TV Review: BBC America’s ‘Robin Hood’ Returns Darker, More Mature

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CHICAGOBBC America’s excellent “Robin Hood” returns tonight, September 12th, with the start of what looks to be a much darker, more intense season of the hit show. Continuing to update the legend for a new generation, the writers of this edition of “Robin Hood” find clever ways to keep the spirit of classic incarnations of the timeless hero intact while making it feel fresh and new at the same time. Television Rating: 3.5/5.0
Television Rating: 3.5/5.0

The third season of “Robin Hood” starts on an undeniably dark note, hinting at a more complex season of the show than the more light-hearted first two. The question in the season premiere seems to be “How can a man who has spent his whole life giving continue to do so when he loses all reason to care?”

(l to r) Kate (Joanne Froggatt), Robin Hood (Jonas Armstrong) and Tuck (David Harewood).
(l to r) Kate (Joanne Froggatt), Robin Hood (Jonas Armstrong) and Tuck (David Harewood).
Photo credit: Tiger Aspect

At the end of season two, Robin’s wife and ultimate love Marian was murdered by Guy of Gisborne (Richard Armitage). In the premiere, Robin (Jonas Armstrong) returns from the Holy Land set on revenge at any cost. All he has to fuel him is his vengeance, something that will clearly take him away from the people who need him so badly.

Tuck (David Harewood) and Robin Hood (Jonas Armstrong).
Tuck (David Harewood) and Robin Hood (Jonas Armstrong).
Photo credit: Tiger Aspect

Who should come into the life of Robin Hood to show him the path? A legendary-but-reimagined character in the legend of Sherwood Forest, a travelling monk named Tuck (newcomer to the cast David Harewood). Through a series of deceptions, lectures, and manipulations, Tuck shows Robin the way to survive in a world without the thing that truly drove him, his love for Marian, and figures out how to make into what England needs more than ever by turning him into more than just a hero, but making him a leader.

This year’s Robin is a darker, more mature hero than years past and the character change permeates the entire show. Armstrong has gotten better and better with every episode, but the show still largely belongs to Keith Allen as the Sheriff of Nottingham. Allen is pitch-perfect, refusing to turn the Sheriff into the cartoon-ish villain he could have easily become.

The climax of the season premiere of “Robin Hood,” featuring a solar eclipse, is a little too goofy and coincidental for my tastes and there are still some dialogue exchanges between Hood’s merry men that threaten to betray the new tone. I’m also often a bit put off by the production value of the show. Some of the castle sets and costumes too often look like actors playing dress-up at a theme park. The performances bring the realism that the production doesn’t always match.

Ultimately, BBC America’s “Robin Hood” is exactly what a show using this timeless legend should be - thoroughly entertaining. It’s one of the most crisply-paced hours on television and a great way to spend Saturday nights this Fall.

The third season of ‘Robin Hood’ premieres on BBC America on Saturday, September 12th, 2009 at 8pm CST. It stars Jonas Armstrong, Richard Armitage, David Harewood, Keith Allen, Joanne Froggatt, Toby Stephens, Gordon Kennedy, Sam Troughton, Joe Armstrong, and Lara Pulver. content director Brian Tallerico

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