(aka The Angel of Death)
This seems to be the shortest episode so far and seems to have the thinnest plot accordingly. That's not to say the plot is bad, just there's not too much too it. This feels more like a CiN special or a short story, since it is filled with Robin Hood fanwank, a bunch of Robin Hood cliches, and a couple of stunts that appeared on Mythbusters a few months ago.
It appears that the merry men are going stirr crazy from the lack of anyone going into the forrests to be ambushed and robbed and have gone distinctly peculiar. When two unarmed men finally appear in the trees, our heroes dress up as a wierd bunch of dryad krynoid fertility symbols and run around screaming, terrifying the poor travellers witless. All in all, it's rather embarrassing - especially when we find out that the two are Will Scarlett's brother and father. Of course, I twigged right away because I saw the other episode with them in it just the day, but the significance of this should not be overlooked.
Yes, Will finally has an episode about him!
I know! Unbelievable!
The problem with Will was that, since the character's traits of being Robin's best friend/rival have been scattered to other characters, he's been left the teen demographic. He hardly gets any dialogue, or action, but apart from being clever and lusting after Djaq, he does nothing but look pretty - BUT NOT TONIGHT, JOSIAH-FIEND!!
Dan and Luke Scarlett have missed the last series of Robin Hood and, not quite getting the fact the eldest son is now a committed outlaw and adrenaline junkie, want him back down on the farm. It takes no time at all for everyone to realize Will's determination to stay in the gang is so he doesn't "back down to the Sherrif" like his dad did back when he had two hands. Robin suggests a "take your parent to work" day and show him that spreading joy, money, food and anachronisms throughout the town is a responsible job.
Unfortunately, when they arrive some of the populace are showing signs of eating Gordon Ramsey's leftovers and collapsing in agony. No sooner has Dan confirmed that, whatever ailment afflicts them, it isn't "the pestilence" (after all, the Terrileptils won't arrive for five hundred years or so) than Marion makes a public service announcement that an area of Nottingham town called Pitt Street is now under quarantine because "the pestilence" has arrived. Wow, good think I got fired from there when I did - narrow escape.
Dan strides up to the Sherrif as he hands out fridge magnets telling people to turn the other cheek to all those trapped behind the barricades begging for food water or medicine, and tells him to shove this crap up his arse as it is NOT the plague. The Sherrif declares Dan is hysterical and panicking and quickly reminds us all of his new Tough On Absolutely Fucking Everything policy and has Dan stabbed through the heart without another thought.
Will, bug-eyed with horror, needs to be held back by both Little John and Robin (which, thankfully, isn't emphasized with any crap "Ooh, grief makes him super human strong" - the implication is, along with most of this episode, that Will is Death on Wheels without his self restraint), and quickly ditches them to send his shattered brother to safety. Our boy Will is off to kill the Sherrif - and if Nottingham gets nuked, well, life's a bitch and then you die.
Robin does not realize he is stuck in some kind of Four to Doomsday remake with him as the Fifth Doctor surrounded by untrustworthy wild card companions, so as Will heads off to end civilization and Allan pops out to sell Robin out to Guy... again... he, Much, Djaq and Little John smuggle themselves into the quarantine zone and find themselves being told not to interfere by a sinister, bug-eyed git whose name is Joseph. I suspect his last name is Chatham, judging by his insistance on not getting his hands dirty in all this poverty and plague, complaining at his unrecognized genius, and feverntly wishing for the death of the chav scum that covers the beautiful land of England. Hell, five seconds with him has even Much calling him a complete looney and avoiding him in favor for the plague.
"YOU DON'T RESPECT ME, DO YOU ROBIN?! I HAVE A DEGREE FROM CAMBRIDGE!!"
