Tuesday, January 24, 2012

TV show review: "The Pillars of the Earth"

I started watching this series with my girlfriend sometime in December, after we finished watching "Game of Thrones". I heard few people talking about it (it was also going on TV around that time) and then remembered reading about the book somewhere, so I thought it will be a good watch.

"The Pillars of the Earth" is an 8-episode historical TV-show with a story set in 12th century England. As it covers a period of couple of decades there is a lot of going around. On highest scale we follow the war between cousins, after King Stephen takes the throne from rightful Queen Maude. But the focus is put on a town of Kingsbridge and its residents: Prior Phillip, an ambitious but extremely pious and moral man; Tom Builder, a master builder whose dream is to build a cathedral; his son Alfred and talented foster-son Jack. Their plans to build a cathedral in Kingsbridge will be a thorn in the eye for corrupted Bishop Waleran and wicked family Hamleigh, which stole the neighboring Shiring Castle from its rightful owners, young Aliena and Richard. In the background of all this events is the story of Jack Shareburg, a mysterious man who was killed for witnessing a sinking of the White Ship which carried England's original Crown-Prince.

Plot is not bad as it is, but it is pretty much predictable and full of tropes. I presume that it worked much better in the book where it could be developed in more details, but here, more experienced viewers will able to guess immediate events without much trouble. But if you like history you will probably find it interesting. It is gritty and violent, with lots of fights and scheming.

Characters are much better, although they also suffer from the same problem - they had to be simplified to fit the frame of the show. But they are complex enough and should be able to pique your interest. This is especially true for Bishop Waleran and Prior Phillip, who are probably two most complex characters in the series. The Hamleighs will also be able to provide you with some shock. Most of the "good" characters behave as you would expect from them, but the "bad" ones will be there to make things interesting.

The production of this series is a minus for it. Much, much weaker than "Game of Thrones" (comparing these two is maybe unfair from me, but I have watched them one after another). Locations and people are quite limited. Mass battles are anything but. The cast is pretty good and well known, though. No one is a big star, of course, but even I was able to recognize a lot of faces, if not names.

Taking all this in consideration, "The Pillars of the Earth" is nice enough historical series, although I would not recommend it to anybody. This is a series for lazy Sundays, if you don't have anything better to watch.

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