~~*PREVIOUSLY, ON ROBIN OF SHERWOOD*~~
"Worst. Nuns. Ever."
-The tl;dr episode summary from the Apple Gallery.
Now, we move on to the season finale of season 2, and it begins with Nasir sitting at a fire, muttering in Arabic with two guys who are dressed like deleted scenes from Lawrence of Arabia. After a few moments, they mount horses and ride away, while Will lurks behind a nearby tree. But instead of yelling YO NASIR WHERE YOU GOIN' BRO? after him, Scarlet and the other Merries simply reassure each other that Nasir will come back, though really, they know nothing about him and have no idea what he's up to.
These three Saracens - Mark Nasir, Steve Unnamed Arab #1, and Mark Unnamed Arab #2 - were originally crucial characters to this episode, telling a story that focused on the enigmatic Nasir's past. However, there was a forthcoming casting change happening very quickly after this episode, so here, the show diverts from its Mysterious Nasircentric Plot to a Last-Minute Audience-Gutting Plot, otherwise known as:
It's early morning in Nottingham Castle, and the Sheriff is being shaved, while Gisburne looks on, performing the usual cosmetic supervisory duties required of every Anglo-Norman deputy sheriff :cough:. And de Rainault's wearing only a shift - I already love this scene - since he's clearly got nothing to do today either. No, instead of taxes, harvests, or political schemes, the Sheriff's most pressing worry is that his vaguely incompetent barber will slit his throat and/or make him un-pretty:
And the latter concern is clearly the more important, requiring verbal reassurance, so he gazes anxiously at his reflection and then turns to ask, "I hope I'm doing the right thing, Gisburne?"
Oh, Sheriff, you delicious cad, you. Notice how de Rainault waits until half the beard is gone to request Gisburne's opinion, in an obviously rhetorical question designed to invite flattery; what's he going to do, have the whiskers glued back to his chin if Guy voices disapproval? Even Gisburne can tell that the Sheriff's just fishing for compliments, and he's having none of it:
[sarcastically] "Oh yes, my lord. A great improvement." [sulk]
But the Sheriff's glaring vanity and Gisburne's blistering frustration are interrupted by the arrival of a messenger, and the sudden noise startles everyone, resulting in a cut to de Rainault's neck:
So Robert shrieks about the mutilation of his precious throat BECAUSE HE NEEDS HIS VOCAL CORDS FOR AAAAANGEEEER, and then he runs everyone out of the room except Guy. But the visitor, quite unimpressed by the screamy peacock's preening/mid-life crisis, pointedly suggests that Gisburne should also leave, requesting privacy with a stare that clearly asks WHY ARE YOU HERE, ANYWAY?
So the Sheriff orders Gisburne's departure, and once the deputy obeys, the Herald - Hubert de Giscard - launches into his news. It seems that, after three years of throwing incompetent tantrums, King John has finally figured out that Robin Hood is, in fact, a subversive threat that undermines the royal authority, and he places the blame for the continuing situation squarely on de Rainault's dead sexy and fuzzily-attired shoulders:
Now, the Sheriff would be delighted to kill the outlaws anyway, but John's sent along this additional incentive:
HUBERT: Unless this wolfshead dies within the month, you are to be stripped of your office and sent to fight the King's enemies in Normandy. Your successor's already been chosen: Richard FitzGilbert.
ROBERT: [mocking the Herald's snidely dramatic tone] Then I shall endeavour to obey.
HUBERT: [smiles poisonously] Oh, you will obey, my lord. Or lose everything. Do you understand?
ROBERT: Oh yes, de Giscard. I understand you. You've made yourself perfectly clear.
HUBERT: Then I wish you good hunting. [bows and grins facetiously as he rises] Sheriff.
Then the smug Herald, who enjoys his job way too much, departs. And if you were wondering just how King John's reign is going, here's a subtle clue for you:
The messenger wears a cape with chain maille over the shoulders.
Because being shot in the back is probable.
Understandably, the ragey and unaesthetic Sheriff is not pleased, and he repeats the messenger's farewell with obvious irritation:
ROBERT: [grumbles] Hunting. [A moment passes, and suddenly a very angry light bulb switches on.] Hunting!!
Then he blows out the SYMBOLIC CANDLE WHICH IS SYMBOLIC.
Unaware of the forces already moving against him, Robin is enjoying a few minutes of arboreal domestic bliss with Marion in Sherwood. But then he hears a fog-laced summons, so he gives Marion a quick farewell kiss-
-before going on alone to meet Herne:
ROBIN: Well, if you hadn't interrupted us Herne?
HERNE: Who is the greatest enemy? Always near you, sometimes at your shoulder.
ROBIN: I've known he was there
HERNE: You must face him.
HERNE: Listen. Each man travels along one path. At the end of it, if he has the courage, he will meet himself and find his power.
ROBIN: Will you be there?
HERNE: No. But we cannot be parted. Another riddle for you.
