Robin Hood's Sheriff of Nottingham Twist, Explained

WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for director Otto Bathurst's Robin Hood, in theaters now.

Director Otto Bathurst's Robin Hood places a different spin on the legendary outlaw, turning him from a repentant English soldier in the Crusades into a defender of the poor upon his return to Nottingham. That riles the town's sheriff, played by Ben Mendelsohn, who views Taron Egerton's protagonist, "The Hood," as someone who must die as punishment for sparking civil disorder.

But through Robin's many exploits, we learn of a far more sinister plan that the sheriff and the Church have in store for the Crown of England.

The film's premise hinges on Robin wanting to strip the Church of all the money it has taxed the people of Nottingham. Every month the taxes rise, and citizens are stripped of their homes and belongings; Robin himself experienced the loss of his family's Loxley estate. But as we come to find out, these taxes aren't for bettering society, building infrastructure and helping to create jobs; they're for the sheriff's war fund.

He tells the people it's a decree from the King (although we never find out whether it was Richard the Lionheart or his brother John). Nevertheless, the money is how England keeps sending archers to replenish its ranks in Arabia, where they're stationed to fight the Moors, spread Christianity and pillage resources. And so, while the Nottingham natives want to rise up, their belief that the money is being used for the good of their country keeps them subjugated.

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However, Robin's true love, the ever-suspicious Marian (Eve Hewson), discovers the dark truth about this war fund, when she secrets herself into the sheriff's quarters with the help of Friar Tuck (Tim Minchin). With everyone distracted at a costume ball, Marian discovers documents written in a mysterious Arabic language, which indicate some sort of long-standing agreement between the sheriff and England's enemies. She takes the paperwork to Will (Jamie Dornan) and, with Tuck translating, they realize the sheriff has been using their money, not to build England's army, but to actually strengthen the Arabian regiment.

The sheriff has been working with the Cardinal of Rome to bring this army to England while the King's forces are in Arabia. That means the kingdom will be vulnerable enough for the sheriff and his newly bought forces to stage a coup and take the crown. With the sheriff as king, Rome will finally have in place the puppet it's always wanted. Robin is especially stunned at this act of treason, as it becomes clear the Arabians he helped to kill or enslave were the ones who didn't want to sign up for the sheriff's army.

Basically, this current Crusade is nothing more than a political facade, engineered by the cardinal to thin out England's military and destroy any opposition from Arabia, thus painting a win-win for him and his servant, the sheriff.

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Everyone is shocked at the betrayal, but they now have the documents to prove to the king that Nottingham has been drained of its money by a traitor. However, it's easier said than done, because the sheriff's corrupt reach has run deep, even infecting the likes of Will and other selfish men who want to rise to power along with him, all at the expense of the current king.

In theaters now, Robin Hood stars Taron Egerton as Robin, Jamie Foxx as Little John, Eve Hewson as Maid Marian, Ben Mendelsohn as the Sheriff of Nottingham, Tim Minchin as Friar Tuck, Jamie Dornan as Will Scarlet, Paul Anderson as Guy of Gisborne, Josh Herdman as Righteous, and Bjorn Bengtsson as Tydon.

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