‘Sherwood’ Ending, Explained: How Do 2 Murders Bring Out Age-Old Hatred In Nottinghamshire’s Ashfield?


BBC’s crime drama series “Sherwood” is a neat and nifty blend of fact and fiction, created and written by James Graham. As a disclaimer at the beginning of every episode makes it clear, the story of the series was inspired by two actual murders that took place in a mining village in Nottinghamshire, in a community where the author grew up. While these murders and their nature mostly remain similar, Graham brings in the relevant history of the miners’ strike across the UK in 1984, and intelligently ties it together to create a show definitely worth watching and remembering.

Spoilers Ahead

‘Sherwood’ Plot Summary: What Is The Series About?

The series begins with the community of Ashfield, a town close to the Sherwood Forests in Nottinghamshire, preparing for the marriage of two of their own. Sarah Vincent, the bride-to-be, is also the Tory candidate for the local councilor post, and she is about to marry her long-time lover, Neel, who is involved in some managerial business. Despite Sarah’s love for Neel, she is not very comfortable around her father-in-law, Andy Fisher, because of his unusually nervous nature and his complete disregard for any privacy. Andy, a widowed train driver, seems to have been a bit shocked mentally ever since the loss of his wife, and now he fears that his new daughter-in-law would get rid of the private gate that joins his garden (and therefore, house) to that of his son’s, something that Neel’s mother always wanted to keep. At this wedding most members of the community were invited, and most of the members that serve prominent roles in the show are introduced here. One such family is the Jacksons. Headed by Gary Jackson, a man very proud and headstrong about his ideas and beliefs, the family consists of Gary’s wife Julie, and at the present moment, their two grandchildren—almost adult Cinderella and teenager Noah, as their parents are out on vacation. Although it has been a long time since Ashfield and the community have been away from its past identity of being a coal mining village, the essence of the time is still alive among the people. Gary Jackson had been a member of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the group that had led the miners’ strikes and picketing all over the mining regions of the UK in 1984, and he still proudly pledges his allegiance amidst a community in which the majority of people had broken away from the NUM’s strikes and returned to work at the mines, crossing over the picket lines.

The Jacksons’ neighbors, the Rowleys, were among the many families with such a history in Ashfield—Fred Rowley had been part of the Union of Democratic Mineworkers (UDM), the group that had broken away from the NUM and had continued to work amidst the strikes. The Rowleys also include Fred’s wife, Cathy, who also happens to be Julie’s sister, but the two have kept no contact with each other since their marriages because of their different political views, and Fred’s son from his first marriage, Scott. This son, however, raises suspicion from the very beginning, as he stays mostly all by himself, locked up inside his room amidst computer screens that seem to be used for hacking and other illegal activities, and the boy also often goes out on hunting trips in the nearby forest by himself. The third important family, established through the wedding, is that of veteran police detective Ian St. Clair, who is awarded for his service by the Nottinghamshire sheriff’s office, and then seen rushing to the wedding, much to the anger of his loving wife, Helen St. Clair.

After Neel and Sarah’s wedding ceremony is over, the town again returns to its usual normalcy, until it is very quickly plunged into a series of unforeseeable tragedies. Gary Jackson had the particular habit of insultingly calling all his UDM-supporting strike-breaking neighbors “scabs,” a derogatory term to refer to workers who refuse to strike, and the man kept up with this habit during the wedding as well as after it, often getting into heated arguments about the matter. One night soon after the wedding, he visits the local Miners’ Welfare club for a drink and repeats a similar provocation to one of his neighbors, Dean Simmonds, who violently reacts by throwing a pool ball at him. That very night, as Gary returns home, accompanied only by his pet dog, he is shot dead with an arrow to his chest. Suspicion of the murder quickly falls on the Sparrows, a notorious family in the region known to have involvement in drug dealing and other illegal activities. The Sparrows own an archery range where interested people can pay and practice their skills, which immediately connects them to Gary’s murder. Along with this, the eldest Sparrow son, Rory, was seen driving around the Jacksons’ house numerous times in a taxi owned by his family’s taxi cab business, and seemed to have a clear animosity with Gary. As detective Ian St Clair takes on the case, he reaches out to an old Scotland Yard acquaintance, Detective Inspector Kevin Salisbury, and the latter now comes in from London to join the case. However, as investigations begin into the murder of Gary Jackson, a second murder rocks the quaint town and neighborhood of Ashfield, as newly married Sarah Vincent is found dead in their house, murdered with a heavy weapon hit on her head.

