Originally a novel by Ken Follet, ‘Pillars of the Earth’ recently hit TV as a miniseries released by Starz. The novel was published in 1989. The story? Building a cathedral in an English town during the 12th century. Believe me, this series is far more exciting than that sounds. It is incredible how much emotional invest went into this show (I found myself screaming at the TV at times). Of course, this could be because of the other stories – a deceased prince and king leads to a shift of power and war, corruption and politics get in the way of construction constantly, and drama between characters can take a very long time to be resolved, reminding us things were not always simpler in the “good old days”. Characters include Tom Builder (the man intent on building a cathedral), a corrupt Bishop and family, the town of Kingsbridge, and Prior Philip. Romance? This has it. Drama? Oh, there’s plenty of that. Suspense? Good grief, yes. Part of the reason I yelled at the TV was each episode ending actually left me unsatisfied and angry. I know it was to keep me coming back, but I think they did their job a bit too well in this case. This story became Ken Follet’s bestseller. Apparently Oprah recommended this book as well – I totally missed this memo, because I somehow didn’t hear about this book until the miniseries was released. Let it be known, I do intend to read it. Since I have not, this review is just me commenting on the miniseries. I have no bias towards the book. I’m sure things were added and removed, but from what I have seen, this may have been for the best. The miniseries hit TV in an eight-part release after a year of production. The very first episode, I admit, was a confusing introduction. I watched it twice to make sure I knew which character was which. The very first episode explains that a prince has drowned and there are no heirs to Henry I – until years later when the pregnant Princess Maud is told her son will be the next heir. Oh, but then the king is murdered and Maud is tossed aside. The war to reclaim the throne for her son, Henry II, begins. At the same time, Tom Builder is seen working with his family until they are fired by the angry, corrupt young William Hamleigh. He is angry because Lady Aliena, daughter of the Earl of Shiring, will not marry him. Tom and the family travel and meet Ellen and her son Jack, who introduced as people living off the land. There is also Aliena’s brother Richard and the oh-so-hated Waleran Bigod, a bankrupt bishop with quite a devilish hand in the entire series. By the way, I didn’t even name half of the characters here.
The good news is that everything and everyone ties together perfectly, so it is far less confusing when you actually watch the show and get into it. Tom’s family travels with Jack and Ellen, trouble strikes Shiring (forcing Aliena and Richard to change their lives drastically), and the series quickly becomes exciting as people try to guess at what will happen next time. Cast includes Ian McShane, Refus Sewell, Hayley Atwell, Eddie Redmayne, and oh so many more. I will say, I had no complaints with this cast. Every person carried himself or herself perfectly and created a strong, believable character that people could either adore or hate with a passion while watching this show.Plot wise? Again, I can’t compare to the book, but I left this series with satisfaction – there’s definitely a feel of justice has been served. However, as I did say, the ending between episodes left me begging for more – every episode has a bit of good news but far more bad news, it seemed. Things got darker and more complicated right up until the end. There is a happy ending, but believe me, there is so much sacrifice made in the process. On that note, this show really is character driven. The trailers showed a ton of war scenes, but in reality, I think the trailers showed every battle scene in the show – and out of eight hours, that’s not a lot. There’s a couple sex scenes, but none that are very long and none that don’t impact the characters somehow. Overall, the people really are the focus. You want to see these characters grow and deal with their lives and see how they impact the dream of a wonderful cathedral in Kingsbridge. So after watching the epic beginning that I will attach, find this series and give it a fair chance.