Robin Hood

Jonas Armstrong’s departure from Robin Hood has been public knowledge for several months and while the BBC have refused to comment on the shows future, three contenders have come forward to replace the actor as the focus of the show.

While Robin is likely to die at the end of the third series, it’s possible the BBC will continue the show with a new lead actor in much the way the classic 1980s ITV series Robin of Sherwood overcame the death of commoner Robin (Michael Praed) with the introduction of gentry Robin (Jason Connery).

So who are the contenders?

1.    Most obvious by far is Robin and Gisbourne’s shared half brother Archer, played by Clive Standen. Initially a mercenary loner, he was impressed enough with Tuck, John and Kate’s show of defiance against Sherrif Lady Gisbourne in episode 12 to swap sides and join the struggle against Prince John toadying and tyranny in Nottingham.

Richard Armitage as Guy of Gisbourne

2.    Guy of Gisbourne. While it would fly in the face of every Robin Hood legend, Gisbourne and Robin’s history has already been rewritten, with them now distantly related by way of Archer. Gisbourne has already shown he is willing to act for the group as a whole, but whether or not he will want to continue life as an outlaw or even be trusted by the band of men is another matter entirely.

3.    Baby Robin. In Locksley village, a baby was born earlier in series 3 to a young couple who were saved by the outlaw Robin. They named their baby after him – and wouldn’t a 20 year gap be a perfect setting for a reboot as the English throne is once more threatened from within, tyranny reigns across the lands and a brave young man steps forward to overturn the horrific rule of those that defeated the original Hood.

It’s a fascinating set of contenders, but one thing is for sure – we’ll be closer to the answer by 7.30pm on Saturday night.

Robin Hood - the end?

The adventures of the legendary outlaw have gone largely unnoticed in the press this year, but it has been a solid third run that has seen a lot of changing loyalties, new friendships and new characters.

With the series finale due this week, the future is looking bleak for Robin (Jonas Armstrong) and his friends, his half brother Archer (Clive Standen) and even Guy of Gisbourne (Richard Armitage) who like Robin has been forced to examine his motivations and loyalty.

Trapped at the dramatic cliffhanger to episode behind the city walls of Nottingham as former Sheriff Vasey (Keith Allen) approached with a fearsome army boasting new weapons from the orient, it looks as if this could be the end of Robin and his battle to keep King Richard on the throne and England free from tyranny.

Whether the question of where the true Sheriff got his weapons from, where he’s been hiding and what he wants to do with the Lady Isabella Gisbourne (Lara Pulver) – current sheriff – will be answered or not, it looks like a thrilling conclusion to the third series of Robin Hood.

Several months have passed since Jonas Armstrong revealed he was hanging up his bow and moving on, but the BBC have continued to refuse to make a commitment on either a cancellation or a continuation of the series.

With Allan a’ Dale murdered by the Sheriff’s men and supported only by a rag tag force of his own men, Archer, Gisbourne and some nearby villagers, it looks as though the end could be in sight for Robin Hood.

Toby Stephens as Prince John in Robin Hood, Saturdays on BBC One,

The Sheriff of Nottingham is dead – or is he? Newcomer to Nottingham Prince John has pulled strings and had his insidious, whimsical way with lives, forcing Gisbourne and Nottingham into facing off. Only one could survive, but with Gisbourne convinced his former master is dead and the Prince apparently satisfied that this is the case, attentions look set to turn to the final elimination of Robin Hood.

Prince John of course is the usurping brother of the Crusading King Richard, who Robin and Much previously fought alongside in the Holy Land. John is superbly played by former Bond villain Toby Stephens (Gustav Graves in Die Another Day) as a “hornet’s nest of paranoia and neurosis” according to the actor.

The arrival of Prince John to Nottingham has meanwhile coincided with the arrival of Guy of Gisbourne’s sister, Isabella, played by the lovely Lara Pulver. There’s a distinct attraction between Robin (Jonas Armstrong) and Isabella, and with news of Armstrong leaving the series coming soon after the death of Marian at the end of the last series, the tension on screen is palpable. Can Robin trust Isabella? Would he still kill Gisbourne out of revenge for the death of his wife??

And will the series continue beyond this third series?

Toby Stephens meanwhile has added a veneer of class to the show, portraying a paranoiac egomaniac tyrant commanding such armies that he could do away with the entire forest and Nottingham itself as soon as cast his eyes in their direction.

Stephens is currently appearing on stage in London in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, opposite former Doctor Who Christopher Eccleston and The X Files’ Gillian Anderson.

Season 2

Robin Hood arrows in for a second series, starting soon on BBC One. Made by Tiger Aspect Productions, the drama proved a huge hit with viewers last year.

Starring Jonas Armstrong, Lucy Griffiths, Keith Allen and Richard Armitage, the show struck a chord with family audiences and, in one of the most competitive slots on TV, gained average ratings of seven million for the first seven episodes in 2006.

The critics also lined up to praise the series. The Daily Mail called it “rip-roaring, great entertainment for all the family”, the Daily Mirror commented that “the Beeb spoil us with yet another fab adaptation of an old classic”, the Times opined that “new Robin rules the Hood”, while Chris Moyles on BBC Radio 1 said simply that the series was “absolutely brilliant”.

Once again written by co-creator and executive producer Dominic Minghella, the 13-part series features an outstanding, magnetic cast.

The drama centres on the charismatic Robin Hood (Jonas Armstrong), who leads his gang of outlaws in Sherwood Forest. Using outrageous scams, disguises, tricks, ingenuity, breathtaking archery and swordplay, the band of brothers attempt to outwit the evil Sheriff of Nottingham (Keith Allen) and his sadistic lieutenant Guy of Gisborne (Richard Armitage).

