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RoS: “The Time of the Wolf.” (Part One)

9 August 2014

~~*Previously, on Robin of Sherwood*~~

Now, The Time of the Wolf has come to Nottinghamshire, and oh, how I love this episode, with the desperate adoration of someone who’s endured season 3 for way too long. Let’s do this, y’all! It’s been more than a year since I first started these reviews, and THE END AT LAST BEGINS:


We begin with the monks of Grimstone Abbey, who are quietly tending their gardens–

–but unsurprisingly – because peaceful agriculture never happens on this show, ever – some brigands have arrived, hell-bent on vegetative destruction and sporting some questionable wardrobe choices:


“Trick or treeeeeaaaaat!”

Then their leader appears and shouts a rousing battle cry:

Well, he actually yells “FEEEEENRIIIIIIIIIIIIS!!!!!” and then he and his grubby followers are all MUAHAHAHA as they cut down some of the monks, chase the rest into the abbey, and there slaughter the abbot before the altar–

–with a two-headed axe or labrys, no less, because of course a group of werewolves following a Norse chaos deity would employ a sacred Minoan ritual tool as their weapon of choice; do try to keep up, people.

Then they cart their eeeeevil idol inside:


Fenris Wolf, folks! He’ll be here all night!
Enjoy the show and don’t forget to tip your acolyte!

Finally a shadowy figure rides a horse into the Abbey, and the rider turns out to be Gulnar, who’s made some mighty fine career choices since his last appearance; having abandoned his prior “spike-catalyzed ghost-village-entrapment” and “pond-squatting swamp-thing-evoking” plots, he’s now gathered a small army of murderous death cultists and led them in conquering an entire fortress, slaughtering the resident monks and then invading its chapel to install an idol of Evil Pagan God v.2.0 where the crucifix used to be. He’s also upgraded his old tattered duds to some sweet wolf-fur robes and now boasts a new title – Gulnar of the Dark Path – to underscore that he’s EEEEEEVIL and/or fond of nighttime strolls.

Gulnar dismounts, and Grendel leads the other puppies in a fist-pump of triumph–


“Booyah!”

–before confirming that the monks have all perished and the Abbey has fallen. Gulnar then declares that this fortress will be their base from which to destroy the power of Herne–


“–forever!”

In less than a minute, this opening sequence conveys to viewers all they need to know: there are vicious werewolves afoot, who have attacked and slain defenseless monks in order to take over their monastery. The wolves are led by Owen of Clun’s former captain Grendel and overseen by the whackjob sorcerer Gulnar, and they worship a huge resin wolf’s head as representative of the Fenris Wolf. Their unholy intention is to wipe out Herne, and probably Herne’s Son and all of his associates as well. Carpenter’s set-up communicates all of this with only a handful of lines and without any lengthy, soul-numbing expository conversations between characters who have no reason to discuss such matters. So this episode is already awesome, and despite implications of devastating pestilence and destruction, I’m eagerly looking forward to:

In the forest, the Merries are teaching young Matthew of Wickham to use a longbow, dropping all of the serf-saving that they’re not doing and making time to endanger play with a local youth instead. Matthew’s getting to be a pretty good shot, and Will jokes that the boy’s so skilled, he ought to join the outlaws; immediately Matthew jumps at those words, asking, “can I? Can I join you?” Marion diplomatically replies that they’ll consider it when he’s older, then tells him he ought to be getting back to the village. He asks if he can take the bow with him, and Robin warns:

Robin: If the foresters find out, there’ll be trouble…
Matthew: [solemnly] Will they chop my hand off?

Unbelievably, everyone reacts with a laugh, as though the silly boy has just asked a very silly question–


:snicker:

–and I have no idea why this is funny, given that:

  • The Merry Men formed after first!Robin and Much were threatened with hand-chopping.
  • Second!Robin is a nobleman and has probably seen this procedure done.
  • They’ve all seen how the unjust forest laws starve out Saxon villages and make the villagers’ lives hell.
  • Matthew was instrumental in getting the first Robin killed by a hunting party; he knows fully well what the foresters can do.

But maybe they’re chortling because there’s no deadly peril in being outlawed anymore, and “wolfshead” is just a catchy gang-name that’s about to become a scruffy visual pun. Still, Robin answers that it’s probably not worth the risk, and the others reassure Matthew that they’ll safeguard his bow and have it ready the next time he comes to visit. In fact, the Merries are so fond of this child – and so unbegrudging about that whole “come to Wickham, because there’s an ambush there, so your first leader can get killed!” thing – that Will made the bow for Matthew himself. Scarlet’s affection for the boy is apparent, though he tries to be all gruff and sheepish about it–

–and the feeling is evidently mutual; Matthew dutifully trots after Robin and Marion, back towards Wickham, but then stops, turns back, and waves, CALLING OUT AT A VOLUME THAT WOULD ATTRACT THE ATTENTION OF FORESTERS FOR MILES AROUND: “Bye, Uncle Will!”

Then he races on home, and Robin and Marion talk, first about Matthew and then themselves:

Marion: You’re quite fond of him, aren’t you?
Robin: He’s Edward’s son. And he wants to be free.
Marion: I wanted to be free…when the Sheriff was trying to sell me off to the highest bidder. I read the script for The Witch of Elsdon, you see, which is how I knew he was planning to do that.
Robin: Oh yes, I remember that now; it was part of the Sheriff’s dialogue with Hugo, right before Loxley reached the castle disguised as Gisburne. You are free now. Free of the past. Wasn’t that a great episode, back when Robin Hood fought for the people and all that? Well, back to the feels.
[He then grabs her. She looks totally freaked out, and I can’t blame her.]

Marion: [looking at the ground uncomfortably] Am I?
Robin: [He lifts her face to his.] It’s in your eyes. That uncomfortable, ticcy, wide-eyed look of panic that conveys discomfort and reluctance with our every one-on-one encounter… [Encouraged by this assessment, he goes to kiss her.]
Marion: No, I don’t–
Robin: No words. Not anymore.

So he kisses her, and BOY, I KNOW YOU DID NOT JUST HEAR THIS WOMAN TELL YOU “NO” AND THEN ROLL OVER HER PROTESTS WITH YOUR MOUTH. Worse, this asinine strategy works, as the power of his scorching man-need moves her to admit that she’s been afraid to love him, and good grief, I CAN SEE WHY.

But she explains away these giant red flags by declaring that she’s been afraid she’d lose him. And though I’m hoping that Robin actually will get lost, he just grins and shakes his head, then kisses her again, thus smushing her silly girl-fears with the pressure of man-kiss and not deigning to address her perfectly reasonable concerns and THIS KID, Y’ALL.

So I’m relieved when the scene cuts away to Nottingham Castle, where everyone’s miserable, and there’s medieval transcription happening as the Sheriff dictates business contracts; his mood is already extortionary and angry when a messenger enters, bearing a scroll from the King. Robert reads it in one second, growls furiously, and hauls the scribe out of his chair, pushing him from the room while shrieking for Gisburne. Guy arrives, and bless the poor Norman!bot, he’s too tall for the doorways in his own residence:

I love how Gisburne is always within yelling distance of de Rainault, and it’s deliciously lampooned in this scene as, after shouting three whole times to summon the knight, the Sheriff’s “greeting” consists of, “Ah, Gisburne – a little hard of hearing, are we?!”

