(How are we spending the lazy hazy days of summer? That's Janis' question over at Life According to Jan and Jer , our host for this week's Fun Monday. She asks us to share favorite outdoor activities and ways we keep cool in the summer heat and humidity. Frankly, I despise and complain about summer weather from May to September. But, never fear, thanks to Netflix I can regularly escape to Sherwood Forest where it's always cool and exciting.)
Okay, to be totally honest I would never have thought about watching this BBC series which puts a modern spin on the legend of Robin Hood if it
were not for him. Yes, the lovely and brilliant English actor Richard Armitage plays Sir Guy of Gisborne, a major villain in the series. RA totally won me over playing John Thornton, the smouldering northern cotton manufacturer in the 2004 BBC 1850s costume drama North and South. So, I was happy to follow him to Sherwood Forest(actually filmed in old growth forest near Budapest, Hungary)to see him play the chief thug and enforcer for the evil Sheriff of Nottingham.
First a little stage and character setting: Series 1 opens with a boyish Robin of Locksley just returning to his estate from five years fighting the Crusades in the East with King Richard I for the rights of Christian pilgrims to journey to Jerusalem. When he arrives home accompanied by his freed manservant Much, Robin finds that his estate has been usurped by Guy of Gisborne under the new Sheriff of Nottingham's authority. Even worse, the old sheriff, Sir Edward, and his daughter Lady Marian have been driven out of Nottingham by this new sheriff. Villagers around Nottinghamshire were being systematically plundered, terrorized, starved, and taxed by the Sheriff to build his treasure chest and finance a rebellion against King Richard while he is away from England fighting in the Holy Land.
Robin's Hood: Robin returns from the Crusades weary of bloodshed and suffering from what we now call post traumatic stress disorder. He sees how his people are suffering under the new sheriff and immediately begins to challenge his authority. Since Guy of Gisborne has claimed his estate, he and Much retreat to Sherwood Forest, emerging to help the villagers and rattle the sheriff and Guy. In the forest he and Much are attacked by another band of outlaws and end up banding together to fight for the villagers. In this photo you have, as they called themselves Robin Hood, from the left: Robin Hood (Jonas Armstrong), Much, Little John, Will Scarlett and Allan A Dale.
Notice the costumes. No green leotards, tunics and feathered caps here. The Hood's look is kind of an Old Navy meets grunge, don't you think? Guy is into black leather at all times except that one time when we see him bare chested in the fire light trying on new armour. :-) The sheriff is kind of Versace meets drag queen. And then there's Marian with her modern hair cuts--one at the hands of the sheriff in the public square as a punishment for defying him--, braided bodices, riding pants, and Night Watchman's cape and mask. Very cool.
The Love Triangle-- the most interesting twist to this telling of the Robin Hood legend. Robin and Marian were sweethearts before Robin went Crusading. He was interested and pleased to see that Marian was still unmarried when he returned. However, Marian was not so impressed with him. She had been doing much of what Robin wanted to do on his return--feeding the poor, running interference for the villagers, masquerading as the Night Watchman delivering food and medicine to the poor. She thinks Robin is immature and a showoff. But she is attracted to him and wants to use her position as a lady to wrangle information out of the sheriff's camp--to be the spy for the people and help him.
And then there's Guy. What Robin has, he wants, especially a woman with the status of Sir Edward's daughter. At first Guy's efforts to win Marian repulses her ("Guy is sniffing around me like a spaniel" she tells Robin). Then she realizes that she can use Guy in a variety of ways, so she launches her charm offensive. As the story develops, Marian becomes much more to Guy than a status symbol. His love for her and jealousy of Robin Hood begin to unravel him, especially when he wants to protect her from the sheriff and she resists. In some of the publicity for the series, it was written that women under 30 were in love with Robin Hood and the over 30s were wild for Guy of Gisborne. You'll understand if you watch the series! This was funny also: apparently a young male fan wrote a review where he complained of too much "snogging" going on for his 13 year old tastes. . .
In order for you to fully appreciate exactly how much pure escapism and fun to be had from watching Robin Hood, here's a very short video trailer for Season 1:
BBC just showed the last of Season 3 in June. So far we can get the first two seasons on DVD or Netflix rental. Although the last two seasons get much darker, Robin Hood is truly entertainment for the whole family. There's plenty of archery, riding, sword fights and other high jinks. Very little bloodshed is shown, even when villagers are getting their tongues cut out for not ratting on Robin! There's really subtle humor that adults would appreciate. And there's surprising parallel to modern events--crooked politicians, excessive taxation, war in the Middle East and damaged soldiers trying to fit in back home, greed, lust for power and suspicion of other cultures. And then there's Marian, Robin and Guy--who will win the lady in the end? So, if you're still looking for a summer's escape I highly recommend heading to Sherwood Forest with the Hood!
Be sure to check out Janis' place for some other summer past times--perhaps a little closer to home.
(Photo Credits: RichardArmitageOnLine.com)