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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Robin Hood is a British adventure drama with lots of implied violence and torture. Although little of it is actually shown on screen, the characters make their intentions pretty clear, and the camera stays focused on the action until the very last second. (For example, when a bad guy threatens to cut out a villager's tongue if he refuses to divulge some valuable information, the last shot in the sequence features a soldier poised to jam scissors into the victim's mouth.) The nasty Sheriff of Nottingham also makes frequent use of the gallows in his main courtyard -- viewers can see victims' feet twitching and dangling. While Robin Hood's personal reluctance to harm anyone makes him admirable, the casual violence of the Middle Ages can be rather disconcerting.
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What's the story?
In this modern update of the ROBIN HOOD legend, Robin (Jonas Armstrong) quickly runs afoul of the Sheriff (Keith Allen) when several hungry Locksley villagers are sentenced to death for stealing food. Robin must decide whether to support the Sheriff's cruel reign or fight back. For Robin, the choice is a simple one, but it brands the young noble an outlaw. Along with his dedicated manservant Much (Sam Troughton) and a few trusted allies, he takes refuge in the wild Sherwood Forest to plan a rebellion. Robin's years at war in the Crusades have had a profound influence on him -- he has become an amazing marksman with the bow and a fearsome swordsman, but he's also developed strong feelings about violence and oppression and would rather give up his land and his title than let the Sheriff oppress the villagers.
Is it any good?
One of the show's faults is that it sometimes seems a little short on action and a bit too preachy. There are many scenes in which Robin explains his theories of social justice and agrarian economics, occasionally with a few more details than necessary. And many of the other characters debate whether the long-absent king would approve of Robin's actions because he's trying to take care of the peasants or condemn the bandit for undermining the fundamental notions of law and order.
Meanwhile, despite his combat skills, Robin is reluctant to hurt anyone, even the Sheriff. As a result, many of the fights in Robin Hood seem oddly one-sided, pitting a man who won't kill against nameless, flunky soldiers whom any viewer can tell are destined to lose their battle. Pairing a brutish despot who endorses torture and wanton killing with a somewhat pacifistic hero who makes light of the entire conflict gives the show an odd tone. Though entertaining, the series seems uncertain about whether it's trying to be a serious action-adventure show or a lighthearted spoof of one.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about law and order. The show's central theme is Robin Hood's decision to become an outlaw rather than support the Sheriff of Nottingham's routine exploitation of the struggling peasants. Is Robin's basic rob-from-the-rich-give-to-the-poor strategy just? When is it OK to take the law into your own hands? Is crime ever defensible? What's the best response to a corrupt government?
Also, how does this version of the Robin Hood tale compare to others you've seen? Do you think it's more or less accurate? Why?