Friday, 29 May 2009

TV Snark - Robin Hood: Too Hot To Handle OR Too Cold To Hold

The Robin Hood recap rumbles along like a slow thing being... slow. In some treacle. Or something.

I will be moving house next week and will be without sufficient internet access to blog for about a week or two. I'm kind of glad that I'm not up to date at the moment as I would have gotten behind anyway. After the break, I'll try and finish up the recaps as quick as I can so I can get into better blogging shape for the rest of the year. I can then return to the days of posting comic panels and other musings rather than just the recaps.

The episode starts with shots of Arizona or somewhere arid that would never ever pass for Nottingham in a million years. It seems that there's a drought in the land of Hood due to the incredible Summer the natives of England are enjoying. Already we, the audience, have to suspend our belief.

The peasants are dying of thirst but don't worry because Prince John has plenty of water. Yay! He's flirting with Isabella but is interrupted by Guy who wants to whinge at the prince about being granted the trappings of the Sheriff of Nottingham. Isabella wanders outside to eat strawberries with Robin but stupidly stands right outside the window where Prince John can see them. I guess Robin has become so blase about being caught now he just stands around waiting for authority figures to see him. The prince, rather than immediately order the guards to capture Robin, lets him leave and offers to take Isabella on a trip to the dungeons.

Isabella doesn't get clapped in irons when she reaches the dungeon, but the prince does reveal his evil plan instead. He has blocked the spring that feeds the peasants' wells so he can save them by providing water to them and win their hearts. He then twiddles his moustache and shouts, "Mwuh-ha-ha-ha!" and ties Isabella to a railway track. Well, maybe not.

The prince orders Guy to follow Isabella and find out if she informs Robin Hood about his evil plan. Guy is ordered to kill them if he discovers Robin and Isabella together. Like that's going to work, Guy is ordered to kill Robin Hood every episode and never succeeds.

Robin and the Merry Men visit a barn and steal some of Prince John's water. The Hungarian guards have been wearing mail over their mouths this season so the show can dub voices onto them. It's such a cheap and obvious ploy but it does add another layer of crappiness to the program. Robin gives the water to the peasants and meets a baby who will no doubt be in danger of serious dehydration later on. Kate tells Robin that Isabella wants to meet him and Tuck continues to shout every line as he tells Robin that he DOESN'T TRUST ISABELLA. Okay Tuck, we can hear you. Christ.

Robin meets Isabella and he begins to act all suspicious towards her after Tuck's shouting, despite the shameless lovey-dovey flirting he was doing earlier. He soon drops the suspicious act and starts smooching her instead. Guy witnesses this and reports back to Prince John.

Prince John visits the peasants and notices that they have his stolen water barrels. He decides to drown a peasant and tells the peasants that they must pay a penny a gallon for his water from now on. The Merry Men watch the peasant drown from behind the cunning hiding place of an orange sheet. Peasant lady moans about her frail baby but doesn't get any pity from Prince John.

Meanwhile Guy captures Robin and Isabella and manacles them together. Guy tells Isabella to kill Robin to save herself from Prince John.

Isabella and Robin manage to defeat Guy even though they're manacled together. The fight is quite well choreographed but it did remind me of the Banderas and Hayek scenes in Once Upon A Time In Mexico. Isabella threatens to kill Guy but Robin convinces her not to. Robin's moral code seems to be felxible enough to allow him to kill scores of Hungarian guards but not any named characters. Isabella and Robin then argue about directions, thrilling.

Later on, the baby is ill! Oh no! Although the baby doesn't look very ill at all, in fact he seems quite placid and healthy.

The Merry Men decide to make a break toward the River Trent and find water there, little knowing that the prince has ordered his men to block the roads. Won't someone think of the baby? The Merry Men get into a fight with some guards and Kate is captured.

Meanwhile, Isabella and Robin reach the blocked spring and being to unblock it. Guy appears at just the right time to seal them in and leave them both to drown, Guy has supreme confidence in his latest, incredibly slow, deathtrap doesn't he?

Kate is locked in the dungeons and Guy informs the prince that he has killed Robin and Isabella. The prince hands Guy the literal keys to Nottingham and announces that Guy is the new sheriff.

