More than a Disney kid, I was a books kid. Sure, I watched the pre-requisite Disney movies, but even when I was very, very young, I didn’t need visuals to fall in love with a character. Words worked just fine for me. And all those years ago, one of my favorite, if not my favorite book, was The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood.
What’s not to like? Noble man, goes off to fight, his fortune gets stolen by an Evil and Corrupt government. He retreats into the woods and fights injustice by stealing from the rich to give to the poor. That just screams romance hero. It also kind of screams You have to like this character. And I did, I really did.
Then, Once Upon A Time introduced him. The movies had been kind to Robin Hood in general, from the dashing Errol Flynn to a young Cary Elwes in what was probably my favorite interpretation of the titular hero. So, I was predisposed to like Robin. He was awesome.
He still sorta is. We just never get to see it.
Before I get into my hang-ups with the character, I want to talk a bit about the actor who plays him, Sean Maguire. Sometimes, when you get a character who constantly gets pushed aside to serve other story-lines, as an actor, you can sort of lose faith, being to phone it in. As a viewer it’s very easy to pick up when an actor is not giving it his best, especially when it comes to characters that are, by definition, one-dimensional in their creation. Robin Hood is an ideal, more than a man, and if he were played by an actor with less talent and/or commitment, I would not be sitting here telling you that his character can be saved.
Nope, I’d be here asking (begging) for the show to get rid of Robin Hood.
And I’m not. I’m just asking for the show to care a bit more about him.
I get it, writing is hard. Giving all characters the amount of screen-time they deserve is doubly hard, especially on a show with so many wonderful characters, so many talented actors. It’s not that the writers sit in the writing room and go, hmm, Robin is the least interesting character they have, let’s not give him anything. And it’s certainly not that the whole terrible no good Zelena/baby storyline was crafted because the showrunners hated the character, no. It’s that, when it comes to Robin, we’ve been told a lot of things, but we’ve hardly been shown.
First rule of writing, show don’t tell.
This is what we know of Robin. He’s in love with Regina. He’s honorable to a fault. He cares for his family, and his friends. He is, by all accounts, a hero in his own right.
You know how many of those things I got from watching Robin on-screen?
Maybe one. He’s honorable to a fault. The rest are just things the show wants us to accept, without any proof.
And, maybe, without the Zelena/baby storyline, I could have. Maybe I would have given the show the benefit of the doubt. We’ll never know now, because they wrote that.
Let’s be clear, Robin is the victim in that scenario. Zelena’s actions, in my mind, are very clearly rape. Robin did not consent to have sex with her. Robin did not know he was having sex with her. And yet, it’s not only this despicable act that’s problematic, it’s how the show, and the characters, have dealt with it moving forward.
No, the baby is not to blame. Yes, Robin is acting honorably, and kindly. He’s a good man, who won’t begrudge his child, and we should applaud him for it. But we don’t have to applaud the general sweeping the problems under the rug attitude the show has taken towards this storyline. What Zelena did was wrong. It’s time they said it out loud. It’s time Robin was allowed to have a voice, to be a victim. It doesn’t have to define him, just as it hasn’t defined women for generations. But it is part of him. And we shouldn’t have to hide it.
And I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful for the possibilities. I’m thankful for the actor. I’m thankful.
Once Upon A Time returns to ABC with new episodes on Sunday March 6th, at 8/7c.