I am a huge Ken Follett fan and would probably consider "Pillars of the Earth" my favorite book of all time. Loved "World Without End" almost just as much. I thought the Pillars TV adaptation was fantastic and did the book justice. When I heard that WWE was getting adapted, I was thoroughly excited.
Sadly, my first clue should have been that this series did not air on Starz as Pillars did, with Starz's budget. It aired here in the U.S. on the Reelz Channel and looked every bit as cheap and low budget as you would think. Production values aside, the book was just horribly adapted. I always expect some liberties to be taken when translating a novel from words to film, but the amount of liberties taken here were absolutely ridiculous. Entire plots and entire characters were changed, minimized, or disappeared altogether.
Having accepted the fact that things were going to be changed, I tried to rewatch the series and tell myself to consider it as a standalone show. Unfortunately, I found it to be extremely lacking. Faithful readers of Ken Follett know that one of his greatest strengths is his rich and vivid characters. The characters in the WWE TV adaptation are horribly developed. Tom Weston-Jones' Merthin is supposed to be the lead male character, and we hardly know anything about him, other than the fact that he has this curious undying love for Caris and that he moved away to Italy. And just exactly why does he love Caris? From watching this show, it seems to me that it's because she's about the only female in town that's around his age. The character of Gwenda was probably my favorite character in the book and it's hard to understand why we are supposed to care about her at all, since the adaptation portrays her as this resentful immigrant woman from some outskirt village, as opposed to the book, where she was a character whose life was inescapably interwined with the other three Kingsbridge youths who grew up together. The villains are too one note and cartoonish. Other characters like Phillippa and Sister Elizabeth Clerk barely get any development at all.
The plots are uneven and at times I found the show to be utterly boring. It was a chore and after sitting through it, I was disappointed in myself and wanted those 8 hours of my life back.
It's really too bad that Starz opted not to produce this series, because I think it could have been every bit as successful as their other hits like Pillars and Spartacus. I will hesitate before watching any show on Reelz Network again.