Sunday, January 11, 2009

robin hood and stuff vol. 6

You almost lucked out. Having carried the notes to the end of season 2 with me all the way across the Atlantic and back, I almost accidentally threw them away in the rubbish. But I found them again, and now you have to read what I wrote (if I can decipher them, a month after the fact, that is)!

“Lardner’s Ring” by John Fay is one of the better episodes of season 2. It begins with Guy’s birthday party (!). While Guy and the Sheriff are partying, Allan (in his leather outfit) is pursuing a Hungarian extra into the forest. Delegating already, Allan has his men pursue the fugitive up a tree where he hides a cage. He then dies. Robin & co come upon Allan; Allan is warned off or “you’ll be so full of arrows you’ll look like hedgehogs.” (Curiously enough, I read an Arab account of a battle of the Crusades that described fallen horses in the same manner. Perhaps John Fay read the same one.) Robin jibes at Allan being Guy’s “dog’s body.” “I count my money in the morning,” Allan replies to the question of how he can live with himself. Allan escapes; Marian is not wholly complimentary to Robin—“Do you practice little speeches like that?” The poor Hungarian extra begs for more reinforcements for Richard in the Holy Land and expires.

At the party, there’s a Fool who looks like he’s been rescued out of David Bowie’s glam-iest days. At first he drove me nuts. Then he actually proved a fairly interesting and downright amusing character. There’s certainly something a little less than innocent when he says, “Your woodcock, Sir Guy, is dead.” (Referring ostensibly to a fowl prepared in a covered plate for the feast, which springs to life later, but perhaps meaning his lack of success with Marian.) The Fool makes a number of predictions before being hauled away to be executed (apparently because the Sheriff can’t take a joke). Before he goes he makes an enigmatic claim about Lardner’s Ring. “What IS Lardner’s Ring?!” Funny, the Hungarian extra mentioned it, too.

Back in the forest, Marian chastises Robin for wanting to return to the Holy Land. He has a purely Robin moment by proposing to her over the man’s freshly dug grave (and compares her to his bow!). That’s a bit medieval! Marian’s response is that she will wed when King Richard returns (which is what she told Guy, if you remember). The Sheriff, meanwhile, being the ultra-modern, heathen, godless baddie that he is, doesn’t believe in the Fool’s predictions and insists “there is always a rational explanation.” The Sheriff also clearly believes (as one would) that Lardner’s Ring is something Frodo could wear, as he instructs Guy to cut off people’s fingers until they give up the ring. Please.

Will and Djaq happen to be in the village when this absurd command is given, prompting them to wonder, “Maybe it’s a ring tax?” In the forest, Much announces that Will and Djaq have “gone for honey. I expect it’s a euphemism.” He’s annoyed that “there’s a bit too much ‘honey’ going on around here.” Everyone’s pairing off, and “I don’t fancy mine much!” Actually, I might humbly suggest Much is being facetious; for Will and Djaq being an apparently legitimate ship, there’s been hardly a scene devoted to them before now. In the village, they do the right thing and intervene before Guy can start hacking off fingers, leading to Will’s capture (nooo!). Djaq makes it back to camp in order to inform everyone that they are searching for Lahdenah not Lardner, the prize pigeon of the “Sultan’s official pigeon handler.” It’s daft enough that I can almost believe it! Richard I sending messages via conquered people’s pigeons?! Djaq is in a splendid mood to make romantic parallels; the pigeon will fly anywhere for its mate. “The dove found its way back to Noah’s Ark.”

The Fool helps Will to escape—“I do comedy, I don’t do tragedy”—by filching a key from Allan. They split up, only for the Fool to be pursued again by the Sheriff (“I can’t die without an audience!”). I do crack up as, back at camp, the outlaws attempt to write a pigeon-sized message—“alliteration makes it much more memorable” is the Fool’s opinion—while Marian and Robin are up a tree without an . . . er, paddle? They’ve correctly figured out what the Hungarian extra hid up the tree, and are after it. Unfortunately for them, that’s when Guy and the Sheriff arrive. Marian wants to use her leverage with Guy to again buy for time (“he’s not stupid!”) and forces Robin to play the charade that he’s captured her. Gisborne wants to burn down the tree—“you tried to cook me alive in my own armor!” Robin does rather too good a job of pretending to despise Marian, “just another pampered parasite living off the backs of the poor.”

