Warning: This synopsis is for those who have watched up to episode 4 of Sherwood on BBC One.
Two forest fugitives, a sisterly reconciliation and several spycop twists. Here’s your breakdown of episode four…
Three golfers, one hole in one
Perhaps our renegade archer thinks golf is “spoiled by a good walk.” We began the latest dart attack, this time on a threesome from wannabe hole-in-ones including Jacob Harris (Don Gilet), husband of local headmistress Jenny (Nadine Marshall). The first projectile hit Jacob’s pocket. The second ricocheted off his buggy and pierced businesswoman Amy Whitstable (Kelly Harrison) in the stomach. As he disappeared back into the trees, Scott Rowley (Adam Hugill) looked disappointed.
Amy survived her injuries, but police suspect slippery ex-cop Jacob was the likely target – while revealing the awkward fact that he and Amy were having an affair. Jenny’s lost love, DI Kevin Salisbury (Robert Glenister), could hardly hide his contentment. When Scott went looking for the community-embedded spycop, Salisbury told DCS Ian St Clair (David Morrissey) that they had to preempt him and find her first. Bring the whiteboards and late nighters.
“We are the police capital of the whole country”
Engine driver Andy Fisher (Adeel Akhtar) was also on the run in the woods – but in stark contrast to hooded survivalist Scott, he was terrified, unarmed and ill-equipped. Now that he knew his father had murdered his new wife, Neel (Bally Gill) asked the police to arrest his father alive: “I hate him, but please don’t kill him… I want to look him in the eye and ask why .”
With two killers hiding in thick woods and a massive search area, local police have called in reinforcements from the Met to help with one of Britain’s biggest manhunts of all time. Bitter memories of 1984 erupted as busloads of black-clad officers marched through the streets of Ashfield. Helicopters hovering overhead posed another threat. When the divided city was already bubbling, it threatened to boil over.
Sparrows chirped at each other
The atmosphere was also tense at the farmhouse headquarters of the local crime clan. Not only did Scott train at their archery range, but Rory Sparrow (Perry Fitzpatrick) had taught him how to hack computers and provided him with hardware and viruses. When Papa Mickey (Philip Jackson) realized that these could be traced back to the Sparrows, he wasn’t exactly happy.
Meanwhile, wife Daphne (Lorraine Ashbourne) learns of the secret romance between younger son Ronan (Bill Jones) and Cinderella Jackson (Safia Oakley-Green). Paying a visit to Cindy’s grandmother, Julie (Lesley Manville), the sober matriarch alluded to the fact that they were once friends, noting that both families were misfits – the seedy crooks and “the angry strikers in a town full of scabs.” . After giving her blessings to the young couple, she left the ball in Julie’s yard. I also enjoyed the incidental detail that the disreputable Daphne was a school principal.
The sisters’ reunion was a bright spot
Fred Rowley (Kevin Doyle) and his wife Cathy (Claire Rushbrook) were stunned when Cathy’s estranged sister, Julie, unexpectedly knocked on the door. The garden wall scene in episode three had represented a partial reconciliation. Now they tentatively went one step further.
Julie told them how her son Scott “came into my house to mess with our heads,” but admitted it was “strange for us to go through this on our own.” The cautious trio sat down to share a bottle of wine. Maybe something good can come out of all this heartbreak.
Enter Lindsay Duncan
Our detective duo met Jennifer Hale (Lindsay Duncan): NUM attorney, activist, “all-round pain in the ass.” Fueled by caffeine and cigarettes, this fast-talking force of nature confirmed that Scotland Yard did indeed have officers embedded in mining communities. She explained that the Sonderdemonstrationskommando (SDS) operated between 1968 and 2008, gathering 40 million pages of information by infiltrating Stasi-style political groups. The controversy was only uncovered due to sexual misconduct when spy officers formed relationships with targets and in some cases fathered children – what victims described as “state rape”.
Hale told the stunned police officers that the Thatcher government needed a strike in nationalized industries to help shift the political landscape away from collectivism and towards deregulated market forces. They picked coal, deliberately provoked a war and won. She compared the miners’ strike to police scandals such as “Hillsborough, phone hacking, Stephen Lawrence” and urged them to keep fighting for justice. After that encouraging speech, she disappeared in a cloud of coal dust.
