Are you ready to say goodbye to the third season of Robin Hood? Don't worry, I'm sure everyone will be fine...
Continuing from last episode, the Sheriff is besieging Nottingham castle with his army of Hungarian guards. Robin and Guy decide to ride out to meet him and find out how the Sheriff survived Guy's attack a few episodes ago. Apparently Guy just didn't make sure that the Sheriff was dead and so he recovered from the wound. Oh, okay then. Obviously we, as the audience, know this because we saw the Sheriff give the old twitch of life at the end of that particular episode but still, he could've come up with something clever. Also, he gave a Guy a warning as he lay dying that, "nothing is as it seems" and that didn't go anywhere did it? Still, quibble, quibble.
The Sheriff grows tired of the parley and decides to unleash his devastating new weapon that won't backfire on him like all the other super weapons he's ever had. A trebuchet launches a cask of Byzantine Fire into the city which set fires to a couple of mook peasants who were simply sitting around. The Sheriff gives Robin an ultimatum, he must hand over Guy, Isabella, and the castle or be wiped off the face of the Earth. Robin has no clever retort so he just scowls and rides off. At this point I'm wondering why the Sheriff is playing fair and letting Robin and Guy go, I mean he's a cheating bastard why doesn't he shoot the two men and storm the castle minus its two leaders? Oh well, I'm far too practical, I'd never be a good medieval despot.
The opening titles roll and I realise (after watching the episode) that they inserted scenes from old episodes into the flashing teaser images. Seems they decided to protect the audience from inadvertent spoilers, which is probably one of the few things the production has got right.
Archer, Tuck and Kate examine the remains of the Byzantine Fire bomb. Obviously Archer knows all about the stuff ("it's sticky, like oil!") and Tuck decides that he can use his SCIENCE to produce more of the stuff if he can figure out the compound. Yeah, Tuck, sure you can.
Guy points out that Robin could have killed the Sheriff earlier but Robin gives some excuse about morals and ENGLAND and stuff. Whatever Robin, you and your flexible morals. Robin decides that Allan needs a funeral so Robin says some brief words and burns the body. Well, that was brief wasn't it?
Guy visits Isabella and they banter a bit about killing each other, in that cute way that siblings do. Guy can't murder her so he gives Isabella some poison to kill herself with if the army storms the castle. I'm sure that will prove to be a wise decision.
Kate decides to hop over the wall to find troops in Loughborough and raise the siege. Yes, the least capable outdoorsman of the Merry Men is going to stealth past the Sheriff's army. Sure.
The Merry Men hold a meeting and moan at Archer for selling Byzantine Fire to the Sheriff in the first place. Guy also points out that Archer tried to kill them earlier that day too. Archer declares that Robin has put peasants' lives in danger by using them as a makeshift army, then he strops off.
Robin decides that he needs to use a crack squad to take out the trebuchets. Robin leaves Much in charge, which means Much is competent this week then? Robin takes Little John, Tuck and Guy with him on the raid. Two of that group are big and loud, not ideal for sneaking into an enemy camp at night. Despite the potential for two oafs to ruin it, the Merry Men sabotage the trebuchets by causing them to launch the missiles straight up into the air and land on them. That's a complicated bit of sabotage but hey, it looked spectacular with the explosions and whatnot. Robin and co almost get captured when the Sheriff's men prepare to attack the castle early but Archer rides to the rescue and they escape back inside the fortifications. That has to be one of the shortest 'quitting the band/team/group' sequences ever.
Meanwhile Isabella tempts her jailer into letting her out for some hanky panky. The jailer is dumb enough to fall for it and Isabella stabs him as a reward. In the show's defence, prisoners escape from the dungeons all the time and the jailer turnover must be pretty high, so I guess they just hire anyone to guard the cells now. He was probably Hungarian and didn't know what was happening anyway. I notice that Lara Pulver sure is pretty when she's not contorting her face into a Cruella De Vil impression.
There's some exciting sword and arrow play as the army storms the castle and breaks down the main doors. Robin and co defend the castle with lines of archers and hit and run tactics, causing me to wonder if someone has actually had a think about the military tactics in this episode. Well done, better late than never.
The fighting continues until the Sheriff produces Kate as a hostage. The Sheriff tells Robin that he captured Kate on her way back from Loughborough (she must have a car because there's no way she's making that journey in a few hours). There will be no relief army as King Richard has been captured and held to ransom by Leopold of Austria and his troops won't fight without him. Robin points out that the Sheriff earlier claimed that he wouldn't take any prisoners, but the Sheriff points out that if he kills everyone, he won't have anyone to tax. Yay! Finally, an episode where someone realises that killing all the peasants would be bad for the economy. Is Robin Hood trying to redeem itself in one last effort? Robin stalls the Sheriff while Much dangles himself down from the battlements and snatches Kate away from peril.
