Foreign mercenary Guido Fawkes, and a group of English Catholic traitors plan to blow up the Palace Of Westminster and kill King James I in the early 17th century.Foreign mercenary Guido Fawkes, and a group of English Catholic traitors plan to blow up the Palace Of Westminster and kill King James I in the early 17th century.Foreign mercenary Guido Fawkes, and a group of English Catholic traitors plan to blow up the Palace Of Westminster and kill King James I in the early 17th century.
It was also a tough watch at times with graphic depictions of torture and execution, the latter in particular where in the first episode we see a middle-aged Catholic woman stripped naked and agonisingly crushed to death followed by a young priest hung, drawn and quartered, his entrails ripped from his still-living body, before his beheading and his severed head is stuck on a pike put on public display. All of this before a baying, bloodthirsty crowd of supposedly ordinary people.
The story centres on young Catholic nobleman Robert Catesby who becomes the centre of a Popish plot to strike back against the ever more repressive anti-Catholic legislation put before King James by his first lieutenant, the hunch-backed Robert Cecil and his hired muscle in the person of Sir William Wade. With his cohorts, Catesby, after failing to get support abroad for his plans, hatches the famous gunpowder plot to blow up the king and his ministers on the opening of Parliament which sees him meet up with one Guy Fawkes, a cold-bloodedly determined confederate.
Kit Harington, whose very name seems apt for the time portrayed, plays Catesby as the determined handsome hero, prepared to martyr himself to the cause. Peter Mullen is the priest whose commitment to the cause is racked by self-doubt but who in the end, inspired by Catesby's example, finds his own inner courage to match his convictions. Mark Gatiss plays the ruthless, scheming Cecil as almost a pantomime villain with Shaun Dooley more impressive as the brutal Wade, happy to follow orders no matter how violent they are. King James's homosexual tendencies are rather unsubtly highlighted as he plays up to his young lover at court, before his narrow escape frightens him back to his queen.
To me though the story was over-egged in that for example, nowhere have I read of Catesby freeing another young Catholic priest from the Tower Of London, shown here in almost medieval "Mission Impossible" style and as for the last stand of Catesby and his followers, his "Butch Cassidy" - type slow motion death seemed likewise over the top.
I just think that historically important stories like this should pay more attention to the truth and not make so many concessions to an audience it thinks needs cliff-hanging thrills and contrived action sequences in the name of entertainment. The Gunpowder Plot was a pivotal moment in British history and I think deserved a more factual retelling than it got here, no matter how well acted and re-enacted it otherwise was.
- Nov 29, 2017