So, continuing with the theme of spirit-crushing man-force: Guy’s all dressed and ready to go to a tournament, but Robert quashes his dreams of glory by informing him that he’s most certainly not going to go “careering about the countryside, getting your head knocked off, whilst I stay here at Nottingham slaving away from cock-crow to sunset,” then ordering him to look at the newly-arrived message. Guy tries to protest, but Robert repeats the command, so Guy takes the scroll and starts reading, making sure that his profile shows off as much sullen pretteh as possible:

Guy: It says two hundred men–
Robert: –and all the grain I can send him.
(Note that the King does not order him to take ALL of the grain, just whatever he can send.)
Guy: “With due exped…expeded…exped–“
Robert: Expedition! It means at once, Gisburne, at once!
Guy: I know what it means!

Robert: [turns away and starts ranting against the King] Irritating little man! What does he want Wales for?
(Oh, Kip, you just had to get in one more jest at the expense of the Welsh, didn’t you?)
Robert: I have a hundred-court in two days’ time, I’m supposed to attend six hangings on Thursday…and my mother’s coming for the week-end.
(This is Cartoon!Sheriff at his most animated; thankfully, it’s the only line of that sort in this episode.)
Robert: Wales? It’ll be Scotland next. Drunk with power! He’ll ruin all of us, just like his wretched brother did.
[Guy is still stuck incredulously on the prior statement and asks, badly hiding a smirk–]
Guy: Your mother?

Robert really doesn’t like that, so he orders Guy to get out of his armour–


:ahem:
Team Norman: An unquestionably platonic professional relationship. With style.

–and then assemble the soldiers. Guy has no choice, but vents a bit of impotent anger on his way out, smacking the scroll into Robert’s hand before leaving.

Back in Wickham, Little John and Tuck watch as the villagers bury a wolf tail as a ward against wolves. It seems that wolves have been killing village animals, and the Merries have noticed lots more in Sherwood, too. John suggests setting fires round the village borders, but Edward says that they’ve already tried that, without success.

Then Alison, Edward’s wife, emerges from their home. She’s looking for Matthew, and when Edward says he’s with the Merries, Alison freaks out on him:

Edward believes there’s no harm in learning the longbow and that the boy’s actually better off under the Merries’ protection than he is in Wickham, but Alison reacts like any mother would, frightened for her son’s safety and angered by the callous disregard of it. Finally she flounces off, and Edward wryly turns his attention back to the outlaws:

Edward: Thanks for the venison. We’ve had a poor harvest. It’s got everyone worried, that and the wolves–
Village Lookout: THE SHERIFF!
Edward: –more wolves…

So John and Tuck flee to the village border to conceal themselves amidst the trees, while the people go running to hide the venison. Then Edward greets the Sheriff and Gisburne, but the Sheriff wastes no time with cordiality, flatly declaring that they’ve come for the villagers’ grain. And when Edward asks how much, the devastating response is, “all of it.”

Those who recognise an impending Saxon apocalypse – as implied by the opening sequence, with its invocation of Fenris Wolf and the Ragnarök – will notice a nice, if unintentional, Biblical parallel here, in that Famine rides the black horse while Death rides the pale–

–and that’s exactly what these two men are bringing to the villages of Nottinghamshire. Also, a linguistic note is useful here: the word “lord” has Anglo-Saxon roots, likely originating in the compound “hlaf-weard,” in which weard (or ord) is a warden or guardian, and hlaf the loaf (with a more general significance of grain or food). The two words smush together to form hlaford, which evolved into “lord,” a term identifying the man entrusted to protect his subjects’ livelihood and sustenance. Guy’s title of “steward” shares the same weard derivation, and the word “Sheriff” was originally scirgerefa or “shire-reeve,” the reeve being an estate administrator who ensured the just tally and utilisation of the harvest; the shire-reeve’s duties were essentially the same, on a larger scale.

This knowledge clarifies what a terrible violation of duty the pair commits when they order the villagers’ grain taken, and it’s quite ironic that Edward of Wickham calls them each “my lord” while they’re doing it. But Edward has no choice save capitulation; he finally relents and admits that the grain is in the mill.

Then the peasants obediently retrieve the sacks of grain and start loading them onto the cart, while John and Tuck watch, knowing that the Wickham folk will never make it through the winter if they don’t have bread, and correctly identifying this “appropriation” as murder:

Brave Alison tries to intercede for the villagers:

Alison: [grasps the Sheriff’s cape and cries out beseechingly] My lord! We’ll starve!
Robert: [shakes the woman off and peevishly straightens out his cape] Probably! But England’s freedom must be defended, whatever the cost. Do you want to be slaves of the Welsh?
Edward: [grimly] We’ll all be dead, my lord. Won’t matter whose slaves we are then, will it?

Meanwhile, over in Grimstone, the puppies are having a party, devouring the ample stores of the Grimstone monks–

–and by now, I’m hearing this as the soundtrack to every scene involving these guys, because the Sons of Fenris are effing metal, y’all, and I want in:

While I rock out, the villains, having finished their theft redistribution of the villages’ grain, now leave Wickham and bring the carts to a place called Attlebury Grange. (1) Gisburne orders the grain unloaded, but the Sheriff countermands that order, instructing that the grain be left on the wagons and explaining that the King’s man William Brewer is coming in the morning to collect it personally. They both have a moment of bad!feel-shudder over the brutish Brewer, and when the peasant interrupts to ask for his horse-and-cart back, the Sheriff whirls on him, informing him that he owns nothing and ordering the serfs removed before he has them beaten.


And then the first pair—


–gives way to the second, because this show is subtle.

Back in the sunlit glade of victim isolation romantic privacy, Marion and Robin agree that they might perish at any time. But Marion says she’s not afraid of death, only of losing Robin, and asks him to swear that they’ll never be parted. Thus Robin’s strategy of convincing her that she can’t live without him has succeeded; he quite readily promises, and then they kiss again.

Back in Grimstone, Gulnar has apparently carted over all of his magical paraphrenalia from Clun Castle and used it to recreate his mystical laboratory of mysticalness:

And he’s wasting no time getting down to business – crazy, pointless business. Crouching over a marked stone, he throws his wee runestaves, invoking their power with, “Under Rognir’s chariot, on Sleipnir’s jawteeth, and the Great Wolf’s claws (2) – show!”

Then he announces the results: “Ah! Thorn outside and hidden. Hagal in Air. Odal and Birca hidden in Fire. Dag and Laigu in Earth. He’ll come! [coos in joyous insanity] Herne’s Son will come!” (3)

Then the image fades to the Hooded Man’s face, as he ponders deep matters. Apparently, another Outlaw Discussion is now in session–

–as the Merries ponder the grain and how to get it back. Robin declares that they’re going to Wickham, and the scene then cuts to him lecturing the Wickham folks, who look less than impressed by his rousing speech:

Robin: –this isn’t something we can do alone! You have to fight for your grain! You have to fight for your lives! Your lives! And the lives of the people of Aulbury and Leaford.
Random Peasant: Then why aren’t you harassing the people of Aulbury and Leaford too?
Robin: Now, how many soldiers did you see?
Eyewitness: [shakes his head] Hard to say. There were a dozen or so in the courtyard. And there could be more.
Edward: Why don’t we attack the wagons?
Robin: Not on open country! The King’ll have a mounted guard. [louder] We have to get the grain before it leaves for Newark. Who will join us?
[The barn is suddenly quiet. Edward steps forward. Matthew tries to join him, but is yanked back by Alison.]