In this series, shot in eye-catching locations near Budapest in Hungary, Robin is aided in his quest by his feisty, kick-ass love interest Marian (Lucy Griffiths) and his loyal troupe of outlaws, Much (Sam Troughton), Little John (Gordon Kennedy), Allan A Dale (Joe Armstrong), Will Scarlett (Harry Lloyd) and Djaq (Anjali Jay).

Jane Tranter, Controller of BBC Fiction, says: “The cast have engaged and delighted a whole new generation with this fresh and modern retelling of Robin Hood. Keith Allen’s captivating portrayal of the menacing Sheriff, coupled with the great performances from our young cast headed up by Jonas Armstrong, equals compelling drama.”

Foz Allan, co-executive producer with Dominic Minghella and Sarah Brandist, adds that: “We are delighted to be returning and that audiences seem to have really taken to the series and its characters. What continues to be exciting about Robin Hood is not only Dominic Minghella’s scripts but working with such fantastic new young talent.”

In this series, which also features such notable guest stars as Dexter Fletcher, Ralf Little, David Bamber, Josie Lawrence, Denis Lawson, Tony Slattery, Mathew Horne, Charlie Brooks and Lynda Bellingham, Robin is in even greater peril than before as he tries to foil the Sheriff and Guy’s evil scheme to hire a mercenary troop of Black Knights to assassinate King Richard and put Prince John on the throne.

Foz explains how Robin has moved on since the last series: “The biggest development is that the stakes have been upped considerably. The Sheriff is involved in what in modern parlance would be called ‘regime change’. So when Robin clashes with the Sheriff now, it’s as much about the very soul of England as taking from the rich and giving to the poor.

“Robin’s relationship with Marian has also taken on an extra dimension. They have declared their love for each other, but she puts herself in genuine danger by spying on the Sheriff at the castle for Robin. That also ups the ante.”

Foz Allan also says that, in addition to the magnitude of the prize he is fighting for, the character of Robin has evolved.

“Robin is much more of a leader and decision-maker this year. His choices and dilemmas are that much greater because the stakes are so much higher. If Robin has to kill someone in order to prevent a catastrophe then, with respect, that’s what he will do.”

Dominic observes that Robin Hood remains a perennially magnetic figure: “He’s an eternally popular character because there’s a natural sense of justice about him. He’s a proper, quintessentially English folk hero, with a heart of oak.

“One of the things about Robin that chimes with audiences today is that he crosses the class divide. He’s a noble who champions the poor, and there is something timelessly appealing about that. He is an unquestionable hero and people warm to that.”

Foz concludes: “If you liked Robin last year, you will like him even more this time. He was a boy last year, but this year he is very much a man. He has bulked up and is a more imposing, sexy and manly figure now.

“We’ve cranked up the jeopardy and the tension, and even more than before you’re guaranteed fabulous entertainment in you living room every Saturday night for the next 13 weeks.”

So, it appears that the BBC are indeed producing a second series of the ever imaginative new adaptation of Robing Hood. The first one was really popular, however, I had my problems with it, so what better way to encourage them to up there game than rant in the BBC inbox.

Dear BBC,

For the past few months your prime Saturday evening slot has been taken over by the latest adaptation of that classic British tale that is Robin Hood, with some pouty young chap running around in Leather pants and not quite saving the day. I have to applaud the idea, it’s high time there was some good family entertainment on a Saturday evening and Robin Hood is the perfect type of story to make a series.

Now, I’ll be honest, after the first couple of episodes, I lost interest, in fact, interest is probably too strong a word for what I had, let’s go for, curiosity. However, I have caught small parts of some episodes since, and I have to say, my impressions went from bad to worse as I found out that the new Robin is nothing short of a wimp that’s afraid to kill people. Now, it’s a family show, so I know we don’t want gore, but shooting people with a long bow was just what Robin Hood did, who are we to mess with seven centuries of folklore? Robin Hood was an outlaw, and a former Crusader, at which point did we decide he’d not kill the bad guys, and as he won’t why does he have that ruddy great bow?

Also, while we’re on, Robin Hood, yeah? Supposed to be a former Crusader, so how come in the bits I have seen I have heard him quote the Qur’an, seen him defeat Saladin’s assassin squad who were trying to kill someone in England because he was a Muslim Prince and was spreading the joyous word that Allah wants peace, I’ve seen the merry men jump up and down shouting “Praise be to allah!” because the new Muslim member of their band had cared for the injured Maid Marion. It’s just silly, it’s trying to push some modern day and very out of context political message on to the viewer, instead of getting on with the business of entertaining them.

Now, I did turn on the other day to a repeat and saw a few moments of what Robin Hood should be, he was shooting soldiers left, right and centre, Little John had just announced that it was a good day to die before charging forward, and it seemed, perhaps, someone had remembered what Robin Hood was about. Alas, I was mistaken as it was then explained that Robin had stopped being good for a few moments fearing Marion was dead, and then decided to be good again once he realised Marion was ok, and went back to his new found Islamic pacifist career as a full time catalogue model for the leather pants shop.

I was going to ignore all this, surely it wasn’t worth writing a blog about, however, yesterday I heard that there is going to be a second series, and as such I have to say, when in doubt I want you all to dig deep, go to that place where you know your creativity lies, grip that long bow and think to yourself…

…What Would Errol Do? You know it makes sense, and you know he’d shoot any dumb fool unfortunate enough to step in his path. Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood was the man, beyond question, and could still be shown at family hours.

Yours in anticipation of a far better second series,

amillionpieces

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