Saturday, December 6, 2008

robin hood and stuff vol. 5

I have no overarching comments this time, so let’s jump right in!

“Ducking and Diving” by Debbie Oates at last presents Allan (and Robin) with an ultimatum, as Robin has finally twigged that he has a traitor in his gang. The messenger who was supposed to get to King Richard (somehow) to tell him he was in danger was killed by Guy after Allan leaked the information. I wrote “sexy sexy” in my notes so I must have been referring to Guy, but I can’t remember what it was. Anyway, despite Allan’s suggestions that the Sheriff’s latest messenger, Lewes, is late because Marian “made a mistake” in her spying, Robin manages to knock Lewes into a coma.

Oates has, in the past, brought a woman’s touch (of sorts) into the programme, and she continues this trend with Matilda, a “witch” (well, wise woman) with a colorful vocabulary. First, though, David Bamber makes an inspired cameo as the Sheriff’s personal physician, a very impressive, pompous man who is “calming him [Lewes] to death!” Guy, surprisingly, sends for Matilda, who is actually a wonderfully refreshing character. “Hello, baldy,” is how she greets the Sheriff. To show her disdain, she announces she “would not damp you with my wet underwrappings if you were on fire!” Unfortunately, her daughter is heavily pregnant so Matilda must cooperate to revive Lewes.

I really do love Much. I guess it must be my love for Sam (which is in turn, probably, a love for myself!) that makes me so fond of him. He disobeys Robin and is incensed that he might be considered a traitor to his master. “What do I have to do to prove my loyalty to you?! I’ll cut off both my arms! Well . . . one arm, because then I wouldn’t be able to cut off the other one . . .” I would hope Robin would have the good sense to see that it wasn’t Much, but my abilities to predict Robin are slim indeed. Robin makes it in the castle to find Lewes and Matilda, who conveniently enough was midwife to his mother. He wants to kill—or at least addle the wits of—Lewes because, “Matilda, I can’t let him live to speak treason.” Her very shrewd reply is, “Men always think in a straight line.” In a surprisingly amusing development she drugs Lewes so that he tells the Sheriff “I have come from the holy pork!” (Later he develops a Fezzik/Vizzini complex, when he says “presents!” to the Sheriff’s “peasants.”)

Marian has to get out of the castle again, I already forgot why, and having exhausted all her other means, she chats Guy up. “You’re up to something.” “Yes, I’m charming you.” Marian still breaks out of the castle, following Guy (oh, that’s right, she wanted to find out who the traitor was). When he finds her out, she protests, “I just wanted to spend time with you.” Ah, how easily the lies spring to her lips—though one could argue they aren’t really lies. Who knows? She begs “punish me but do not punish my father.”

With the Sheriff growing suspicious of Matilda, the court physician is back, asserting that Matilda poisoned Lewes and that she’s in league with Robin Hood. Marian is horrified that the Sheriff is going to duck Matilda as a witch, but Guy urges her to “say nothing, these allegations spread by association.” “Did I leave you to drown?” Marian points out (quite rightly!). For ducking a woman, the Sheriff has constructed a very impressive machine! (One could argue it would be much more efficacious for the Sheriff to burn her at the stake, but since the Sheriff has such a sadistic, exhibitionist personality, it almost works.) Matilda holds up very well under the torture, but fortunately Robin and co. are there to rescue her underwater, making even the Sheriff think twice about calling her a witch (she even leaves her underwrappings as a deliberate insult). I am, however, surprised like Marian that Guy can stand there and watch this torture without having a pang of compassion.

In the camp, shrewd Djaq has her suspicions that Allan is the traitor. This and the next few episodes are a gold mine of Djaq/Allan shipperiness if that’s your thing. “What if he knows he’s made a mistake?” he asks her hypothetically, unable to admit his guilt outright. “Your brother was stuck,” she says, referring to Allan’s brother’s failed attempts to walk the straight and narrow. “No, he was a good man underneath it.” For all this, Djaq is unable to get Allan to confess, and Robin finds out who the traitor is. I am sorry to say that this final confrontation, and indeed the end to this otherwise pleasant episode, is disappointing and anticlimactic. Robin is prepared to kill Allan, for he will “kill for the King.” Robin denies that there can be any shadings to Allan’s character: he betrayed them, therefore he is evil. “That’s easy for you to say. Everyone loves you. You’re always in the sun, I’m always in the shade.” I suppose this is Milton’s Satan’s argument, and Robin recognizes its flimsiness. “Innocent betrayals don’t exist.” He merely lets Allan go. He tells the gang that he betrayed them “for money—why else?” like Judas, which is very interesting. Thirty pieces of silver . . .