For a long time before I actually saw this episode, I tried to figure out what possible reason there could be for Guy to climb up a tree to rescue Marian. In point of fact, while Robin escapes with Ladenah, Marian appeals—rather cruelly, I find—to Guy’s desperate feelings for her. The rescue scene is squee-worthy. Too bad Marian doesn’t find it more so. In any case, she’s back to where she was a few episodes ago, a spy on a knife edge, and Robin manages to get the pigeon with its message out. Until the Sheriff shoots it dead. I was really amazed for a moment. I thought, what a downer for a kids’ show to end on! But, actually, the birds were switched, the message got through, la dee la dee da. Onto the next episode!

For a long time, I seriously thought “Walkabout”’s title was “Helm’s Deep” (in keeping with the Tolkien theme the episode titles seem to have). Actually, it’s probably the cleverest episode of season 2. Oh, and it yields much gold for shippers, oodalolly. The problem here is making sure the Sheriff is safe. Obviously that makes fun of the whole premise of this show: the Sheriff is a dastardly villain, but the narrative (and moral respect from the kiddies) ends when Robin kills him. In “Walkabout” he goes missing. He must be found, because remember the edict from Prince John earlier? If something happens to the Sheriff, Nottingham gets razed. So when the “special envoy” finds that the Sheriff is missing, “the troops will be here by sunset.” So where did the Sheriff go? He sleepwalked into the middle of the forest where he meets Richard Kurti and Bev Doyle’s best characters (perhaps). “Like you don’t know it’s a drop point,” snarls the woman with a raggedy bunch of children: a female Fagin. Thinking the Sheriff is another moocher, she sets the wheels spinning in his dastardly mind.

In the forest, the outlaws complete a raid, and Little John brings a goose—“it lays golden eggs. . . . there’s a consignment of magic beans coming.” This is just making fun for Much’s benefit, but through Marian Robin finds out that “they’ve lost the Sheriff.” Robin goes straight to Gisborne, culminating in a scene where Guy (being Left in Charge by Default) sits at the Sheriff’s throne with Marian at his side. He responds merely when she touches his arm; it’s a curious little scene. Basically it’s there to humiliate him, though, because Robin insists, “ask me for my help.” Which Guy, with Marian’s tacit approval, must and does. I confess, silly as it is, there is a real sense of urgency to finding the Sheriff before the army shows up.

The second plot thread, though nicely aligned to the primary plot (almost wrote Splott!), concerns Little John and his desire to right the wrongs of poverty. “Are we making any difference?” he wants to know. He is angry; “you can’t just throw money at them!” Meanwhile the Sheriff is working his devious magic with Mrs Fagin, showing her how to demand more aid—“what does he [Robin] give you? Handful of scraps?” Much and Robin search for the Sheriff; “you and me, back on a mission.” Robin takes this opportunity to crush Much and tell him about his proposal to Marian. “You’re supposed to say congratulations.” Robin is concerned that they won’t “live to enjoy it.” Mrs Fagin, in order to be supreme moocher, suggests “I could always chop one of the kid’s arms off.”Robin has given Little John and Djaq orders. Little John wants to help Mrs Fagin, the kids, and the theatrical Sheriff, who’s given himself airs and is disguised as a blind old man. “He’s right and he’s our leader,” Djaq admonishes. “No one, no one should have to be reduced to this!” Poor John, his heart is in the right place, but he’s reduced to mockery in this episode. He blindfolds Mrs Fagin and the kids but since the Sheriff is “blind,” he’s allowed to see the way to Robin’s camp. Doh.

