The trainwreck that was Robin Hood Series Two

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This review will contain spoilers through the end of Robin Hood Series Two.

Let me state for the record: the artistic problems with Robin Hood – Season 2 are too numerous and hilarious for a mere sidenote in a review that focuses on how the series treated its female characters. It’s a show that doesn’t take itself seriously except when it takes itself seriously, and doesn’t mean to send any messages except when it means to send messages. It’s not just bad; it’s a hodge podge of overreaching and underachieving that makes serious analysis difficult, to say the least.

But when you get rid of the only two women in the show in the same episode, I’ll make that extra effort.

Robin Hood’s first season contained two women with agency. It even narrowly passed the Bechdel test (Marian’s conversations with the supposed Mother Superior in “The Taxman Cometh” and the few conversations she had with Djaq). Marian had been doing her own version of the Robin Hood thing since before he returned from the Holy Land, and Djaq had her own unique motivations for joining Robin’s gang and often challenged his hot-headed decisions with logical long-term thinking.

This changed in Series Two. Djaq, like the rest of Robin’s gang, was sidelined to the point where she barely got a line per episode. Instead of more character development, we got a sudden announcement that she was in love with Will, despite never having a conversation with him after early Series One. This conveniently explains Anjali Jay’s departure from the show, when at the last minute she and Will decide, for reasons apparently classified beyond our clearance level, to stay behind in the Holy Land.

Marian’s changes were even worse. In Series One, she had her own agenda: to take care of the poor without getting anyone killed (which often conflicted with Robin’s agenda of caring for the poor without getting too many people killed) and to protect her ailing father. To achieve her goals, she took risky actions (although, in her extremely male-dominated world, taking any action at all amounted to a death wish). In Series Two, she took no action and demonstrated no agenda of her own. Instead, she struggled to fulfill Robin’s agendas by manipulating Guy and Allan into doing things.

Let’s review. Series One: Marian does stuff she believes she must do. Series Two: Marian talks men into inadvertently doing what other men want. (With one very strange exception.) That’s a hell of a backwards journey. Fictional women have been manipulating men on other men’s behalf since the Garden of Eden story, and look where it got Eve: blamed for everything.

The exception I mentioned above was the big shocker at the end of the season: Marian’s death. This too is an act of manipulation – in order to distract Guy from killing King Richard, she deliberately enrages him by telling him she’s in love with Robin. Guy immediately rams a sword through her belly, then runs away in horror. Djaq examines Marian and announces she’s going to die when they remove the sword, so after getting in all the dialog the writers thought would win them awards, Marian pulls out the sword herself and dies. Now, this scene has some crazy logic flaws that could cause you to read more into it than that (there had to be other ways to distract Guy until Robin could show up, for example), but what I’ve described is what we’re meant to get out of it, so I’m going to cut the writers some slack and focus on that.

It’s still abysmal. Because this doesn’t reveal anything about Marian – we already knew she was heroic to the point of self-sacrifice. That was one of the things we loved about her. No, the character this scene reveals is Guy, who’s been pushed so heavily this season I nicknamed the show “Robin Who?” If you still thought Guy had a heart of gold underneath his psychotic exterior, his skewering of the woman he allegedly loves should give you a clue. And while I actually like that the script has confirmed that brutish stalking is not romantic (something not all writers – and, sadly, not all people – seem to grasp), and like that it confirmed Marian was never swayed by Guy, we didn’t need to lose her to do that.

But the fact we didn’t learn these things until we had to lose her (because Lucy Griffiths chose to leave the show) tells me what her real purpose was for the writers in Series Two. Her purpose was to string us along as one-third of a love triangle. We knew Robin loved her, we knew Guy thought he loved her, but we weren’t supposed to be quite sure what Marian felt. That’s why we couldn’t be allowed to see her motivations, watch her work from an agenda of her own – we were being baited, and this season’s Marian was simply the worm on the hook. In Series One, we had a number of scenes in which Marian could give us secret facial expressions, letting us know she was scared/plotting/lying while she maintained a facade before Guy, the Sheriff, or even on occasion Robin. In this series we didn’t get these shots. We saw of Marian what the men in her life saw of her – no more, no less.

And sadly, most of what they saw in her was a way to get to each other.

