Sherwood recap: episode three – who is the spy in their midst? | Television & radio

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

James Graham’s outstanding drama reached its midway mark with growing speculation about the spycop’s identity. Here’s your debrief from the third episode …

Crime caught up with Andy

“A place like this sees one murder every blue moon,” said DCS Ian St Clair (David Morrissey). “Now we’ve had two in a matter of days and they’re entirely unconnected?” We last saw train driver Andy Fisher (Adeel Akhtar) lash out with a spade at daughter-in-law Sarah Vincent (Joanne Froggatt). Andy had since been calling in sick and cowering at home. When son Neel (Bally Gill) returned from a business trip to Manchester he discovered her body. As Neel screamed in horror next door, Andy covered his ears and sobbed.

Hardly a master criminal, Andy pleaded ignorance but was racked with guilt. The net soon closed. He had even signed for the parcel containing the murder weapon and posed for the courier’s doorstep photo. The final scene saw him driving Neel to register her death. As his son speculated that his new bride’s killer must have been “psychopathic, proper evil”, Andy’s face expressed his agony.

When St Clair phoned to tell Neel there had been “a development”, Andy stopped the car right there on the motorway, walked across five lanes of traffic and fled across a field towards the forest. Oh, Andy. You can run but can you hide?

A different sort of striker

Agatha Christie-style denouement … (from left) Stephen Tompkinson, Lorraine Ashbourne and Phillip Jackson.
Agatha Christie-style denouement … (from left) Stephen Tompkinson, Lorraine Ashbourne and Phillip Jackson. Photograph: Matt Squire/BBC/House Productions

When Barnsley FC fans travelled down for their fixture at Nottingham Forest (still being called “Notts Forest”, to the chagrin of native viewers), they stopped off at Ashfield to hold an impromptu memorial for their fallen comrade Gary Jackson (Alun Armstrong). Led by Warnock (Stephen Tompkinson, sporting a Joe Exotic-esque mullet-and-moustache), they marched through the village under a National Union of Mineworkers banner, stirring up old conflicts with members of the breakaway Union of Democratic Mineworkers.

In a pub scene that recalled an Agatha Christie-style denouement Warnock broke news of the spy in the community. He spoke ominously of “a great pretender in your midst”. As locals looked at one another with sudden suspicion, Warnock added: “I’ll warrant that mad bastard in the woods knows who it might be.” Talk of the devil …

Scott is still at large. But who is Robbie Platt?

As the manhunt continued, tearful Cathy (Claire Rushbrook) made a direct appeal to fugitive stepson Scott Rowley (Adam Hugill). Via a televised press conference, she begged him to turn himself in. Except that Scott had been emboldened by his actions and continued his campaign of arrow attacks.

First, he shot a peacock on the front lawn of nearby stately home Newstead Abbey (ancestral home of Lord Byron, poetry fans). He then broke into the house of his murder victim Gary to leave a mysterious message. Hands up if you feared a Pulp Fiction moment when he put down his crossbow to use the loo – forgetting to flush, which was noticed by granddaughter Cinderella (Safia Oakley-Green).

There was a heart-in-mouth moment when Cindy’s boyfriend Ronan Sparrow (Bill Jones) knocked on the door and almost got a crossbow bolt in the head. Before he sneaked back out, Scott changed the name on the gaming console of grandson Noah (Lance O’Reilly-Chapman) to “Robbie Platt”. This rang a bell for Julie (Lesley Manville), who dashed upstairs to find the name in Gary’s notebook – with “Stolen identities”, “Who?” and an Ashfield address jotted around it. We might just have the name of our spycop. But what identity is he living under?

Heart-rending as the sisters reached out

Two siblings, one wall, two powerhouse performances. Newly widowed Julie began to thaw when she saw her estranged sister on TV. After her window was broken by a thrown stone with “scab” written on it, Cathy wept in her back yard. Across the ginnel, Julie heard her.

Cue a devastatingly beautiful scene as the sisters comforted one another through the garden wall. “I don’t know why Scott did that,” sobbed Cathy, to which Julie replied: “I hope they find him and he rots in jail his entire miserable life.” As both women placed their hands on the bricks, they were tentatively together but still divided. A theatrical scene from playwright Graham, but a gut-punchingly poignant one.

