Sherwood recap: episode four – have we found our Keats?

Warning: this recap is for those who have watched up to episode four of Sherwood on BBC One.

Two forest fugitives, a sisterly reconciliation and several spycop twists. Here’s your breakdown of the fourth episode …

Maybe our rogue archer believes golf is “a good walk spoiled”. We began with the latest arrow attack, this time on a threesome of hole-in-one wannabes including Jacob Harris (Don Gilet), husband of local school headmistress Jenny (Nadine Marshall). The first projectile thwacked into Jacob’s bag. The second deflected off his buggy and pierced the abdomen of businesswoman Amy Whitstable (Kelly Harrison). As he melted back into the trees, Scott Rowley (Adam Hugill) looked disappointed.

Amy survived her injuries but police surmised that slippery ex-cop Jacob was the likely target – in the process exposing the awkward fact that he and Amy were having an affair. Jenny’s lost love, DI Kevin Salisbury (Robert Glenister), could barely conceal his satisfaction. If Scott was searching for the spycop embedded in the community, Salisbury told DCS Ian St Clair (David Morrissey) they needed to get ahead of him and find them first. Bring on the whiteboards and late-nighters.

Train driver Andy Fisher (Adeel Akhtar) was also on the run in the forest – but in stark contrast to hooded survivalist Scott, he was terrified, unarmed and ill-equipped. Knowing now that his father had murdered his new wife, Neel (Bally Gill) pleaded with police to apprehend his father alive: “I hate him but please don’t kill him … I want to look him in the eyes and ask why.”

With two killers hiding in dense woodland and a vast search area, local police drafted in reinforcements from the Met to assist with one of the UK’s biggest ever manhunts. As busloads of black-clad officers marched through the streets of Ashfield, it brought back bitter memories of 1984. Helicopters hovering overhead lent further menace. With the divided town already simmering, things threatened to boil over.

The atmosphere was also fraught at the local crime clan’s farmhouse HQ. Not only did Scott train at their archery range but Rory Sparrow (Perry Fitzpatrick) had taught him computer hacking, as well as sourcing him some hardware and viruses. When dad Mickey (Philip Jackson) realised these could be traced back to the Sparrows, he wasn’t what you’d call happy.

Meanwhile, wife Daphne (Lorraine Ashbourne) found out about the secret romance between younger son Ronan (Bill Jones) and Cinderella Jackson (Safia Oakley-Green). The no-nonsense matriarch paid a visit to Cindy’s grandmother Julie (Lesley Manville), alluding to how they had once been friends and noting that both families were misfits – the shady crooks and “the angry strikers in a town full of scabs”. After giving her blessing to the young couple, she left the ball in a shellshocked Julie’s court. I also enjoyed the incidental detail that disreputable Daphne was a school governor.

Fred Rowley (Kevin Doyle) and wife, Cathy (Claire Rushbrook), were stunned to get a surprise knock on the door from Cathy’s estranged sister Julie. Episode three’s garden wall scene had represented a partial reconciliation. Now they tentatively went one step further.

Julie told them how their son Scott “came into my house, to mess with our heads” but conceded it was “odd for us to be going through this alone”. The wary trio sat down together to share a bottle of wine. Maybe some good can come out of all this heartache.

Our detective duo met Jennifer Hale (Lindsay Duncan): NUM lawyer, activist, “all-round pain in the arse”. Fuelled by caffeine and cigarettes, this fast-talking force of nature confirmed that Scotland Yard had indeed embedded officers within mining communities. She explained that the special demonstration squad (SDS) operated between 1968 and 2008, gathering 40m pages of intelligence by infiltrating political groups, Stasi-style. The controversy was only uncovered due to sexual misconduct when spycops formed relationships with targets, in some cases fathering children – which victims called “rape by the state”.

Hale told the dumbstruck cops how the Thatcher government needed a strike in nationalised 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 policing scandals such as “Hillsborough, phone hacking, Stephen Lawrence” and urged them to keep going in pursuit of justice. After that pep talk, in a puff of coal dust, she was gone.

Talking to himself and in a fragile mental state – a devastating turn from Adeel Akhtar – Andy vowed to turn himself in. However, his path was converging with his fellow fugitive’s. As Scott spied on a pair of hikers, he saw Andy sneak into their camp, eat their leftover food, gulp down their water and steal their mobile phone. When the tourists caught him red-handed, feral Andy tried to scare them off, then fled. They gave chase until Scott fired a crossbow bolt, enabling Andy to get away. But why?

Andy left a garbled message on his own answering machine, apologising for his accidental crime and concluding: “I want to come in. I’m ready to face the consequences.” At which point, Scott knocked him out with the butt of his crossbow and dragged Andy’s body back to his hideout. As he waited for him to regain consciousness, the police search team closed in. Will both outlaws make it out of the forest alive?

St Clair and Salisbury helpfully ran through their shortlist of possible spycops. Fred Rowley was transferred to Ashfield in 1983. Could Scott have killed Gary Jackson (Alun Armstrong) to prevent his father being unmasked? Jacob Harris also arrived around that time but trained with St Clair as a uniformed officer, not an undercover one. Mickey Sparrow relocated then, too, but scoffed at the very notion of being ex-police.

Might it be Dean Simmons (Sean Gilder), whose mugshot was visible on the pile? Or Andy, whose train was targeted by Scott? However, Andy was a lifelong village resident and as son Neel neatly put it: “He’s uncomfortable enough in his own skin, let alone someone else’s.”

Suddenly came a curveball: Ian’s own wife, Helen (Clare Holman). Her mother worked for the National Coal Board and her family moved to Ashfield in the early 80s. When Salisbury typed Helen’s name into the police database, her file was restricted. In a gender switcheroo, could she be the spycop who formed a relationship and stayed? It would certainly make for a walloping plot twist.

Scott snuck into Julie’s house and changed the name on her grandson’s Playstation account to “Robbie Platt” – a name jotted in Gary’s notebook. It also cropped up in an old newspaper cutting headlined “Miners’ festival overshadowed by violence”, that fateful night which ended in arson and Gary’s wrongful arrest. Believing the Met would have answers, Salisbury said it was “time I looked my force in the eye”.

Back in London, Commissioner Charles Dawes (Pip Torrens) reluctantly pointed him in the direction of retired DC Bill Raggett (Christopher Fairbank). Now in a care home and confined to a wheelchair with weeks to live, Raggett was a superbly 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 job and all left in 1984 but, when pressed, he realised Keats had stayed, muttering: “I should’ve seen it. They were trouble from the start.” Note that genderless “they”.

When Salisbury stepped outside to take a call, Raggett rooted out a burner phone, texted four numbers “One of you has fucked us”, then drew a handgun. For a moment, it looked as if he might shoot Salisbury – until he turned the pistol on himself.

As for that phone call? “DI Salisbury? It’s Helen St Clair. You’re looking for me. You know my name is not my name. I think we should talk.” Gulp. With two episodes still remaining, there must be more to it. But wow, what a final sequence.

“It’s not getting things wrong that’s the problem. It’s sweeping it under the carpet, refusing to just bloody look at it and learn from it” – the highly quotable Jennifer Hale.

Rejoin us next Monday to dive deep into the penultimate episode. In the meantime, please leave your thoughts and theories below …

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