Comments

  1. sbg says

    Even at a the disadvantage of only seeing from episode 7 on, the feel of the show was world’s different in series 2 than it was in series 1. I really enjoyed series 1. I really liked Marian having her own agency, and Djaq as a full-fledged member of Robin Hood’s gang.

    Let’s review. Series One: Marian does stuff she believes she must do. Series Two: Marian talks men into inadvertently doing what other men want. (With one very strange exception.) That’s a hell of a backwards journey. Fictional women have been manipulating men on other men’s behalf since the Garden of Eden story, and look where it got Eve: blamed for everything.

    What more, when Marian joined Robin in the forest, they even built in that horrible “you work for me now, you must obey my rules” when she wanted to be more active. Of course she was shown to be wrong, wrong, wrong and that Robin knows best.

    So her former agency as Night Watchman was removed, and the only power she did have was one of influence. And, yes, that influence was much smaller in scope than her previous concerns. Where in S1 she acted for the good of the many, in S2 she acted for the good of…Robin, who was acting for the good of many. Sure, she was contributing, but it was clear who was ultimately in charge.

    I don’t know if I can even talk about the series 2 ender, so full of wholes and tremendously bad writing. I…she’s got a sword in her gut and there’s time for yet another exchange of marriage vows, where he gets to spout off the traditional words and she adds all sorts of sap? Just…what?!

    No wonder Lucy Griffiths wanted out.

    On Djaq, it’s similarly not difficult to see why her actress would also want out. Not only did they start feathering her hair, but they reduced her to pretty much nothing and created a romance with Will (he is also leaving, I assume?) that I found perplexing and sudden. I didn’t know she was leaving, actually, so that surprised me in the finale. I began to suspect in the pigeon scene, though.

    Ugh. Fail, PTB. FAIL.

  2. says

    SBG, yes the actors for Djaq and Will were both leaving. I don’t think it was for certain they’d never come back, so they left it open. I also have to think Lucy G is better off gone. I was pleased in researching the article to come across a site which quoted an interview where Richard Armitage said she was his favorite person to work with on the show. I really like her and think she has a lot of potential – glimmers of which I saw in this show, despite the lack of material it gave her. I hope her career works out well for her.

    Bellatrys, yes – and yet I doubt any of this consciously occurred to them. I think they were just so fixated on their fascination with Guy and the love triangle that they didn’t notice what it was doing to the overall story, and in particular Marian. Of course, even though Robin and the gang were also sidelined, the guys all got a nod in the second to last episode where they had some Deep Talks about stuff that was bothering them – great scene. Sadly, Djaq’s and Will’s contribution to that scene was “I’m in love with you!” and “Me, too!” *sigh* Marian got nothing like this the whole season long, and it was sorely missed.

  3. sbg says

    I also have to think Lucy G is better off gone. I was pleased in researching the article to come across a site which quoted an interview where Richard Armitage said she was his favorite person to work with on the show. I really like her and think she has a lot of potential – glimmers of which I saw in this show, despite the lack of material it gave her. I hope her career works out well for her.

    I wasn’t lying when I said I had a bit of a crush on her. She definitely has potential, and it would be good to see her in something that gave her a challenge and material that isn’t so…awful. I still can’t get over the sword-in-the-gut marital vows exchange. Even the “make an honest woman out of me” before Robin could kiss her was just atrocious.

    I feel pervy for the crush, btw – she’s only 20. Yikes! Shame on old me. ;)

  4. says

    I think they were just so fixated on their fascination with Guy and the love triangle that they didn’t notice what it was doing to the overall story,

    And that REALLY ties in with what you all were saying about the show earlier, how the producer had this weird man-crush on Guy and wanted everybody to think he was just SOOOO sexay – sounds like they turned him into Guisborne-Stu and, like every Stu/Sue, his character turned into a black hole that devoured the plot and everyone else’s roles. And the female charas, being short-shrifted to start with, got less than nothing of the scraps that were left.

    And then they had a last-minute freakout and remonsterized him, like with Spike in “Seeing Red”…

  5. bri says

    “Fictional women have been manipulating men on other men’s behalf since the Garden of Eden story, and look where it got Eve: blamed for everything.”

    But…the serpent in the garden, more popularly known as Satan, is not male or female. Being that he is a fallen angel, and angels have no sex, as they are spiritual beings.

