I was initially put off watching Sherwood because I read a couple of iffy reviews. However, upon looking at the cast list, I decided to give it a go. It was well worth it but perhaps not for the reasons the producers would have wanted. Let’s start with the cast. You can’t go wrong with a stellar cast that includes David Morrissey, Robert Glenister, the ever-watchable Lesley Manville, Joanne Froggatt, Claire Rushbrook, Claire Holman, Philip Jackson (was there ever a better Inspector Japp?), the ever-lovely Lindsay Duncan, Kevin Doyle, Alun Armstrong, Adeel Akhtar, and many other familiar faces. Their performances were so true to life, as one would expect from these acting stalwarts.
The plot (inspired by true events) was something else. Sherwood, Nottinghamshire, a forest, one almost expects Robin Hood to appear. He does not but a bow-wielding killer does and someone with links to the past, the old miners’ strike of the 80s, is murdered in the wee hours. Said bowman then proceeds to terrorise a few people who seemingly don’t have any links to each other, or do they? It doesn’t take long for the police to get a DNA sample and the identity of the killer, which fractures a community already riven by old grievances over the scab labour and the ensuing police and miners battle in the past. Information comes to the surface about a police informant planted in the village to foment trouble who never left but stayed and created a new life for themselves. Are the killings related to someone searching for the identity of this person, who caused a lot of trouble. Ultimately the killer’s real motive was rather weak, not related to this dark secret, and left the ending quite flat.
However, the strength and utter beauty, if one can call it that, lies in the performances and the character portrayals. These are so riveting that you sit on the edge of your seat, you cry with them, bite your nails with them, and wonder how their story will end. I have to mention Adeel Akhtar who most superbly plays Andy Fisher, a train driver and train enthusiast. He had lost his wife to suicide, and his only son just got married. In a terrible moment of anger and despair, he kills his sharp-tongued new daughter-in-law by accident, and from that moment on his tragic life unravels at an alarming rate. Adeel deserves an award for his rendition of Andy, a man ripped apart by grief, guilt, shame, and anguish. He had me in tears! I defy anyone to remain dry-eyed as you watch this superb performance.
Performance value is high, as one would expect from a BBC production. There is nothing skimpy about any aspect. Audiences of a certain age will remember the Thatcher years and how the unions were dealt with. For those new to this part of history, the flashbacks are well done and incorporate actual news footage. Looking back on it now, a 21st century audience might wonder what all the fuss was about, and people could work if they wanted to. But it was not so simple back then. The series lays out the drama of those times very well and the fractured relationships people had in this little ‘once a mining village.’ This element also gives impetus to the healing that can come after a tragedy if people are willing to take a step towards reconciliation. In that respect, the plot threads come together, making this an eminently watchable series. I will certainly be on the lookout for season 2. Don’t miss this one.