The invading army retreats for now and Robin and Kate reunite. Robin then delivers a stirring speech about things and stuff, there's a lot of shouting. The respite isn't long though as the army's archers begin to invade and start shooting at the Merry Men. While there's some more exciting combat, Sheriff and Blamire decide to use the secret tunnel from last episode to invade the castle but they run into Archer's trapped chamber. The trap is long gone but the heavy door that sealed the room off isn't, so the Sheriff decides to blast through it with Byzantine Fire (whatever happened to good old pitch? I remember in the second series when it was used to burn and explode everything.)
Tuck has figured out the composition of Byzantine Fire, the base of which is nut oil that the Sheriff just happens to have gallons of in the castle stores. Of course.
Isabella distracts Guy into following her beneath the castle. Archer tags along too because he's got nothing else to do at the moment. The two men are in the tunnels to hear the Sheriff blow up the door, Archer runs off to fetch Robin while Guy stalks after Isabella. Guy soon catches up with her and she offers Guy his poison back so he can use it on himself. Oh, burn! The Sheriff arrives too and decides to fight Guy one on one, despite having lost to him last time. When did the Sheriff develop a sense of fair play? Robin and Archer arrive to help Guy and a three way battle commences.
The fight ends when Guy pushes Robin out of the way of an Isabella backstab (she still manages to slice Robin's neck though) but gets impaled by the Sheriff and Isabella for his efforts. Everyone stops fighting because the play fighting has ended up with someone getting hurt and someone's got to run and get an adult. Isabella gloats at having killed Robin as her dagger was coated in Guy's poison, she reckons Robin will be dead by sundown. Mwahahahahaha! The Sheriff and Isabella conveniently retreat to gloat.
Now Richard Armitage has his death scene and it's quite well done as Guy thanks Robin for redeeming him and allowing him to die proud and free. *Sniff* Bye Guy, you dressed as a silly Goth person most of the time but you were probably the most interesting character on the show. Plus, it was easy to make jokes about you. Robin ruins the scene by not crying, "Noooooooooooooo!"
Robin evacuates everyone into the side tunnels underneath the castle so they can slip past the Sheriff's invading army unseen. Little John gets to perform a feat of strength as he pulls the grating off the tunnel exit (it's in his contract.) Robin kills a guard on the way out but he's ailing from the poison as he huffs and puffs his way to the forest with the peasants. Robin then confides in Tuck that he's going to die.
After everyone has fled into the forest, Robin and Archer head back to the castle to perform one last trick shot. Robin shoots an arrow into the room where the Byzantine Fire is kept and where the Sheriff and Isabella are currently standing and wondering where everyone has got to. The arrow lands in a barrel. There's a comedy double take from the Sheriff when he realises that the barrels are full of Byzantine Fire...
Robin and Archer flee as the entire castle explodes.
One minute it's there, the next it's gone.
The Sheriff, Isabella and all of the Hungarian guards are killed in one fell swoop. There's a decent bit of CGI to make the crumbling castle look good. Obviously the idea of one explosion being large enough to destroy the ENTIRE castle is very silly but at least it was a big finish.
Robin rejoins the Merry Men where it's revealed to everyone that he's going to die. Robin delivers a pep talk to each Merry Man and Archer to remind them to continue the franchise. Robin leaves Kate so he can die alone and see his dead wife manifest before him. Yes what's her name; Mable, Maureen, erm Marian! That's it.
Marian appears and she and Robin embrace and then giggle in each others arms. Robin then slowly passes away. It's quite well done and Marian at least is wearing something approaching noble lady's garb rather than the Topshop stuff she used to wear when she was alive. I was disappointed that Robin didn't regenerate though.
The Merry Men hold a funeral for Robin and decide to continue the fight against tyranny because they are all Robin Hood (which the series has seeded as a concept since the second series at least, so well done there) thus continuing the franchise for at least another season.
Ultimately, this episode was the best of the entire series. The plot was plausible, there were no dialogue clunkers and whilst there were signs of the traditional lazy plotting and shortcuts, it didn't offend too much. Each character death was wrung for all its emotional worth and whilst there was a bit of cribbing from other films, Robin trails his hand in the grass in one moment that was straight from Gladiator and the spectral wife come to visit as he lay dying reminded me of The Crow, at least they cribbed the good bits. Overall Robin Hood series three was much improved on the previous efforts but it still was never in danger of being a GOOD show. Prince John livened proceedings with his ridiculous behaviour and Isabella was an intriguing romantic interest before she went completely mental. Guy became entertaining once he became a Merry Man and I would've like to have seen a couple more episodes with him in that role. Unfortunately the improved elements are mostly gone now and the show is left with the weaker characters. If Robin Hood is commissioned for another series I hope there is a focus on delivering stories that were as exciting and, well, at least as competent as this one.
NEXT EPISODE - Nothing.
BUT - Torchwood week begins next week!
Oh God, why do I do this?