There's a tedious not-drowning scene where Robin and Isabella talk about their future together as we get the cliched dream-about-the-farm-and-kids-they-would-share-together. In any other film or show that would almost certainly mean the death of Isabella but Robin suddenly realises that he could escape all along if he fired a rope (made from Isabella's dress) arrow through the large grille above. Talk about a lame deathtrap.

Robin and Isabella climb out of the watery pit and find Kate in the dungeon. Isabella wants Robin to leave Kate behind so they can flee Nottingham together and find that magic dream farm she was talking about. Robin reminds Isabella that he's an outlaw and quotes Popeye, "I am who I am."

Guy and the prince interrupt this scene. The prince isn't happy to discover Isabella and Robin alive and tells Guy he's fired. Guy refuses to be fired and Isabella turns on Robin as she sides with Prince John. There's a two way swordfight as the Prince fights Guy and then Robin and Robin fights Isabella (who turns out to be a kickass swordswoman, as usual for this show) and then Guy. Isabella and Prince John end up in the watery pit together and Guy and Robin fight some more. Robin threatens to kill Guy for the umpteenth time but we all know he'll never follow through with it, so he runs off with Kate instead.

The Merry Men reach the River Trent but it's dry as a bone. Just as they're all about to sink to their knees and give out a synchronised, "Noooooooo!" The river begins to flow again. It's a miracle. Or not because we know that Robin unblocked the spring and we never believed that the Merry Men and baby were going to collapse and die of thirst after an afternoon without water.

NEXT EPISODE - All hail King John?

Monday, 18 May 2009

TV Snark - Robin Hood: Do You Love Me? OR The Madness of Prince John

This episode is a vast improvement on the previous efforts. Why? Because Prince John is awesome.

The episode begins with a shot of Guy (for the ladies) in bed. I immediately notice that Guy has adopted a strange sleeping position, almost as if he's gently sobbed himself to sleep or he's nodded off while writing in his journal about his feelings. Guy's sleep is rudely interrupted by a small group of ever-silent Hungarian guards who drag him out of bed and into Prince John's tent. Prince John looks a lot like Rik Mayall (he's actually played by Toby Stephens).

The Prince asks Guy if he loves him and there's an air of slight sexual tension as Guy professes his love for the prince. The prince goes on to explain that his father told him to surround him with loyal subjects, those who love him being the most loyal. The prince uses his warped logic to determine that, as the Sheriff has not killed Robin Hood, he doesn't love him so he commands Guy to remove him from office, permanently. Then they almost kiss.

The next day, the Merry Men are chased around the forest by Prince John's men. The Merry Men regroup and exposit the political situation in England (Prince John is bribing lords to rally to his cause in order to seize the throne from the absent Richard the Lionheart) and decide to relieve Prince John of his bribe money. They're going to recruit some peasants to help. This can't end well.

The Sheriff offers a truce to Guy in order to work together against Prince John. Guy attempts to stab the Sheriff a couple of times during the conversation but the Sheriff always turns around at the last minute before Guy can stab him in the back. Don't you just hate it when that happens? I don't know why Guy just doesn't stab him in the face while they're both alone, I mean it doesn't matter where the dagger is thrust, people are still going to know the Sheriff was stabbed to death. Who's going to investigate the murder afterwards? Oh, that's right, the new Sheriff - Guy. He can pretty much frame whoever he wants for it or cover up the whole thing. Stupid Guy. Anyway, Isabella finally interrupts the game of cat and stab when she wanders into the corridor so Guy decides to forgo the stabbing.

The Merry Men round up some peasants and attack Prince John's carriage. They manage to overwhelm the guards but Kate rather carelessly gets stabbed by a mysterious flying dagger and no-one notices. She's left to lie on the ground in silent agony whilst the Merry Men discover that Prince John isn't in the carriage, but rather his physician is in there instead acting as a body double. Also there's no cash. So it's another successful Robin Hood ambush.

Eventually Much finds Kate slumped in the road. Luckily for the Merry Men the Prince's double is a physician (Benjamin Palmer) and manages to remove the knife from Kate and prevent her bleeding to death. Ben goes on to explain that he's a decent chap but has to serve Prince John or he'll probably be executed. He then offers a story about Prince John's attempt to cure scrofula by his divine monarch touch. It's said that only a king can cure scrofula and Prince John wants to perform the deed and legitimise his claim to the throne. The Merry Men release Ben so he can return to the prince.

