Robin Hood – Bad Blood

I’ve been poking affectionate fun at this series for the last couple of months, working on the basis that as its creators didn’t seem to be taking it seriously, the only way to deal with it was to sit back, enjoy the ride and have a good laugh at the silliness. And then they do this. An episode that while it’s still flawed and anachronistic, manages to carry off some serious character developement and gets away with an extended flashback that occupies most of the screen time.

So, an increasingly bedraggled and deranged Guy meets Robin in the forest and despite his condition, insists on a fight. They’ve just begu to clash swords when both are felled by darts to the neck. As they drift into unconsciousness, a cowled figure approaches.

They wake up, nicely tied up by a fire. After a bit of shouting from Robin, the cowled figure tells them they’re going to have to listen to his story.

I want to free you from the bad blood that shackles you together

Well, Robin and Guy think they already know about their past, but as we don’t, the figure insists, and so we’re taken back twenty years.

And we learn that the past is not quite as either of them thought.

As a boy, Robin wanted to prove himself as an archer, which led to an unfortunate accident involving a giant firework dropping on a man. Robin blamed Guy for it (nice), and as Guy wasn’t all that popular (no change there), the delightful Bailiff Longthorn, claiming to act for the people, decides that the thing to do is to hang young Guy. But as Guy’s mother has just managed to save the life of the accident victim, this would be a bit extreme, as Robin’s father Malcolm tries to explain, but Longthorn seems quite insistent, and is only put off when a knight rides in, and suggests that he’d better not do anything of the kind. The knight is Sir Roger of Gibourne, which is a bit of a surprise, as he’s supposedly dead.

Robin’s father Malcolm realises that Roger has leprosy when he shows no sign of discomfort when Longthorn’s dagger goes straight through his hand. Now leprosy was a bit of a problem. Anyone infected with the disease had to be cast out form society to avoid spreading the disease.

It’s even more of a problem because Malcolm and Ghislane are having an affair. And Ghislane is a little bit pregnant.  Malcolm, being the decent, upstanding man he is, wants Ghislane to abandon her husband, then have the baby in secret.  She’s not all that keen on this idea, but after some persuasion, she does betray her husband to Longthorn. She has second thoughts when Roger tells her that he doesn’t have long to live, and just wants to spend his last days with his family rather than in a leper colony. But it’s too late, and Roger is cast out. Ghislane has to choose between going with her husband and declaring herself a widow. At Roger’s insistence, she reluctantly does the declaration thing, and off Roger goes, telling Malcolm to care for his family.

Lovely Longthorn finds out about the slight pregnancy and blackmails Malcolm and Ghislane into handing over Roger’s land and property to him. But they have a Cunning Plan – if they get married, Roger’s lands, now being Ghislane’s, will become his and Longthorn will be disappointed.

Guy, wandering in the forest, sees his mother visit the remarkably nearby leper colony, where she gives food to Roger. As he has a little chat with her about that, she goes into labour. and so she gives birth to a son who she names Archer[1]. Malcolm and Ghislane have Archer taken away to an allegedly safe place until they can claim him, and Guy goes to see his father, telling him about the wedding plans.

And that’s where the trouble really starts. Roger comes home, Guy accidentally starts a fire while Roger and Malcolm have a disagreement upstairs. And that leads to Malcolm accidentally knocking Ghislane to the floor, where she quite naturally bangs her head in a generally fatal manner. Roger (quite seriously the only decent person in the whole mess) tells Malcolm to leave, and stays behind to die alongside his beloved wife.

Malcolm tries to leave but is struck by a blast of flame. And so we return from the flashback.

The hooded figure is Malcolm, his face scarred by the fire. He ran away because he couldn’t stand the shame of what he had done. And so he left Guy to live with teh guilt of believeing that the deaths in the house were his fault, and Robin to, well….

In one last flashback, Longthorn tries to sieze Roger’s lands again. It’s pointed out that the land belongs to Robin, but Longthorn suggests that a young boy couldn’t possibly deal with the job. Robin runs away, and Longthorn starts trying to collect taxes. But Robin hasn’t gone far. After a brief pause at his mother’s grave, he collects his father’s bow and returns to the village where he demonstrates his skill in such a way as to persuade Longthorn to leave. And he says that he will stand by his people. He has, in fact, begun on the road that will make him become Robin Hood.

Malcolm explains that he’s gone to all this trouble because he wants Robin ad Guy to unite to save their brother. Archer is in York jail, and is to be hanged. Robin’s a bit reluctant, but when Guy admits to killing the Sheriff[2], and that he intends to kill the current one[3] too, he begins to change his mind.

Malcolm says he can’t do much, as he’s dying. He stuns them again with his blowpipe darts, telling them

Save him – and save yourselves!

as they drift off and he leaves.

And so Guy and Robin set off together.

Interesting stuff. Much less silly than usual, and leading us up to a moderately large series finale in a few weeks. We know Jonas Armstrong will be leaving at the end of the series, and it’s moderately certain that there’s a plan to make more. My suspicion is that the appropriately named Archer may be the one to carry on the legend, but we’ll have to wait and see…

[1] So no hints about his significance there, then…
[2] Who may not be all that dead, and I would love to see him return
[3] That would be his sister