The Sparrows didn’t sing like canaries

Gloating about being in the clear for the arrow attacks, local crime family the Sparrows were released from custody. However, matriarch Daphne (Lorraine Ashbourne) was savvy enough to realise that locals could still turn against them because Scott trained at their archery range.

Patriarch Mickey (Philip Jackson) led a Sparrow delegation into the pub to pay their respects to Gary and request a suspension in hostilities – putting money behind the bar as a gesture of goodwill. Was it just me, though, who noticed the Sparrows looking shifty at talk of the traitor? It couldn’t be Mickey … could it?

Cracks appear in detective duo

We opened on a flashback to the picketline, with young Gary and Julie among those taunting impassive constable Ian – until the Met riot squad arrived and violence erupted. We heard how hard it had been for Ian to clear a path to the pit so that miners could work. He had come from “a respected mining family” and been “ostracised” by parts of the community for doing his duty.

As past leaked into present, tensions rose between the senior officer and his sidekick sent up from London, DI Kevin Salisbury (Robert Glenister). When Salisbury overheard that the St Clairs were hosting a dinner party for their old friend Jenny, he guessed it meant his old flame (Nadine Marshall) and sneaked around to see her arrive with husband Jacob (Don Gilet). When Kevin’s name came up over dinner, both Jenny and Ian hurriedly changed the subject.

Drunk and maudlin, Salisbury told St Clair that he had wanted to stay in Ashfield rather than head back south. “You took that away from me,” he said. “Everything that went wrong for me, I can trace back to here. I can trace back to you.” It sounded as if Ian might have run Kevin out of town after that fateful night.

Who to trust? … David Morrissey and Lesley Manville.
Who to trust? … David Morrissey and Lesley Manville. Photograph: Matt Squire/BBC/House Productions

Spycop could be close to home

Speculation about the spycop was rife. Julie confirmed to St Clair that Gary had been searching for the undercover officer whose intel led to his wrongful arrest. Presuming the infiltrator arrived around 1984, Salisbury asked Fred Rowley (a typically terrific Kevin Doyle) about his own background. Fred admitted that he had been transferred to Ashfield colliery in 1983 but denied any police links. I’m inclined to believe him.

What about St Clair’s estranged brother Martin (Mark Frost)? He has facial burn scars, raising the possibility of a connection to Gary’s arrest for arson. We saw him watching the TV appeal, then brooding at the bar. When Salisbury dropped by for a pint, he asked “Do I know you, pal?” and picked a fight. As Ian arrived to break things up, Martin demanded of his brother: “Tell me it’s not that copper? One of the fuckers who did this to me?” Ian was put in the unenviable position of publicly defending Salisbury, just like in the 80s. “Once a turncoat, always a turncoat,” spat one bystander.

However, the St Clairs are locals rather than outsiders, which surely rules out Martin. He’s clearly involved somehow – Salisbury asked Ian about “what happened that night” and for the second time this series, got the curt response: “Let’s not.” Could it instead be the St Clair siblings’ father, Ron, an old NUM colleague of Gary’s? Glimpsed for the first time in flashback, he was played by Mark Addy, suggesting he’ll have a bigger role to play.

Line of the week

“We remember. What else is there to do around here but remember?” Fred Rowley in a philosophical mood.

Notes and observations

  • Stephen Tompkinson memorably played another South Yorkshire miner in 1996 film Brassed Off.

  • Lesley Manville says Sherwood brought back terrifying memories of going on a Barnsley picketline in 1984 to research her role in a play about the wives of striking miners. She has also revealed that during the shooting of Sherwood, she was on call for season 5 of The Crown, in which she plays Princess Margaret.

  • The events manager at Newstead Abbey was played by acclaimed actor Nadia Albina, AKA Diane from Doctor Who.

  • Each episode ends with a different song by the Ian Campbell Folk Group. So far we’ve had Blackleg Miners, Drunken Bella Roy and now Geordie Black.

Rejoin us tomorrow as the series enters its home stretch. In the meantime, please leave your thoughts and theories below …

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