The prince arrives at Nottingham Castle and greets the Sheriff by stating, "Oh, you're still alive." Not subtle, but funny. The prince reiterates to Guy that he wants the Sheriff dead.

Of course, the prince visits the Sheriff later on and tells him to murder Guy. But Guy sees their meeting as he was lying in wait to murder the Sheriff. Guy looks disappointed but still seems committed to murdering the Sheriff.

During the evening meal Guy has a page taste his food in case the Sheriff tries to poison him (which the Sheriff is totally trying to do) but this little subplot goes nowhere as we never find out if Guy ate a poisoned prune. The scene ends when the prince has Ben arrested after Ben tells him that Robin Hood called the prince a coward. The charge is 'impersonating the Prince Regent'. That's funny, BUT DOES GUY EAT POISON? We will never know.

Prince John and his retinue visit Locksley Village where there is a wedding in full swing. The Prince loves weddings and gives the wedding his royal blessing. The prince also indulges in some flirting with Isabella (who plays up to his vanity, JUST LIKE MARIAN SHOULD'VE DONE AT THE START OF THIS SHOW). After giving the blessing the prince waves the peasants off into the church and then becomes more evil than the Sheriff ever was, "Wait until they're all inside the church and then burn it to the ground." Well, that'll teach them I suppose. Although again the characters in Robin Hood fail to grasp the economics of the period; if everyone in the village is dead, who will work the fields?

The peasants manage to escape the burning church because the Hungarian guards block the door with a small broom. Prince John asks God to forgive them for their disloyalty, that's some good comedy hypocrisy. The prince is unimpressed with the peasants attempts to put out the fire so he orders the guards to continue feeding the burning church. Isabella asks him to be benevolent in order to win the peasants' hearts but the prince claims he is being benevolent. This is what the show needed, an over the top villain who is clearly mad. It fits in with the show's tone and the dynamic between the villainous characters is already much more interesting.

Guy and the Sheriff try and kill each other during the fire; Guy attempts to collapse a building on the Sheriff but misses, and the Sheriff tries to shoot Guy with an arrow but accidentally saves his life instead. The Tom and Jerry fight continues...

The prince is bored of the burning church so he leaves, Isabella stays behind to help the peasants and the Merry Men turn up to kill off the Hungarian guards. There's a lot of shots of the burning church, which means that the director is a pyromaniac or the BBC are proud of the special effects and want to get their money's worth.

Robin and Isabella flirt some more and Robin robs her again. She'll have no jewellery left by season's end. Robin clues Isabella in on his plan to rob and humiliate the prince and then they snog. Marian who?

Isabella visits the Merry Men's hideout which causes Tuck to break out in shouting. He turns into Brian Blessed and beings SHOUTING EVERY LINE! The Merry Men decide to use physician Ben to help them infiltrate the castle and present Kate as a fake scrofula sufferer.

Isabella returns to court and feeds Prince John's ego by describing a fight between her and the Merry Men which ends with her shouting, "Long live Prince John!" the prince thinks she's adorable. Isabella convinces the prince to attempt to prove his divine right by curing scrofula and she convinces Ben to lie about seeing a scrofula sufferer. The prince releases Ben after wondering why the Sheriff had him arrested in the first place, he is his physician after all! Haha, what a guy. The prince will cure the scrofula victim that very night.

The Merry Men infiltrate the castle (again, probably by wearing hoods) and Kate is presented to the prince. She's been given a potion to give her the cosmetic symptoms of scrofula. The prince calls upon his divine powers to cure the disease.

Guy and the Sheriff decide to finally fight it out while everyone else is preoccupied. Once again the fight is much better than anything Merlin produced and involves crashing through windows and improvised weapons. The Sheriff tries to reason with Guy and stop the fighting but Guy doesn't care about being manipulated by the prince and wants to kill the Sheriff for himself. Well, that makes sense, the Sheriff has been a colossal jerk to Guy throughout the series.

Meanwhile, the prince is upset that Kate's scrofula isn't cured. He orders her to be cured but that doesn't work either, then Robin turns up and fires an arrow into the prince's throne. Everyone decides to stare at the arrow rather than the man who quite blatantly walked into the room and shot the throne. "It must be Robin Hood!" they proclaim whilst studiously ignoring Robin and the fleeing Merry Men. This scene is so poorly done and incredibly stupid, did they not have any balconies or concealed positions for Robin to shoot from? Dumb!