Back at the castle, Marion discovers the Night Watchman made a visit to Pitt Street the other night. But she doesn't do that nowadays... Has some split personality taken over her soul?! No, guess it's some bastard pretending to be the Night Watchman who has poisoned the whole street. Furious, she smuggles herself out of the castle and into quarantine, past Guy who is struggling to comprehend the emotional zietgiest he went through when he was drowning. Looks like the Nihilistic Bastard has been replaced by the Pitiful Loser we all loved from the first series. Good for him. As Guy provides Marion's dad with some food as a reward for her reading the riot act at the start of the episode, Marion meets up with Robin and they do a little groping.
Meanwhile, Chatham is making notes and the sickening realization comes to light: now the Sherrif has no cash for mercenaries, or indestructible armor for his men, he's decided to avoid bloodshed and use biological warfare to wipe out King Richard and his army. While I do appreciate the fact the story arc hasn't been forgotten, this kind of cynical mass slaughter is definitely the nastiest thing in the show so far. Will one of Pitt Street's occupants develop immunity, start wearing a mask and call himself V?
Oh well, forget I said that. Chatham realizes that Djaq is smart and thus she and the other Merry Men must die before they interrupt his control experiment, and thus provides then with good old chicken soup and some disturbing biblical quotes. However, Marion and Robin realize the truth and narrowly save the lot of them. Chatham gleefully explains he has created the ultimate undetectable, incurable poison... well, not so much 'created' but more 'found some mushrooms and lied to everyone about his genius' which proves without doubt he is a Chatham. He then escapes to safety after texting the professionals to allow him past the barricade.
But, since he is a Chatham, he has made a long litany of mistakes, and it says a lot when Little John of all people knows how to cure your toxic death weapon and soon Djaq is pouring nightshade down everyone's throats, the two poisons cancelling each other out. Pitt Street is saved... yeah... great.
What's this? Will, now calling himself Son of Mine, Batmans his way into the castle, effortlessly ducking arrows, and belting the shit out of everyone. A great sequence which, like the whole season so far, shows how much damage both sides can do if they let themselves loose. Proving himself not to be stupid, Will easily discovers the poison plot and finds a vial of "Justice in a Bottle".
The Sherrif's become slightly paranoid of late - reasonable enough since he has been spending time with a nutter who poisons people in his socialist jihad - and tells Chatham to piss off when he turns up demanding they use the poison to purge the weak, the uncultured, the chav, the scum and those who do not have a degree. The Sherrif grins and points out that social group is the one that he can beat the shit out of all by himself, and Operation Obscure Marco Polo Reference needs the poison more.
And then he enjoys some wine that Son of Mine has thoughtfully provided.
Oh, as we say, shit.
Will - still working with a speed unheard of since Derek Jacobi opened a fob watch and outthought and outmaneuvered ABSOLUTELY EVERYONE - bumps into Djaq as she and the others arrive with the cure, and instantly flings her into a dungeon and locks her in there to ensure the Sherrif isn't cured in the half hour or so he now has to live. And considering that, you know, him and Djaq... this is serious, people.
Realizing that "the quiet one" of the gang has gone ape shit, Robin tells the others that they will have to take him down and even Much can't back up his master at the suggestion of slaughtering each other. Realizing that his gang is falling apart faster than a leper with Parkinson's disease, Robin swigs from the vial of poison to test Will's newfound Utter Bastardness - after all, if he can condemn everyone in Nottingham to death, he can watch Robin die in agony in front of him.
Will quickly realizes he's not really in a clearer state of mind to make such decisions and agrees to get the cure. But, ahah! Robin is in no danger - I assumed, he just sucked on a bit of nightshade earlier to be cured for just this sort of emergency, but he was just miming. A cruel trick, really, but as I keep saying this is New, Tough Nottingham and we don't have time for pussy footing around. Mind you, I was worried in this, since Robin Hood traditionally was killed by poison, albeit disguised as medicine.