Edward: [looking around the barn in contempt] I thought you were men!
[Alison steps forward; her wish to fight is courageous, her timing unfortunate.]


“I am! I’m a man!”

Robin: I’m sorry, Alison. No women.

[Alison accepts this reluctantly and steps back without a word of protest.]
Me: ….BOY, I KNOW YOU DID NOT JUST.

The women have just as much a stake in the grain as the men – more, since they’ll have not only their own hunger-pangs to soothe, but the duty of comforting starving children when there’s nothing to eat that winter – and it’s strange that Robin, for all that he lives in the forest, has apparently never witnessed the fury of a mother fighting for her baby. I know that viewers are supposed to adore the chivalrous Robin who wants to safeguard women and children, but really, it’s ridiculous to whip up a whole group of people into a fighting frenzy, only to tell half of them that they can’t participate. If Robin didn’t intend to include the women, then why invite them to the rabble-rousing at all? But this moment serves to shame the reluctant Wickham men, who now step forward in unison. Robin then pumps the eyewitness for more information, as the scene fades.

Over in Gulnar’s creepy laboratory of creepiness, Gulnar’s snakey concubines are fighting over a mouse or something, while Gulnar pours out a full ladle of flat Coca-Cola TOTALLY BLOOD:

And there’s a nice, subtle bit of foreshadowing here, as the lattice pattern which heralded Owen of Clun’s death now appears over Gulnar:

But Gulnar’s foresight is sporadic at best, so he simply calls over his captain and issues the funniest, most memorable order of the entire show: “Ah, Grendel. Bring me clay. Red clay, for my alchemyyyyyy! The stone that is the one, is the all! [maniacal laughter] Fetch me clay, Grendel.” And Grendel’s all man, screw this guy as he goes off to grub clay out of the ground, as befits the dignity of a cult leader. :cough:

Gulnar’s instruction for Hardcore Sculpture then cuts to Nottingham’s birds, who have accompanied the Sheriff to Attlebury Grange for…no apparent reason:

This is followed quickly by the inept falconer and the oppressed falcon–

–and I hereby retract any hesitancy or uncertainty in the suggestions I made in the falcon addendum. By now, the writers and producers surely knew of the financial issues which led to Robin of Sherwood‘s cancellation, only days after this final episode wrapped. Falcons and falconers cost money, the show had none left, and the birds were an easily disposable expense, since the characters don’t interact with them at all. Yet the falcons stayed in, serving two symbolic purposes: first, their appearance is a nice series bookend, since the first episode also paired the Sheriff with a falcon. More immediately, and more importantly, the falcon is about to fly.

So the men walk, and the Sheriff describes William Brewer’s rotten character; simultaneously, a falcon shakes a talon against the chain, squawking and fluttering. The pair strolls past bird after bird, with Guy looking increasingly unhappy, and each bird covers Robert’s face, showing Guy alone next to the falcon:

Finally, the duo halts and awaits Brewer’s arrival; from behind them, squealing squawks offer a background of protest. But unbeknownst to Team Norman, the people of Wickham – led by the outlaws – have left the forest and now stand just outside of Attlebury Grange, masked and ready to execute their battle plan. First, they place a ladder against the wall–

–and, after climbing it and reaching the top of the battlements, Robin readies a flaming arrow:

He shoots, sets a courtyard thatch aflame, and while the guardsmen struggle to put out the fire, the other Merries climb to the top and throw down little pottery balls that release smoke into the courtyard when they smash. Then they start shooting at the confused soldiers, and when they’ve cleared most of the danger – shooting nearly everyone except Sheriff and deputy – they draw weapons, going over the walls to continue the fight on the ground:

Infuriated, the Normans strike back, with more soldiers emerging from inside the grange. Even the Sheriff draws a sword – which he ordinarily never uses or even carries – and briefly faces off against Nasir; of course, he proves no match for the Saracen, who simply throws him aside and goes back to slaughtering uncredited blue-tabards. And just as I’m starting to wonder why the Merries gave up the advantage of superior position with long-range weapons, to drop down and sword-bash their way through the courtyard, the townsfolk enter the gates and race to the barn where the grain – still on the carts, thanks to the Sheriff’s inexplicable and irresponsible decision to just leave it there – is stored. The Merries hold back the opposition while the men quickly lug away the grain-carts, their masks protecting them from the smoky air and also disguising their faces, thus preventing retaliation against Wickham.

Then everyone runs through the grange gate, and they bar it shut, trapping the Normans inside. The Sheriff, Gisburne, and most of the remaining soldiers immediately crush against the doorway, desperate to open it–


:ahem:

–but Attlebury is sealed tightly, and the grain is already trundling down the road and far away, with the King’s stern, humourless adjutant on his way to collect it.

The triumphant Merries and villagers walk together towards Sherwood, the former praising the latter for their brave fighting. And as the Merries ride in one of the carts, Robin tells Tuck that, this evening, he can marry Robin and Marion in Wickham village. Tuck replies that it’s the first he’s heard of it and, judging from Marion’s face, that goes for both of them:

But Marion recovers her composure and, when Tuck protests that he hasn’t even called the banns yet, she tells him to call them now. So the apparently-engaged-now couple kisses–

–and then Tuck sings out to the world, “Let it be known that Robin of Sherwood and Marion of Leaford will be married in Wickham tonight. And if anyone knows any reason why they shouldn’t be, I’ll thump him!”

Speaking of enforced union, Gisburne and the Sheriff manage to disentangle and compose themselves, getting the gates opened at the worst possible time: right as Brewer arrives:


Cripes, are those shoulder pads in the Sheriff’s green robe?!

Seeing ample evidence of the disaster, Brewer doesn’t even ask what’s happened, just coldly announces to the Sheriff that he’s taking de Rainault’s head to the King.

Guy shoots a nervous glance at Robert and then, incredibly, jumps to his master’s defense:

Gisburne: Take Robin Hood’s head, my lord! This was his doing–
Brewer: What did you say?
Gisburne: I said that Robin Hood–
Brewer: Who is this thing?
(Ouch.)
Sheriff: My steward, my lord. Sir Guy of Gisburne.
(I guess Guy is once again the Sheriff’s steward, after the RUM was pointlessly murdered.)
Brewer: You’re Guy of Gisburne, are you? I’ve heard of you. And what I’ve heard hasn’t impressed me.
Sheriff: [too quickly] The grain was in his charge.
Gisburne: [stunned] That’s a lie!

Sheriff: He’s entirely responsible for this disaster, my lord. Had the grain been stored in Nottingham–
Gisburne: It was your plan to bring the grain here!
Sheriff: My plan? Really, Gisburne, don’t be so stupid! I had no idea where the wagons were until this morning.
Gisburne: [rasping furiously] You liar!

Sheriff: [glancing at Guy with a smarmy smile] Please, Gisburne, a little more respect. He’ll say anything to save his skin; it’s happened before, my lord, many times!
Gisburne: [snaps, drawing his sword and grabbing the Sheriff] I’ll kill you!
Brewer: [simultaneously] Arrest him!

Guy then realises that he’s backed into a corner: Brewer fully intends to have him arrested and hauled before the King, and striking down the Sheriff will only dig him into deeper trouble. In a panic, he throws de Rainault into a group of guardsmen, mounts the conveniently present/untethered/saddled Fury, and flees, galloping through the gates of Attlebury Grange.