AUDIENCE: I HATE EVERYTHING
Back in the castle, the Sheriff also hates everything, and to assist him in his imminent destruction of everything blithe and joyous in the world, he's summoned foresters, hounds, and soldiers to his EEEEVIL side. De Rainault is developing a plan that's going to begin with some sort of trap and then, if the first part fails - you know, just in case the Nottingham soldiers somehow screw it up - continue with a hunt:
D'awww! Look at the eeeevil Sheriff's little hellbeasts!
Astonishingly, the first part of this scheme has already been accomplished, by Gisburne; the deputy's had Wickham village surrounded, and now, he brings two villagers forward for his master's shrieky delectation: Edward of Wickham, the village thane, and his son, Matthew.
The Sheriff looks up-
-and steps away from his plotting table to confront Edward with smoldering, hair-trigger anger. De Rainault reveals that he's acutely aware how Wickham village has been aiding the outlaws, and then he faces Wickham's head man to issue a dire threat:
ROBERT: You remember Loxley? That was a rebel village too, wasn't it? Now it's just a name and a tangle of undergrowth. I've had my eye on Wickham for some time. And tonight, I'm clearing it of every man, woman, and child. I'm selling the men to Ranulph of Chester. He wants more soldiers. The rest can go begging for all I care.
(Chester again! This is the second time he's been referenced as a potential depository for breathing menfolk. This Earl is either fighting the most impossible battle since Thermopylae, or he's an idiot who uses up his soldiers with all the finesse of a meat grinder.)
EDWARD: [stunned] This is shameful!
SHERIFF: [smiles with horrible delight] Yes, it is, isn't it? Monstrous! And you're to blame! It's going to haunt you, as well. Because I'm letting you live. [looks down at Edward's son] And he can live, too, providing you do exactly as I say. Nice little boy, isn't he?
EDWARD: [rasping defensively] He's done you no harm!
ROBERT: [shouts] He's your son, and he lives in Wickham!
[He picks up an apple and maliciously regards it for a moment, then glances up at the child.] Catch. [He throws the apple; Matthew catches it. Then he holds out his hand.] Give. [The bewildered boy obediently steps forward and gives the apple back, and the Sheriff keeps his eyes trained on the pair as he takes a bite out of the apple.] Now, I'm sure you love your father very much, and you don't want anything - anything bad to happen to him, do you?
MATTHEW: [shakes head]
ROBERT: That's right. [warpedly amused] What an intelligent child. So you're going to take a message to him, aren't you? To Robin Hood. [holds out the apple again to the boy]
MATTHEW: [takes the apple with a frightened nod]
At this point, I'm expecting every man present to announce that they've got everywhere else to be and start running. This is the scariest scene of the Sheriff's in the entire show, and I'm really glad I didn't see Robin of Sherwood as a child, since explaining years of Nickolas Grace nightmares to a therapist would have been awkward at best. It's shocking how the Sheriff just switches on the rage, like it's burning so close to the surface as to need no provocation.
Another interesting acting note is that Robbie Bulloch (Matthew) is actually the youngest son of Jeremy Bulloch (Edward). So when Edward is snapping at the Sheriff that his child hasn't done any harm, there's a deep, quite genuine shadow of YOU WILL GET THE F*CK AWAY FROM MY BOY OR I WILL END YOU in that voice. It's just superb casting, especially as the youth is quite a fine actor in his own right; not for a moment do I doubt that he's justifiably terrified of this crazy, shouty man:
Hell, I'm terrified, and I'm old. This unhinged schemer is surely not the same Sheriff we saw in the first scene?
TELL ME I'M PRETTY.
So this hardcore (core, haha) threat demonstrates the Sheriff's ability to masticate and intimidate simultaneously, and the bitten apple is obviously a threat, along the lines of YANNO, I COULD DO THIS TO YOUR DAD'S ARM, JUST SAYIN'.
While the Sheriff picks bits of set apple from his teeth, then, the rest of his plan (presumably) falls into place during the scene fade. Matthew runs the Sheriff's invitation of HEY, YOU SHOULD COME TO WICKHAM, BECAUSE UH 'CAUSE! to Robin and the band, while the Nottingham soldiers, under Gisburne's command, conceal themselves - and their weapons - inside the villagers' homes. The Sheriff also hides himself in Wickham, watching from a window and waiting impatiently for the impending failure fight.
And really, we can all guess where this is going, because you know that the Sheriff did not just make a two-part plan and then shell out for bloodhounds and handlers, only to nab the outlaws on the first try. De Rainault's also wearing his fancy, mostly useless upholstery fighting gear, and since his helmet is resting on a table, he's apparently decided to supervise while everyone else does that messy, hair-mussing, de-prettying "killing outlaws" thing:
"Why can't these idiots do my job faster, dammit?!?"
Gisburne lurks in another house with Edward, and he coldly instructs the thane to welcome the outlaws and not to dare try warning them; he then reminds Edward of exactly what's at stake: "Think about your son." And the emphasis on that single word puts aaaaaaallllll kinds of subtext there, hinting at exactly why Guy is so scornful of this father, who actually cares about his child. But before we get any deeper into Guy's festering resentment against his cruel upbringing, as mirrored by his current career choices, the Merries come into view at the village outskirts. So Guy hauls up Edward and puts a knife to his throat, before shoving him outside.
