3.4 SHERIFF VASEY AND THE CREDIT CRUNCH CRISIS!
(aka Sins of the Father)
Ah! Sins of the Father – the title any decent TV show uses sooner or later. I’m surprised Doctor Who hasn’t done that one yet, especially since I once wrote a story with that title. Maybe because it’s so bleeding universal. You could fit it around pretty much any story, from the first one with the Daleks to Robots of Death to Full Circle to The Doctor’s Daughter. The debt of ancient mistakes being paid by those in the present. Unlikely, sadly, that this week’s episode will be Hinchliffe-era Hammer Horror parody.
Another thing I’ve noticed with Season 3 is the shocking lack of character catchphrases. Since returning from the Holy Land, Robin has never once had half a plan, Little John has not thought it a good day to die, Alan hasn’t not been funny, Guisborne has not been overestimated and no one’s in any way been Robin Hood. No wonder Much doesn’t note how much he hates sayings. Most noticeable of all is the Sheriff’s lack of saying "A clue: no", but nil desperandum, he’s got a new one:
“I WANT MY MONEY!”
See, if he was wearing a gasmask, you heathens would all be loving it.
Yep, Vasey has officially hit rock bottom. For the first time ever we see the ugly little ratfaced git with no plan and no hope, and starting to show the signs of a truly impressive persecution complex. All his cunning plots have left him with absolutely sweet FA and receiving the third and final reminder about the 1000 crowns he needs to pay his protection money. Gripped with powerless paranoia, Vasey is convinced that Gizzy has somehow survived (duh) and has teamed up with Prince John to destroy him (a scenario Adam and Jamie would dub "plausible"). His last, not even best, hope is that his new comedy sidekick (Kevin Eldon as the giggly accountant) is right that Ruthless Rufus the Tax Man will be able to bleed Nottingham dry in time to pay the King. Of course, that can only save Vasey for a MONTH if he’s lucky enough not to be charged interest.
Meantime, it seems to be a training day for the merry men as Much is given the initiative test for stealing a wagon full of food. His cunning plan requires a swarm of CGI locusts, rotten tomatoes and a barn full of more wagon-assembling material than you’d find in the normal grand prix. But blow me, it works anyway and the half-naked, badly stung guards are left trying to explain the mess to Vasey. But it turns out that the sinister Pertweeish chap who watched everything unfold with wry amusement is none other than Ruthless Rufus himself – with his Spike-like unorthodox methods and very personal axe to grind against the town, he’s without doubt the most dangerous one-off villain since Harold Winchester.
As Vasey says, "You make Guisborne look all warm and snuggly."
His first act is to head to Loxley and terrorize Kate's mother. As you can imagine, this is emotionally very confusing for me as we're clearly supposed to be horrified at Rufus' psycho rage as he smashes her thriving pot business (by which I mean painted urns, rather than anything more interesting) and screams that, "If you are weak then hope is worthless! Life picks on little people!"... yet idly I want to see if they kill the bitch. "Do you want her to live?" he sneers to the audience. Um, well, now you come to mention it...
Kate also isn't quite as timewasting as she was in the previous two episodes, as she's a god-fearing tax-paying citizen of England who has never had a bad credit rating and logically assumes to be exempt because Vasey's not gone completely mad and abandoned any pretence of lawful governership.
Oh, wait, he has! Tough luck there, Kate, but at least you have a second dimension now.
With her entire home and house destroyed with such ease I wonder if it was some kind of OHS nightmare waiting to happen, Kate is forced to become a prostitute and whore herself out to Rufus (her mum's "Take me instead!" is more disturbing than noble, I must say) and some rather uncomfortable scenes follow as he takes her to Loxley Manor - by the way, is that yellow-and-black radiation symbol Guisborne's coat of arms? - and demands a lap dance. Meantime, the Merry Men try to put out the fires that have started thanks to Rufus' demolition policy as John realizes that their appreciative fan from the pre-credit sequence is the new taxman. "Where's Guisborne?!" boggles Robin, having finally noticed his favorite suicidal Goth hasn't been seen for a month, though given his normal post-Marion behavior of lying in bed all day, maybe that's expected.
