dan’s wife died two years previous), and Robin is horrified to learn of the harsh punishments being doled out by the sheriff. He’s none too pleased to know that Sir Guy of Gisborne has taken over managing his estate while he’s been at war. We meet Sir Guy soon enough as he rides in with his men. Guy couldn’t be more different from Robin. Dark looks, dressed in black leather from head to toe. [ed. note: can’t forget the eyeliner either] He’s kind of a pompous ass to be honest (albeit a hot one). He’s going to punish the people responsible for stealing from the stores until Robin steps up and quite coolly announces that he is Earl of Huntington and lord of the manor. All the villagers bow and murmur words of happiness at his return.

Back at his manor, Robin says that Much is now a free man and will be given the lodge and fields at Bonchurch in reward and payment for his services. Much rushes up to take a bath (after Robin’s head of house points out that he was going to the servant’s quarters) along with a big plate of food. Guy stops by to chat and says that he wants more respect from Robin in front of the populace. Robin makes the comment that Guy’s been there a long while and hasn’t yet earned their respect. They argue a bit more, and Guy informs Robin that the Council of Nobles meets the following day in Nottingham and Robin is expected to attend. Robin says he will be pardoning all of his people who are awaiting trial or punishment, and Guy angrily tells Robin to take it up with the sheriff. I have to say the writers have set up their rivalry quite nicely in just a couple of scenes.

Robin heads off to see the former sheriff (with a rather disappointed Much in tow). Before they head out, Robin tells his head of house to bring all the villagers to his manor and feed them all. None of the household staff (including Robin when he returns) eats until all the villagers have had their share. He’s quite generous to his people. They stop off in Knighton Hall (where the former sheriff lives) and are promptly told off by Edward (said former sheriff). They also see Marian, Edward’s daughter. She’s got a bow and poise pointed straight at Robin. He’s quite happy to see her and comments in a rather pleased tone that she’s still unmarried. Much scoffs at Robin’s pretense of visiting but says nothing more as they head back to Locksley. They get back to find most of the villagers happy and well-fed. But Dan’s quite upset. His two sons, Luke and Will, have been arrested for stealing the flour from the stores. Robin swears he’ll sort it, and the next day he and Much ride to Nottingham. The market is deserted, even though Robin suspects it is still market day. There’s just nothing to sell since the people have no money left after all the tithes they must give to the sheriff.

And then we meet the man himself. The Sheriff. Gold teeth, balding, a bit plump and the biggest mustache-twirling villain I’ve ever seen. We see him talking with Gisborne and of being no help. The Sheriff is too busy laughing at the fact that Robin bested him and his twenty-four men. And the Sheriff’s not pleased during the Council meeting that the taxes aren’t being met. I really just wanted to reach into the screen and throttle him. Robin shows up and speaks his mind quite clearly. He wants the Sheriff to stop all taxes and allow the people to recover, so that they can trade again. That will help support the King and the war in the Holy Land. It seems he’s not very popular with the rest of the nobles. Then again, they could all just be terrified of the Sheriff. The Sheriff is not happy with Robin’s vocal dislike of his policies and ends up killing his canary. Meanwhile, Marian catches Robin in a corridor and tells him to come to her father’s house after midnight because he wants to speak with Robin. Robin rattles off a few flirtatious compliments, and Marian tries to act like she’s not flattered. It’s quite clear they had something in the past (turns out they were supposed to be married).

Robin and Much head down to the dungeons to deal with the boys from Locksley who had stolen the flour. It turns out they’ll be hung for their crime. We also find the guy from the beginning of the episode (Allan A Dale) locked up, and he starts shouting that he’s from Locksley when he sees Robin. Unfortunately for Allan, he gets lumped in with Will, Will’s brother and one of the other boys to hang. Robin is furious and makes it known to the Sheriff during Robin’s return feast. The Sheriff makes comment that there are rumors abounding that Robin has returned weak from the war. As a test, the Sheriff has ordered Robin to oversee the hanging in the morning. Marian and her father are there, and she ends up going off with Gisborne, much to Robin’s disgust. After midnight, Robin and Much make their way back to Sir Edward and Marian. Edward urges Robin to keep his dissent quiet and to consolidate his power. Robin says there isn’t time. As night wears on, he sits alone in his manor contemplating how best to handle the situation.

In the morning, Robin arrives in Nottingham and the prisoners are brought out. He reads the sentence, and just as they are about to hang, a man claiming to be a bishop says they cannot be killed because they have all made it known that they would like to be men of the cloth. Unfortunately, Robin’s little diversionary tactic doesn’t work too well, and the boys dangle. But Robin, being the handsome hero that he is, steals a bow from one of the nearby archers and expertly severs all four ropes. In the ensuing mayhem and chaos, Marian ends up saving Robin with a hair pin (knocking an archer’s bow astray so it doesn’t fire at him). Robin, Much and the boys manage to get away and end up in Sherwood Forest for refuge for the night They’ve just settled in when they hear footsteps crunching on the fallen leaves. A group of ragged looking men appear and claim the forest is theirs. Thus ends the pilot episode of Robin Hood.

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