Robin turns up to find the Sherrif and Chatham writhing in agony and the former agrees to abandon the plan to kill the King in return for a cure - and shouts "SHUT UP!!" at Chatham when he protests his brilliant poison which he created all by himself and is incurable and he has a degree... Robin grabs the dying Sherrif and gets him to shout out to the populace the truth of the plague. But before he can confess any further, our black-clad Adam Spencer doppleganger drops dead!
Will arrives and, after the traditional "You bastard, I thought you were dying!", provides the Sherrif with the nightshade cure. However, since he's now cured he sure as hell isn't going to abandon his evil plans and summons the guards. The Merry Men flee (presumably taking Chatham's notebook with them or else the poison angle can still be used by Vasey) but Chatham loses whatever braincells aren't already used up by absinthe and tries to skewer Robin with a sword, screaming that there IS no cure, because if there WAS a cure, then he hasn't found the ultimate weapon and his name won't live for a thousand years and his insane class-war against the chav scum can never be won!
Towards the end of this tirade, Chatham accidentally manages to knock both himself and Robin out of the window and they end up clinging to the flags below the window. Proving himself even more stupid than ever, Chatham ignores Robin's offer of a helping hand and tries to climb up him... only to pull off the outlaw's boot and plummet with it to his death.
Mythbuster's brain-damagingly annoying Pirate special proved it is absolutely impossible to slice vertically through a sail with a knife and safely descend to the ground. However, this isn't a sail. So I suppose Robin might have got away with it, and he does, effortlessly escaping with his Merry Men to the applause of Nottingham in what resembles a medieval Chaser stunt...
What's Allan done this week? Well, his first three betrayals were kinda forgiveable - but this, this is beyond the pale as he tells Guy about Robin unveiling the whole conspiracy by sending a chain letter to his pal Roger. Since Guy needs the status quo to remain just that, Allan condemns the whole of England to suffer. Yeah, this really is beyond a joke. I'm not being funny but any brownie points Allan had vanished at this point.
But how long before Robin twigs that every time he gives the inquisitive Allan A Dale a job, Guy of Guisborne is ready and waiting and sabotaging their efforts? According to the next time trailer, very soon.
Thank god there's not stringing this out. Rock on!
The outlaws' camoflague outfits and BBCWales-level make up art.
Will creating his own hologram of his late dad.
Instant cures with no sideeffects that need only to be tasted.
2.5 HE WHO TRUSTS CAN NEVER BE BETRAYED. OR CAN HE?
(aka Ducking and Diving)
This episode is brillinat! Bree-ly-yunt! I demand anyone writing or working on some thirteen-episode drama season watch this because this, ladies and gentlemen is how it is done. Like the previous one, this episode is slight and traditional, allowing all the character development to rise to the surface and make this episode IMPORTANT.
All the regular cast get a moment to shine - Much's disgust at the sheer idea of treachery; Little John proving once again he's more a healer than a hurter; Djaq's off-forgotten love triangle with her knowing exactly what's up with Allan but still going straight to Will when he's in trouble; Will proving once again he HAS a personality, history and character and woe betide any that forget it; Marion has to abandon subtlety and flirt like a hooker; and of course the Sherrif of Nottingham is a total bastard who can work a crowd of medieval to the point they can count to ten.
Guy of Guisborne meanwhile, continues to develop. In pretty much all versions of the Robin Hood legend, Guy is just a bad guy whose obsession with Marion proves his downfall and hampers his ability to harm the Merry Men (as well as seriously pissing Robin off). However, what we have here is a Guy who has gotten over Marion - an idea, in its own way, as revolutionary as a Dalek with legs - and established that he is not some mere stooge of the Sherrif, but something much more fomidable.
Vasey still has the edge however, no fear of that. But while he is still a frighteningly nasty villain (whose sheer love of what an arsehole he is makes you cheer him on), the fact is, he's shown as a tad predictable. When Matilda the Wise Woman (aptly played by Peter Davison's wife from The Complete Guide to Parenting) defies him, the only thing we wonder is exactly HOW the Sherrif is going to break her (and if you suffer the Next Time adds, even that is ruined). We don't doubt for a moment, however, that he's going to torture her in an incredible cruel manner and have lots of fun doing it.