Fly, falcon, fly!

Amazingly, Brewer – though mounted during this entire exchange, and having already been described as a merciless brute – does not tear off after Guy, because the Dramatic Division of Team Norman would have ended in ten seconds if he’d run Gisburne down. Instead, he eyes Robert calculatingly and issues a cool ultimatum:

Brewer: I’ll give you a choice, de Rainault: Gisburne’s head, or yours.
[The Sheriff bows, and as Brewer rides away, he glares down the road and then snarls a reply to nobody:]
Sheriff: Well, it’s not going to be mine. (4)

Elsewhere, more evil is taking shape, as Gulnar is using his newly-acquired RED CLAYYYYY to make a crude humanoid figure, whose lumpy plasticity sort of resembles the work of Rodin, if Rodin had been a sorcerous Anglo-Saxon psychotic. He chants magical words as he shapes the thing–

–while, back in Attlebury, the Sheriff has dropped to one knee in the barn and now rains fallen kernels of grain through his hands unhappily:

The captain of the guards approaches the brooding Sheriff and delivers a report of five killed and four wounded men. The Sheriff growls that the grain by now is deep in Sherwood and that he can’t lose any more men trying to retrieve it. He then angrily states, “it’s Gisburne I’m after,” and at that point, the guard-captain’s face creases into a small, incredulous smile that remains for the entire rest of the exchange:

But despite his evident mirth, the captain dutifully tells the Sheriff that Sir Guy is headed north. Just how he knows this I have no idea, because no-one rode out after Guy – they all just stood there like lumps – but the Sheriff responds by ordering the men assembled to give chase, predicting that they’ll catch Guy when he stops to rest. The still-smirking captain goes forth, and the Sheriff proclaims fiercely, to nobody, “You’re dead, Gisburne. This time, you’re dead!”

Besides the subtly hilarious response from the captain – who, to be fair, probably has no idea of Brewer’s order and thus only hears more evidence of the Sheriff’s gossip-worthy Gisburne fixation – I also adore this exchange because of the Sheriff’s reactions. He doesn’t seem afraid of failure and execution, but rather simultaneously infuriated and miserable, determined and sad. I haven’t seen this much depth from the character in quite a while, and so this scene’s a delight for anyone who’s tired of the clownish season 3 bungler.

Deep in Sherwood, the Merries unload the grain into a cool, dry cave for hidden storage purposes, while Nasir (and Marion) stand guard:

The Wickham folk are delighted that their grain has been restored and placed in a secure location away from the Sheriff’s reach, and after some congratulations all round, the equally-chuffed Merries move off to the side and share an asinine discussion that’s only superficially about the upcoming wedding-feast:

Robin: I think we should get them some more venison.
Tuck: And some of the Sheriff’s wine!
John: Why don’t we ask him to the feast?
Will: He won’t come, will he?
Robin: I think we ought to; it’s only polite. We could ask Gisburne! I mean, he is almost family, isn’t he?
Tuck: [stops and speaks ponderously, while the others walk away laughing] Aye. Almost.

Robin’s lighthearted delivery of “almost family” evidences complete ignorance of the whole Guy-as-half-brother thing; it’s very clear that he has no clue what his jest has just stumbled upon. I think Carpenter actually forgot that he had Margaret reveal the secret to Robin in The Cross of St. Ciricus. Either way, Robin’s “joke” is totally and utterly awful. Every single Merry has lost at least one loved one to Gisburne’s murderous avarice; Much has particular reason to punch Robin in the face for that “almost family” remark. It’s beyond tasteless, and yet another example of how internal logic and character development are arrested in favour of developing half-brother drama.

It looks like the werepuppies aren’t too happy about it either, as they watch the Merries’ interaction with a similar reaction to mine:

Meanwhile, like an exuberant boy, Robin runs gleefully to Herne, bearing the news that he and Marion are to marry:

I was hoping that Robin’s earlier “proposal” had originated with the Horned God’s instruction to His Son, but now we discover that Robin didn’t consult Herne either, just sat next to poor Marion on a cart and then pressured her into getting hitched, in front of all of the other outlaws. So anyway, Robin now asks Herne’s blessing upon the marriage; Herne gives it–

–but also issues a warning of dark vagueness approaching, explaining that Robin has light and darkness in balance, but that there is another – an old enemy thought defeated – whose unbalanced darkness is gathering strength, as well as followers infected by the same madness:

Why Herne doesn’t just say “IT’S GULNAR, YOU TWIT” is beyond me, but I guess that’s why I’m not Herne’s Son.

The peasants, meanwhile, hide the grain-cart in the forest and then return to Wickham, expecting a joyous homecoming to their families. But the village smokes with recent strife, and when Edward throws open the barn door, they discover an empty space with everyone gone:

All that remains of the women and children’s safe haven is a wolf skull, which Edward approaches and warily touches:

Suddenly, the men hear muffled cries for help, and the sounds guide them to a chest, where two children – sons of a man named Tom, because every other villager in this show is named Tom – were apparently hidden away as the others were being taken. But they’re too little to tell anyone what’s happened:

And while the stunned men try to figure out what’s happening, the cameras swing over to a wide field of shoulder-high grass, through which the puppies are leading the Wickham folks, at clawpoint:

Alison demands to know where they’re being taken, so Grendel growls that they’re going to Grimstone, to Gulnar and to Fenris. But the journey is taxing, and a weary old man falls down; Matthew, realising that this is a distraction, makes a run for it. Grendel sees the escaping boy and orders two of his puppies to pursue the fleeing pup, but Matthew hurls himself to his belly, and the tall grass conceals him as the werewolves run past.

Back in the barn, Psychometry!Robin has arrived and, taking the skull in his hands, senses that it’s an evil thing, seeing Gulnar’s grinning face superimposed on it:

Then Herne appears at the open barn door and gives some obfuscating exposition that would have really helped everybody out about twenty minutes ago:

Herne: It is the Time of the Wolf, the time of famine, when the Sons of Fenris howl for blood. Drive them out! Destroy them!
Robin: Where shall we find them?
Herne: A child will come.
Robin: A child? What child?

Herne: We shall meet at the Ring of the Nine Maidens.
Robin: When? When shall we meet?
Herne: When the sky cries out!

He vanishes, and Robin stares after him, in a manner reminiscent of–


“I need that in Captain Dummy talk, Kaylee.”

So here’s a clearer translation:

Herne: Those ‘Sons of Fenris’ fruitcakes intend to destroy the land and everything that lives on it, so you should probably get on that, because trees are good. As I speak, Matthew of Wickham is heading here to give you directions and drive the plot a bit more. Go defeat the werepuppies, then listen for some meaningful thunder and head over to the Ring of the Nine Ladies Maidens in Derbyshire; I’ll meet you there.
Robin: Cool. Peace out.

While the Merries are busy being confused, the werewolves creep into the cave and set its contents on fire–

–and Matthew runs towards his home, while Guy runs away from his:


Fly, falcon, fly…

Finally Matthew reaches Wickham and gasps out that the villagers are alive and are being taken to Grimstone, repeating Grendel’s words that they were being taken to see “Gulnar and Fenris.” This confirms to Robin that his perception was correct and that Gulnar is indeed alive, having survived his holy-water-blinded topple into the blood-laced, muppet-occupied pond outside Cromm Cruac.