“For England ...!” proves once again that Marian is the only good-looking, worthwhile noblewoman in the whole shire as everyone desires her. The next step in the Sheriff’s dastardly plan has been to put together the Nottingham Pact, a traitors’ signatory, and make his fellow conspirators go the whole nine yards in the Richard assassination plot. He brutally throws the scribe who wrote up the pact (mute anyway) off a castle battlement (to which Guy’s only reaction is a sneer). What a monster, that Sheriff! It’s the King’s birthday, by the way, so we MUST be in 1193—though that really makes no sense at all. What happened during the winter? I’m so confused!

Marian is required to attend the celebrations, in some outfits Guy has picked out for her. “Something tells me this is a document of which I wouldn’t approve.” “It could benefit you in time,” as it will improve Guy’s power and position and possibly Marian’s . . . “Am I so easily won?” “You must be the least easily won woman in England.” Indeed. Meanwhile, Allan has made his bed and is about to lie in it, as he gets past Guy’s guards—“your guards—useless—You need smarter people on your team.” There is totally gratuitous shirtlessness, on Guy’s part of course, and he manages to look a bit like Gavin Rossdale and ‘50s greaser at the same time. Meow, but I really can’t see the point of it, unless someone really is pushing the Allan slash agenda, which frankly frightens me a bit! After all, Robin is annoyed to find out “he’s being Guy’s ‘man’.”

Marian and Robin discover the Pact, as Robin uses Marian’s hairpin (“I’ve done this before”; “with which girl’s hairpin?”) which worked for Marie Antoinette according to the Fourth Doctor, so . . . Robin scoffs that the Pact describes Richard’s “scant regard for the people of England,” but I nod because in the historical case that was true! He manages to get in to see Sir Edward, still in the dungeon, by using the same priest trick Wamba and Cedric did in Ivanhoe. Robin and Will have come up with the plan to masquerade as minstrels at the celebrations—“you crafty craftsman!”—and it’s the sort of daft, loveable stuff that I enjoy on the show. Also falling into that category is Allan dressing like some sort of Guy mini-me (“I had to put something on, didn’t I?”). Robin thinks he’s made an ally in the Earl of Winchester, but Winchester has his own agenda, and it’s money, power, and revenge. He mortifies Sir Edward in prison by suggesting he stole his woman and horrifies him further by announcing he will have Marian.

Predictably, and adorably, Guy is having none of it. “No!” “Shut up.” Winchester wants Sussex as well, but Marian’s “a personal thing.” “You cannot give her Marian.” He also seems to dig Allan, nixing the Sheriff’s plan to hang him. “He might still prove useful.” He seems to have lost on both counts, and in a wonderful scene, warns Marian about the plan and even tries to help her pack and escape. “Why do you always resist me?!” “Why do you work for him [the Sheriff]?” a stunned Marian asks. Guy continues to garner Phantom points when he says, “I have nobody.” “The Sheriff is mad—you know that.” “He is . . . single-minded.” Unfortunately before Gisborne can get Marian out, the Sheriff cottons on to his plan and reminds him where his loyalties lie—while being totally, skin-crawlingly disgusting by caressing Guy’s face. (By the way, I have nothing against slash in general—as long as the pairings are legitimate. But it isn’t something I like to read about, to be honest.)

Winchester shackles Marian, could care less about her personality. Robin has gotten it into his sanctimonious head that he’s got to kill all the black knights before they sign the Pact. He gives Marian a farewell letter which alerts his gang to the danger he faces. He next apparently kills people with ninja stars (?!) before they all come back to life (how?!). There is a huuuuge cake in the shape of England (ooodalolly!), the Sheriff engineers a vat of boiling pitch for Allan and Robin to fight over, both are loathe to destroy each other, and they get away. Winchester gets Marian and Sussex, but the Sheriff wants Sussex, so he and Guy rescue Marian and kill Winchester. Guy and Marian ride off into the sunset—well, not quite—and Robin has been spared having to kill a bunch of people. Yay.

“Show Me the Money” by Julian Jones doesn’t seem to have much of a plot now that I think about it and its main reason for being is to off Sir Edward and force Marian to run into the forest at long last. The Goonies apparently live in the forest with the outlaws because Data has rigged up a device that not only alerts the outlaws when someone is coming but also traps the intruders. The intruder they’re trapping today is a lovelorn knight named John of York who only has ten shillings and is trying to buy his love from the protection of a Canon Berkley, who “takes confession from the tavern girls every lunch time.” This sounded really dirty to me, I’m afraid, as it reminded me of the hypocritical priest in V for Vendetta. Anyway, Robin is committed to helping York.

The Sheriff is suddenly delighted by Allan (I wince to think why) and announces “upgrade this young man to leather!” I know there must be a reason for Marian to be so upset that she goes down to the dungeon to uncharacteristically berate her father, but to me it’s not apparent. “Is he [Robin] worthy of all the risks you take for him? . . . You’re dreamers.” Marian lashes out, “You stood there and did nothing.” They part badly, and immediately I think that is the last time she will see him alive. I am, actually, correct. I like a lot of this episode, but the dialogue is rather clunky in places—I really can’t see Guy saying “I’m not comfortable with the way the Sheriff has treated your father or you,” but he does.

Marian, rushing into the forest to warn the outlaws that Allan is giving away all of their secret castle entrances, gets caught in the Goonies trap, causing the ever-suave Robin to remark, “You look gorgeous from any angle.” Back in Nottingham, Djaq begs Robin not to harm Allan. “I love you, all of you,” Allan protests, rather incredibly. “I’m not a Judas,” he says, a nice remark considering my statement from earlier. “I’m not Jesus,” aptly replies Robin. In the next two episodes, Guy seems to be getting increasingly desperate and frustrated, unable to make-believe any longer that his feelings for Marian have cooled since she betrayed and humiliated him. “Marian, there is another side to me . . .” he whispers as he tries to accompany her to the dungeons to see her father. “I should like to visit him alone.” Marian is frustrated at her father’s silence, though if she’d been paying attention at their last meeting, she would have realized he’d taken the dagger/hairpin from her hair and used it to kill his jailer and escape! (To be honest, when I saw Sir Edward take the dagger, I thought he was going to kill himself because he had so disappointed Marian. I’m rather glad instead he used it to make one last bid for freedom.)

Marian forces Robin not to kill Allan, “you owe me your life!” Robin tells Marian he loves her, obliquely (though if she hadn’t been unconscious at the end of season one, she would have known that already). Sir Edward’s escape into the Sheriff’s bedroom, picking up the Pact and hiding behind the arras like Polonius is a bit of a stretch of belief, and it would have made a lot more sense dramatically for him to have died at the Sheriff’s hand than the bumbling Canon’s a bit later. As it is, Sir Edward dies in Robin’s arms, essentially forgiving him and giving his approval. Robin has to escape so it is Guy who first finds the body. His reaction is surprisingly heartfelt and stricken.

Marian is, of course, devastated, shrieking and sobbing, “leave me alone, don’t touch me!” When she is a little more collected he retrieves her dagger, telling her he knows its origin and if the Sheriff finds out Sir Edward used it to the kill his jailer, she will be toast. (Though how that follows exactly I’m not sure, unless the Sheriff just needs the slightest provocation to, er, slam Marian into the toaster.) “Let me look after you,” Guy purrs as he holds the grieving Marian close. “I thought they’d [feelings] gone away, but they haven’t, they’re stronger than ever.” Now, to be quite honest, the shipper in me is not at all bothered by the fact he tried to kiss her. But otherwise, I feel it was a bit tactless of him to do so. It certainly cost him her trust, as she pushes him away. It’s TOTAL FAIL for Guy as Marian runs out of the room, he twists in agony over the screw-up, and she finally accedes to Robin’s constant nagging for her to go the forest.

“Get Carter” by Richard Stoneman is an interesting episode on several levels. It makes a Guy/Marian shipper very happy, obviously, but I also like the way it explores how Marian joining the outlaws has perhaps not lived up to her expectations. The titular Carter is a killing machine who “kills people for fun—fun and money,” and kisses the Sheriff’s ring.

The village of Clun is, alas, a pawn in the savage game between Robin and the Sheriff. “They’re attacking the village!” cries the ever-earnest Marian. “Let’s get them!” I can’t see why she’s wearing a corset into the forest, much less into battle, but there are many things about Marian’s wardrobe that I don’t understand. She rushes off to fight, despite Robin’s admonition, “stay there!” Carter starts killing soldiers in a crusader’s uniform (more or less). Using the Saint’s stratagem in the movie of that name, he wounds himself in order to garner sympathy from the outlaws, who think he is on their side. They take him into the forest.

