REVIEW Sherwood (S1 E4/6)

Cor, just when you think you’ve got a handle on where Sherwood is going, it goes off in a different direction.

Take Scott Rowley. The crossbowman-at-large looks, for all the world, to be Gary Jackson’s murderer. In tonight’s opening scene, friend of Ian and Helen St Clair, Jacob Harris, is playing golf with two friends – one female, the other male. Suddenly, there’s another arrow out of the blue, which thudded into their golf cart, and then into Harris’s female friend’s stomach. It was a horrid scene.

Tasked with interviewing Harris in the hospital was Salisbury, which may not have been the best idea because he shithouses Harris superbly with his wife Jenny (the woman who he still loves) standing next to him. Thanks to some expert manoeuvring, he basically uncovered an affair between Jacob Harris and his female golfing partner. You can tell he took some pleasure from exposing him.

But what this scene did – or seemed to – is to expose Scott Rowley as the killer. It wasn’t explicitly shown in previous episodes. Despite him traipsing around the woods with a crossbow on his back, we never actually saw him shoot his arrows at anyone. And you know what crime dramas are like – they like to take you down avenues, present suspects like they’re bang to rights and then reveal things differently.

But certainly, at this moment, Scott Rowley looked like the man.

A clever twist – one of several in this episode – saw the Met called in to assist with people power and boots on the ground (as well as helicopters and all the bells and whistles the Met can bring to a manhunt). The return of the Met was, of course, extremely loaded. The last time they were in Ashfield was the miners’ strike, and we all know how well that went for everyone.

But still, they were needed. And their presence – dozens of officers almost marching through the streets – upped the urgency and upped the jeopardy. Ashfield was already a community on a precipice, but with the Met back in town you just felt that it was only a matter of time that someone – or something – would break.

Before we get to the really big news in this really great episode, we need to talk about Andy Fisher. On the run and deep in the woods, he turned into an almost Gollum-like figure, chatting to himself madly as he considered what to do. Take his own life? Turn himself in? Talk about a person unravelling.

It was heartbreaking and strange and conflicting, and and excellent writing by James Graham once again, who has made him so… multi-faceted. Andy Fisher was a murderer who carried out an act of shocking violence, but I couldn’t help but feel slightly sorry for him, as strange as that sounds. He had stored up years of pent-up rage and emotion after the untimely death of his wife, and it didn’t take much for him to snap. Graham has placed him in a grey area – a man who did an awful thing, the worst thing, but provided reasons for it. Andy Fisher is just one of a whole boat-load of characters in Sherwood who are written with this kind of depth and nuance.

But back to the episode. There was a twist when Fisher encroached on the part of the forest Scott Rowley was hiding in. Rowley knocked him unconscious and dragged him back to his camp. Why would he do this? It was a strange move for a man on the run who had been stalking the Met officers searching the forest for him. (And hadn’t those hapless campers we saw encounter Rowley and Fisher heard there was a nutcase with a crossbow at large in the forest?)

But now then… we also got some interesting developments when it came to the ‘spy cop’ story strand. St Clair and Salisbury had already determined that the best way to catch Rowley was to figure out who the spy cop was because they were convinced the two parts were connected. They got confirmation from an NUM lawyer (oh hello, Lindsay Duncan!) that spy cops not only existed but also Thatcher’s government actively courted and encouraged all-out war between the miners in order to serve their anti-union, pro-free-market aspirations (I’m sure this political dimension will enrage many). “We’re an old country with a lot of past,” she told them, sagely.

Now armed with the confirmation that spy cops did indeed exist, it was time to really focus on who the culprit might be. I thought it might be Julie Jackson, or perhaps even Daphne Sparrow (just hunches on both) or even Ian St Clair or Kevin Salisbury themselves. But an interesting name cropped up… Helen St Clair, Ian’s wife.

Salisbury found that her file had been made restricted, so suddenly Helen was the prime suspect – she had come from out of town for reasons unknown, so she ticked all the boxes.

More intrigue happened when Salisbury travelled back to London to confront his boss over the whole spy cop concept. He gave him a name of a former officer pictured in a newspaper article – Robbie Platt, the same name in Gary Jackson’s notebook from episode three. Robbie Platt – not his real name – turned out to be a man on his death bed, who admitted that there were five undercover officers circulating and working undercover in Ashfield in 1984. They each had a romantic poet’s name for a codeword. All of them had come back, except one.

Keats.

As the addled former officer decided to say no more, that’s when Helen St Clair telephoned Salisbury. Yikes!

A lot more happened in this episode, too. Shout-out to the aforementioned Daphne Sparrow (played brilliantly by Lorraine Ashworth), the matriarch of the Sparrow family really kicked arse tonight (why does she remind me slightly of Ma Boswell in Bread?). And a shout-out to the merest hint of reconciliation – both between St Clair and Salisbury and between Julie and sister Cathy Rowley.

It’s these stories of healing and of redemption that make Sherwood so compelling and gives it a real human quality in among all the sturm and drang.

Paul Hirons

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

READ MORE: OUR EPISODE ONE REVIEW

READ MORE: OUR EPISODE TWO REVIEW

READ MORE: OUR EPISODE THREE REVIEW

Sherwood airs on BBC One and BBC iPlayer in the UK

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Elaine says:

    Really enjoying this, but one thing didn’t sit well and that was St Clair sending Salisbury to interview Jacob Harris…and surprise surprise it didn’t end well. Even though they are antagonistic, St Clair and Salisbury spend a lot of time together, despite there being several other officers available. The only minus in a fantastic drama, thus far, that has been acted supremely. The casting director earned their corn…
    (And wild guess-is Keats Madeline Hopper, the barmaid that seems to be everywhere?)

    Liked by 1 person

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