Then Will inquires after the other name mentioned. So Tuck employs his monastic, sinister-Pagan-things knowledge to explain that Fenris was “one of the death-wolves of Odin, who grew to such a size that the northern gods chained him to the earth with a magical thread, until all of the stars fell out of the sky.”

His pretty explanation is answered with funny, wry sarcasm by an impatient Will, who promptly declares that the whole yarn is “a load of old pig swill.”

Robin interrupts, pointing out that whatever the deal is with this “Fenris,” Gulnar is real enough and is apparently Hel-bent on revenge. He identifies the skull as a challenge, and now the once-cowardly Wickham men – considering themselves battle-hardened by one incognito fight in which the Merries did most of the killing – are raring to go, ready to punch this “Gulnar” guy and all of his scruffbags right in the pelts. But Robin stops them, using his Wolfshead Wolf-Pack-Telepathy to explain that an attack is just what the scruffbags are hoping to provoke.

He then instructs Marion and John to take the three children to the safety of Halstead Abbey, and though the word “tomorrow” covers many hours of daylight, they agree to meet the next day at the stream near Grimstone. Marion’s all BUT, BUT, BUT MY RELUCTANT WEDDING WAS TO BE TONIGHT? so Robin reassures her that his departure is only a delay of their marriage, not a retraction of his proposal, and that he still fully intends to oppress and dismiss her ’til death do they part:

Atop a cliff, the Sheriff and his party await the report of a guardsman down below; eventually the man rides up and announces that Wickham is deserted. But the Sheriff cares far less about the entire un-occupant population of Wickham than the whereabouts of one particular head knight, so he instantly demands to know if there’s any sign of Gisburne. It seems that Guy was seen riding through Maybury, so Robert now declares that Maybury is their next destination, because Gisburne.

Back in Wickham, the people prepare to strike against Grimstone, but Will is unhappy about fighting with people that he doesn’t know and has no reason to trust. Edward scolds him and insists that the men will face whatever comes with courage because they’re fighting for their families:

Will tries to explain better exactly what he means, but eventually, frustratedly, says that he just feels something isn’t right. And back on the road–


–fly, falcon, fly…

We then return to the Sheriff’s party, where a peasant is dragged and dumped at the Sheriff’s feet–

–where he reveals that he saw Guy riding in the direction of Grimstone Abbey. So the Sheriff finally realises that Gisburne, “the miserable coward,” is seeking sanctuary at the Abbey.

There are places called Grimston in both Leicestershire and Yorkshire, but the place referenced in the episode is a now-deserted medieval village in Nottinghamshire, just south of a little town called Wellow; it’s about 15 miles from Nottingham Castle, and with that rather short distance to travel, the Sheriff instructs the men to stop and rest. They begin setting up camp, as de Rainault points out that there’s no need to keep rushing after Gisburne, now that they know where he’s going and why, because it’s not like anyone’s head is on the line or anything. :cough:

You know, for all that Gisburne is supposed to be a moron, he’s sure smartened up over time. Season 1 Guy would have ridden straight to St. Mary’s and then been really surprised when Hugo shipped him right back to Robert, sanctuary be damned. Season 3 Guy makes a quick-witted decision under pressure, but – because he’s Gisburne, and nothing can ever go right for him – Grimstone also turns out to be the wrong choice. I feel so bad for the Norman!bot as he reaches Grimstone’s entrance and pounds on the door–

–because he’d have been screwed even without the recent lycanthropic unpleasantries. First off, even if the Abbey hadn’t earlier been conquered by marauding death-cultists, Guy’s not following the correct procedure for a suppliant seeking sanctuary. Oh sure, it looks all dramatic to flail into church gates and bang desperately on the door, but there was actually a bell to be rung and a certain seat to be taken; it was kind of like playing “Base” or “Duck Duck Goose,” except if you didn’t reach your safe-space in time, you’d be killed.

But we’ll assume that the monks wouldn’t have hung (haha, HUNG) Gisburne out to dry on a technicality, so after his sanctuary was granted, Guy would’ve had thirty days to think very, very hard about what he’d done, with a choice to be made between giving himself up or accepting penniless exile. The former would likely be a death sentence.

Assuming he picked the latter, he’d endure a month of confinement within the walls of Grimstone Abbey, followed by solitary departure from Nottinghamshire (or possibly England itself), bearing a suppliant’s cross as token of his ecclesiastically-guarded status, keeping to a very specific road that had been delineated for him, and bearing no weapons or possessions save the clothes on his back. Any deviation from that path, for any reason, would remove him from the Church’s shelter and make him wolfshead, able to be killed by anyone.

The problem with this rigid restriction is that Robert could’ve just waited a month, then lurked along Guy’s planned route, hauled Guy off of the road, and killed him in a gutter, claiming he’d violated the terms of his sanctuary. In fact, vigilante justice was sometimes dispensed just so, and that was one reason why surrendering to Norman law could be an attractive option, compared to facing a lynch mob unarmed and alone. In Gisburne’s case, such violence would have been inevitable, once word leaked out that he was sheltering at Grimstone Abbey.

The bottom line is that, lacking any real protection from the Sheriff’s power and vengeance, Guy is now basically dead no matter what he does. Fortunately, the tricky shadings of this complex and miserifying situation are completely avoided, since Grimstone has been taken over by wolf-pelted psychotics, who now offer their own peculiar breed of “sanctuary” to poor Gisburne: (5)

Deep in Sherwood, Marion, John, and the children are journeying slowly to Halstead Abbey:

The birds are singing very loudly, like TWEETLE EETLE EEEEET NO WEREWOLVES HERE NO SIR-REEEEEEEE, and the people are calm and talking happily, so you know there’s a serious lupine fracas about to start. Sure enough, they get ambushed by puppies, who I guess were just hanging out in the woods, being lycanthropic and snarling at things.

The two outlaws fight furiously, and note that I say two; this is a Carpenter script, so instead of simpering in the background, Marion draws a sword and starts whaling on a werewolf. Matthew also tries to help by running at one of the puppies; he gets smacked in the face and knocked down, and Marion is wounded in the arm, but eventually the heroes win the day.

Meanwhile, the Merries and the townsfolk creep through the woods as thunder growls overhead. I thought Robin would be running to the Ring of the Nine Maidens when “the sky cries out,” except he isn’t, so I guess it’s a…different sky-crying-out that Herne meant? Anyway, a few of the Wickham folks are chattering nervously to each other, so Will ANGRILY rasps at them to shut the hell up.

And elsewhere, the Sheriff’s camp is endemic to his character has been completed by his men, so he preens with a cup of wine; he’s exceptionally pleased with himself, wheedling that his “old friend” Abbot Michael will gladly hand over Gisburne, in exchange for a “suitable donation” to Abbey funds. Then he lifts his wine goblet in a toast to his own awesome.

Back in Grimstone, the stunned Guy is told by Grendel – who recognises and remembers him from Herne’s Son – that all of the monks of Grimstone are dead and that “there was no place for them among the Sons of Fenris.”

Gisburne: Who are you?
Grendel: Once I was captain to the Lord of Clun! But he was murdered. By Robin Hood. Now Gulnar of the Dark Path is my master.
Gisburne: …Grendel.
Grendel: You’re running from someone, aren’t you? That’s why you’re here – seeking sanctuary?
Gisburne: De Rainault’s hunting me.
(D’awwwwww, you guys! Guy has no proof of being hunted by anybody. But he knows that the Sheriff always chases him.)
Grendel: Then join us!
Gisburne: Join you?

Grendel: It is the Time of the Wolf. Nothing can stand against us, nothing! Join us! Join us…or die.

In Halstead Abbey, Marion and John have arrived, and the children are led in to be kept safe until the attack is over, while Marion’s wound is tended by the Mother Superior, who has nothing better to do than mop wolf-grime from a visiting celebrity’s arm. She then gently tells Marion that the wound is infected, because they apparently have a concept of infection now, and that she’s running fever.


Also, as the Apple Gallery points out:
“This episode taught me some important first aid information: if a woman is wounded, be sure to bandage her on the outside of her sleeve so that her dress can heal.”

Little John tells her that she’ll have to remain behind and tries to comfort her as she goes all First-Husband-Death PTSD on him, openly freaking out at the idea that Robin might die alone if she isn’t with him always AAAAAALWAAAAAAYS EVEN WHEN HE NEEDS TO PEE. But John reminds her of that “courage” that she used to have and tells her that Robin will be able to pull through anything because he has her love.


“You remember how your love helped Loxley survive?
It’s just like th–oh…wait…..bad example…”

Understandably, she still doesn’t look reassured, but has little choice except to stay:

Over in Grimstone Abbey, Gulnar finishes his clay-ly creation, and just as we’re going, wait, this dude looks familiar, the face fades into Robin’s:

The villagers and Merries are trying to get some rest before the morning assault on Grimstone, and the camera focuses on Will and Much, Will drowsing and Much too nervous to sleep. So Much utters platitudinous self-reassurances about John and Marion, while Will, half-asleep, mutters answers. Eventually, the frustrated, exhausted Will mumbles something that truly offends the lad, and bless Much, he stands up for himself:

Much: [about Marion and John] They’ll be alright…
Will: [half-asleep, barely aware of what he’s saying] They better be, you half-wit…
Much: [sits up, now fully awake] Don’t call me a half-wit! Don’t ever call me a half-wit!
Will: [opens his eyes] Much, you’re–
Much: I may be a bit slow at times, but I’m not a half-wit! And I won’t have you calling me one – I won’t have no-one calling me one! Alright?
Will: [chastened] Much, I didn’t mean it that way. [pause] I’m sorry…alright?
Much: Okay.

Then we return to the Abbey, where – speaking of half-wit – Gisburne is about to lose whatever marbles he has remaining, as he’s escorted into Grimstone’s sanctuary to undergo initiation to the God of Chaos and Entropy, presided over by a batshit vengeance-seeking sorcerer and attended by said bloodworker’s snakey concubines as well as a pack of killer werewolves, inside of a conquered abbey/fortress strewn with the corpses of murdered monks, and I just typed all of that out with a straight face, how about that?

Let’s get some soundtrack going on this, shall we?

And the rite begins, as Gulnar turns from the altar to face his followers, poised in the God-invocation gesture first introduced by the monks of Croxden:

The werepuppies raise their fists and shout a triumphal salutation to their resident lunatic cleric, and Gulnar returns their greeting by tapping his fists to his temples; I don’t know of any European significance to that gesture, as I’ve only ever seen it done in Hindu temples, where the salute (called shankhaprahati) is made with crossed arms and used to honour Ganesh:

But elephant, wolf, whatever – Grendel brings forth and announces their newest initiate. Gulnar regards the befurred manflesh for a moment and then demands Guy’s oath:


“Do you forswear all allegiances, save to Fenris?”

It’s a horrible vow, and Guy knows it, audibly trembling in his (literal) rib cage as he answers. This is the end of everything he’s known, his ties of fealty and oaths of faith all severed as he gives a reluctant affirmation. Then some things happen. Crazy, vaguely sexy things:

Gulnar: [grasps Guy’s collar] Release the beast within you! [pulls Gisburne forward, then hurls him to the floor] Be savage as the mighty wolf you are to serve! [With that instruction, he tears the coyote wolf skin from Guy’s shoulders.]

Audience:
Gulnar: Bone to bone, flesh to flesh, and blood to blood… [He cuts Guy with the wolf claw, leaving long trails of blood.]

Gulnar: Hegalamoneth! [He then steps back, leaving Guy to face the Wolf alone.] Now you belong to Fenris!
[The sanctuary falls death-quiet, save the crackling of torches. Guy looks up at the head of Fenris, and the scene fades on the Wolf’s grin.]


>:DDDDDDDDDDDD

Now, parts of that ceremony may seem completely gratuitous, but I’m sure it was really important to the plot that Guy – instead of just attending the ritual shirtless – had to be thrown to his knees and have the furs stripped from him, violently pushing his head back and thrusting his chest forward, submissively baring his oiled flesh to the lusts talons of viewers Fenris.

But seriously, the ceremony packs a visceral wallop, and despite my S&M-themed jesting about RoS-style be-nekkiding, it’s a valid (albeit awful) initiation ordeal that Gisburne endures (6), with forms no doubt known to Carpenter from his research (as well as his alleged contact with modern-day Craft practitioners).

The formula Gulnar uses to bind Guy may be found in the ~10th century Merseburg Incantations, a pair of spells in Old High German. The second of the two – a healing charm – ends with:

ben zi bena, bluot si bluoda,
lid zi geliden, sose gelimida sin

(bone to bone, blood to blood,
joints to joints, so may they be glued)

Interestingly, the novel also details the werewolves’ rite, but differs in two particulars. The first change is that, in the book, Guy endures the cut without flinching. Not so here:

This is the same knight who’s taken staff blows directly to the face without shrinking. That Guy shows pain – and therefore weakness – in front of savage killers indicates an extraordinary agony, which might be caused by the sealing of his bond to a vicious God, and/or his own psychological torment and dread of the wound’s significance.

The other difference is that Gulnar’s final binding invocation, a word that sounds like hegalamoneth, is missing from the book; I’ve never heard it before and can’t find its meaning anywhere – though, amusingly, it reminds me of the Anglo-Saxon word halegmonað: the ninth calendar month, from modern August into September.

So, after binding Gisburne through blood-oath and pronouncing the syllables to seal that oath, Gulnar then steps back and gives the initiate a clear view of the God. Whether the head is meant to be a vehicle of Fenris or Fenris Himself isn’t clarified, but the resultant gaze seems to go both ways, judging from Gisburne’s terrified/hypnotized reaction. As Guy looks up at Fenris, his face shows the knight’s revulsed horror warring with the acolyte’s dawning devotion, as though fascinated in spite of himself:

And so the Sheriff’s former deputy, expecting to give mere lip service to a ridiculous ritual, has apparently gotten a lot more than he intended.

In the forest, the Merries and the villagers are awaiting the rendez-vous with Little John and Marion so that they can attack Grimstone. Will is seriously on edge – even chewing out one of the cold villagers for trying to start a fire – so Robin leads Will and the other Merries to skulk about the tall grass and scout out whatever they can find:

While they look around, Robin very softly provides a brief history of Grimstone, and Tuck grudgingly admits that their foes have chosen a great location for an insane invocation of the Ragnarök. He also confirms to the others that Gulnar and his followers have certainly taken over the place, pointing out that monks go to pray at 3 and again at 5, but Grimstone’s bell has been silent the entire afternoon.