Quietly, the Merries discuss the situation as they approach the village. They note that young Matthew seemed frightened when asking them to come to Wickham, and the non-bustling silence that confronts them now only heightens their concerns. The wary Robin sends Will ahead to suss things out; Will tries to greet the villagers as he walks, but everyone he passes either looks away or just avoids him completely. Guy sees that the nervous Wickham folk are acting suspiciously, so he whispers from the shadows to Edward, "Greet them. Wave at them!" And Edward does so, in a manner that's TOTALLY CASUAL, AND NOT AT ALL UNCOMFORTABLE IN A WAY THAT MIGHT IMPLY A KNIGHT STANDING BEHIND HIM WITH A KNIFE:
Will is growing increasingly worried by the moment, but he returns Edward's absolutely innocuous greeting in an equally non-suspicious way:
And as much as I adore watching Team Norman, this is where they get a richly-deserved comeuppance for their ravaging of the local population. See, the impoverished serfs live in ragged and inadequate sets dwellings, and so Will Scarlet, as he looks carefully around the village, is able to discern motion and weapons gleaming through the huts' tattered cloth coverings and near-translucent walls:
Hell, the serfs can't even afford doors, which is pretty much a requirement for any plot requiring concealment:
So Scarlet quickly whirls and shrieks "AMBUSH!"-
-and guardsmen pour from the villagers' homes, levelling their weapons as the Merries try to flee:
At the sight of crossbows, the well-trained outlaws immediately hit the ground and roll out of the way. And it's a good thing they did, because these bows are aimed for actual damage and not mere comic relief; quarrels strike carts and pots with bullet-like speed as the Merries only just barely dive past them. Thus, multiple guardsmen - despite superior weaponry, numbers, and the element of surprise in their favour - miss all of the outlaws. Much even hits one of the soldiers in the face with a rock, and the blow causes the man to humorously misfire his crossbow:
"Who in the HELL do they think they're shooting at?!"
It seems to me that the hapless soldier has stumbled upon the perfect solution to this whole mess, but alas, he fails to follow up his "mistake" with a better-aimed shot. Meanwhile, Gisburne dashes out of the hut, drawing his sword as shouts of "Reload!!" echo through the ranks, and the soldiers struggle to re-arm their crossbows while the outlaws start smacking them with swords and staffs. The villagers run away in terror, crossbowmen hit the river to try and surround the Merries, and Little John faces off against Gisburne. And I really wish I could have screenshot that last fight for you, because John staffs Gisburne in the groin and then neatly clips him across the face as he doubles over.
From his privileged position of safety, unsweatiness, and intact genitalia, the Sheriff hisses at Gisburne to get up:
And the knight actually does rise and return to the fray, in a burst of improbable resilience; John clobbers him again and again, but instead of spitting out teeth and collapsing in a pool of his own blood, Guy keeps going. Still, the end result of this catastrophe is mostly predictable-
-except for Little John and Will, who are still fighting, buying time for the others to flee. At last, Little John dashes into a home to try and escape out the back - and Herne, you can actually see the papier-m chmooshing and squishing as he runs through the house - but the guardsmen dog-pile him at the exit, and nine soldiers together are able to bring him down as he screams.
Will, meanwhile, is surrounded on all sides by shield-wielding Normans - his worst nightmare come to life:
He throws himself against all of them with berserker fury, shrieking and refusing to surrender, but they back him into a house and take him too. Thus, only two of the six outlaws are captured, in an ambush that should have murdered all of them, and the Sheriff fits his helmet on his head (BECAUSE HE WAS TOTES FIGHTING THE WHOLE TIME, Y'ALL) before striding furiously from his shelter:
ROBERT: Why did you let them escape?
GUY: Don't worry, my lord. I'll catch him.
ROBERT: You certainly will not. You'll stay here and guard the others. I will find him myself! With the hounds.
So Guy pouts petulantly, looking remarkably well for someone who's just taken three staff blows directly to the face-
-while the Sheriff continues on with the soldiers, since it's his future at stake, and he can't afford to entrust it (again) to Gisburne. The plot now becomes a brilliant subversion of the Wild Hunt as, instead of Herne and his hounds riding against the evildoer, the evildoer and his hounds go forth in pursuit of Herne's Son. The Sheriff and his forces enter Sherwood, while their quarry - Marion, Tuck, Much, and Robin - flees frantically through the forest.
And back in Wickham, Guy's calves begin interrogating the captured men-
-because the humiliated knight has finally realised that the outlaw count was one short. So he inquires after the absent Saracen with typical Gisburnian redundancy, asking, "Where's Nasir? The Saracen!" This is so that they don't answer OHHHHHH, THAT guy, we thought you were talking about the NORWEGIAN Nasir. But the outlaws refuse to answer him at all, except for Will's soft, goading reply of wouldn't you like to know. Guy - who's apparently still learned nothing about the need for patience in such matters - kicks Will full in the face and then stalks away.
