2.8 WELCOME BACK CARTER
(aka Get Carter)
The latest episode of medieval misfit mayhem gets off to a cracking pace. The Sheriff has hired an ex-crusader called Carter to seek locate and exterminate someone - who could that be? Despite being played by "Adam" from heroes, that immortal indestructible Rob Holmes con man who intends to obliterate the human race, Carter's fancy knife play doesn't impress me. Or Guy, come to that...
In fact, it looks like Carter is so utterly clueless he's got confused which side of the establishment he's fighting for and swashbuckles into the distant village of Klom (famous for its ridiculously large barns and Absorbaloffs), where the Merry Men are also trying to save the villagers from a massacre of guards. Exactly why the Sheriff is wasting his time attacking peasants is a moot point, as before Robin can work out this is clearly a trap, Marion is charging in with her sword and going apeshit.
Yes, Robin is realizing that bringing his girlfriend to work is a bad move, what with all her issues, and is forced to tie her up to keep her under control. (Down boy! WOOF!) Marion's clearly not adapting to life in the woods, or not having to treat Robin like dirt, and Little John steps into the breach to provide hug therapy. Aw. She even snuggles up to the big guy like a baby.
But Carter, now in the camp, easily knocks out everyone and ties them up, and threatens to kill them one by one until Robin hands over the back pack. I mean, hands back the pact.
Robin punches his lights out in 0.3 seconds. Problem sorted.
Since it looks like the New Tough Sherwood has finally found a plot thread too weak to go on, our attention returns to the castle where the Sheriff has clearly been mixing his medication and is bouncing happy at the thought this poncing loser called Carter is going to kill Robin despite the fact Robin is clever, knows the terrain and has four highly trained and very violent outlaws on his side.
Guy, however, is not so niave and points out that the distraction plan cost them plenty of guards - though whether it's the loss of human life upsets him or the fact THEY ARE RUNNING OUT OF GUARDS that bothers him, we cannot say. The Sheriff doesn't mind, and offers the widdows small fruit baskets. What a bastard!
But wait, there's more, as the Sheriff comes onto Guy himself (obviously mistaking all the gell and leather jackets...) and then very cruelly taunts Guy over Marion's lack of existence in the castle. Since Guy himself told her to get out of there, he's kind of hanging onto the hope she followed his advice rather than ditching him outright. But the Sheriff insists that a) she's gone b) he should get over it and c) get a new wardrobe. No hyperbole, that's what he says.
Guy sends Baldrick, er, Allan off to locate Marion. Proving himself as awkward and morally confused as ever, Allan comes up with a scheme to keep everyone happy that only involves beating up a nun. How could you argue with a moral victory like that? However, Guy is horrified to "learn" that Marion has joined a nunnery and taken a vow of silence - and its a credit to Allan's character that Guy totally believes him, but still decides to rescue her cause she'll ruin her life! Not because he craves her alablaster smooth body (which he does) but because he honestly thinks it's a bad move for her.
Wow. I mean, there's rarely that sort of hardcore character development - he's not even trying to shag her to prove a point! At this rate, I'll start to dread confrontations at Nottingham for fear of which side I should be rooting for.
Meanwhile, after a nice moment where Robin reminds Much that part of the reason he doesn't seem to listen to his squire is because they know each other so well he doesn't have to TALK, Robin decides to break the resolve off the massmurdering assassin and turn him into a nice person. However, simply absorbing Robin's DNA won't work like in "Dalek", so it's time for the Talk.
At the end of it, Carter weeps like a baby and begs for it all to stop.
In the meantime we suddenly discover Carter's brother was a total hothead who got himself killed in the Crusades. Robin started a story that he was at fault and the dead man was a war hero who ran out of luck, with the intent to give the family happy memories. Instead, the younger brother tried to kill him. No pleasing some people, eh?
Probably the odd thing is that, unlike "Tattoo? What Tattoo?" we get no foreshadowing of this, or flashbacks to the Holy Land. Despite the fact it clearly links to Robin's insistence that wild cards do more damage to the army than the enemy, which is why he's been crushing Marion's spirit. (Mind you, the girl's worrying me. There's a scene where she pulls out a knife from between her breasts and starts toying with it while looking at the tied-up Carter... thankfully we're spared the Robin Hood equivalent of Reservoir Dogs...)
With Carter now Robin's bitch and he and Marion meaning that hardly any of the other Merry Men are getting, Robin decides to adapt the cliffhanger of the last series and poison himself in such a way he can miraculously return to life. Thus, the Oddyseus Strategem goes under way as Robin is wheeled into Nottingham, and the Sheriff bounces even more like Sonic the Hedgehog and babbles things like "Hah! You know what I'm gonna do with his body? Do you? Do you know? Do you?" It's like the writer got that Vasey is a total anachronistic bastard, but missed the bit where he's "clever".
Guy, however, has plenty of braincells and immediately works out the ruse and decides to decapitate Robin's corpse to make sure. Luckily, Marion has... once more... disobeyed commands and is able to dive in, grab Guy by his leather jacket and sultily whisper in his ear that they gotta talk. Instantly ducking into a room, Marion quietly explains that she is kinda grieving for her dead dad and Guy has got to stop the phone calls, the texts, sitting outside her house...
It's credit to all concerned that Guy can be the focus of a "seriously, stop stalking me wierdo" scene and still come out of sympathetic. Mind you, his clumsy therapy of "take your mind off things and have a baby" isn't as good as Little John's hugs, but Marion is forced to distract Guy by snogging him. Which leaves him in Happy Little Puppy mode and, really, is actually heartbreaking. Christ, Marion, in every other version of the legend, we'd be asking you to hack his bollocks off -- but here, you're just being cruel! Apart from anything else, how is he going to learn to be a proper human being (and he admits he's still working on it) if you could confusing him with this Anglo Saxon lust! Even the predictable "Robin spots them at it" scene makes you think he's not so much jealous but appalled at the inherent cruelty.
YOU KNOW WHAT I'M GONNA DO TO HIM NOW HE'S DEAD? GUESS! GO ON! GUESS! GUESS WHAT I'M GONNA DO TO HIS CORPSE! YOU'LL NEVER GUESS! BUT TRY, ANYWAY! GO ON! JUST OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD! GO ON! GUESS! GUESS! GUESS WHAT I'M GONNA DO! GO ON! GUESS!
Oh, yeah, well Robin has risen from the grave (having been poisoned twice -- I assume his final fate will not be that the ballads say) in a painful scene as Carter idly chats about Saracen magic and it's ability to put people in comas and instantly cure them with no side effects whatsoever. I'll be charitable and assume that Vasey was so happy that Robin is dead, he wasn't thinking straight and instantly didn't twig and skewer Carter there and there.
"Kneel," Robin orders the Sheriff who challenges Robin to "make him" do so.
One quick knee in the happy sack proves Vasey is all too human. Oh, some nice details around this plot include the Sheriff now being so poor he can only offer two hundred pounds reward for Robin, and Robin working off his fear of the potion by fistcuffs with John (he wasn't brave enough to ask for one last kiss from Marion).
Anyway, with the kitty to repair the village of Klom, Robin and Carter flee the castle in the most blatant and show off manner possible, with throwing of the loot back and forth, running across the battlements, diving into a cart of hay... Although Allan's betrayal is supposed to be responsible for the lack of subtlety, Robin admits the whole swashbuckling thing is done because it's cool.
At the camp, Robin FINALLY learns that giving the all important letter to Allan was a bad move, and thus tells Carter to piss off and tell the King about the Knights Who Say Ni, while he and Marion do some patented BBCWales holding of hands. Methinks she not a Maid for much longer...
This is actually, hands down, the weakest story of the whole year. It's entertaining, got character development, sticks to the rules, but "guest goody/baddy of the week" suffocates an already large cast, with Wil once again being completely sidelined, and even Djaq being ignored. You would have thought she might have had SOME reaction to not being the only woman in camp, or maybe Carter might have reacted badly to Robin working with a SARACEN BITCH! But no.
Maybe it was decided for the lighthearted filler ep to balance out the hardcore action of last week's ep? Maybe it's all a freakish coincidence? Maybe whoever thought of that title needs to be shot?
- the Sheriff's particularly bad this week: he doesn't understand Latin (what?), knows about fruit baskets, and "Get over it"?!
- Allan's meeting with the nun is full of song quotes - songs that HAVE NOT BEEN WRITTEN YET!!!
2.10 WHOOPS, APOCALYPSE!
OMFG!! There are three more episodes!
Which is surprising, since every single scene seems to have EPIC SEASON FINALE tattooed through it. Yet, despite being a completely disposable episode where absolutely everything with no exceptions whatsoever is reset at the conclusion, it STILL manages to wipe the floor with several rivals. I seriously thought that this could have been a mini War Games with endless possibilities for new locales and characters. This episode could have changed the entire course of the series - and it KNOWS it. Ultimately, you can bitch that nothing changes, but it fundamentally backs up the Sheriff's claims that Nottingham will be Hiroshima-ed out of existence should he come to grief.
We also get the Intelligent Cunning Guest Star of the Week. And it's Kenny from Press Gang, following in Spike's footsteps by giving the impression he's from a completely different show (for him, Life on Mars) and this leads me to wonder if King John will turn out to be Paul Reynolds. Or Julia Sawalha in drag. Dear God, that could work...
The story kicks off with the Sheriff having an LSD nightmare about Robin. Over the last ten episodes we have seen him cut down again and again, and this week he is left a penniless vagabond stumbling blindly around a forest - and we all know that if it weren't for the Sword of Damoclese over Nottingham, not a single person in the entire world would give a fuck. Surely, therefore, there's no lower that Vasey can sink?
