Global is introducing some brand new TV series this fall, including Director X’s Robyn Hood. SHIFTER’s Kevin Bourne says that despite its criticisms, the series is groundbreaking Canadian television. Here’s his Robyn Hood season 1 episode 1 review.
It was back in early 2022 that Global announced that it greenlit Robyn Hood, a modern adaptation of the legendary tale Robin Hood.
Created and directed by Director X and written by award-winning screenwriter Chris Roberts, Robyn Hood tells the story of hip-hop artist Robyn Loxley (Jessye Romeo), whose masked hip-hop group, The Hood, uses videos with anti-authoritarian messaging to address the issues facing their Sherwood Towers community. Alongside her friends, she must fight property developer John Prince (Ian Matthews) and The Sheriff of New Nottingham (Kira Guloien) to keep her community and family from being overrun by corruption and greed.
When the show was first announced, some critics and fans were in an uproar over this modern interpretation, with some labelling it as an attempt at being “woke”. After watching episode one, it’s clear that this isn’t some misguided attempt at wokeness; it’s an adaptation, most likely inspired by similarities between the Robin Hood story and the experiences of marginalized people. After all, Robin Hood is a social justice story about marginalized people. From where he lives to the people he helps, Robin Hood is, in fact, “hood”. So to borrow from the hit song, ladies and gentlemen, calm down.
Now, the premiere episode isn’t perfect and has areas where it could improve, perhaps by injecting more Caribbean or African culture and by being a bit more subtle with the Robin Hood references for example. The show is also so different than anything we’ve seen on TV before that it may be difficult for viewers to fully grasp what they’re watching, at least in the early parts of the episode. Still, as an at times dark and gritty action drama with a Black female lead, Robyn Hood breaks new ground in Canadian television.
In episode one, we’re introduced to a bonnet wearing Robyn Loxley, her sister Jill Scarlet (Kayla Hutton), and mother Tressie Loxley (Lisa Michelle Cornelius) who bring different faces, and a rare Black family dynamic, to Canadian TV than we’re used to. Along with Toronto, British and Caribbean slang like “tings”, “tief”, “I’ll link you” and “allow it, fam”, there’s a sense of familiarity and representation within the show that may be comforting to Black audiences. I mean, we’re not used to seeing so much Blackness on Canadian TV. Look at us being represented on the small screen.
Although there were a few moments early on when the writing and delivery seemed a bit off, and you may even be left wondering where the show is going, the story and the direction its taking become clear a quarter of the way through.
Now, the show does a lot of things well. First, Jessye Romeo‘s acting is on point. She does a good job of portraying the rapper, budding community leader and “around the way girl” from the hood, Canadian accent and gold hoop earrings and all.
The cinematography and directing are also on point as you’d expect from a Director X project. The aesthetic is rich, vibrant and dark creating a great visual experience for the viewer.
The show also does a good job of introducing supporting characters like John Prince, Little John (Nykeem Provo), and the zen-like and philosophical hacker Tuck (Jonathan Langdon). While the early part of the episode feels like it may be missing something, these actors and characters add depth, layers and seasoning to the story. Matthews is believable as the greedy real estate developer. Provo adds meat to the story as Robyn’s long-time friend and potential love interest, and Langdon brings the comedy.
INTERVIEW WITH ROBYN STAR JESSYE ROMEO
There’s also something for history buffs with historical references, as well as nods to the original Robin Hood tale. There are references to Mercia. If you’re into history and shows like The Last Kingdom or Vikings, you’ll get it. It’s a smallish detail, but it’s a dope reference. The writer’s reimagining of characters like Little John and Tuck are also interesting.
Adding that extra sauce to the show are the fight sequences, which are very well choreographed and executed, as well as the music, which features UK hip-hop, giving some nods to the British roots of the story, and vocals from Toronto own’s Tia Bank$. (brap! brap! brap!)
With a slightly futuristic, near-fi adaption of a well known story, this was a risky undertaking that could’ve gone wrong on a few fronts. Despite some areas where it could be improved, Robyn Hood has a lot going for it, from good acting from key cast members and good character introductions to great cinematography and action sequences. Overall, Robyn Hood is the representation many Black Canadians have wanted to see for years, and a step forward for Canadian television.
Check it out for yourself when Robyn Hood premieres September 27 at 10pm EST on Global.
SHIFTER editor and Senior Entertainment Reporter, Kevin Bourne, is a Toronto-based entertainment journalist focusing on Black music and film & TV. He was named one of 310 international voters for the 81st Golden Globe Awards by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and a Tomatometer-Approved Critic by Rotten Tomatoes.