Then Will grumbles that a fortification of such strength needs trained soldiers to take, not a bunch of “village idiots”; Robin, while not overly fond of his phrasing, agrees with the sentiment and decides that they must force the werewolves out of Grimstone to attack them. So in the next scene, Robin is talking to the villagers–

–reasoning that they’ll be slaughtered if try to face mounted foes on open ground, but predicting success if they can draw the puppies into the forest. Will argues with Robin, wanting to wait a little longer for Marion and John–

–but Robin decides that they must take action before the villagers lose their nerve. So he issues the Wickham folk strict instructions to draw the puppies in, shoot, run silently, hide, and repeat. “Let them make the noise,” he advises wisely, reassuring them that such strategy has worked for them many times, keeping them alive for years in Sherwood.

While the villagers prepare themselves, Will, Nasir, and Robin again creep out of the woods and then dash to the outer wall of Grimstone. Whispering to each other, they wonder warily about the lack of visible guards, but it turns out that Grendel’s watching, concealing himself behind a merlon on the battlements, and sees and hears them just fine:

So Grendel waits a few moments, evidently amused by the Merries’ confusion, and then shouts NOOOOOOOOWWWW! At their leader’s command, the werepuppies pour out of Grimstone’s gates and chase after the unfortunate Merries. A god-son-and-human-followers versus demon-devotee-and-lycanthropic-cultists fight ensues, with some wolf-on-human wrist-grips–

–and meanwhile, Gisburne emerges, sporting bare-armed, unshirted fanservicing wolf-gear and totally ready to impress his new bestest buddies evar:

He rides up to the non-lupine, un-evil fighters and shouts, “I have issues! SO MANY ISSUES! “Look up at the tower, you idiots!”

The Merries and villagers all look, and see that three of the puppies hold three town children over their heads–

–and Werewolf!Guy tells them to surrender or watch the children die. The Merries of course throw down their arms, silently lamenting the day Gisburne realised that “threatening the innocent” was a 100% effective strategy for forcing an outlaw surrender–

–and Guy is all happy that HE WOLFSHEADS EVEN BETTER THAN THE WOLFSHEADS SO NYAAAAAAAAH. But he barely has time to gloat before two of the villagers bolt, and two of the puppies give chase, swiftly cutting them down:

Then the Merries, along with the entire adult male population of Wickham village – minus two – are escorted together into Grimstone, where Grendel waits to offer a truly frightening greeting: “Welcome to Grimstone Abbey…Robin Hood.

Robin makes the feeeeeeeerk, I knew I shouldn’t have gone to a place called effing Grimstone face, and there, the episode ends:

While I overall enjoyed this episode, I felt disappointed and concerned that a vital issue of hygiene and safety was passed over without mention, when one critical scene could have been used to score some important educational points. So I made up a little info card to use as reference when discussing this matter with the whole family, because RoS episodes should always end with a moral lesson for all. Until the next – and last – time on Robin of Sherwood, do reflect upon this valuable information:

===
Fun Stuff:
Apples don’t appear until part two of this episode, so hold tight – I’ll have a count for you next time!
Meanwhile, how many times can characters say “Gisburne” in one episode? Well…23, apparently.
And get your quotes, right here.
An excellent review of the third series, written at the end of this episode and anticipating the final resolution, is to be found here.
If you’re a fan of Gulnar and his cray, then obviously you need crazy-themed wallpaper for your computer. Point your browser here.
To see Grendel in a rather different light, check out this commercial from the early 1990s:

Finally, further details about Fenris Wolf (aka Fenrir) may be found in this official, extremely academic telling of the whole tale. :cough: There’s also a Fenris-themed motivational poster available, for those who need inspirational office decorations.

===
Notes:
(1) I’ve no idea where “Attlebury” is; the name comes from the book and is not mentioned in the episode.

(2) These words are lifted from chapter 20 of the Völsungasaga, in Brynhild’s teaching of rune-lore to Sigurd. Those interested can read the full passage here.

(3) While runes are usually interpreted at a much deeper level than this, a superficial reading – along with the corresponding Anglo-Saxon rune-verses – hints that this casting actually means what Gulnar claims it does.

Thorn, outside and hidden: “The thorn is exceedingly sharp, an evil thing for any knight to touch, uncommonly severe on all who sit among them.” Interpreting the thorn as a bringer of misfortune, and as both “hidden” and “outside” (i.e. outside Gulnar’s circle of elements, even the circle of life itself), links this rune to the Sons of Fenris.

Hagal in Air: The verse for this rune begins, “hail is the whitest of grain; it is whirled from the vault of heaven.” With Air signifying a journey or movement, this rune could simply refer to the grain taken from the villagers and then destroyed by the Sons of Fenris; this indeed gets Robin moving, in response to the werewolves’ challenge.

Odal and Birca hidden in Fire: Odal corresponds literally to an inherited estate: “[An estate] is very dear to every man, if he can enjoy there in his house whatever is right and proper in constant prosperity.” Birca, in turn, is the birch tree: “Splendid are its branches and gloriously adorned its lofty crown which reaches to the skies.” Fire is associated with war and passion, as well as with Midsummer and the Sun – this episode’s novelization outright calls Robin the Summer King – and so this whole grouping could signify the first Robin’s successor, who lives hidden within the forest, there fighting a battle for justice – the Hooded Man.

Dag and Laigu in Earth: “Day, the glorious light of the Creator, is sent by the Lord; it is beloved of men, a source of hope and happiness to rich and poor, and of service to all.”
“The ocean seems interminable to men, if they venture on the rolling bark and the waves of the sea terrify them and the courser of the deep heed not its bridle.”
If you take a really literal reading of these, then it simply shows that Robin will cross a long distance over earth, i.e. the Hooded Man will come, with Dag implying the victory of Gulnar and his “Lord” Fenris (or still more literally, indicating that Robin will come by daylight, which indeed he does).

However, this last interpretation also shows that Gulnar, like many diviners, is blind to any interpretations that don’t support his own agenda. Based on the rune-poems above, Laigu indicates not only a bold undertaking, but the need for adventure to be tempered with care and courage; Dag is not a simple indicator of daylight or good things, but a rune of the enlightening that relieves great trial. Gulnar reads in these signs the fulfilment of his desire, but they could well be warning him of the exact opposite, foreshadowing that his foes will triumph and restore the divine order.

(4) Most folks see an unpardonable back-stabbing in this scene; my read was a bit different, seeing a calculated betrayal designed to hurt nothing more than Guy’s pride. After all, de Rainault’s spent three seasons holding onto his deputy by any means possible, throwing countless man-hours and resources into ransoming him, tracking him down, and bailing him out of trouble; after fifteen years protecting and molding his vassal/protégé, I doubt he’d discard all of that work in fifteen seconds.

De Rainault introduces Gisburne not as his deputy, but merely as his “steward,” his oily tones implying that Guy’s only an administrator who couldn’t possibly know any better. But Brewer sneers that he’s certainly heard of Gisburne, so the Sheriff continues talking quickly as though trying to invent something else. Then Guy protests, and the Sheriff barks out a familiar order: “Don’t be so stupid!”