Guy and the Sheriff continue to fight, which produces a picture that writers of slash fiction will enjoy:

The fight ends on the castle wall as the Sheriff tries to throw Guy off but Guy stabs him in the chest. The Sheriff tries to give Guy some advice before he dies, claiming that "nothing is as it seems." Hmmm... will this lead to a genuine mystery or will it be wasted? I'm not holding my hopes up.

The prince proclaims that the Sheriff was killed by Robin Hood and Isabella proposes a toast to Prince John, "Long live Prince John!" "Long live me" replies the prince.

Later, the Merry Men count their stolen coins and laugh like mentalists. Or like the ending to an episode of Thundercats.

The dead Sheriff is carted off by Hungarian guards but his hand twitches from beneath the blanket. Could he come back... as RoboSheriff?

NEXT EPISODE: The prince introduces water rates!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

TV Snark - Robin Hood: Let The Games Commence OR Awooga!

It's the return of the ever-delayed and increasingly irrelevant Robin Hood recaps! Yay!

The episode begins with a pretty lady being pursued through Sherwood Forest by a couple of bad men. She tries to give them the slip and hide a package in a log (by using a couple of leaves to cover it) but the bad men are more competent than the Hungarian guards and don't fall for her cunning ruse. She then turns into a stunt woman and tries to fight them off using the advanced fighting techniques taught to all noble ladies in Robin Hood land. She fails to fight the bad men off but Robin appears to save the day and scare them off.

The pretty lady and Robin share a moment as their eyes meet across the forest. There's some sickly 'romantic' music in the background and the pretty lady tells an unconvincing tale about her being a maid in disguise. Robin offers to escort her to Nottingham and she reveals her name to be Isabella. This romantic moment is spoiled when Guy appears on the scene, searching the forest and scowling as usual. "He's back" says Robin, thanks for that Robin, we hadn't noticed.

A bit later at Guy's camp there's a bunch of Hungarian guards going through drills and trying to look competent. The Sheriff pays Guy a visit and Guy explains that Prince John still wants his money, blah, blah, and now he has a mission to kill Robin Hood and he has an awesome new weapon to do it with. The Sheriff is a bit upset that Guy doesn't want his help or the return of his hair conditioner.

Robin meets up with the Merry Men and they quickly flee from some guards that are following them on horseback. The Merry Men escape by jumping off a small cliff onto a path below, the horsemen don't follow as they fear the small drop that the Merry Men survived unharmed. Guy commands them to fetch the 'weapon'. Is it a lift to allow horses to traverse small cliffs?

Robin comes up with a plan to escape the guards that are no longer following them. He advises everyone to head for Nottingham as it's the last place the guards will look. Well, there's a kind of logic there, I mean it's not like anyone recognises them when they roll into town every week with their hoods up. The Merry Men split up to enact Robin's dubious plan.

Meanwhile, the Sheriff is trying to extort more taxes out of the local merchants. Amazingly the Sheriff can count coins without opening a purse as he assumes that the small purse handed over to his minion doesn't contain enough money. They could be using big denominations Sheriff, how do you know? The Sheriff shouts that he is the Sheriff; thanks for clearing that up.

The Sheriff visits market day where it's supposed to be 'congested' but there's a dozen people there standing in one corner where the Sheriff is. Ummm, guys we can see that the market isn't crowded due to your establishing shot of it. The Sheriff then tries to buy a Brahmin from the Fallout games.

Later on, Little John finds the circus. He gets punched by a tough old battle axe called Bertha but she likes John so she offers to hide him from the 'elite guard' that are following him. One of the guardsmen takes off his helmet to talk to Bertha, revealing, well, this:

BWAHAHAHAHA. What? Seriously, what is that supposed to be? Why is he wearing a mask to conceal his face under his helmet? Is he the Batman? Is he a highwayman in his spare time? Sorry, I have to compose myself, phew. Anyway, John pretends to be a leper so the mysterious masked guard buggers off. John then offers to be a gladiator in Bertha's circus after some emotional blackmail from a bunch of kids.