Guy's legs do have a point, though: where is Nasir? To answer that question, we return to the woods, where "the Saracen" is just hanging out with these two random other Saracens. The strangers rise, return to their horses and packs for a moment and, while Nasir sits placidly by the fire, they hide knives in their sleeves. But the hyperaware Nasir is no fool, and he leaps to his feet and draws his swords. He slays one of the men immediately, then turns his attention to the other, who looks rightfully fearful. Their duel lasts about twenty seconds and ends with Nasir victorious:
But the frightened man gazes up at his fierce would-be killer-
-and desperately tears open his shirt. I admit that, the first time I saw this scene, I started laughing, because I didn't see the mark on his chest right away and thus had no idea what he was trying to accomplish. It looked like either a frantic request to avoid decapitation and get stabbed in the heart instead (because that would hurt so much less), or else a really clumsy proposition. But it turns out that he's showing Nasir his tattoo of something-
-and this dark squiggle inspires mercy. Instead of killing his vanquished opponent, Nasir mounts one of the horses and rides away; almost immediately, the treacherous man disregards his freshly-spared life, leaping onto a second horse and giving chase. Nasir realises he's being pursued, fires an arrow into the man's chest, and then continues on his way, now unencumbered by these whoever-they-were people, who took him into the forest because meeting, and wanted him to do something because reasons, and forced him to kill them because NO, so I'm glad we cleared all that up.
Elsewhere in the forest, the Merries rest for a moment; all too soon, they hear the foresters' commands of yip yip yip yip yip and the excited howls of the hounds. "What's that?" asks Much fearfully. Robin rises, turns away from his companions, and again hears Herne's voice in his thoughts:
"Who is the greatest enemy? Always near to you, sometimes at your shoulder "
And Robin's like ZOMG DOGS ARE THE GREATEST ENEMY, AND THAT'S WHY IT WAS THE HOUNDS OF LUCIFER LAST EPISODE! He rouses his companions quickly and cries out that they have to keep going; obediently, they move on, running until poor Tuck becomes exhausted and simply can't go any further.
They decide to hide Tuck up a tree, and he climbs into thickly foliated branches while they help to push him up. Robin reassures him that the dogs will keep following their scent, and then he looks up at Tuck with a wry smile.
So the friar watches worriedly from his sylvan camouflage, as the hounds and hunters follow his friends:
It seems that he'll at least be safe, until - and I am not even making this up - his shoe falls off.
I'm quite serious. His shoe slips from his foot and strikes the ground-
-which instantly alerts the passing soldiers to his presence. They look up, gesture him to come down immediately-
-and despite Robin's best intentions, Tuck has now been captured.
The remaining three outlaws make for a stream, hoping to throw the hunters off of their trail. It seems to work beautifully, because the hounds whine in confusion, and the men stop in confuddlement. Awwww, hunting's ha-a-a-a-a-ard! But the Sheriff is so canny that he can even out-hunt his own foresters; one of the men calls out, "he's lost the scent, m'lord!", and the Sheriff quickly barks:
"Then follow both banks until you find it again, dolt!"
Meanwhile, Nasir gallops towards Wickham - which is some phenomenal guess-work, since he had no idea that the Merries were going there - and two of the villagers approach him in a panic, crying out that Robin's been ambushed:
Nasir's improved his English rather dramatically, because he immediately comprehends the situation and leaps from his horse to go rescue his comrades. What happens next is really badass, a little funny - watch his arm going through the "earthen" wall - and sadly, ultimately futile:
So Nasir, too, is outwitted by guardsmen - the shame! - who, for the first time ever, have actually had an intelligent collective thought and then implemented it without being commanded. And now, only Much, Marion, and Robin remain free.
Again the faltering, wearying friends rest near a stream, and Marion suggests that they try to hide and ensnare their pursuers. But Robin explains that they're outnumbered by trained hunters who will catch up to them eventually-
-and he decides that they must leave the forest. It's an excellent deduction, as the forest growth catches and holds their scent, and so they stand and again start running, making for the boundaries of Sherwood.
Back in imprisonment, Will softly asks Nasir why he left with two strangers. Nasir calls them hashashiyun - "in your tongue, assassin" - and he haltingly explains to both the Merries and the audience that he used to be one of them, and the Saracens were brethren sent to retrieve him:
So he had to kill them, ensuring that "they had no choice" but to let him go:
The hunters, meanwhile, cry out in triumph as their hounds finally recover the trail, so the Sheriff orders his hunting party onward. At last, they catch sight of the three fleeing fugitives, and the chase continues, out of Sherwood and into an open valley. The Merries see a small hill in the distance and race desperately to it, striving to reach higher ground. Finally they clamber up the rocks, draw their bows, and-
-a stand-off begins.
Our heroes have staked out the superior position, and they wield weapons with a longer range, but the Sheriff and his forces have numbers and armour in their favour. So the battle begins, and the unarmed Much ducks down and stays out of the way as Robin and Marion start firing their longbows; soldiers fall immediately to this volley of arrows, prompting the Sheriff to frantically order a retreat.
So the line of soldiers steps out of longbow range, and then the Sheriff summons two of them. I think they're knights, because they're mounted, and he actually knows their names, and they actually obey him when he commands them to charge, although the outcome is tragically predictable. Indeed, de Rainault's opening gambit proves less than successful:
(And the sight of knight corpses littering the ground moves me to wonder if the Sheriff had another motivation to leave Gisburne back at camp. I'm just sayin'.)