Guy, meanwhile, is not an open book. He's shown to be intelligent, cunning, practical and rough - in just one line of dialogue, as he explains that he has brought Matilda to the Sherrif because all the OTHER wise women turn to HER for advice, we realize this guy isn't the easily-manipulated broody teenager he once was. The scene where he gleefully makes Marion jump through metaphorical hoops trying to explain her disobedience and thus trick her into admitting it shows us this guy should no longer be underestimated. After all, has the Sherrif been able to turn one of the Merry Men against Robin of their own free will? Nope (threatening to murder your mother isn't quite the same). With all the emphasis on Guy being the Sherrif's most loyal servant (with Guy knowing the Sherrif doesn't care) makes me wonder what would happen if he turned on his employer...
The slight plot of the episode revolves around Matilda - an all round wise woman and professional midwife who is a foul mouthed, very competant and intelligent woman with strong morals. You've got to like her, and when she greets Robin like a mum whose son's just back from uni, it's easy to forget she's not actually his mother. The fact she's so likable is a clear contrast to Blight, the obsequious and clearly stupid personal physician of the Sherrif. In fact, I found it hard to believe Vasey could be stupid enough to put this guy in charge of his health, as everything we see and hear supports the idea that Blight is a complete moron and a total shit as well. Even Chatham the Poisoner last ep wasn't so outright irritating and obnoxious (even Blight's beard is pretentious) and I damn well hope the next DVD box set has "deleted scenes: Blight is repeatedly dunked until drowning" as an easter egg.
Of course, the Sherrif's rep is struggling here. Five episodes, and we've watched the most powerful and evil guy be reduced from de facto dictator of Nottingham planning a bloody coup to desperately being forced to shout at a midwife to help cure a guy because he knows some incredibly obvious information. Why didn't he get this learned man to write down the info in case of emergency? The dude doesn't come across as smart enough to prevent this anyway, and it has to be bad luck that the one crusader willing to defect to the Black Knights has an allergy to bee stings. And was stung by a bee. The Sherrif's little witch tirade is as nasty as ever (and manages to be even more cynical than The Simpson's "If she's innocent, she'll go to heaven, so we're just doing her a favor") but it's good to see our rational villain wonder if Matilda actually IS a witch. And, like I always say, pissing off witches is NEVER a good move...
MATILDA DISCOVERS TOO LATE THAT THE ATKINS DIET LEAVES HER THE SAME WEIGHT AS A DUCK, AND THUS AUTOMATICALLY IS REVEALED TO BE A WITCH.
Is the continual weakening of the Sherrif the reason Allan's continued his double-dealing two-facedness? I was prepared to note that, but Allan's ep reveals this isn't the case. Of course, he first accepted on the simple premise of "I will say anything in order to get the hell out of here", and the second episode was clearly Allan trying to show he was up for the deal (no burning bridges). His betrayal of the black diamond scheme similarly was not his main intentation when he walked in. But betraying Roger of Stoke, ruining Robin's master plan to defeat the Sherrif was too far... and, as Guy notes, if Allan was expecting Roger to survive this, then he's plain nuts.
Since Allan has only been selling out Robin for two episodes, the fact Robin twigs it here both gives the idea of a traitor good screen time and stops everyone looking like complete morons (ref Torchwood and the Estate Agent sensing things in the darkness of Cardiff story arc). Out of the gang, it's not difficult to work out the traitor. Robin is in the clear, Much has proved numerous times to be made of sterner stuff, Djaq could not be mistaken for a man at the inn, Will's latest psycho rage proves he's not going to side with the Sherrif ever, and Little John is not the type to relay detailed information to anyone. Allan, however, has form from last series and has been regularly seen turning up bruised, with mission going wrong, and cash in his pocket.