Robin and the Merry Men totally fail to reach Nottingham as the 'elite guard' herd them through the forest and force the Merry Men to meet up again. The Merry Men are eventually found by Guy who reveals his secret weapon - a lion!


The lion is supposed to be starving and ferocious. It looks old, content and lazy as it slowly ambles toward the Merry Men. Isabella has a couple of bags of mustard powder which they use to escape by spreading the powder in the air via a Robin Hood patented trick shot. Mustard powder? So, they're going to make a casserole? The writers seem to think that mustard powder is the same as tear gas as the guards and the lion lie down and writhe a bit. The Merry Men make their unconvincing escape.

The circus arrive in town and Bertha is brought before the Sheriff. He threatens her with a hanging unless she earns him 200 crowns. She offers to execute one of Robin Hood's men instead. Dun, dun, dunnnnn. Bertha orders one of her mooks to kill Little John during their mock battle. A scrappy ginger kid (who owes John his life due to an incident with a collapsing wooden pole) overhears the plan but is caught by Bertha before he can tell Little John.

Robin spies on Guy's camp but gets ambushed by Guy. There's a brief scrap and Robin is almost killed by Guy but Isabella interferes allowing Robin to escape. Isabella announces that Guy is her brother and stays behind with him. Isabella explains that she fled her arranged marriage because her husband is cruel. Guy lets her stay but threatens to send her back to Shrewsbury if she's caught hanging out with Robin again. So that's a new status quo set up then.

Bertha sells the scrappy ginger kid into slavery. Bertha then tells Little John to take a dive in the fifth.

Robin visits Guy's camp again and allows himself to be captured. Just as Guy orders his men to kill Robin, a net falls out of the sky and traps the elite guard. Robin then unleashes the content, middle-aged lion. The guards react as if it's the most fearsome creature in the world and Robin traps them behind a big bush so the lion can devour them all. Or they'll just hack their way through the bush to escape the lion, or the lion will lie down and have a nap and wait til feeding time.

John prepares for his gladiatorial debut by putting on the least fearsome mask he could find.

I don't know whether it's hilarious or nightmare fuel. Bertha bellows, "Gladiators ready!" in another one of those horrible pop culture references that the show seems to randomly insert into the script every now and again. Unfortunately John is not made to fight with a giant pugil stick. There's an unconvincing fight in a wrestling ring (it's six sided like a TNA one) and Bertha gives John the most obvious and unsubtle 'take a dive' signal ever as she stares at him like a mad woman and waggles her finger about. John takes a dive but before Bertha's mook can kill him, the scrappy ginger kid appears to warn John and save the day.

John tries to lead an escape of the orphans but the Sheriff corners him and the kids and reveals that Bertha is a no-good slaver. Sheriff takes Bertha away for execution and John tries to escape but is cornered by Hungarian guards. Luckily Robin and the gang arrive at that precise moment to rescue John and the orphan boys.

The Merry Men drop the kids off at the convenient orphanage near Locksley. A building I feel we will never see or hear mention of again.

Guy returns to the Sheriff to report his failure and gets the usual verbal battering from him. Well, it seems that dysfunctional relationship is back together again.

Isabella returns to the forest to retrieve the purse she hid under a leaf at the start of the episode, but Robin corners her and moans at her because she lied to him. Then he steals her purse. What a guy.

NEXT EPISODE (which you've probably already seen and forgotten about): Finally, Prince John appears!

Friday, 1 May 2009

TV Snark - Robin Hood: Sins of the Father OR DRINK YOUR WEAK LEMON DRINK NOW!

Two recaps in one week? I'm spoiling you.

The episode tries to endear itself to me straight away by introducing The Actor Kevin Eldon in his new role as accountant Scrope. The Sheriff rants and raves because he still can't raise enough cash to pay off Prince John (exactly how long has he got to pay this anyway? All season?). Scrope recommends the Sheriff uses soon-to-be visiting bailiff Rufus The Ruthless to help raise the necessary funds.

Meanwhile, Robin has sneaked into the castle again and is planning to steal the Sheriff's winter stores of food. The Sheriff is trying to sell the food to raise cash but Robin wants it to feed the poor. A cunning ruse involving honey bombs and bees follows and the hapless Hungarian guards are easily dealt with. I didn't realise that Robin had trained a pack of attack bees to appear on command, but apparently he has. Rufus arrives in town and witnesses the heist but he doesn't try to stop Robin, he gives him a word of approval instead. I guess he'll be as effective as everyone else at dealing with Robin Hood then, it's nice to see he already knows his place though.

