Everything you need to know about the compelling new BBC crime drama that just landed on TVNZ+.
Warning: contains mild spoilers for the first episode.
What’s all this then?
Sherwood is the next big British drama, and all the critics in the UK have been raving about it. After premiering over there last month, The Guardian called Sherwood the cleverest, most compelling show they’d seen in years, The Times said it was “just about perfect” and “a triumph”, while the Daily Telegraph reckoned it was a “layered exploration of community, class and enmity”. Basically, it’s British drama at its best, and now it’s available on TVNZ+.
I can’t believe everyone liked a show about Sherwood that doesn’t even feature Maid Marian.
Sherwood was initially inspired by real events from the Nottinghamshire mining community where writer James Graham (The Crown, Quiz, Brexit: The Uncivil War) grew up. When two unexpected murders occur in the ex-mining village of Sherwood, the search for the killer reveals a community still divided by the miner strikes of the 1980s. Sherwood is about the political and social legacy of Thatcher’s government as much as it is about a murder investigation.
So it’s a whodunnit?
Unusually, Sherwood reveals the identity of the murderer at the end of episode one. Viewers are let in on the secret, while the police go on a massive manhunt and the village tries to make sense of the crimes. It’s more of a whydunnit than a whodunnit, and even though we know who the murderer is, Sherwood is rich with twists and tension that will keep viewers hooked for all six episodes.
Who will I recognise in this?
Sherwood features a stellar ensemble cast, including Lesley Manville (Mum), Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey), David Morrissey (The Walking Dead), Kevin Doyle (Downton Abbey) and Lorraine Ashbourne (Bridgerton).
Manville plays Julie Jackson, wife of murder victim Gary (Alun Armstrong). Gary is a former miner who remains proud of his past on the picket line, and who never forgave his enemies – including Julie’s sister Claire and her husband, who live across the street from the Jacksons. Gary managed to piss off everyone in Sherwood while he was alive, but was his murder related to the strikes?
Detective Ian St Clair (David Morrissey) returns to his hometown to investigate the crime and discovers a village still simmering with the bitterness created on the picket line three decades earlier, when not all Nottinghamshire miners went on strike. St Clair also discovers rumours of “spy cops” still living in the village – undercover police officers who took on false identities during the 1980s to infiltrate mining communities and monitor striking workers.
So you’re saying that Sherwood is way more intense than Midsomer Murders?
It’s the mix of fact with fiction, the thoughtful script and the brilliant performances from the impressive cast that elevates Sherwood far beyond your standard British murder mystery. On one level, Sherwood is a classic British police drama about a tricky murder investigation, but it’s also a deep dive into a community with a dark, festering past. It’s like a grittier, more political version of Broadchurch, with the beaches and sunshine swapped out for collieries and unionism.
At the heart of the drama is the legacy of the 1984 miners strike, and the show begins with archival footage from the picket line that sets the tone for the rest of the series. Sherwood has a powerful sense of place (think Happy Valley, or Billy Elliot), and the multi-layered story slowly reveals itself to expose a working-class town filled with secrets, grudges and long-held grief. Sherwood is about relationships and families and the power of connection. Everyone in Sherwood is connected to everyone else, but nobody wants to talk about it.
Nobody wants to talk about Robin Hood, either. I heard Gary was shot by a crossbow arrow. Robin of Loxley, is that you?
Sherwood is available to stream on TVNZ+.