Nice to meet you here
Speaking to himself and in a fragile state of mind – a devastating turn of phrase from Adeel Akhtar – Andy vowed to turn himself in. However, his path crossed that of his fellow refugee. While spying on two hikers, Scott saw Andy sneaking into their camp, eating their leftovers, gulping down their water, and stealing their cell phone. When the tourists caught him in the act, the wild Andy tried to scare them off and then fled. They pursued him until Scott fired a crossbow bolt, allowing Andy to escape. But why?
Andy left a garbled message on his own answering machine, apologizing for his accidental crime and closing: “I want to come in. I’m ready to face the consequences.” At this point, Scott knocked him out with the butt of his crossbow and dragged Andy’s body back to his hiding place. While he was waiting for him to regain consciousness, the search team approached the police. Will the two outlaws make it out of the forest alive?
Was Spycop close to home?
St. Clair and Salisbury helpfully went through their shortlist of potential spy cops. Fred Rowley was transferred to Ashfield in 1983. Could Scott have killed Gary Jackson (Alun Armstrong) to keep his father from being exposed? Jacob Harris also arrived around this time, but was being trained at St. Clair as a uniformed officer, not an undercover officer. Mickey Sparrow was also moving at the time, but scoffed at the mere idea of being an ex-cop.
Could it be Dean Simmons (Sean Gilder) whose mug shot was on the stack? Or Andy, whose move was being targeted by Scott? Andy was a lifelong villager, however, and as son Neel aptly put it, “He’s already uncomfortable in his own skin, let alone anyone else’s.”
Suddenly, a curveball came: Ian’s own wife, Helen (Clare Holman). Her mother worked for the National Coal Board and her family moved to Ashfield in the early 1980’s. When Salisbury entered Helen’s name into the police database, her file was blocked. In a sex change operation, could she be the spy who gets in and stays in a relationship? It would certainly lead to a twist in the plot.
Hello and goodbye, ‘Robbie Platt’
Scott snuck into Julie’s house and changed the name on her grandson’s Playstation account to “Robbie Platt” – a name written in Gary’s notebook. It also appeared in an old newspaper clipping with the headline “Miners’ Festival in the Shadow of Violence,” that fateful night that ended in arson and Gary’s wrongful arrest. Believing the Met would have answers, Salisbury said it was “time I looked my strength in the eye”.
Back in London, Commissioner Charles Dawes (Pip Torrens) reluctantly pointed him to retired DC Bill Raggett (Christopher Fairbank). Now living in a nursing home and confined to a wheelchair with weeks to come, Raggett was a delightfully seedy character. His unit assumed the identities of dead children, hence “Robbie Platt”. There were five of them, codenamed Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Keats and Blake after the romantic poets. Raggett, aka Blake, initially insisted they had done their jobs and everyone left in 1984, but when he pressed it he found Keats had stayed and muttered, “I should have seen it. You’ve caused trouble from the start.” Note the genderless “they”.
When Salisbury went outside to take a call, Raggett dug out a burner phone, texted four numbers, “One of you guys fucked us,” then pulled out a pistol. For a moment it looked like he was going to shoot Salisbury – until he turned the gun on himself.
As for that call? “DI Salisbury? It’s Helen St Clair. you are looking for me You know my name isn’t my name. I think we should talk.” Gulp. With two episodes left, there must be more. But wow, what an ending.
line of the week
“It’s not the problem of doing things wrong. It sweeps it under the rug and refuses to fucking look at it and learn from it” — the highly quoted Jennifer Hale.
Notes and Observations
As the soundtrack for his final moments, Raggett put ’50s singer Dickie Valentine’s The Finger of Suspicion on the turntable, lending the moment a film noir feel. The closing tune was The Apprentice’s Song by the Ian Campbell Folk Group.
In this episode, Lewis Arnold turned over the directorial duties to Ben A. Williams (Humans, Baghdad Central), who directs the highlights of the three episodes of the series.
For a moment of normalcy amidst the drama, I loved Julie getting tangled up while explaining the rules of the TV quiz Pointless.
Join us next Monday for a deep dive into the penultimate episode. In the meantime, please leave your thoughts and theories below…