I should also point out that the winter stores consist of fresh vegetables. Not anything preserved or salted, just nice, fresh vegetables. Good luck in keeping that lot fresh until Winter.

Rufus offers his services to the Sheriff and decides to visit Locksley village and terrorise the peasants. Rufus wants to make an example of one of the villagers and Kate volunteers when she talks during his ranting. Rufus then trashes Kate's pottery stall. He trashes it so hard it EXPLODES.

Yes, Kate was obviously storing nitroglycerin in her pots as the action of collapsing the market stall causes it to explode and topple the village stone. I also have to doubt the logic of this plan, Rufus wants the villagers to pay more taxes I guess, but don't they need their businesses to generate revenue in order to pay the tax? How is Kate's family going to pay the taxes now anyway? Sure, they're intimidated but their lack of business means they can't actually make any money for the mentalist bailiff. Kate is quite rightly pissed off about this and gives Rufus some abuse but he replies by holding her mother hostage and ordering Kate to become his private entertainment.

The Merry Men, meanwhile, are packing away the lovely fresh winter stores that won't last more than a week. Much has seen the explosion in Locksley village though so off they race! They're soon fighting the fire left behind by the exploding pottery but race off again once they discover that Kate has been taken away by Rufus.

Rufus forces Kate to dance for him (with no music) and Rufus's son (who doesn't look particularly impressed with what his father does) wanders off to tend the horses. Rufus eventually begins to menace Kate but she draws a knife on him. Robin chooses this moment to burst through the window, swiftly followed by Much. Rufus disarms and punches Much (heh) whilst Kate moans because she had the situation under control. Rufus's son tries to attack Robin from behind but fails miserably. Rufus then tells Kate that he'll report her to the Sheriff and she'll be on his Most Wanted List.

Later on, Scrope suggests that the Sheriff hires his guards out to the Duke of Northumberland to help fight off some invading Celts. The Duke is offering big money for help. This will leave Nottingham unprotected however so the castle will be closed for the duration (how will he close the castle without guards?). Meanwhile, Kate bids goodbye to her family and joins the Merry Men in the forest.

Rufus roughs up the peasants some more and shouts at his son for not being mean enough. Rufus then reveals that the Sheriff will pay for what he did to his father. Ooo, betrayal in the works.

Robin decides to deal with Rufus and tries to kidnap him. Although this being a Robin Hood plan it goes horribly wrong. It's not long before the guards appear and there's a running street battle. During the clash Alan and Kate get captured. There's also a comedy moment involving flour.

The Merry Men soon clean themselves up like Leslie Nielsen though. The Merry Men capture Rufus's son and take him off for interrogation.

Rufus and Scrope are in cahoots and the guards were sent away as part of their cunning plan. Rufus decides to tie up Scrope and leave him behind to take the Sheriff's wrath once he discovers their plan. The Sheriff turns up later and discovers his money and guards have been stolen, so he stabs Scrope and it's goodbye Kevin Eldon. Boooooo!

After a bit of detective work from the Merry Men they discover where Alan and Kate are being held. Robin rescues them and gets into a fight with Rufus during which the Sheriff arrives. The story of Rufus's father is revealed; he was executed by the Sheriff for the crime of theft, this was because he covering for Rufus who had committed the crime. Rufus's own son is not impressed with this information and begins to lecture his father on morals but Rufus draws a knife on his son. Robin intervenes by pulling off the most unconvincing, yet lethal, parabolic arc shot committed to television. Rufus is dead, the Sheriff still lost his money to Robin, and Rufus's son can wander off into guest star obscurity.

Kate decides to stay with the Merry Men (because the alternative is?) and she and Alan do the love-hate flirting thing. Much is sad.

NEXT EPISODE: The return of Guy and "Gladiators, ready!" Good God, no.

CORRECTION: Earlier in this recap I claimed that the collapsing pottery stall caused a village stone to explode. I was wrong, it wasn't a stone, it was a kiln. A kiln presumably made of dynamite or pitch. Thank you to Dr. Hall for correcting my error.