Rewriting a Legend

I can now write this, Beth having now seen the episode, but be warned, this contains major spoilers for the last part of Robin Hood!

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It is fair to say that I wasn’t massively impressed with the new BBC Robin Hood when it first aired, indeed you can read some of my comments about it back in the archives of this blog. Whilst still not a patch on Robin of Sherwood, with series two I tended to find it more enjoyable than not – or maybe I just was ignoring some of the things that annoyed me earlier on, or got used to it being more of a romp through the legend than all the mysticism of Robin of Sherwood.

However, with the end of season two, the producers of Robin Hood had exactly the same problem as the producers of Robin of Sherwood two decades before, also at the end of their second season, with one of the stars of the show being tempted away to Hollywood. Back then it was Michael Praed who left the title role in the programme for a role in Dynasty. This time around it was Lucy Griffiths in the no less pivotal role of Lady Marian.

In both cases, the producers took the decision to kill off the character. Back in Robin of Sherwood you got a truly memorable episode, The Greatest Enemy, where the Sheriff corners Robin, and he sacrifices himself to save the others. However with some of the gang captured, and the soldiers celebrating the demise of Robin, a hooded man appears and frees the captive outlaws, and at the end of the episode you get the really atmospheric moment where each of the outlaws fires a flaming arrow into a lake, and then one more arrow comes from the wood behind them, fired again by the hooded man. The audience was left hanging until the third series as to what had actually happened – when the new hooded man is revealed as Robert of Huntingdon, allowing the series to explore the nobleman variation of the Robin Hood legend.

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Not having the mystical aspects of the older series Robin Hood 2007 style opts to have Marian die at the hands of Guy of Gisbourne after she tells him she is going to marry Robin – something she does whilst dying, and with probably half the viewers passing round the box of tissues. However, whilst Robin of Sherwood left you with a hint that something more was coming, the demise of Marian, along with the departure of two other major characters in the form of Will Scarlet and Djaq, does seem to leave the audience with some pretty big question marks over how the new series is going to pan out. Perhaps we’ll get some more outlaws – for example the oft promised appearance of Friar Tuck – but quite whether the audience will be asked to accept an alternative love interest for Robin remains to be seen.

Rewriting an established legend to fit in with your actors is always a bit of a challenge – in some ways thanks to the whole mystical sub-plot with Robin of Sherwood it worked – but there was only ever one more series after Michael Praed had gone. It remains to be seen whether the swashbuckling romp that is Robin Hood can pull off something similar after the demise of Lady Marian.

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