What Did The Investigation Of The Two Murders Lead To?

As Ian St. Clair and Kevin Salisbury unite to investigate the case of the first murder, they quickly nab the Sparrows—Mickey, Daphne, and the elder son, Rory, because of their known status as miscreants, while younger son Ronan was left to be at their home. A second arrow had been fired at a moving train driven by Andy Fisher, and the bolts matched those used at the Sparrows’ archery range. However, nothing significant could be found about the family, as they all had alibis for the night of the murder. Also, more crucially, a third attack had occurred as an arrow was shot at the house of a local lawyer named Vinay Chakrabarti, and this happened all while the Sparrows were in police custody. Although a solid link was established between the Sparrows and the Jacksons, as the two families had their allotments (government allotted small plots for mine workers without a job, in this context) side by side, nothing too hard could be found, and the Sparrows were subsequently released. Instead, suspicions now fall on Gary’s young neighbor, Scott Rowley, who is still missing, and Scott’s crime becomes almost certain when his samples match with those found in the teeth of Gary’s pet dog, which had instantly tried to attack the perpetrator when its master had been shot at. The police investigate Scott’s house and particularly his room, interrogate his father and step-mother, and realize that the young man was supposed to make a court appearance soon, as there was a case against him. Despite owning the entire amount that his father had been paid by the mining company when he had lost his job, Scott had registered for unemployment benefits. As this is considered benefit fraud under UK law, Scott had been asked to appear in court, and, when he had failed to do so, an arrest warrant had been issued against his name. Ian and his team then investigate an old garage that Fred had given off to his son, and here they find evidence of Scott’s criminal tendencies and his anti-establishment stance on matters. The garage is filled with posters and newspaper clippings about the government’s practice of hiding the truth, and a message reading “You’re all liars” is also spray-painted on the wall.

It is to be made clear in this context that, unlike most other shows of the kind, “Sherwood” does not try to create much mystery about who the murderers are in its plot; the makers are not interested in that, and that does not hamper the thrill of the show at all. At the end of the very first episode, Scott Rowley is seen going into the Sherwood Forest all by himself, armed with a crossbow and enough arrows to put up a fight, and with a clear vengeance in his eyes. While it is not totally established that Scott is Gary’s murderer at first glance, it becomes very clear gradually as he is seen making more attacks with his arrows. After the attack on Chakraborty, Scott kills a peacock on Lord Byron’s sprawling property, and then even attacks three golfers at the local course. However, as disturbed and angry as young Scott might have been, he had no connection with the second murder. Sarah Vincent’s death was even more gruesome as we directly witnessed it happen and also because it was a matter within the family. Within the short week since her marriage to Neel, Sarah had grown even more detached and creeped out by her father-in-law. Neel had earlier connected Andy’s phone to the new Bluetooth speakers in his house, and the man had no idea that it was still connected when he watched explicit adult videos later that night, alone in his own adjacent house. While Neel was away on business, Sarah had heard the noises blaring out of the speakers in her house and was disgusted by them. The next day, when Andy went to her house to give her certain online order deliveries (the delivery person could not find her house, and Andy received them on her behalf), the man walked in on Sarah using the bathroom, and this further grossed the woman out. Looking at the packages, Andy realizes that Sarah has been ordering goods to remove the connecting gates between their two houses and feels heartbroken. The two have an awkward conversation about Andy’s late wife, and Sarah claims that the woman killed herself because of her mental issues, despite her terminal illness. The claims do come off as disrespectful. Andy has a moment of immense rage, and then calmly, like a cold-blooded killer, picks up a spade from the newly delivered package and smashes it on his daughter-in-law’s head, instantly killing her. Realizing what he has done but also scared of the consequence, Andy silently leaves his son’s house, returns to his home, and acts all normal even when Neel returns the next day and visits him first. As the son gradually discovers what has happened, Andy remains silent and does not reveal anything.

Although Andy continues to live his normal life, helping his son grieve and providing him with support, a sense of guilt torments his mind all the while, and this is further heightened when Neel understandably claims that the murderer of his wife must be someone of the vilest and most criminal nature. Ian and Kevin look into this case as well, and they quickly discover that it was Andy who had signed and received the delivery packages on Sarah’s behalf. As Ian calls Neel up and then asks both father and son to come to the police station to discuss new findings, Andy guesses what might be up, and decides to flee from the situation. Stopping his car in the middle of a busy highway, Andy walks out, crosses the road recklessly, and runs into the Sherwood forest just by the road. The second murderer is now also missing, and the police decide to conduct a manhunt in order to search for the two men; and Neel requests that they bring his father back alive. Andy initially wanders through the forest alone, but his mental disbalance catches up to him, and he soon starts to imagine situations and talk on his own. As Scott is also hiding in the same area, he spots Andy in a day or two, and then also helps the man from two campers, whose phone Andy had stolen. With his guilt now completely overpowering his conscience, Andy calls up Neel’s phone and leaves a message asking his son to forgive him and stating that he wants to go back to civilization and surrender to the police. By the time Neel listens to the message, Andy and Scott have moved along together, still managing to escape the police search party. Finally, when the police do arrive on the scene, Andy walks out holding the crossbow, managing to help Scott escape. The police and Neel all try to convince Andy to drop the weapon and surrender, but the man, now wishing to reunite with his beloved wife in heaven, still holds the crossbow and is shot dead by the police officials.

While the second murderer is now dealt with, and Scott has already been established as the first murderer, the question of why exactly Gary was killed becomes more important. Much earlier, after the attacks on Vinay Chakraborty, the lawyer revealed in the police interrogation that Gary Jackson had recently been looking into a matter kept hidden and secret from public knowledge, and the solicitor was helping him with it. During the 1984 mine workers’ strike, the Scotland Yard police force sent over a team of officers whose responsibility was to work undercover and dig out information about all the workers involved in the strike. During that time, Gary had been arrested for a particular arson case but had also been released from custody soon after, on the orders of higher authorities. Despite his release, Gary believed that the incident had always affected his professional and personal life thereafter, although he was really never present at the scene of the fire at that time. Therefore, he started looking into the matter, trying to find out who the undercover cop who had wrongfully named him was, and he claimed that the cop continued to live in Ashfield under their fake identity. With the information of such a major secret, Ian and Kevin now conclude that Gary’s murder must be connected with the investigation that he had been doing on his own and that somehow Scott had some motive against the man in this regard. This inevitably means that an investigation into the past is necessary, and neither Ian St. Clair nor Kevin Salisbury are too excited about it, for they themselves have an unpleasant shared history from thirty years ago.

Who Was The Undercover Agent Who Lived On With Their False Identity?

With Scott’s arrow attacks now having hit the peacock and the golfers, Kevin and Ian decide that they themselves need to find out first who the undercover cop was, as it now seems very probable that Scott Rowley is on the cop’s hunt as well. This particular investigation takes off when Scott first breaks into the Jackson house and leaves a hint of the name “Robbie Platt,” which immediately makes recently widowed Julia remember seeing the same name in her husband’s diary. It becomes clear that Gary himself was looking for Robbie Platt, and Kevin Salisbury now makes use of his Scotland Yard sources to look for the man. With the help of a photograph of Robbie Platt, Kevin finds out that it is actually a retired detective named Bill Raggett. The DI meets Bill in his care home, and from the retired detective gets to know that the police agency did indeed send in a team to Ashfield, along with many other such places, to carry out secretive undercover operations, and the agents were all codenamed after the five Romantic poets of English literature—Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Keats, and Blake. From Bill’s words, it becomes clear that the agent codenamed Keats was the one being looked for, the one who had decided to stay back in Ashfield under their created identity. However, as Kevin momentarily leaves the man alone to answer a call, Bill Raggett pulls out a stashed-away burner phone, texts four other numbers, saying that one of them had let out their secret, and then kills himself with a revolver. The suicide of a respected police detective makes both Ian and Kevin’s respective superior officers ask them not to pursue their search any longer, as it questions police integrity itself, but both of them stay on the matter individually. At one point, Kevin suspects Ian’s wife, Helen St. Clair, of being Keats, since not much information about her before her moving into Ashfield is known, and these suspicions are heightened even more when Kevin finds out that Helen’s records are behind restricted access in the police database. Ian, too, finds out about this suspicion, and decides to pursue the matter, suspecting his wife of being the undercover agent. Helen, herself gets to know of Kevin’s suspicion, and meets the detective at a local hotel, and confides in him that her police records are hidden to maintain anonymity about her involvement in a case against her own father, who tried to kill her and her mother.

Just as suspicions are at their highest and the past is muddled, events from thirty years ago are laid bare in front of our eyes. A young woman, with blond hair just like Helen’s, is seen being recruited into the police’s secret Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) and is then sent to Ashfield, where she starts to fit in with the mining community. The woman makes acquaintances and then becomes close friends with other young women of her age, including the two sisters, Julie and Cathy, and another woman named Jenny. She also gets to know the men of the town, particularly the two brothers, Ian and Martin, who work as policemen despite their father being a mine worker in support of the NUM’s picketing. At the time, many policemen from the London Metropolitan force had been sent to Nottinghamshire to control the violent strike situation, and among them was young Kevin Salisbury. Kevin and NUM supporter Jenny had fallen in love, but had to keep their affair secret since they were on opposing sides. However, Jenny had revealed this to young Keats, and especially about their plan on a particular night—Kevin would be in charge of the local bus depot, now being used as a Met storehouse, but he would instead spend the night with Jenny. With the pressure of her professional duties on her shoulders, Keats decided to make use of this situation and informed local NUM workers that the storehouse was about to be empty that night. The NUM workers immediately decided to raid and loot the place, and Keats would then report their names to the higher authorities and collect acclaim for it. The NUM workers did go through with this plan, but Gary, who was a known face in the NUM group, had personally declined to take part in it. However, the men did not know that another policeman was also posted at the storehouse, and when a fight between the two sides ensued, an accidental fire broke out and quickly spread through the entire building. During all this time, Kevin and Jenny were busy making love away from the place and had been caught in the act by Gary. While Gary promised to not let anyone know of this, Kevin did his part later by providing an alibi for the man. Meanwhile, the fire at the storehouse resulted in the death of one of the NUM members, who also happened to be Jenny’s father. Among the group that had gone to loot the place was also Ron St. Clair, Ian’s father and a long-time member of the protesting NUM. When Ian and his brother Martin rushed to the place after hearing of it, Martin even ran into the burning building that his father was still trapped inside. While Ron had managed to already escape and flee from the scene, Martin suffered severe burns on his face, and withdrew himself from the police service after the incident. Keats duly reported the names of all the people she knew who would have certainly been part of the looting mob, and they were all arrested immediately, but Gary was ultimately saved when Kevin told his superiors the truth. Despite his release, the information about Gary’s alibi was never released to the public, as that would also expose the police official’s (Kevin’s) irresponsible actions, and so Gary was always looked down upon by his neighbors, making it very difficult for him to find any employment.

It was this night’s incident that had majorly shaped the present, and especially the present relation dynamics between the characters. Jenny broke up with Kevin, unable to forgive him (and probably herself) for the death of her father, and the two only mend their relationship in the present. Ian had to choose between the role of a policeman and that of a son, and he chose the former, as he agreed to his father’s involvement in the arson case. This, in turn, destroyed his relationship with his father and brother Martin, who keeps no contact with his brother despite still living in Ashfield. Ian, too, hated Kevin for the incident, as it was, after all, Kevin who had left his duty. Although everyone remained confused for the past thirty years about who had actually named the perpetrators, it is revealed to us that Keats had given their names. The woman was shattered by the entire experience, though, as she expressed her dislike and discomfort towards the fact that her actions had caused so much hatred and disruption among the Ashfield community, but she was ordered by her superiors to carry on. Finally, it is now that the real identity of Keats is revealed, as one night, young Mickey Sparrow approaches her with a romantic interest, and she agrees to it. The young woman then continues to live on in Ashfield under her new and false identity, that of Daphne Sparrow. Now in the present, Daphne looks at Bill Raggett’s text message on her phone when an arrow fired by Scott shatters on her door, and Daphne now fears that Scott has unveiled her real identity and is about to kill her.

‘Sherwood’ Season 1: Ending Explained – How True Are The Events Shown In The Series?

Now out of any more places to hide in the Sherwood forest, Scott takes a rest at the Sparrows’ allotment plot, and is stumbled upon by Mickey Sparrow. Mickey immediately informs the police, and a chase through the narrow streets of Ashfield soon begins. As Scott is finally caught up with and the motorcycle he was escaping on is smashed, the boy pulls out his bow, readied with arrows, and aims it at all the people of the neighborhood who are gradually advancing towards him. Scott does not ultimately fire, though, and is immediately apprehended by the people and the police when he drops the weapon. However, in the police interrogation, Scott does not say anything close to what the police had guessed or even wanted to hear. Scott agreed to kill Gary, but he did so out of jealousy at how close-knit and loving the Jackson family was to each other. The young man never felt loved or attended to in his dysfunctional family, despite his parents’ best efforts, and had grown into a terribly disturbed personality who saw violence as the solution to all problems. Even the money that he received from his father (the mineworker’s retirement fund) was something that Scott saw in a negative light, as Fred had originally put the money in his son’s name to avoid any alimony claims from his first wife. Scott agrees to have seen the emails between Gary and Chakraborty about a possible undercover police agent still living in Ashfield, but also admits that he had no idea who the agent actually was. All the rest of the attacks that Scott did, ranging from the train to the Sparrow’s house at the end, were done by him out of general anger and rage against society or the particular family (he tells the police that the Sparrows owed him). Ultimately, Scott Rowley had committed the murder because of his disturbed psyche, without any connection with the events of the past, and yet the entire Ashfield community jumped out with their prejudices against each other based on the coal mine strikes in 1984.

After the whole investigation is done with, Kevin leaves Nottinghamshire, but Ian still wishes to know who Keats actually was, as it has now become almost like a personal itch for him. Julie Jackson had earlier told Ian that Daphne Sparrow’s background details did not match up and that very little about the woman’s past was known to the people in the town, but there was nothing concrete for Ian to look into. Finally, all members gather at the local school’s fundraising program, where donations are requested to buy panto tickets for the children. The Sparrows decide to buy one for all the children in the class, but as Daphne types on her phone without her glasses on, the word “tickets” autocorrects to “Keats” (the woman had earlier searched for Keats on her phone), and the message on the big screen notoriously reads, “Daphne Sparrow all Keats.” While nobody else finds anything wrong or suspicious with the message, Daphne freaks out and leaves the school, and Ian St. Clair also gets his clue. The detective follows Daphne to her house and walks in on her about to kill herself with the police gun that she had kept hidden away for so long. Ian talks her out of such a rash decision, though, as he tries to convince her that he, too, had indirectly named the people present in the arson case when he agreed with the list. He also promised that he would help Daphne out of the whole situation, giving his word that nobody else in Ashfield would know about her real identity. Some time seems to have passed, and the Jackson family visits the grave of Gary to show respect. Fred Rowley is allowed to have one last conversation with his son Scott before his criminal trial. Daphne visits Julie, and both of them approve of the romantic relationship brewing between Ronan and Cinderella from the very first episode. Daphne had also earlier reunited with her estranged sister Cathy, and now Ian and Martin also mend their relations, as Ian is seen visiting his brother’s house. In the end, Rory and another man from the town go into the woods in search of the 15,000 pounds that Scott had left somewhere buried inside Sherwood while hiding from the police.

Along with the heavily entertaining plot and storytelling of “Sherwood,” where the series really excels is in tying fact and fiction together. Two murders had actually taken place within a short span of time in Nottinghamshire in 2004, around the place where writer James Graham had grown up. The first was of Keith Frogson, an ex-NUM member, in a similar fashion as shown in “Sherwood,” and the second was of Chanel Taylor. While Keith’s murder was actually committed by his mentally unstable neighbor, Chanel had actually been shot dead by her own father, unlike the father-in-law in the series. Both the murders actually proved to be unrelated to Nottinghamshire’s mining history, but that did not stop old ghosts from resurfacing. In 1984 and 1985, England saw severe protests and uprisings by coal mine workers against the government’s decision to shut down coal mines. While the National Union of Mineworkers, led by Arthur Scargill, called for indefinite strikes and picketing, the Prime Minister of the UK at the time, Margaret Thatcher, made efforts to stop such protests. At the time, specifically in Nottinghamshire, a group of mineworkers divided from the NUM to form their own Union of Democratic Mineworkers, and decided to continue work, and make out every little profit they could from an industry certain to be killed off by the government. This led to a major divide in numerous societies in the region, as all mineworkers and their families either chose to support the picket lines or cross over and resume work. It is against this background that “Sherwood” weaves its tale, which in itself is, of course, based on real events. Despite itself not being very directly political, the series does not shy away from making mention of actual political events and theories. There are instances where the Battle of Orgreave is mentioned, which was a violent clash between pickets and police authorities that resulted in numerous injuries and arrests. The time and normal citizens’ experiences with the police and the authorities live on as horrific memories, and “Sherwood” pays brilliant tribute to that. At the end of the last episode, it directly dedicates itself to the memory of Keith “Froggo” Frogson, the man mercilessly murdered by his neighbor. At the very beginning and end, it also incorporates real footage from the time, showing the entire turmoil that spread across England in 1984–85. “Sherwood” makes use of a semi-fictional tale to bring up these incidents into the conversation once more, and overall, it is an absolute treat to watch.

“Sherwood” is a 2022 Drama Thriller series created by James Graham.

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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