Robin Hood (2006–2009)

It’s cheesy and historically inaccurate, but this Robin Hood series has its moments.

The scenes that take place outdoors in the forest are more convincing than the ones that use the same indoor and outdoor sets over and over; Sherwood Forest, though, is very much a character in the show and an important presence. Regarding the human characters, I would definitely say that the bad guys were more interesting than the good guys by a mile.

I would recommend the show if you’re looking for some lighthearted entertainment with some interesting characters and can overlook the show’s obvious flaws. Or if you’re just interested in any and all variations of the Robin Hood myth.

See below for more about the characters and why they’re interesting, even if they do make a lot of Evil Overlord mistakes. (No specific spoilers.)

Characters in the Robin Hood series

Guy of Gisborne is fascinating because although he’s the lackey of the local bad guy and a ruthless antagonist in his own right, he has a conscience that he occasionally chooses to listen to. In fact, Robin’s girlfriend Marion uses Gisborne’s conscience against him. You have to feel sorry for this guy!

The Sheriff of Nottingham himself has apparently no conscience at all, but he’s amusing to watch precisely because he’s heartless. He’s usually pretty clever. It’s fun to see what he’s like when he’s winning and feeling smug, and also fun to see him thrashing around angrily when Robin and his gang outwit him for the millionth time.

When one of Robin’s gang betrays him, that’s interesting too. He represents the point at which someone decides that too much has been asked of the individual for the sake of the group. In the wake of such a decision, what is gained? What is lost? Is it a reversible decision? Was the decision one of strength or weakness? Are we like that, too?

In contrast, Robin himself is utterly boring. He’s rather consistently mischievous, authoritative, and optimistic. He always leads the team and gets the girl because he is the living legend whose name is on everyone’s tongue. He lives not for himself but to protect and serve. He steals only to give his wealth away. He is a gentleman, an educated noble who has lost control of his property but has not lost sight of his duty to his people. Yawn.

An unusually interesting moment in Robin’s character arc is when his manservant, Much, who fought with him in the holy land, rebukes him for acting like a celebrity and treating him like a servant and a lesser man, rather than a friend. Given how full of himself Robin sometimes is, it’s surprising that the underappreciated comic relief character didn’t snap sooner.

Marion is given the role of a kind of secret female Robin clone: while she remains an undisgraced privileged noble, she disguises herself as the Night Watchman to deliver food to hungry peasants. Thus she acts as a protector of the people in her own right, in spite of Robin’s insistence that for his peace of mind she stop risking her own safety.

There’s a female outlaw with doctor skills who’s actually a Saracen from the holy land because obviously the show didn’t want the gang of good guys to be all white and all male. When she left the show, the gang got a white female peasant instead. She was interesting because she was angry with Robin’s gang for getting her brother killed, though arguably it was at least partly her own fault. We see Robin and his gang through her cynical eyes: You think you’re so great, but where were you when my brother died? It’s a powerful bit of perspective.

In the third season, there’s also a female antagonist who, sadly, starts out more interesting than she winds up being. Because she was wronged, her psychology is rather twisted, so she acts and reacts in unstraightforward ways. She’s also highborn, so her lavish, beautiful outfits are a point of interest in and of themselves.