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TV Snapshots: 'Robin Hood'

A man is surrounded by the Sheriff’s men after they catch him trying to poach the King’s deer. They give him a choice: be arrested for trial (in which case he’ll lose his hands) or he can admit his guilt now and lose a finger (but he’ll have no right to appeal or trail). The man reluctantly agrees to the former. As they try to force his hand on a log, out of the forest comes an onslaught of arrows which find their marks on the log between the fingers of one of the Sherriff’s men. A voice comes from the forest, the voice of Robin of Locksley, returning from the war in the Holy Land:

Robin's voice: Seems I missed your hand. Let him go before my aim improves.

Sheriff’s Man: Show yourself. You interfere with the Law of the Land!

A hooded Robin appears from behind a tree, holding a bow strung with an arrow ready to go.

Robin: The last time I looked, the Law punished poaching with a tanning or spell in the stocks.

Sheriff’s Man: The Law is under threat and must be severe if it is to be respected.

Robin: If the Law wants respect, shouldn’t the punishment fit the crime?

Sheriff’s Man: I do not make the Law. I do not decide.

Robin: But you enforce it. And my men and I suggest that you “decide” to go your own way.

--from the opening scene of Will You Tolerate This? the first episode of BBC’s Robin Hood
My husband and I are in the midst of watching the first season of BBC’s Robin Hood on DVD, and I must say we are really enjoying it. If the rest of the episodes are like the first couple we’ve seen, this one will end up on my DVR’s list (the series is currently in its third season on BBC America).

I particularly liked this scene because in its witty way it has a lot to say about power, just-ness and our responsibility towards both. Robin’s got a right sense of what just law looks like and challenges the Sheriff’s man with the injustice of what they are about to do. When the man sidesteps his responsibility, Robin brings him right back to the line. Essentially, he’s confronting him with the responsibility each of us bear to examine the laws of our land and make sure they are just—and if they aren’t, we are responsible to act with right-ness anyway. We cannot use the law (or any other system or pressure) as an excuse for unjust behavior. Of course, that doesn’t come without risk to life and what power we do have and livelihood, as the rest of the episode does a good job of illustrating. And interestingly, Robin lives up to this call himself without taking a life—a thread the first few episodes, at least, seem to be exploring.

(Images: BBC/BBC America) miscctgy