This leads to a genuinely amusing sequence where Robin and Much try to outcool each other in saving Kate, only for both to be slightly undermined by the fact by the time they get there, she's about to knife the asshole and in her words "coping fine on her own". Of course, if Much requests wasting his machismo, it doesn't help when Rufus bitchslaps him near unconscious in the middle of his "I've come to save a maiden in distress" speech which he's clearly been practicing. Poor Much. Our heroes flee, with Kate realizing her funky knife tricks have made her Nottinham's most wanted, so she either joins the Merry Men or just plain gets the fuck out of this series. (In fairness to Ms Froggart, she's much better this week, being given a script for a change - unlike her mother, who continues to earn Fist In Face.)
Having finally escaped her dreadful family, Kate undergoes a hulk-like metamorphosis into Lucie Miller and starts bitching about everything in a shockingly impressive Sheridan Smith impersonation. Seriously, I wondered if she was being dubbed for that bit. On the bright side, Alan at least won't put up with her shit and reminds her that if she wants to rely on the kindness of strangers, being kind is pretty much the smartest way to go about it. "Kate being sarcastic, Kate being ungrateful," he tuts. As ever, Little John is the best one for dealing with hysterical women while old Tuck has to wait 20 minutes into the episode for his first line of dialogue. Dear me.
Back at the castle, Vasey makes yet another decision you can imagine his pre-Acre self would have scoffed at: he rents out his entire palace army to the King of Northumberland for a quick buck, even though it leaves him completely unprotected. Actually, the part of this development that bugs me is Eldon's "rubbing cash in his fingers" gesture to indicate money. Did they HAVE paper money back then? I'm surprised his hand gestures didn't indicate Parkinson's disease. Maybe it's all those episodes of Big Train, but I don't trust the guy. The now defenseless castle goes into lockdown, and Rufus begins his "Viking rape and pillage" manner of tax collection... which works! With the cash rolling in, Vasey's confidence rises the point he can even "lah de dah de dah"!
Alas, with only five soldiers around in Nottingham, it's less difficult than ever for the Merry Persons to break in, kidnap Rufus and escape with the blighter... or so they think. Unfortunately, Vasey kept these soldiers for a reason, as they're the smartest warriors available. Trapping the gang in an alleyway too narrow for Little John to open a can of whupass (at least until he comes up with a very lateral approach), Alan and Kate stay at the Sheriff's pleasure while the others manage to slapstick their way to the forest. But Rufus follows and he's just not gullible enough to fall for the old "hide in the bush while the horses keep running" business like dear Gizzy once did. In a moment unresistrained viciousness, he chains Kate and Alan together so they can harmonize and bond... what a bastard! Still, there has to be SOMETHING to stop her being such a cow, and Alan's biting remarks that he's known far prettier women cuts her down to size.
We then get a nice compare-and-contrast sequence as Tuck and Vasey interrogate tied up traitors. Just in case we forgot how bloody scary Vasey can be, even with every last advantage taken from him. "Underneath this harsh surface," the Sheriff whispers, "I'm deeply sensitive. No, that's a lie. Underneath this harsh surface is just more harsh surface!" Nevertheless, he probably wishes he wasn't so blood thirsty when he realizes that, Omega Man style, he is the only human being left in the castle...
You know, I could be wrong, but given the overall quality of this episode, and Kate in particular, it makes me think that this was originally the first episode she appeared in - for whatever reason, she was retroactively added to the previous two episodes in a last second rewrite by a different author. This is the first time, after all, she's actually been an indispensible part of the plot, and even Much's crush on her is ambiguous enough to retcon that she's just been a village girl he'd fancied his whole life rather than meeting her a few weeks ago. Only the very, very bad bit where Kate's mum bitches at Robin for looking after her offspring better than she does refers to earlier scenes, and seems as edited in as everything else Tollinger related so far. There is also THE most ludicrous arrow trick I have ever seen. The closest comparison would be the climax of Reckless Kelly. But then, that's the entire point - something the genetic detritus of DWF just doesn't get.
A staggering return to form. Let's hope Aaronovitch or whoever script edited the first two doesn't come back...
NEXT TIME: THE G-MAN IS BACK!!!
"You're looking well for a dead man, Guisborne!"
With the entire army of Prince John on his side, Gizzy plans to exterminate Robin Hood once and for all - and only a certain brunette lady swordfighter can stop him now. One question... what the fuck is that animal-mask pro-celebrity wrestling about!??
And no, Mad Larry hasn't written another word about Robin Hood.