Set in the heart of 18th Century Flanders, Thieves of the Wood is a pretty good period drama, even if it does fall a little too far into melodramatic waters toward the end of the series. For the most part though, the show does well to juggle its central cast of characters, with Jan the most likable out the bunch. With some gritty visuals and some decent production design, this Flemish drama is certainly enough to warrant a watch, even if it’s unlikely to ignite the period drama scene.
Admittedly, I don’t know an awful lot about this period of history, which is party why the drama is so appealing. At the heart of it though lies returning soldier Jan, who discovers that corruption is rife in his hometown, thanks in part to the sick and poor exiled to the forests. With a clear class divide this early acting as fuel for the conflicts ahead, on the other side of the fence is Baru, a new bailiff keen on instilling reform and changes. The third and final main storyline revolves around Heloise and together, this trio of characters essentially anchor the drama to the usual tropes you’d expect.
There are hints of a Robin Hood-esque plot at work here and throughout the series most of the drama revolves around a road being built which acts as the crux of conflict for both sides. As the series grows, this does change slightly to incorporate more romantic themes but there are a couple of nice twists late on that keep things interesting. I won’t give too much away but suffice to say if you like character drama and soapy elements, Thieves of the Wood is a pretty good option.
Aesthetically at least, the show looks great. There’s a stark contrast between the rich and poor here, deliberately showcased through extreme close ups of the mud and dirt, while wide, sweeping shots of the lavish interiors offers the reverse for the rich. It’s a subtle trick but one that does work well to reinforce the themes that play out across the season.
In terms of costume and production design, Thieves of the Wood does well and there’s a real effort to make this as authentic as possible. Early on there’s a specific curse word used that I had to look up to make sure it was befitting for the time period but beyond that, the series does well to keep things consistent and believable.
With decent visuals and an unusual setting not often showcased, Thieves of the Wood doesn’t really reinvent the wheel but does a pretty good job keeping things engaging nonetheless. If you’re in the mood for a period drama, this is a pretty good offering and while I wasn’t a massive fan of the romantic subplot, there’s enough here to make for an unremarkable but pretty solid season of entertainment.
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