The Sheriff curses and then orders the soldiers' captain to bring some men around the other side of the hill. Five of them peel away from the main line and do as requested, but of course, Robin and Marion see them coming and pick them off one by one. Only the last man is able to drop to the ground in time, trying to hide himself among the ferns and tall grasses.
"Flush him out," orders Robin. So Marion takes aim, and because Marion is awesome-
-her first two arrows frighten the soldier into making a run for it, and her third skewers him. Robin praises her shooting, and they stand together, awaiting the Sheriff's next move:
This calm is even more nerve-wracking than the action. Now, Robin and Marion have won a few small victories: they've escaped the forest, found good field position, and now stand beyond the range of crossbow fire. They've just taken down a pair of charging knights and a group of soldiers trying to out-flank them. But they know that the wily, infuriated Sheriff won't just give up, and they have no idea what he'll try next or when. As they wait, Marion looks up at her husband and, with calm resolve, asks:
"Are we going to die?"
Robin evades the question by simple reassurance, and his face reveals everything to the audience as he stares into the distance; he already knows the answer, but it isn't yet time to tell her. So she climbs higher and stands next to Much, looking out at the men.
On the field, de Rainault dismounts and approaches another knight. Calling this man by his first name as well - what is it with the Sheriff suddenly knowing and caring who works for him?! - he quietly commands the young soldier to "move down the valley and work your way behind him." The rest of his explanations are too hushed to hear, but the knight clearly understands, so the Sheriff finishes his orders and sends the fighter onward. His voice is gentle and even fatherly in tone, and there's a paternalistic, football-coach feeling to the whole thing - until you snap a screenshot of this moment and notice the Sheriff's hands. I have to admire de Rainault's skill in motivating his soldiers, because the knight needs no further incentive to ride far, far away, after being used as the Sheriff of Nottingham's armrest:
And the prettier the knight, the more "encouragement" he needs GISBURNE.
Speaking of terribly peculiar motivations, Robin now resolves to encourage the two people who love him most in the world to run for their lives and leave him to die, and I have a feeling that no amount of thigh-groping would make this instruction palatable.
Robin turns first to Much, the easier of the two to convince. He asks the youth to keep an eye on the line of soldiers for a few minutes, shout out an alarm if they move, and when Robin tells him to, he should go with Marion, run back to Sherwood, and hide in the forest until nightfall, while Robin covers their escape.
"What about you?" asks Much worriedly.
With fey determination shining in his eyes, Robin gently answers, "I shall be with you later"; Much readily trusts in his brother's promise and smiles reassuredly. And those of us who remember the first episode - with Robin's speech about the dead Merries being "here with us, in Sherwood, because they're free" - are shouting NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! at the TV.
Then Robin climbs up to Marion, and the Herne theme begins to play. He tries to coax her, but she already knows what he's going to ask and insists upon staying with him. So he needles her, with that wonderful Robin mischief; "I thought you had more courage," he goads, "to stay alive. Dying's easy."
The word "dying" - spoken terribly aloud for the first time - tells her that Robin already knows and has accepted his fate, and worse, that she can't stop what must happen. Her bravado collapses, and her knees sink under her as she dissolves into tears:
Robin comforts her, letting her know that he's prepared for this moment, that it's destined to be, and that she must stay alive in order to continue their struggle - to save not only the sword Albion (which he's entrusting to her), but to keep alive his memory and all that they believed in. And just in case you weren't sobbing hysterically yet, he looks intensely at her and utters one of the most beautiful declarations of love ever made:
"There are so many things I want to say to you.
But time's caught me up, and now I'll never say them.
Except that I loved you from the moment I saw you, and every moment since."
Below this moving scene, the contrast is insultingly horrific as the Sheriff paces impatiently in front of his men, wondering why the soldiers are taking so damned long to execute his subterfuge, and CAN WE JUST HURRY UP AND MURDER THESE SERFS, AND WHY ARE THESE MEN SO INEFFICIENT AT MY JOB, DAMN THEM?!
Robin stands with Marion and gives his final orders as the Merries' leader; he knows full well that the Sheriff is sending men around the hill and that soon, there will be no escape for any of them. "You must go now!" he urges:
Marion kisses him one last time, and on the ground, the Sheriff calls for two volunteers. I cannot imagine why no-one steps up :cough:, but when nobody budges, he grabs two soldiers at random and shoves them forward. Much, as he's been instructed to do, cries out that the men are moving. So Robin and Marion lift their bows and shoot the unfortunate guards, and then Robin hands Marion the sword, shouting, "Take Albion, and go!" And she calls back, "I love you!" as she flees with Much.
Robin now stands before a flaming sunset, still firing arrows. The Sheriff orders his line forward, but two of his men fall to Robin's skill, and the Sheriff is nearly shot himself as they advance. Angrily he again commands retreat, growling, "How many arrows does the man have?"