Much more interesting, therefore, are Guy and Marian. As the army approaches, Guy tells her, “There’s still time for you to get away.” “I’m not leaving you in trouble.” (Liar.) As things look bleak, the envoy suggests that Guy get his family out. “I have no family . . . but I do have friends.” “One person in particular?” Guy isn’t allowed to get his friends out, but if he can marry Marian before the army arrives, he can get away with her. Best. Plot. Device. Ever. “I can’t marry her between now and sunset!” Meanwhile Will and Allan end up in Nottingham together; “we’re brothers in arms again after all.” Unable to convince Marian, Guy decides to get out of Dodge. “You’re abandoning us?!” This is the scene in the turret that I saw quite a long time before I saw the episode (courtesy of fan videos). This is the scene where Guy goes on his knee and asks Marian to marry him (again). “Is it such a difficult choice [between death and marriage]?!” This is the part where I thought he said “I love you.” He actually says “live.” Oopsies. I wonder if it would have made a difference?

In the camp, the Sheriff and Mrs Fagin look for their respective treasures with Djaq and Little John momentarily out of the way. “Don’t slobber over it, woman!” (The Sheriff is looking for the Pact of Nottingham that Robin stole in the episode before last.) Guy decides to strike out on his own; he almost gets to the gates, after frustratedly telling Marian, “Your wilfulness will kill you!” He turns around, though, and comes to help Marian, Allan, and Will defend the undefendable (hence Helm’s Deep). “You came back!” Marian takes his arm, and they exchange a smoldering look. “Marry me now, and make it the last thing we do.”

Robin, in the meantime, has found the Sheriff, gotten the Pact away from him, shown Little John the error of his ways, and returned the Sheriff to the envoy before the battle can begin. Score.

“Treasure of the Nation” by Simon J. Ashford is trying to hard to earn its historical underpinnings. The Sheriff is bringing in mercenaries; clearly he saw his counterpart Alan Rickman doing the same in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, although there they were Celts, whereas here I really have no idea who they are supposed to be! The crew of Attila the Hun?! A very tall ally of Robin’s, Legrand (appropriately named) sneaks up on the outlaws. “You might have announced yourself a little less violently!” At this point we’re still somehow before Midsummer’s Day! 1193? I have no idea!

Legrand has a message from the King, a picture of “the treasure of the nation.” This requires Robin & co to go on a treasure-hunting quest, which is about as realistic as “The Booby and the Beast”; nevertheless makes entertaining viewing. Marian is being nice to Guy for some reason, I suspect to get him to stop beating up on the peasants of Locksley, who have been moved to make room for the semi-Celtic mercenaries: “I thought I saw a different side to you—kind, brave . . .” Marian demands Robin help her help the peasants; “what are the villagers supposed to do the in the meantime?” Robin is too busy looking for the Holy Grail—er, the treasure of the nation. One of the clues takes a cue from Chaco Canyon as well as The Goonies (again . . . can’t you just see One-Eyed Willie’s pirate ship coming out of that cave the outlaws go into?).

The subplot here concerns Marian’s decision to take matters into her own hands again, as the Night Watchman. “The Night Watchman rarely strikes at night!” (For some reason a hazardous materials sign shows up in Locksley. No idea why.) Guy, however, is ready for his old adversary and overpowers “him.” Allan in the background tries to stop him—“leave him, you’ve done enough, Guy”—before he unmasks Marian. “No . . . not you.” As Marian guiltily reveals the scar he gave her last season that almost killed her (something a bit kinky about that scene!) Guy turns and runs away!

Robin & co get stuck underground in One-Eyed Willie’s domain while the Sheriff tries to find the treasure of the nation. John plays Sloth’s part and gets them out. The treasure turns out to be Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. Fortunately they make her, as in Ivanhoe, a force to be reckoned with. “You’re meant to be in France.” “You’ve been doing most of the work for my son [Richard].” She takes a shine to Little John—“who is this fellow?” She is sad because of Prince John; “one can choose one’s friends . . .” The Sheriff arrives; “are you always this odious?” Eleanor, dressed more like a queen from The Tudors than what she really wore (and I know, I have the paper dolls) escapes the Sheriff’s clutches while groping Little John as much as she can.

