3.13 LIVE FAST, DIE YOUNG AND SEE YOU ON THE FLIPSIDE!
(aka Something Worth Fighting For - Part Two)
"Number one, it’s OK to cry. I cry all the time." - the Ninth Doctor (attributed)
Well. This is it. The end of everything and... perhaps... the beginning of something new by those lovely people who made At Homes With the Braithwaites, though I have at present sod all idea how they might do this - mainly as I type this at one in the morning, having just finished downloaded the bugger and seen a few moments of it but not heard a thing - my speakers have bust.
The situation: Richard has finished his crusade and returning home, but what with medieval tourist boards, the threat of Turk Flu and somesuch, it'll be a month or so before he finally reaches England. Prince John intends the reception to be somewhat spectacular. In the here and now, however, the survivors of Robin's gang have managed to defeat Izzy and seize control of Nottingham Castle. But their triumph is shortlived as ex-Sherriff Vasey and his army of the rock apocalypse have arrived to overthrow the overthrowers...
While his remaining allies lick their wounds, mourn the dead and generally hog what limelight is left in this rapidly-diminishing episode, Robin and Gizzy ride on horseback to confront Vasey to, amongst other things, try and avoid bloodshed, have one last bitchy exchange, and maybe explain how in the name of sweet onion chutney the Sheriff survived being stabbed through the heart by someone who was manifestly NOT wanting to spare the little bastard's life and allow him to escape and plot revenge. Well, it turns out the explanation was painfully simple - Vasey WAS stabbed, Gizzy DID want him dead, but the wound was hardly mortal and Gizzy was so out of it with the injuries and the blood and the oedopal rage, he didn't realize that Vasey was unconscious. But now Vasey has his army, some nitro-9 hurling catapaults, and all the advantage.
Vasey (for the first time referred to as such by Robin, along with terms like "murdering swine") gives Robin a choice: by tomorrow either hand over the Guisbornes and Nottingham, or Vasey will do unto everything in his shire what the Toclofane did unto Japan. Will our hero choose the lives of innocents over fingering the entrails of his enemy? It's a difficult choice and thus the best place to put in the opening titles (a neat trick I've noticed is they haven't been the same twice this year...)
To be concluded when I've watched the rest of the damn thing. In the meantime, why not check out Larry Miles' Randomness Times and see if he's bothered to update it after three weeks - even if he hasn't his amazing review of the last ten episodes will surely be up there for all to appreciate...
And we're off again. Tuck seems to have recovered from his arrow wounds remarkably quickly and he and Archer realize that Vasey's "Byzantium fireballs" are WAY too powerful for them to cope with (probably shouldn't have sold it to him, huh, Archer?), while Gizzy is left dizzy that Robin didn't immediately sacrifice him to avoid conflict. Indeed, the very idea of being given a choice between helping fight the good fight or legging it seems a bit too much for Gizzy. But he decides to stay since he's got nothing to lose and everything to gain. But a brief visit to his sister, who gives a bottle of poison so she can kill herself quickly and painlessly before either the outlaws or Vasey can set to work on her - and when Izzy finally twigs that this is the ONLY mercy she will be getting from ANYONE, she starts to get scared. And quite right too.
As night falls, Kate - never one to let facts or logic get in the way - decides to sneak out of the castle without telling anyone, nip over to the next county and collect the newly-arrived troops and bring them here to wipe out the Sheriff. Even ASIDE the fact tip-toeing past Vasey's warriors is pretty much certain death, she's rather overconfident that she can persuade an army to listen to her. Robin is certainly not confident at her chances, and comes up with half a plan: take out the catapults before the army can use them to nuke Nottingham back to the Pliestocene Age (or "trebuchets" as they are called - presumably Vasey also has atomic Comic Sans, nuclear Times New Romans, heat-seeking Arial Narrows or ballistic Lucidia Grands with Courier New warheads attached...)
Much is left in charge of Nottingham as Robin doesn't trust anyone else with the responsibility (I of course applaud this as it give Much a better than average chance of surviving the next 35 minutes) and he and his remaining pals sneak off into the night. Unfortunately, the plan kind of relied on Vasey not needing the catapults till dawn, but the Sheriff has decided to attack early (and why not?). Fortunately, everyone present already knows what an untrustworthy bastard Vasey is, and manage to reverse the explosivability of the trebuchet flow before running very very quickly in the opposite direction.
