A cautionary tale about the dangers of unchecked power, this Starz adaptation of Ken Follett's massive page-turner offers all the scheming and plotting of royal potboilers like Elizabeth
and Showtime's The Tudors
. The story takes place in the 12th century, when King Henry I loses his son at sea. After Henry's death, his nephew, Stephen (Tony Curran), assumes the throne, against the wishes of the Earl of Bartholomew (Donald Sutherland, star of Follett's Eye of the Needle
) and Henry's daughter, Maud (Alison Pill, convincing as a Brit), which pits them against Bishop Waleran (Deadwood
's Ian McShane) and Lady Hamleigh (Sarah Parish) and her bloodthirsty son, William (David Oakes). Tom (Rufus Sewell), a mason, and his apprentice, Jack (Savage Grace
's Eddie Redmayne), enter the fray when they offer to construct a cathedral for Prior Philip (Matthew Macfadyen).
In the decades to come, Philip and the earl's children, Aliena (Hayley Atwell) and Richard (Sam Claflin), battle the bishop and the Hamleighs to complete Kingsbridge Cathedral and restore their family name. Jack's mother, Ellen (Natalia Wörner), aids in their efforts, while Jack and Alfred (Jared Leto look-alike Liam Garrigan), Tom's ne'er-do-well son, compete for Aliena's affections. As fortunes rise and fall, there's rape, incest, and executions, resulting in nudity, profanity, and splashes of blood. There are also over-the-top sequences, like a strange smothering, but the multi-character story line is involving, and the principal cast, particularly Sewell, is up to the task. The eight-part series includes extra features that explore the digital effects, the animated opening titles, and the production with Follett, executive producer Ridley Scott, actor/writer John Pielmeier, and director Sergio Mimica-Gezzan. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
Ken Follett’s best-selling novel is brought to life in a star-studded and critically-acclaimed eight-part miniseries. Emerging from the war-torn shadows of England’s Dark Ages, an idealistic mason, Tom Builder (Rufus Sewell, The Holiday
) sets out on a quest of erecting a glorious Cathedral bathed in light. But when that light threatens to illuminate the dark secrets of ambitious Bishop Waleran Bigod (Ian McShane, 2005 Golden Globe Best Actor, TV's Deadwood
) and the battling progeny of King Henry, Queen Maud (Alison Pill, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
) and King Stephen (Tony Curran, Ondine
), they’ll stop at nothing to keep those secrets safe. The epic miniseries event also stars Matthew MacFadyen (Frost/Nixon
) as Prior Philip, Hayley Atwell (Love Hate
) as the beautiful noblewoman Aliena and Donald Sutherland (TV's Dirty Sexy Money
) as Bartholomew. The Pillars of the Earth
Episode 1: “Anarchy”
The death of King Henry’s heir ignites a battle between Queen Maud and King Stephen to become the successor to the throne. Monk Philip is enticed by an offer from Father Waleran Bigod; in return for his endorsement of Bigod to the appointment of Bishop, Philip will be elected Prior. Tom Builder travels the countryside in search of work.
Episode 2: “Master Builder”
When a fire destroys Kingsbridge Church, Tom presents a plan to Prior Philip to construct a glorious new cathedral filled with light. As Philip politics for funds to aid in the church’s construction, he finds himself caught between Bishop Bigod and King Stephen’s supporter, Earl Percy Hamleigh.
Episode 3: “Redemption”
Prior Philip and Percy’s son William find themselves in a political stalemate as they compete for access to valuable stone. Jack demonstrates amazing artistic prowess as he begins to carve a monument to St. Adolphus and the destroyed Kingsbridge Cathedral. ”
Episode 4: “Battlefield”
William plans his way towards Earldom and soon discovers he is not alone in his ambition; a mysterious knight seeks the same appointment. The battle between Maud and Stephen rages, culminating in hostages from each side being seized. Philip is tortured into confessing to the betrayal of Earl Bartholomew.
Episode 5: “Legacy”
Tom attempts to mediate a camaraderie between Jack and his son, Alfred. However, their intense rivalry for the affection of Bartholomew’s daughter, Aliena, proves too much of an obstacle. Waleran and Regan Hamleigh negotiate a hostage exchange while William mounts an attack on Kingsbridge in an effort to halt Aliena’s pending success.
Episode 6: “Witchcraft”
Aliena’s brother, Richard, is shocked as he emerges from the battlefield only to find his sister destitute and incapable of supporting his knighthood. Aliena is torn between honoring a promise made to her father, Bartholomew, and her love for Jack. A catastrophe in Kingsbridge paves the way for Waleran to orchestrate Philip’s impeachment.
Episode 7: “New Beginnings”
Jack’s travels provide him with valuable information which will aid him in constructing his stepfather’s majestic dream cathedral. Aliena tracks Jack down using only her intuition and the warm trail left by his distinctive carvings. Bigod makes Philip an attractive offer, but it’s one which carries an unattractive price.
Episode 8: “The Work of Angels”
Eight years have passed. Now completely obsessed with the notion of erecting Tom’s cathedral, Jack is unable to focus on anything outside of his divine calling. Aliena remains fixated on securing her family’s right to the Earldom of Shiring and thus, fulfilling the promise she made to her father.