Reviewer: Rissi C.
Loyal fans virtually abandoned Robin Hood’s third season after creators’ not-so-subtle changes that drastically changed the mood of the overall series. Now there is a great deal more bitterness and revenge fighting from our fearless hero, something I’m not entirely sure was used to the benefit of the season.
England is still in the throes of a battle that finds many willing to fight for the continued leadership of King Richard. The evil Prince John (Toby Stephens) wants his brother conveniently eliminated and is, to say the least, displeased at the outcome of his latest mission, which required the services of Nottingham’s Sheriff (Keith Allen) and his right hand man Gisborne (Richard Armitage). John sends a messenger to display his displeasure with their incompetence and his new orders stipulating that the infamous outlaw Robin Hood be caught. Before the private meeting is adjured, Gisborne appears on the scene to announce he has only just this morning killed Robin Hood in a final battle fueled by anger after the death of the one woman they both loved. Unbeknownst to Guy, the feat he just succeeded in is really only a prelude of the much darker, more intense conflict to come…
Newcomer Brother Tuck (David Harewood) has found the man he came to England to see: Robin Hood (Jonas Armstrong). Only their meeting isn’t under the circumstances he’d have liked. Nursing him back to health after his latest brush with death, Tuck discovers Robin to be a bitter man, one who’s lost his faith in the worth of his former crusade and has but one purpose: to kill the man who murdered Maid Marian, even if it means alienating the connection between him and his band of “merry men” (Gordon Kennedy, Joe Armstrong, Sam Troughton). When fate intervenes and gives Robin a renewed sense of good triumphing over evil, it will take all these brave men and a new ally and recruit in local, feisty villager Kate (Joanne Frogatt) to defeat evil forces and the possibility of new threats. But the most danger comes in the form of a a mysterious newcomer and rescued damsel whom Robin aids, not knowing her true identity… the final battles have only just begun, even when it means the fight leads to death.
From the beginning, I was a devoted fan of this British series. There was something magnetic about it, the humor, acting, interactions, dialogue and wild chases through Sherwood Forest were a bright spot that I looked forward to watching, wondering just what creators had next imagined in all their cleverness. Now, with the third and unfortunately final season, the whole series has taken a completely different turn, one that will leave many of us grasping for the reasons and wondering aloud, why? Jonas Armstrong is fantastic in this role. And unlike an upcoming attempt at the legend, he really seems to embody the part. The fact that he plays a younger Robin is what makes it so entertaining (his cheeky attitude is fabulous)… not many people want to see an aged Robin dashing around the many hideaways the forest provides. Jonas has “grown” into this role well, giving Robin a maturity on this run. One character provides comic relief, something Sam manages, while Joanne adds a bit of romance and tension to alleviate us missing Marian so terribly much. For those of you that may be apprehensive about Robin having a new love interest, it’s handled well and Marian is never forgotten, most especially in the premiere. The dynamics between Robin and Isabella are interesting and a subject that was enjoyable until she decided he wasn’t worth waiting for. On the other hand, it can be argued that Isabella’s character is an intriguing one; she’s definitely a “misunderstood” lady who’s every act is motivated by a fight for survival, having no one who could act as a “protector” for her. Normally whenever seeing someone cast in a “good guy” role, I abhor seeing that actor step into a villain’s role, but must confess that Richard plays Guy superbly, without shattering my view of his turn in the beloved North & South.
The premiere starts off a little rough in making Robin seem almost too hostile but it quickly gains the right footing, eventually becoming the lighter, intricate jaunt that won over fans. But it never quite loses its new feel of an edgier, definitely melodramatic legend in preparing for the eventual and unavoidable end. In part, some of this is glimpsed in the gang being captured nearly every episode, something that wasn’t normally the case in former seasons. Rumors were abounding before the end of this series as to whether or not it would return, I even read that Jonas had been replaced and the elected actor did indeed resemble him. Unfortunately, ratings weren’t sufficient enough to return for a fourth season, something creators themselves “chose” by writing some of the events that led up to a more aimless series. For those of us who were curious (and maybe a little “concerned”) at the conclusion, it is dealt with as well as can be and played with a sense of “dignity;” even a little smile breaks through.
Swordfights are basically of the same caliber, although they are played with a bit more anger and hate making them more intense -- the final episodes are most violet (men are shot with arrows, fires explode). Magic enters in a couple forms (one being a trick played during a moment when the sun is encased behind an eclipse of sorts); if you, as a family, enjoy Merlin, nothing is ever any worse than can be found there. Isabella shows a lot of leg; she once strips in a dire situation, but is revealed to be modestly dressed beneath her garments. One episode opens with a couple in bed. Overall, this season isn’t as family friendly, merely for the dark thematic elements that build to a sobering conclusion, that if I had to guess wouldn’t have been fan’s ideal. The ingenious of the show is fantastic as ever -- even when incorporating 21st century things that likely wouldn’t have been used in these times, it was brilliant to include them, giving the show a modern feel.
Disregarding the finale, I will give credit where it’s due in that creators seemed to “prepare” their viewers for the end, yet it was likely done without realization being unsure of the final outcome when filming. By those standards series one will most likely go down as everyone’s favorite, myself included; when you have a good thing, don’t attempt to change it. Killing Marian was a huge mistake –- audiences loved the tension and triangle between her and her two would-be suitors; they loved her character. Influential changes (the introduction of new characters) were molded this series, making it even more terrible that the show is over; but what’s worse is the fact that enemies united, creating a sort of unique structure only to be cut short. Even still, some of the better episodes come in this series -- “Let the Games Commence” and “Too Hot to Handle,” were fantastic; reminders of how great and clever the show was… and could have been for four years.