As though he hears, Robin answers the question immediately, lifting his last arrow and discarding the empty quiver. Even with only one shot remaining, Robin still terrifies the soldiers, who inch back as he nocks the arrow. A certain mournful peace comes over his features, and he seems to realise that there's no further purpose to any more killing. So he lifts his bow high and fires his final arrow against the sun. As the projectile sails beyond the line of soldiers, Robin looks directly at the Sheriff, smiles defiantly, and nods acknowledgment. It's a sublime moment of triumph; I could have killed you, but I let you live, blazes from his stare, and the Sheriff knows it:
Only one task is left to the doomed Robin Hood, and it's thrust upon him quickly as a line of crossbowmen appears above him. Swiftly, he lifts high Herne's bow and breaks it, keeping its power from the hands of his enemies:
Then the Sheriff shrieks an order to fire, the crossbowmen obey, thunder peals, and - like his father before him - Robin of Loxley dies, shot through by Norman crossbows, to the insane and obscene delight of his slayer:
In Sherwood Forest, Marion and Much sit miserably, Marion refusing to have a fire lit although they're both cold. Much tries to reassure her that Robin will be coming to meet them soon, because he promised he would. But the grief-stricken Marion at last convinces Much that Robin is dead, proving it with a single question:
"Why do you think he gave me Albion?"
Much cries out, "Robin!" and breaks down crying, speaking for the entire audience as he does so:
The Sheriff, meanwhile, returns from his Robin-slaying and is oddly subdued, looking and sounding defeated for all that this should be his moment of greatest triumph. And although Robin of Loxley died from treacherous betrayal, atop a hill, his body punctured and others saved by his sacrifice, the Messianic archetype is not yet complete. So, when Guy meets Robert and demands to know what happened, we learn a piece of shocking news from the Sheriff: Robin's corpse is apparently unaccounted-for.
GUY: [smug] So. He escaped!
ROBERT: [weary, sombre] No, Gisburne. He's dead. [dismounts]
GUY: [looks around in confusion] Where's the body?
ROBERT: [striding past Gisburne and not meeting his eyes] You doubt me? Think I'd lie? Ask the men who killed him.
GUY: I don't understand.
ROBERT: [his vague tone suggesting evasion] Look, Gisburne. I'm tired, I'm hungry and somewhat saddle-sore. [slumps onto a bench] The body's in Sherwood.
GUY: [sits across from him] But surely it's important to show everyone in Nottingham-
ROBERT: You'd drag it around the streets, would you? What earthly good would that do? They wouldn't believe it even if you stuck his head up over the gate. 'It's another trick,' they'd say. 'That's not Robin Hood.' You see, Gisburne, they only believe what they want to believe.
I understand the confusion that Guy must feel, during this scene; I'm a bit confused myself. Why, and how, did Robin's body vanish from open high ground and return to the depths of Sherwood Forest? How on earth will the Sheriff explain all of this to King John, who surely won't believe mere verbal assurances?
And what purpose do the fur draperies serve? Is the table cold?
Gisburne then stands and strides pompously into the home where the prisoners are bound. Gloating, looking about as happy as he ever does, Guy informs them of Robin's demise-
-but they refuse to give him the devastated reaction he's hoping to see. So Guy peevishly announces that, by the next day, they'll have joined Robin in death - because executing them all on the spot would make too much sense - and Nasir, 'cause he's awesome, spits after Guy as he exits, and only bows his head with grief after the knight is gone:
John starts laughing hysterically, and his chuckles turn to sobs as he tries to convince himself that it can't be true:
But Will points out that if it were a lie - just some petty attempt to hurt them before their execution - then Guy should have said that Robin, Marion, and Much were all dead, not just Robin. And since Will knows better than to think that Gisburne could ever conceive and carry out a witty deception, he says bitterly, "I think it's true. I think he's gone."
So Robin's compatriots mourn in Wickham while, deep in the forest, under cover of fog and foreboding, a man wearing a deep, feature-obscuring hood approaches a familiar figure, who awaits him:
The hooded man has heard a voice, telling him, "Nothing is forgotten. Nothing is ever forgotten "
"So he is free," answers Herne, and instructs this new Hooded Man to string the bow, and give it purpose
Back at the Table in Furs, the soldiers are celebrating, while Gisburne paces like a neurotic cat; he's obviously wary of the unwitnessed victory and anxious to return to Nottingham. He tries to justify his unease to his master by pointing out that the rebels have many allies, but the Sheriff - who's eating more food than he's consumed in the entire series - chortles that "sympathizers don't do anything but sympathize." He looks up cheerfully at Guy and gives him the friendliest order that he ever will: "Relax, man! We've won!" (And it's an interesting change from the book, where he claps Gisburne on the back and instructs, "Relax, my friend! We've won!")
So the men continue their revelry, unaware that Herne's Son v.2.0 is being hoodaugurated even now. They drink from large pitchers of wine and feast upon bread, cheese, and hearty platters of meat, and I am really surprised that nobody else has looked at this spread and guessed what happened to Robin's body and its rich, tasty courage. The Sheriff even admonishes Guy for not sharing the macabre meal, because-
"It's not every day we put plate to a delicious rebel!"