The Sheriff has been told that the Night Watchman has been apprehended but not “his” identity, only that he will hang. Guy has imprisoned Marian; she tries to escape, naturally. “You were betraying us . . . every day that I grew more and more to love you, you were mocking me.” Marian has really hurt Guy; unfortunately all her heroics do have their price. “This isn’t a game, Marian!” “After all my so-called betrayals, you should be glad to do it [kill me].” She is a bit of a Princess Fiona—“this is me.” “Why did you have to put me in this position?” he angsts.

Meanwhile Legrand dies Boromir’s death as Robin & co get Eleanor safely back to France (why she left again I can’t remember). “Tell me you’ve caught him!” snarls the Sheriff on his return. Allan has taken up Marian’s guise in order to help her, but in the end it’s Guy who takes all the flak for saving her life. He claims the Night Watchman got away, suffering the Sheriff’s full—and very physical—wrath. Marian is forced to burn her Night Watchman outfit. “Thank you, you saved my life,” she says to Allan and Guy. She hugs them both, and Guy asks her to stay in the castle. “Make this place bearable.” She does. Alas, it’s not to be.

“A Good Day to Die” suddenly propels us forward to the 14th of October, Robin’s birthday (and not a mention of Klingons). Much has thrown him a party but invited all the Hungarian nasties among the semi-Celtic mercenaries, who want to smoke the outlaws out (maybe they’re more than semi-Celtic; they do start playing bagpipes). The outlaws fight back for some time using Djaq’s black powder from last season and an exploding pig’s head. Feeling sure that Robin will be killed, the Sheriff has decided to get a tan, and he’s taking Guy with him. To the Holy Land, I mean. I described the following two episodes to my mother who had never seen this version of Robin Hood, only Robin of Sherwood, and she burst out laughing. I wonder if the merry party of the Sheriff, Allan, Guy, and Marian take the first plane out of Nottingham to Acre or if they have to change planes in Sicily? What about the outlaws? Do they have to fly coach? I’m sorry, my sarcasm is no doubt a bit grating, but, much as I liked the idea of Guy going to the Holy Land on an assassination plot to kill Richard, the fact that everyone and their mother is going over really stretches credulity.

Marian tries to get to the outlaws’ camp to warn them, fails, and has to knock Allan out on her quest to kill the Sheriff. She is caught, is sniffed out as the Night Watchman, and the Sheriff naturally feels more secure taking her along (!). I can only imagine the shticks that went on with these four characters in close quarters for the weeks it takes to get to Acre. The Sheriff orders “3 beds” at the inn; I thought for one surprised moment he was going to make Marian stay with Guy. Rather, Marian was made to stay in the stable. Marian never quite got to the bottom of “Tattoo? What Tattoo” and is surprised to hear that Guy’s “been before.” “Feel betrayed?”

The cornered outlaws play a game of Kalila and Dimna, an Arabic version of “truth-or-dare.” Now obviously we know this will lead Djaq and Will to finally say how they feel about each other, but it’s still cute. “I love the way you fight like a man,” Will says, with relish. Okay. “Is this everyone says they really love each other?” wonders a befuddled Much. “You take me for granted,” Much accuses Robin. “I hate you.” Little John feels guilty about turning outlaw and abandoning his family; “I deserve to die.” Robin is last to confess. “Let me have my thoughts to myself!” The reason he refuses to go over the “good old times” with Much is because “I can’t face the terrors we saw . . . I have to try not to kill.”

Marian convinces Allan to develop a conscience and go back and warn the outlaws. (Yet it is a hell of a long way to ride back to Nottingham!) Now, here’s a scene I just have to WTF to. “I should have let you take care of me, Guy, I should have let you,” says Marian while giving the recumbent Guy a backrub (!). Then she transforms into Allan, then the lecherous Sheriff. I’m very confused. Anyway, Allan makes it to the gang and helps them fight for their lives. Will and Djaq finally kiss. Hooray. Then it’s off to the Holy Land for everyone. There’s not even anyone left behind to send a postcard to.

“We Are Robin Hood” is definitely on the ambitious side. A kids’ TV show is trying to recreate Acre of 1193 (in Hungary, I assume). If you forget the silliness of the set up you can enjoy the adventure. Until Marian dies, of course.