With his WMDs well and truly stuffed and Brother Tuck mixing up enough Byzantium explosives to worry even the Mill, Vasey realizes things are getting a bit serious - you can tell because he loses his cool and starts screaming out quotes from The Dominators (you know, the "DESTROY!!!" ones Toba yodels at the Quarks). Under the command of Samuel L Jackson, the army storms Nottingham with extreme prejudice. 31 minutes and counting. With a volley of flaming arrows and a ridiculously-elaborate battering ram, Gizzy isn't confident but Much and Robin lived through worse and are already whittling down the invading forces due to judicial use of pointy sticks fired at high velocity. With three waves of arrow-shooting peasants on constant rotation, the further the invaders get into Nottingham, the fewer of them there are. In fact, things are going so well Much of all people needs to be dragged out of the battle zone (or maybe he might be covering the retreat, these battle scenes aren't exactly big on subtext... oh was he was staying behind to rescue one of the gang who's been captured? Not sure.)
As the world ends, Izzy tries to flirt her way out of jail with the sort of subtlety you'd expect from Donna Noble at Torchwood. Only, not funny. Just really, deeply pathetic. In fact, the only thing more pathetic is how her horny guard cracks under her insane babble and lets her loose, only for her to stab him with his own knife without even having to snog him. I was hoping for a nifty poisoning at least. "Men are so easy," Izzy sighs, conveniently forgetting how she hasn't actually beaten ANY of her male opponents so far. At all. Still, she's past midnight on the crazy clock, so what do we expect? She tries to leave the castle, only to find it's a bit busier than she expected. While the remnants of Vasey's army try to break their way in, Robin and his ever-dwindling gang are making a suitable reception for them. When the army breaks open the gates, all the archers are protected by the porticulus, and able to fire through the gaps for one hell of a massacre!
One problem: Vasey's captured Kate and has her act as a rather attractive human sheild. He's also got some bad news - not only are the reinforcements not coming, Richard's been captured by Leopole of Austria (but is it a cunning plan of Prince John's?). So no help is on its way and Vasey makes a final offer for Robin to surrender. "I may have been a bit hasty about the 'take no prisoners'," he admits. "After all, who's going to pay the taxes?" Robin refuses, and while Vasey has planned for Robin predictably trying to simultaneously rescue the girl and humiliate him definitely has NOT planned for Much to do that on his own.
The outlaws open fire and only Vasey and Jackson are able to avoid the holocaust that follows. "That is the last time Robin Hood makes a fool out of me!" Vasey screams at no one in particular. 25 minutes and counting. He might get one last prank in. They regroup with the surviving soldiers while the good guys have the pleasure of burrying the dead, and Gizzy wordlessly makes it clear he really found it easier to be an uncaring bastard. Robin knows that winning the battle might be possible, but winning the war is no longer on the cards, and so makes a very ominous and doomladen speech to his troops.
"Loyal comrades, you know our situation. And you know that we are on our own. Now we have already lost friends and loved ones, but England will lose far more if we do not make a stand this day. Yes, some of us may fall, but our fight lives on - in the minds of those who despise injustice; in the hearts of those who cherish freedom! YOU are the soul of England, standing firm against tyranny for real future. Now ask yourself, 'Is that not something worth fighting for?'"
Robin amazingly times this speech so well that the instant the crowd are fired up, the soldiers are back for more (I can only wonder what Vasey's pep talk was like - it probably had him miming along with Robin, only saying "Lah-de-da-de-dah" over and over again). The Sheriff's cunning plan to put the remnants of army up against the castle as a Judas Goat while he, Jackson and some armed bastards sneak in through the secret passage. Like all cunning plans, it has a flaw: said passage is now filled with limestone. Vasey tries to laugh this problem away. Tries. Well, I say "tries" more like "fails miserably and goes psycho". Again.
Up above, the oncoming soldiers are suffering heavier losses than the defending peasants, but the ratio of survival is about the same. Tuck meanwhile announces that not only has he mastered Nitro-9, the base ingredient just happens to be the oil Vasey liked to boil for the torture chamber - in other words, they have a hundred times the explosives they need to deal with the invaders. Ain't karma a bitch, Sherrif?
As the army finally breaks into the castle, Little John stays behind to buy the others time as they retreat. Meanwhile Izzy - remember her? - lures Guy into the aforementioned blocked-off secret tunnel, looking even MORE deranged than she normally does. But why would Little Miss Schizo flee into a dead end and making sure the one person most out to kill her would follow? Guy suspects she might be trying to use the explosives to break through the tunnel and escape the town. Someone is using explosives, all right, but it's not Izzy - Vasey is trying to break his way INTO the castle, with a casual disregard for acceptable OHS that Jackson is double-taking something chronic.