One could say Marian is acting aggressive, bitchy, and childish, which is against her character, but (I think!) it’s one way of showing the terrible toll the death of her father is taking on her. She isn’t the type to pine after her initial outburst of tears—she has inconsolable rage that she’s got to work out. “I am with you,” she snaps at Robin. “I don’t want to go back!” That Robin can be so prickly is harder to excuse, when he’s the one who was so anxious to get her there in the first place. I suppose you can use the whole thing as a metaphor for marriage; it’s not what either of them expected it would be. “I’ve been fighting these idiots for years,” Marian retorts. “We’re a team,” Robin emphasizes. “They do as you tell them!” “There can only be one leader.” There is a surprisingly touching scene as Little John holds Marian close and comforts her. “You’ve lost your father.” Sadly I think Little John gets the short end of the stick, so to speak, as he only really had that one episode to further his character development, and it wasn’t that great.

Carter, having infiltrated the gang, knocks them all out (one wonders why he didn’t kill them since he is so fond of it) and corners Robin. Like the Doctor, Robin’s weakness is his regard for his friends. Somehow Robin manages to knock this psychopath out. Marian rather reads my mind as she punches the tied up Carter in the face; “if he knows we’re happy to hurt him!” Robin, Solomon-like as ever, instead takes Carter back to Clun, tied up of course, to show him the damage his political manoeuvring has done. Apparently Robin used to be a killing machine as well (rumors on season 3 seem to confirm this) and tries to soothe Carter with his crusading tales. Much has, by the way, recognized Carter (well, actually his brother) and is annoyed that Robin has ignored him. “You’ve never listened to my story. . . . You’d listen to Marian.” I, for one, would love to hear Much’s story about the Holy Land.

The Sheriff is using the opportunity to rub Marian’s flight in Guy’s face. “There was something between us,” Guy doggedly insists. “Kissy kiss kissy,” the Sheriff mocks, to such a degree that Guy finally tells him to get off of him. “Grow up, Gisborne!”, which is rather taking Marian’s line, isn’t it? I really want to know why Guy’s got ants in his pants, why he’s so desperate for Marian at this juncture. He corners Allan. “I want Marian!” “She could be anywhere!” It’s hardly a reasonable request, but Guy forces Allan to seek her out. Allan finds her while she’s doing knife-throwing practice (!), offers his plan that she’s run away to an abbey (see season one). “Why would you help me?” Allan’s got “a way with nuns.” OMG.

Carter personal vengeance against Robin is flimsy, in my opinion. In an exposition-heavy speech, Carter reveals Robin led his brother to his death in the Holy Land, while Robin announces the brother was a coward. Carter falls weeping into Robin’s arms. It’s the Vietnam Vet saga all over again; personally I preferred when Carter was an evil super villain. With the help of Djaq’s chemistry, Robin fakes death, and Carter takes him to the Sheriff. Guy is, not surprisingly, unconvinced about Robin’s death and makes to cut his head off. Marian, running out of options, stops him by presenting herself. The Sheriff is very pleased at Carter’s “success”: “we have the best days of our lives!!”

Guy is too busy slavering over Marian. “Even though my letter said to leave me alone . . .” “You knew I would. Have you really given yourself to God?” “I haven’t given myself to anybody,” which a cynical mind could take in a wholly less innocent fashion . . . Guy is utterly putting his heart on the line. “Come home to me!” She brings up the fact he burnt her home down. “If I could take that back, I would . . .” “I need time to grieve.” “I thought I might never see you again. . . might never . . . kiss you . . .” As outlaws are filtering past to assist with Robin’s miraculous Lazarus effect, Marian takes the opportunity to pull Guy in for a kiss. I’m a shipper, so please don’t throw things at me, but I’m very much reminded of several performances I’ve seen from actors playing the Phantom in the Lloyd Webber musical. This is the final lair scene, when Christine sings, “God give me courage to show you, you are not alone,” and kisses the Phantom. Particularly in the case of Gary Mauer, the Phantom is so shocked by the kiss he takes several moments to register it before pulling his love close. So obviously I was very pleased at the way the kiss played out. Surely the producers wouldn’t torture us with this kind of stuff without some feelings on Marian’s part to back it up? “You can’t go,” he tells her once the outlaws are safely away, completely oblivious. “This was a mistake . . .” she says, no doubt meaning it on several levels. “This is the most perfect thing that’s ever happened!” He confesses that he has been using substitutes for the satisfaction of admitting love for her. No more.

Well, these mid-season episodes were mostly trifles, but from where I stand, they were good fun!

1 comment:

Lady Heidi, Duchess of Kneale said...

Ooh, I love Goonies! Has to be one of my favourite movies of all time, ranking up there with The Princess Bride.