So, Robin's strategy - blaming Will, but making everyone believe their leader thinks they are innocent, while luring the guilty party into a trap - is pretty good, especially as he is dragged into sorting out a witch-ducking, capturing the noble that knows too much and deliver a baby (Allan jinxes it again, since his excuses earlier in A Clue: No about such an event were just tempting fate) all in the same day. Robin's faith in his gang tested is clearly making him more ruthless, as he is willing to slaughter our bee-allergic crusader or cut out his tongue. We're also reminded that while our hero is disgusted by killing and violence... he's still VERY good at it, and like Will could wipe out hundreds if he wanted to.
Thus Allan is caught out - and, to be fair, he is clearly shown calling quits on the whole deal and not just because suspicion has fallen on him - and Robin catches him. Yet we still don't know why Allan used that logo to the Sherrif, a kind of P in Dalek font, or maybe a sideways A...
The confrontation scene is just too cool for me to summarize:
ROBIN: I need to talk to my spy.
ALLAN: What was up with Will? You banished Will!
ROBIN: It was an act - only [the waitress] knew who was guilty. And I knew the spy would want to come here before me to cover his tracks. For all I knew, it could have been Will standing there. But it's not, is it? It's you.
ALLAN: Robin, it was over. You ask her. I made a decision.
ROBIN: Then what's this?
ALLAN: No, I was giving it back.
ROBIN: So you betray me - you betray yourself - you betray your King - for what? For a few silver coins*? What have you told Guisborne, Allan?
ALLAN: Er, nothing really.
ROBIN: Does he know about the camp?
ROBIN: Does he know about Marion?
ROBIN: More lies?
ALLAN: No!! This was the last time, I promise. And I was wrong... But he captured me, Robin! He tortured me! I had no choice!
ROBIN: EVERYTHING IS A CHOICE! EVERYTHING WE DO!
ALLAN: That's easy for YOU to say, though, isn't it? Huh? You get the glory, you get the girl! Everyone loves you! Then, when the King comes back, you'll lands, property, a wife, everything! What will I have?!? You
always in in sun, Robin - and I'm always in the shade.
ROBIN: Is that meant to be an excuse?!
ALLAN: Give me another chance. Please. I wouldn't have let Guisborne hurt any of us. I would never have told him anything like that!
ROBIN: Harmless lies, innocent betrayals, they don't exist, Allan!
ALLAN: Robin, I've changed! How can I get you to believe that?
ROBIN: You can't. And the funny thing is, you might be telling the truth.
ALLAN: I am!
ROBIN: And how am I supposed to believe you any more?
ALLAN: Robin, I swear to you on my life-- don't kill me... please...
ROBIN: You're lucky I've left you with a life to swear upon. Never, never let me set eyes upon you again.
I wonder just what Blake's 7 would have been like if the regulars there were capable of such mercy (and Blake certainly wasn't). Of course, Robin doesn't live in a world of mind wipes and programming, but it's still a damning indictment that over 200, 300 years of civilization don't improve humanity... but I think that's exactly what Terry Nation and Chris Boucher were saying.
The ep leaves a few loose threads. The Sherrif is still searching for his crusader, and Matilda has given Locksley good reason to think she's a witch (although we could be fair and assume that Locksley's inhabitants don't trust a word the Sherrif says, and his claims she IS a witch are the best way to convince everyone she isn't - plus there's a clever outlaw who owes her his life, so her impossible escape is quite simple when you think about it.)
Yes, sir. A good episode.
* thank god they didn't do the "thirty pieces of silver" gag...
- Matilda's language is surprisingly PG13
- Rosa doesn't mind a big hairy MALE outlaw delivering her baby, and no WAY is that baby under three weeks old
- the numeracy skills of Locksley folk
- where the hell did they get the scuba gear from?!