-or something like that. Anyway, the scene cuts from this savage Norman bacchanal, to some sort of blade piercing the Merries' impromptu jail, and I can't even screenshot this because it's too damned heartbreaking. The bound Merries see a metal point - the tip of an arrow - cut through the earthen wall of the hut. A hooded man peers at them through the gap, and they begin to laugh quietly with overjoyed relief, realising that Gisburne must have been trying to fool them after all. One by one, they escape as "Robin" cuts them free; only Edward insists on being left behind, afraid they'll kill his child if he disappears.
Finally, the Sheriff has stuffed himself to full drunken cannibalistic capacity, and capitulates to Gisburne's worry, telling the knight that it's time to return and instructing him to get the prisoners. This should be entertaining, since the Merries have nearly all escaped by now; once again, Tuck is holding everything up by being large, but finally he gets through, and Nasir leaps outside just as the soldiers enter. The men raise the hue-and-cry of escaping prisoners, but before the others can mobilize, the Hooded Man emerges from the hut:
He lifts his bow, shoots Gisburne in the sword-arm, and Guy crumples to the ground. The Hooded Man then loads another arrow-
-and the Sheriff orders his men to attack. But the soldiers, all holding loaded crossbows and standing ten feet away from the man, are just standing there like BUT WE JUST MURDERED AND ATE YOU?! And they remain rooted and frozen with fear as the Sheriff does what he does best - screams, instructing them to kill that meal ghost man:
Even Gisburne is frightened through his rage, as he crouches over his immovable arm:
"You said he was dead! He's DEAD!"
The Sheriff glances furiously at his ineffectual army and his wounded deputy, and finally realises that - whatever the hell is going on - his plan has ultimately failed, and he stares at the Hooded Man in cowed terror:
The Hooded Man then lowers his bow, turns, and walks away, unmolested, his face still obscured by the voluminous hood.
In Sherwood, Will, John, Nasir, and Tuck laugh and jest together as they approach the clearing where they magically know that they should be meeting, although the assault on Wickham and the subsequent hunt were a complete surprise, and they haven't seen or spoken to the others since. They're looking forward to reuniting with Robin and the others after that nasty scare
and then they see Marion, poised in the grove like a statue and holding Albion. And it's EFFING HEARTBREAKING:
The camera mercifully pulls away from this punch-in-the-gut blow to the outlaws. Instead, it sweeps up to the treetops and the shining sun, where Robin's voice echoes over the trees, whispering nothing's forgotten, nothing is EVER forgotten
Back in Nottingham Castle, Guy is tactfully restraining loud blurty jibes of I TOLD YOU WE SHOULD HAVE JUST GONE BACK TO THE CASTLE, YOU OVERCONFIDENT OAF! Instead, he drinks, while Robert lounges in his throne and ruminates.
ROBERT: Well, whoever he is, he isn't Robin Hood.
GUY: It hardly matters now, does it? Because of him, the outlaws are back in Sherwood.
ROBERT: But who is he, Gisburne? Who is he?
GUY: I don't know. But I know who the men thought he was
ROBERT: Oh my God! Are we starting again?
Well, that's not exactly how it goes.
De Rainault's final line - complete with the incongruous invocation of a deity he doesn't worship - concludes the dialogue as written in the novel. But seldom has a book been so surpassed by its filmed version, because the actual line that Grace speaks to finish this scene is one of the most memorable in the show:
ROBERT: And just as I'd begun to believe it was all over. How stupid of me. It's not over. It'll never be over.
The episode then concludes with the outlaws lined up by the pond in Sherwood, holding bows and flaming arrows, and each one honours Robin's fall, shooting an arrow to be extinguished in the still water.
First Nasir fires, and he remembers the moment that he defeated Robin at Castle Belleme, in the first episode - the moment when he was freed of his diabolical master, and chose to serve the brave peasant who faced death without fleeing:
Then Tuck shoots his arrow, recalling happier times of playing in the forest, and the day that he sparred staffs with Robin before knocking him into the water:
Will seems to hold back a furious shout as he lifts his bow, seeing the day that Robin became their leader, when he insisted that it was time to revive the fighting spirit of England and strike back against their oppressors:
Next is Little John, miserable and again on the verge of tears. As he aims his arrow, he thinks of Robin's compassion and his hushed words after Tom and Dickon died, when he consoled them that their friends would always remain with them in Sherwood:
Then it's time for those who were closest to Robin to fire. First, it's Much, who grew up with Robin, and what he sees as his arrow takes flight is wrenching: Robin's reassurance to him on top of the hill, a tender moment that Much now recognises as his brother's loving farewell:
Then it's Marion's turn, and she puts all of her broken heart into her flaming arrow as she thinks of two cherished moments - the day Robin died, and the day they met:
Finally, a seventh arrow flies from behind them, splashing into the water-
-and startling the Merries, who turn-
-to see the Hooded Man standing there:
And there, the show ends, with the identity and significance of the new Hooded Man awaiting revelation in the forthcoming season 3.
The Greatest Enemy was an engaging story, giving an incredibly touching and dignified end to a beloved hero, and it was all the more impressive because it wasn't originally planned. The real-life reason for Robin's demise was that Michael Praed wanted to leave; he'd been offered a role on Broadway, and it was an opportunity he couldn't refuse. His decision to depart was a brave and understandable one, and it's rotten luck that this bold risk didn't work out for him. But Robin of Loxley had perished in a brilliant blaze of glory, the show had to move on, and the search for a new lead began.