Well, whattayanow. Like the Master being reduced to a skeleton turned him into pure 100% proof evil, all this has done is distillate Vasey's bastardry and he's able to sign the death warrant of his home town and come up with a typically diabolical scheme to get his backpack. Pact back. Whatever. Thus, he allies himself with a family of professional cutthroat beggars, who are as cynical and selfish as he is, and easily turns them into an army of gits. Mind you, the mother was willing to hack off the arm of one of her children for maximum emotional impact, so it wasn't MUCH of a stretch.
We are reminded once again that the Sheriff is the big bad not because he is a brilliant warrior, or even because he has every possible advantage... it's because he is very, very clever. Indeed, the fact he goes sleepwalking today can't be coincidence: he's got the perfect distraction for Robin to leave his camp undefended, and is safe even after the shit goes down on his manor.
Kenny's casual arrival kicks off the countdown, and there's almost a Logopolis vibe as this silent watcher stalks the battlements, a huge black cloud of death gathers, and Guy of Guisborne has to make a deal with his enemy to prevent mutual annihilation. (Nice detail that he cannot bring himself to look Robin in the eye while he does it). Yet once again, we don't miss the opportunity to shove our morally-ambiguous villain into dire straits to see which way he jumps: he tries to bribe Kenny into turning a blind eye, but mind you, that's before he discovers he is exempt from execution since he is an honorary Black Knight. And thus, his family has safe passage - and assuming Guy can pull the moves, that will include Marion.
It's staggering to think how far this show has developed since the last series (which was pretty much stuck in a holding pattern once the cast settled down). There's no doubt the Guy of Season One would have flung Marion over his shoulder and hit the road, probably not even telling her what was on. But here he begs her to marry him because he DOESN'T WANT HER TO DIE! The marriage thing is completely secondary, and even Will thinks this is a necessary evil and urges her on with the quite compelling argument Robin can always get her out of it later (we can assume that his prior disgust at her going down the aisle with Guy was because he suspected she actually preferred leather boy). But Marion's not going to abandon people to death, and for once is not going to use Guy's emotions as a cat's paw for her own ends.
If you can not punch the air as Guy gives Kenny the two fingered salute and joins Marion to face the last stand against the Ring of Steel TM... well, you're not half as embarrassing as I am.
SHOCK! ROBIN HOOD FIRES ARROW! PALACE PREPARES STATEMENT!!
With Creepy Fool vanished like Kamelion, the gang get some proper characterization this week. Much gets a nice moment as he enjoys tracking the Sheriff with Robin coz it reminds him of old times, and manages to completely hide his dismay at Robin marrying Marion (the "what do I do without him?" kind of despair, though he's got a certain blonde to look for...), and Robin's "I like worrying about you, Much" says a hell of a lot. Will gets some action, as he takes over the role of looking after Marion, and firmly refuses the idea of letting Allan back in the gang, even though it would be very easy to act like his old friend did nothing wrong.
Allan for his part, is basically Guy's stooge, but we get another look at his murky morals: as long as he feels sorry for what he's done and betrays the establishment, he thinks he's repaid his debt. Or rather, is desperate to think that will count. I notice he's not "not been funny" once since leaving Robin, so he clearly doesn't have much to laugh about. Can we really blame him for trying to sweet-talk Kenny into saving him?
That leaves Djaq and John. Djaq doesn't get much to do, bar from towing the party line and surprisingly not being that fussed that her boyfriend is in ground zero (Will at least knows she's out of danger) and that leaves John. He's got more dialogue in this episode than many others, not even resorting to his "I like" catchphrase, and he's starting to doubt whether the hormonal PTSD geezer is sure what the hell he's doing nowadays. He even shows a sense of humor with some stuff about a goose which seems pretty extraneous... was the goose originally going to peck the Sheriff unconscious or something?
Oh yeah, the Sheriff. For such a complete psychopath, he's pretty convincing as the heartbroken blind grandpa (mind you, he has been given lessons). You COULD say that his performance is a metatextual statement that John has seen so much suffering that the Sheriff's hamming it up wouldn't register.
Nevertheless, it's good that John's clear paternal anguish is what leads him to bring the children back to his camp rather than the Sheriff's diabolical ingenuity. Blind luck! All that and some truly brilliant comic moments...
* The Womp finding the Sheriff in his PJs and growling "You gotta purty mouth". Anyone who has spent any time with Chris Hale will find this ridiculously amusing...
* Djaq's 'happened to a friend of a friend of mine' story
* "Well... he DOES give to the poor," the Sheriff muses as he finds a bunch of empty treasure chests under Robin's bed
* "OK, technically that IS accurate," says Allan on deliberately betraying his friends
Needless to say the world does not end this week, nor does Marion wed Guy, neither does Allan rejoin the team, or the Sheriff get his scroll with all the incriminating signatures. Indeed, you could skip this entirely.
But you'd be making a mistake.
- the Sheriff's pop culture references are now down to Shakespeare, so he's limiting himself to JUST six centuries.
- Guy shouts they DO NOT NEGOTIATE WITH OUTLAWS!!!
- Kenny's plan to murder his cousin and steal the funds to rebuilt Nottingham should be watched through sunglasses lest the social satire to nasty things to your eyes