Hiding in the shadows, the Sheriff, Guy, and plotters are in league with Nasir who has Saladin’s Royal Seal and will lure King Richard with a promise of peace so they can murder him. Marian is chained up in some room, in Persian costume with a stuffed bra for some reason. She makes one last desperate appeal to Guy; “kill the Sheriff and I will reward you. I will willingly give you my hand.” Guy considers her offer. Marian is told that Robin is already dead. “You’re not a killer,” Marian says, referring to the regicide to which Guy is a part. Guy may have actually intended to kill the Sheriff, but the Sheriff suspected it and prepared. “Are you going to?” “I will still have Marian.” And thus Guy’s character is written into shallow evil by lazy scriptwriters. Marian is tied up and left in the desert by the Sheriff.

Robin & co are staying with Djaq’s uncle Bassam. When they seek out King Richard to warn him of the Sheriff’s imminent attack, Richard’s mind has already been poisoned by Nasir, and despite the words of Carter, Richard somehow believes his most loyal servant capable of treason. Dude. I find it most amusing that Richard here is played by Steven Waddington, who has played many roles but most importantly for our purposes, Lord Wilfred of Ivanhoe in the 1996 A&E production. It isn’t until Richard, on the “Crusaders’ Frontier,” determines that the outlaws “must all be punished.” THAT’s the historical Richard I know. He decides to have them tied up in the desert. God will decide if they live. “If God wills it, there is always a choice.” “Then you will be remembered as the king who spent too long at war.”

With Marian tied up with them, the outlaws are subject to the elements. (And you know how long Almàsy lasted in The English Patient.) “I would never leave you, Will Scarlett,” announces Djaq. “I wanna die in England,” sighs Allan, probably wondering why he chose the losing side. “It’s not the King’s fault,” says the ever-loyal Robin. He then presents a modern wedding liturgy as he marries Marian then and there. “Much . . . don’t cry.” Fortunately Carter comes and rescues them before Much loses all his moisture from crying. (“Moisturize me, moisturize me . . .”) He also has the alacrity to mention Bonchurch later to His Majesty.

Guy is somewhat horrified to realize what the Sheriff’s done with Marian; surely wearing all that black leather is giving him a fever. Richard is an idiot, there’s something about a paintballing expedition (according to my notes; I’m afraid I can’t figure out what I was talking about!), and as the Sheriff shoots Richard with a crossbow, Guy goes in for the kill. Marian gets in the way and goads him by telling him that she loves Robin, is going to marry him, etc. Then GUY KILLS HER! (I would be more shocked, I confess, if I hadn’t been watching the fan video “What Have You Done” over and over on YouTube.) Lame. Robin and Marian finish their wedding as the Sheriff and Guy ride away before Marian dies. “The last time we were dying we were getting married.”

She gets a crusader’s burial before Djaq and Will decide to stay behind in Acre. WHAT?! Write the two most interesting characters out? Are you insane?! Anyway, Richard learns the errors of his ways and the poor, sad, dejected remaining outlaws return to Blighty. *huge sigh*

There were many opportunities to be absolutely ridiculous in season 2. Of course, being a big Guy/Marian shipper, I wasn’t pleased at the ending. Which fans did the writers think they were pleasing when they wrote that ending? Surely they can’t be so arrogant as to believe they’ve gotten two seasons in with complete indifference from their viewers? I liked some things in season 2, and there were some good story ideas. I’m curious indeed to see how the show will survive without Marian and more than intrigued to wonder what will happen to induce the departure of the title star. Time will tell! In the meantime, I’ll be over here, writing AU fan fic.

1 comment:

LadyKate said...

Hi! :) I've posted on your blog before and commented on your RH fanfic as you may recall. :)

Just read your comments and wanted to say that I didn't have quite so negative an impression of the S2 finale. Obviously I didn't like Guy killing Marian, but I don't think he was shown as reverting to evil -- more as being pushed over the edge by a very bad set of circumstances.

There's a good analysis of Guy and Marian in the S2 finale here.

Oh, and I thought you might be interested in my new Guy/Marian fic, a 2 x 13 AU (with no stabbings ... well, not of Marian at least!): The Lady of Nottingham

Are you still planning your own AU fic?