Old scars run deep in a small Nottingham mining village in BBC miniseries Sherwood. Bad blood from the 1980s miner strike still runs through the community’s veins as the local elections hang overhead. And when a local resident is found dead one morning – shot with an arrow – tensions come to a head as more arrow attacks soon follow.
Written by playwright and screenwriter James Graham (Quiz, Brexit: The Uncivil War), this newest BBC drama takes inspiration from two real-life murders that occurred in Nottingham in July 2004. While the show is a fictionalised dramatisation of these events, the writer nevertheless draws upon their historic and political motivations to demonstrate how relevant this story still is, almost two decades later. Archive footage of the strikes, alongside references to the collapse of the “red wall” and explosive confrontations between the villagers and police, effectively underscore the longevity of the impact of the strikes in the area. This is by far the most intriguing aspect of the show’s opening. Unfortunately, this connection is only background noise amid what is another by-the-numbers BBC drama that falls into all the familiar traps.
Out of an incredible roster of talent onscreen (including David Morrissey, Adeel Akhtar and Alun Armstrong), it’s Leslie Manville who steals the show as loving grandmother and grieving widow Julie. The actor wears her emotions on her sleeve, making it impossible for viewers not to become swept up in her plight as the narrative unfolds around her. However, cracks quickly begin to form in the ensuing drama.
As the murder mystery continues its investigation – despite the killer being revealed surprisingly early, making initial red herrings pointless padding – the show goes from grounded drama to outlandish tale in the space of only two episodes, as it begins to dip its toes into the realms of conspiracy theory. Though this inclusion is rooted in real-world events, the subsequent implications descend into absurdist melodrama (assuming this plot thread isn’t more misdirection, that is).
There are still likely plenty of surprises and twists to be had in the rest of this six-part series. However, the show’s chilling allegory and phenomenal performances are undercut by clunky storytelling that’s on the verge of transforming the gritty drama into a soap opera.
Sherwood is released on 13th June 2022.
Watch the trailer for Sherwood here: