Series title: Merry Maidens
Created by: Oh For Cute! Productions
Starring: Sissy Anne Quaranta, Evey Reidy
Elevator pitch: Lockpick-happy Robin Locksley Hood has transformed from student council leader to a rebellious textbook black market dealer, with the help of her passionate and intelligent Merry Maidens. When Marian DuBois, frustrated with assumptions of her inability to cause actual change, enlists Robin’s help to stop the destruction of the Sherwood Forest, the previously estranged pair find themselves struggling between their hearts and their minds in deciding what is right.
Features: student activism, 100% shippable main couple, quick-witted humor, environmentalism, strong female characters, female friendship, WOC, great ensemble, pansexual rep, gay rep, bisexual rep, asexual rep, interesting adaptation, women in STEM, baking videos, closed-captioned
Merry Maidens is a lot like the legend of Robin Hood itself: a fun adventure with strong characters striving to make positive change in the world. As we see more students rising up in protest for what they’re passionate about, this webseries resonates well with the modern world. The creators used the university setting to their advantage, creating an interesting power dynamic between a dean and students rather than a prince and his nobility. But because the dean was never featured on camera, everything we know about him is filtered through Robin and her Merry Maidens or Connor Sheriff, the student body president. It’s not a choice I’m particularly fond of, because the delicious villainy of Prince John is one of my favorite things about Robin Hood, but it’s understandable since the reason for filming everything is given to the audience; Robin was once set up by Sheriff on a false claim about taking money from the student body budget and was unable to prove her innocence, so she films everything for evidence should something like that happen again. Additional perspectives include Marian’s public vlogs and Alana’s private collection of videos for the memories. This style of storytelling, providing an explanation beyond creating a vlog channel, is becoming more popular because it explains away issues of putting up more personal content.
Marian is by far the best character in the series. She struggles with being characterized as nothing beyond “nice,” and fights for what she’s passionate about with logic, binders, and communication. Did I mention she’s also a math major? Amazing. Robin may be the central character of the Merry Maidens, but the juxtaposition of Marian’s ambition to Robin’s determined stagnation means that their relationship pushes them to grow into better people. Both characters go through a lot of self-realization because of the perspective the other provides, which makes their arguments and contrasting methods of saving the forest that much more difficult to watch. Luckily, the quality banter between the Merry Maidens provides necessary levity when we see them at odds.
There’s a lot of depth for the both of them, but in a short series (only thirty-five episodes) this comes at a cost for the other characters. The Merry Maidens have a strong bond, and we’re able to learn about how they came together as a group. But beyond a few slapped-on characteristics and great chemistry, we don’t get much information about who the supporting cast is. I really wanted to know more about the backstory of Robin and Joanna, which was hinted at but never really delved into, and Alana isn’t even featured on-camera most of the time. This is especially unfortunate for Sheriff, who could’ve become a much more interesting antagonist if his lines weren’t so bluntly white, heterosexual male villain. Perhaps this was a choice of the writers to make him more dislikeable, but paired with a twirlable mustache you’ve got more of a caricature than a character.
This webseries is fast-paced and energetic, making the watch time feel like almost nothing. Whether it be arguments about the Star Wars prequels or gluten-free baking videos, the Merry Maidens are a solid group of friends with great dynamics. (Well, I say friends, but Tuck and Miller are definitely dating and they are definitely adorable.) Robin stands out as an entertaining and fierce protagonist who makes mistakes and learns from them. The production design and costuming is excellent, and the handheld cinematography style allows for more natural and humorous filming that makes the whole thing feel more like a group of friends hanging out instead of a group of friends making a video. It honestly just fun, and I love it for that.