I've read that name recognition - and resultant appeal to American audiences - was a factor in the casting of Jason Connery, son of Sean, as the new Robin. I don't know whether this is truth or spiteful rumour, but what is certain is that the studio faced financial difficulties and required American funding to continue making Robin of Sherwood. With the need to accommodate a lengthier American television season, the show's third series stretched out as long as the previous two combined, with thirteen rushed episodes of unsurprisingly lower quality, and a fair, jovial, noble-born Robin taking the place of Praed's mystic peasant.
And so, Robin est mort-
-vive le Robin.
In the next few days, I'll be posting an addendum to this review, and then a review of the entire second season, before proceeding to the season 3 opener, Herne's Son. So look for more content soon while I'm working on that review, and meanwhile, be reassured that I'm NOT drying my eyes with an entire box of tissues or anything, because:
Finally, here are some fun things, that aren't incredibly f-ing depressing, to cheer you up while you wait, because HE'S DEAD, OH HERNE, ROBIN'S DEEEEEEEAAAAAAAD.
APPLES: The Sheriff's THREATENINGEST APPLE EVER scene begins at 6:15.
While you're waiting for my likely inferior review of season 2, here are two other perspectives on the first two seasons of Robin of Sherwood, dated and .
An excellent interview with Michael Praed may be found . The article comes with an abuse trigger warning, but there's a wonderful resilience to Praed revealed in his words, and his solid good sense and nobility of spirit are inspiring.
And a charming interview with Nickolas Grace is located . While the man's tragically delusional - "not handsome" nothing; has he ever seen his own work? - he proves as puckishly endearing and delightful as his Sheriff is horrifying.
And finally, my favourite part of any season: the outtakes! But this reel needs a bit of explanation first.
The American financing for season 3 required American advertising, as the program was to be aired as Robin Hood on the Showtime network. In the mid-1980s, Showtime advertised its programming with the slogan "We Make Excitement" and required their current shows' actors to record bits announcing, "I'm :character name: - we make excitement." I've read before that the RoS actors thought it was a joke at first; whether or not that's true, they certainly disliked doing it. Unsurprisingly, several of the outtakes from seasons 2 and 3 involve the actors attempting to complete this bizarre duty without cracking up or opening a vein. Nick Grace's rolling eyes and stammer at 3:02 reference the role he played right before this series, as in Brideshead Revisited.
(It's even better on the season 3 reel when he mocks the whole thing, adopting a subtle but recognisable American accent that gets stronger with every take, the director trying to "correct" him as he wheedles on like, "Hai, Ah'm yer locul Sheruff. Join me in Notting-ham on Robin of Shur-wood." It's pretty damn funny, and the contrast between the jovial Grace and his dour Sheriff is astonishing.)
So, here are the season 2 jests, and there are two noteworthy moments. The first is the "Helena Rubinstein headband" bit which starts at 1:04, because the scene is even funnier when you realise that Robert Addie must have known something was coming; watch him closely, and you'll see how his "frightened" expression starts to brighten even before the joke is spoken. The other is the "walls of Jericho" bit mentioned in Grace's interview, the one that caused some trouble with the Americans; that starts at 3:05.
In the last review, I suggested that The Swords of Wayland came in Easter 1202. The Greatest Enemy contains no clues about timing, but the novel states that it's summertime, so it must be late summer 1202 - i.e., three years after King John's coronation.
This seems as good a time as any for a small but shameless plug: My novella about the Sheriff has a passage called Apples, which begins two days before this episode and ends with this exclamation of Hunting! It gives a possible scenario to explain why King John took such a sudden and acute interest in Robin Hood's demise, and also suggests why the Sheriff later bites into an apple with such vehemence. It's a stand-alone story with no warnings, and curious folks can read it .
I'll be fair; despite my jokes about Nottingham guardsmen who can't aim, medieval crossbows were absurdly difficult weapons, prone to misfiring, recoiling, and even snapping (both the string and the bow itself). And even despite those problems, the crossbow was the logical choice to arm a conscripted castle guard - not only because of its superior firepower, but because a man could learn to use one in a relatively short time. The longbow had greater range and reliability, but also required a lot more training and practice to reach even basic competence. And in the unlikely chance that de Rainault kept a resident army at Nottingham, instead of using conscription, it still wouldn't have been practical to invest time and money in longbow skills since the guardsmen get injured and killed so frequently.
It's never clarified how much Gisburne knows, and for the sake of character development, I'd love to know what sort of conversation took place after the King's messenger left. It's probable that the Sheriff didn't tell anyone - including Guy - the real stakes of his hunt, knowing full well that Gisburne would simply fail on purpose for the whole month and then fawn over FitzGilbert after de Rainault went to execution-by-battle. But it'd be rather interesting if the Sheriff had chosen to tell Gisburne the truth, both for the trust inherent in that admission and for the implications of Guy's genuine effort to kill the outlaws.
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