In Sherwood forest in Nottinghamshire in England, a killer is using Robin Hood’s crossbow as a weapon of choice. The romance of the legendary outlaw ends there, however: Sherwood, a disturbing crime-cum-political thriller delves into the anti-working class excesses of the Margaret Thatcher era.

The BBC series, which is available on BookMyShow Stream, is based on a true incident fictionalised by writer James Graham. Sherwood begins with documentary footage of a miner’s strike in 1984 that was attacked by the police. Decades later in Nottinghamshire’s Ashfield, acrid memories of strife between the strikers and “scabs” – the workers who stayed away from the strike – continue to affect a close-knit community. Sisters Julie (Lesley Manville) and Cathy (Claire Rushbrook) live next to each other but have not spoken for years because their husbands belong to opposite sides of the divide.

When Julie’s embittered husband Gary Jackson (Alun Armstrong), who participated in the strike, is found murdered with an arrow through his body, a festering wound that had been loosely covered for years is exposed.

A local cop who is now dignified inspector Ian St Clair (David Morrissey), who still has to live outside the village as penance for the past, is called upon to investigate. Much to Ian’s annoyance, London police officer Kevin Salisbury (Robert Glenister) arrives to supposedly assist the investigation. Ian and Kevin have an unpleasant history from the days of their youth that has seeped into their forced working relationship.

The Sparrows, a drug-dealing family that also runs an archery range, is dragged into the mess, more because of who they are than what they did. A somewhat unnecessary subplot that bloats the six-part series comprising hour-long episodes involves Andy Fischer (Adeel Akhtar), his son Neel (Bally Gill) and Tory councillor daughter-in-law (Joanne Froggart).

When more arrows are shot into random targets, Ian’s calm exterior snaps, especially since everything seems to point to the unfortunate incidents of 1984. Later, Ian gets shocking information about just how far Thatcher’s government went to break the backs of the working class.

As the series progresses, the links between characters get more intricate. The manhunt takes a backseat to the tragedies of the past spilling into the present. The killer is revealed quite early, so who did it is not the mystery. The killer’s motive still comes as a jolt to the various characters affected by the indiscriminate attacks.

Cinematographers Simon Archer and Sam Care shoot the English countryside in all its timeless glory. The cast of fine actors led by Morrissey and Manville give of their best under the direction of Lewis Arnold and Ben A Williams. The actors look like they have lived through tough times, their faces lined and joyless. While the suspense builds up gradually, the series does lose some energy and focus by the fourth episode. The intrusion into the village of hundreds of cops from the outside is not played out for its tension and dramatic potential.

While the politics of England in the 1980s and the long-term ramifications of ill-considered economic decisions might not be resonant for contemporary Indian viewers, the conflict between opposing clans (there is even a teen romance amidst the hostility), unresolved rage and pain of loss are universal. Sherwood is more than a simple police procedural – it’s an atmospheric piece, with Broadchurch and Mare Of Easttown vibes of bucolic beauty concealing toxicity.

Sherwood (2022).