    And, biblically at least, Eve wasn’t blamed for everything. In fact, death and decay were considered a curse of Adam. I can only remember one instance, out of many, where Eve was said to have been “the one who ate the fruit”. Well, she was. Though Adam was the one explicitly told by God not to…and perhaps that’s why all the bad in the world was attributed to “Adam’s sin” more than once, by more than one biblical writer.

    I know I’m nit-picking…but it rubs me the wrong way because so many people get it so wrong.

  6. says

    I’m highly educated when it comes to the Bible. I’m familiar with your interpretation.

    Unfortunately, that’s not the dominant one. You say “so many people get it wrong” – the most important ones getting it wrong ARE CHRISTIANS. Some of whom are frighteningly empowered in government.

    If you want to clean up misconceptions about Christianity, go talk to the Christians who are spouting them. Until then, I will report things the way they’re happening in reality.

  7. says

    Hey, come on, don’t you know that John Knox wasn’t actually a Christian?

    . . . God has pronounced sentence in these words: “Thy will shall be subject to thy husband, and he shall bear dominion over thee” (Gen. 3:16). As [though] God should say, “Forasmuch as you have abused your former condition, and because your free will has brought yourself and mankind into the bondage of Satan, I therefore will bring you in bondage to man. For where before your obedience should have been voluntary, now it shall be by constraint and by necessity; and that because you have deceived your man, you shall therefore be no longer mistress over your own appetites, over your own will or desires. For in you there is neither reason nor discretion which are able to moderate your affections, and therefore they shall be subject to the desire of your man. He shall be lord and governor, not only over your body, but even over your appetites and will.” This sentence, I say, did God pronounce against Eve and her daughters, as the rest of the scriptures do evidently witness. So that no woman can ever presume to reign above man.

    And neither were Tertullian, Chrysostom, Gregory Nazianzen and Augustine!

    (It’s amazing how many Christians don’t actually know the teachings of Christianity, isn’t it?)

  8. says

    Hey, come on, don’t you know that John Knox wasn’t actually a Christian?

    . . . God has pronounced sentence in these words: “Thy will shall be subject to thy husband, and he shall bear dominion over thee” (Gen. 3:16). As God should say, “Forasmuch as you have abused your former condition, and because your free will has brought yourself and mankind into the bondage of Satan, I therefore will bring you in bondage to man. For where before your obedience should have been voluntary, now it shall be by constraint and by necessity; and that because you have deceived your man, you shall therefore be no longer mistress over your own appetites, over your own will or desires. For in you there is neither reason nor discretion which are able to moderate your affections, and therefore they shall be subject to the desire of your man. He shall be lord and governor, not only over your body, but even over your appetites and will.” This sentence, I say, did God pronounce against Eve and her daughters, as the rest of the scriptures do evidently witness. So that no woman can ever presume to reign above man.

    And neither were Tertullian, Chrysostom, Gregory Nazianzen and Augustine!

    (It’s amazing how many Christians don’t actually know the teachings of Christianity, isn’t it?)

  9. Patrick says

    Not to mention George Fox, Paul Tillich, or Rosemary Radford-Ruether!

    (Yeah, the “my form of Christianity is the ‘traditional’ one even though it barely dates back (x) hundred years” talk gets real old, real fast.)

  10. says

    Patrick, I think there’s a huge amount of “No True Scotsman” going on. And I do understand the temptation – I still remember vividly how betrayed I felt after I learned about the Index Librorum Prohibitorum – but at that point I couldn’t go on saying “Oh no the Church never tried to suppress learning or scholarship, that’s all anti-Catholic propaganda!” Instead, I felt furious at having been a tool – but at myself, and at the teachers/elders who had deceived me. I couldn’t be angry with the people who said it had happened and it was a bad thing, any more, not knowing they had been right all along.

    I don’t understand people who try to simultaneously say “Oh no we NEVER did that and never would! how can you say such a thing, you bigot!” and then under pressure and in the face of canonical citations admit that they knew about it all along, but somehow told themselves that because it wasn’t officially allowed any more (e.g. Mormon teachings re non-white ethnicity) it could be retconned out of history altogether. Partly because of that “bearing false witness” thing, partly Santayana’s Law (we DO want to avoid doing these things in the future, right? as well as to stop them now!) , and partly the sheer cognitive dissonance, principle of Non-Contradiction etc.

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