I’ve mentioned that line twice before – from the Sheriff to Gisburne in The Witch of Elsdon, and from Gisburne to Sarah in The Children of Israel – because in both instances it translated to, “shut up and stop talking nonsense about throwing your life away.” It implies that Guy’s only in real danger if he keeps talking, but Guy doesn’t get the hint and protests again. This time, the Sheriff demands his vassal’s respect, essentially trying to shut him up by pulling rank, and then speaks about him as though describing a bratty child, trying to calm Brewer by implying that Guy’s just a harmless imbecile who made the same sort of silly mess that he always does. He even implicates himself somewhat, when he says that, “it’s happened many times before,” implying that he’s rather incompetent in controlling this silly creature and should probably crack down a bit.

When Gisburne flips out and pulls his sword to attack, de Rainault’s obsequious smile to Brewer fades and is replaced by an expression of horrified shock; the Sheriff obviously isn’t expecting this retaliation and is stunned by it. But would any man, even one so controlling as the Sheriff, really expect another man to react to backstabbing by blithely volunteering to be killed on behalf of his betrayer?

The Sheriff’s consternation only makes sense if he was trying to communicate to Guy a quick-thinking plan along the lines of SHUT UP AND TAKE THE FALL, YOU IDIOT, BECAUSE IF BREWER BLAMES ME I’LL HANG; YOU’LL JUST GET A SLAP ON THE WRIST. Even if Brewer doles out a worse punishment than expected, Robert has enough connection, power, and wealth to extricate Guy from disaster. But if Robert is implicated, there’s no question: the dimwitted Guy would never come up with a strategy fast enough to save him, and that’s assuming he’d even try to do so.

So I see this whole bit as an unfortunate but necessary betrayal, rather than a cold-hearted and deadly one. I figure that the Sheriff never intended for Gisburne to come to harm, that Guy futzed up the plan completely by being a clueless blockhead, and that only when Gisburne ran off – leaving his liege to face the lethal royal fury alone – did the Sheriff genuinely turn on him.

(5) Bonus points if you recognise the werewolf who opens Grimstone’s door: Wayne Michaels, aka Ailric of Loxley, who also appeared as Fake Will Scarlet in The Betrayal, one of the three lepers in The Cross of St. Ciricus, the soldier escorting the Torturer at the very beginning of The Power of Albion, and the man guarding Owen of Clun’s signal fire in Herne’s Son part 2.

(6) Also, being a Pagan who considers real the same spiritual forces that Will dismisses as “a load of pig’s swill,” I admire not only Carpenter for bringing Paganism to a wide audience, but the actors for having the courage to participate in occult rites based on actual ceremonies, particularly Rula Lenska (invoking Lucifer in The Swords of Wayland) and Robert Addie (undergoing initiation to Fenris Wolf/Fenrir, here).

===
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17 Comments
  1. In no particular order:

    – de Rainault’s hat looks like a ushanka.

    – If they’re going to invoke Norse animals for the ritual, could they have at least used Munin and Hugin instead of an eight-legged horse born of Tom Hiddleston?

    – For some reason, Nick Grace’s neck looks REALLY long in the “green robe” picture.

    – CAN’T STOP THE SIGNAL

    – Re: Gulnar’s sudden devotion to Ganesh, I can think of a couple of alternatives. He’s either a) voguing, or b) inspired by a vaguely similar gesture performed by Aleister Crowley, since that’ll naturally be all ritualistic and quasi-Satanic and so on.

    – The audience reaction pic to Gizzy’s initiation is perfect.

    Finally, reading this review reminds me of a conversation we had about mythology mashups not long after you started reviewing RoS. It’s paraphrased here, but:

    L: “The Fenris Wolf makes an appearance later in the series, too.”
    B, being a smartass: “Why? Are they going to get it to try to eat Herne or something? Because that’s taking the ‘stag god’ thing a little far.”
    L: “Well…”

    • –The Sheriff’s hat might well be styled along ushanka lines. (In Soviet England, HAT WEARS YU.)

      –I’d actually have been somewhat offended if they’d summoned up Odin’s ravens as the episode’s villains. At least Fenris actually does have associations with “evil” stuff.

      –Grace’s neck has always been quite long; that’s probably why Wardrobe piles up the velvet around his neck and shoulders, to shorten the former and build up the latter. I find it lovely, personally.

      –THE MERRIES ARE LIKE BROWNCOATS, BUT SOMEWHAT LESS DEDICATED.

      –A-ha!!! Thank you so much for the Crowley picture; that must be what Carpenter intended, given the amount of Crowleyana showcased in this series. It was driving me nuts that I couldn’t figure it out.

      –I was originally going to use a gif of a woman fainting, but couldn’t find a decent one.

      ….and…yeah. Fenris. That’s now a Thing That They Did.

  2. Seren permalink

    Yeah but come on, no one wants to be slaves of the Welsh. (Ok, as a Welsh person I find it slightly offensive that Kip thinks that is funny; on the other hand we’d make the most disorganized masters ever, so swings and roundabouts).

    • “Because only I get to enslave you!” was the Sheriff’s unspoken follow-up comment to his question.

      Anyway, I honestly can’t tell if the constant Welsh jokes would have reflected historical attitudes at the time or were Carpenter’s/the writers’ own running gags.

      And if it helps at all, Grace mocks Americans in four or five of the series 3 outtakes!

      • Seren permalink

        I’m guessing they’d have reflected attitudes at the time to some extent; the same attitudes still exist today. But that’s fine, whenever an English person mentions relations with sheep I just say ‘we f*** ’em and then you eat ’em’ :-D

        Anyway, yeah, like being slaves of the Welsh would’ve been worse than being slaves of the Normans. At least we’d have let them get wasted :)

  3. Estarielle permalink

    Absofeckinlutely hilarious”!!! I laughed out loud…A LOT. “Time of the Wolf” is among my favourite of episodes…possibly because it’s so damn ludicrous, (and I love runes and Gulnar and Norse stuff) and possibly because as you pointed out, we get to see Robert Addie with a bit more of his kit off….This review is comedy gold, and I found it by mistake…thanks :-)

    • You’re very welcome. I’m pleased that you found and enjoyed it; reviewing this whole series one-by-one took forever, and it’s always nice to see the effort appreciated. :)

      • Estarielle permalink

        I loved that show, still do, was 13 when it came out and obsessively collected everyhting to do with it (All of course auctioned now on ebay….) and you have just provided a very entertaining and accurate (!!!) write up of one of my favourite episodes…:-) I will have to look at your “Cromm Cruac” one next!!!

    • Karen permalink

      I just found this and I am glad I wasn’t at work when I did. I was lmao. I just discovered the show again on Amazon Prime Video and I have watched each ep at least 5 times lately. All my original recordings were on VHS so very happy to find this again.

  4. Estarielle permalink

    Happily I now have the Gulnar crazy wallpaper on my screen. I love him, it had to be done!! Thanks :-)

  5. Estarielle permalink

    “Then Herne appears at the open barn door and gives some obfuscating exposition that would have really helped everybody out about twenty minutes ago:”

    And here is another random observation, not that I’ve watched this episode loads or anything. During Herne’s “It is the time of the wolf…” speech, watch Marion’s lips, Judi knows the lines and is trying very hard not to mouth them along with John Abineri. Honest!!

    I love Herne. but got a bit pissed off in Season 3 with how he turns up with gert flashes of lightning and talks a lot more drivel than he did in Seasons 1 and 2.

    Mutter mutter.

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