However, the goodguys don't know this and thus the new plan is "retreat down the tunnel, leaving all the bombs to go off, wiping out Nottingham and the army and the Sherriff in one massive CGI fireball", not realizing that their escape route is monopolized by nasty people. Turns out Izzy finally understood the cryptic message Jackson gave her: she has lured Gizzy into a trap, and in return for legally making Vasey Sherriff once more, gets to live. As ever, Vasey REALLY takes attempts on his life very personally, and wants to finish off the fight they started in Do You Love Me? But he really shouldn't get confident, because Gizzy has the EXACT same desire. The only question is: does Gizzy's newfound sanity make him a better fighter? 16 minutes and counting people...
Just then, Archer and Robin arrive and we get one of the scenes that now seems to define Robin Hood - the ridiculous-amount-of-people-with-their-own-agendas-all-fighting-each-other in a sequence that would give most stunt coordinators motion sickness. It's Vasey vs Gizzy vs Izzy vs Robin vs Jackson vs Archer vs Vasey and at that point I just get confused. As Vasey notes, "How appropriate that a battle so huge should come down to the important few!"
"This ends," declares Robin. "Here."
And he's right. Because, if I might digress to The Legend of Robin Hood, the titular hero is prophesized "You will never die - save by a woman's hand." Robin rather optimistically focussed on the interpretation "No XY Chromosone Carrier Can Harm Me" rather than the "Any Woman Could Kill Me" version. And who was the woman that killed Robin Hood? Why, the sister of the late Guy of Guisborne. And how did she do it? Poison. And what did Guy give his sister at the start of the episode?
Yeah. You can work out where it goes from here. If not, watch The Caves of Androzani and use your imagination. I assumed they wouldn't follow that part of the story after the previous poison-related plots in Return of the King, The Angel of Death and Get Carter. Shows how well I can guess what's happening.
"Oh this is too good to be true," whispers Vasey in awe, jaw dropping in amazement at the news that his mortal enemy is not just doomed but will suffer a long, agonizing demise. "Please wait for me," he begs Robin before legging it. "I don't want to miss this!"
While the Gauda-Prime-style slaughter continues in the tunnel, Tuck finishes working on the massive stockpile of explosives. Archer has a plan - well, Gizzy's plan, if I'm honest - hide the good guys in the tunnel (which, despite it's moniker is a veritable underground cathedral full of hiding places) and use it to sneak out after Vasey leads his army right to his throne room (or "Ground Zero" as it will very soon be known). 10 minutes as counting as the Sheriff reminds everyone that "this is no time for sentiment!"
Meanwhile, however, things are far rougher as Much discovers second hand about what has happened to Robin... and suffice it to say it's a lot more tear jerking than anything RTD has managed (which might sound as a knock to the Big Welshman, but it's actually a compliment to Mr. Ashford who wrote this ep). Now, in The Legend of Robin Hood, Robin died alone in the forest, his only remaining allies Marion and Little John who were cluelessly waiting in town for him to turn up. Here, he doesn't die alone, and more to the point has someone to say goodbye to (bar a passing kid who remains endearingly clueless about the whole thing). Quite simply, if Tennant gets as ending as good as this, he'll be lucky.
To quote an unexpected-yet-in-total-retrospect-bleeding-obvious cameo that I did predict a while back, the greatest adventure is yet to come. Season 4 of Robin Hood is planned if nothing else. Prince John needs dealing with, King Richard needs getting his end away and Much STILL needs to get that happy ending he deserves. Gosh he looks young and pale at the end when he stops wearing that stupid hat...
To misquote a completely unimpressive source, Jonas Armstrong's version of Robin was fantastic - absolutely fantastic, who had the best of adventures, and he was our Robin. Let's hope the next person to tackle the role goes with similar thought and gusto instead of Errol Flynn in green tights like most people and yes I AM referring to you, Kevin Costner, you weak no-fist loser unworthy of playing Sir Robert Hode!
And after this bittersweet conclusion, I kid ye not, there was a sudden brief rainstorm around my house followed by a rainbow. A proper rainbow. I ain't seen one of them before, not a FULL rainbow arching from one horizon to the other. I've only ever seen those quarter-bows that begin and vanish in rainclouds. But not today and, for a brief moment, the ENTIRE SKY was the colour of the last Sherwood Sunset Robin ever sees.
Spooky. But kinda cool.
There's not much else to say, but to finish Robin Hood - perhaps the best interpretation of the legend I've seen - in the same way I finished the very first version I saw. I don't care if it doesn't bring a tear to your eye, it does to mine. You don't want to pander to my deranged psychological quirks? Fine! Get your own damn blog while I ruminate on one of the best TV shows the 21st century has so far offered and once more wish it hadn't ended so soon...