Canadian release: Sept 4th, 2012 USA release: Oct 17th, 2012
Based on Follett’s 2007 novel of the same name, this 8-part mini series follows the English town of Kingsbridge as they try to survive during the Hundred Years War and the Black Death.
The main characters of the episode:
Caris – daughter of Edmund, mother dies, learning herbs & medicine
Merthin – in love with Caris, father dies, Elfric’s assistant
Petranilla – mother of Godwyn, murdered Caris’ mother
Godwyn – son of Petranilla, plans of Oxford education
Queen Isabella – plotted King Edward II’s death, made Edward III king
We find ourselves in England in the 14th century, where King Edward II has been defeated by his wife Queen Isabella who imprisoned him and crowned her son, Edward III. The show starts with news of Edward II’s accidental death in prison…
One of the Queen’s knights, Sir Thomas Langley, comes into the Kingsbridge castle with an arrow through his forearm. Mother Cecilia calls on Mattie Wise and Caris to aid in his treatment. The knight calls on Brother Joseph to help him be made into a monk, saying that he has the Queen as his sponsor. When she learns of his decision, she assumes it is because of what he knows about her and her lover’s murder plot against King Edward II. Her son, new King Edward III, learns of this treachery and swiftly arrests his mother’s lover and hangs him. My favourite line of the show comes from Edward III when he tells his mother that she is a whore and his mother, and she must choose between the two as he won’t allow her to be both. She makes a goal to destroy all of Kingsbridge because that is where her secret could be found out.
Godwyn wants an Oxford education in medicine, but as he is queasy before blood when dealing with the knight, that doesn’t seem to be a viable option for him. His mother Petranilla seems to be pressuring him to still get the Oxford education, but perhaps in a different subject. Her devotion to sending him away involves a murder plot that affects the lives of her brother and niece. Caris’ mother (wife to Petranilla’s brother) has been having severe headaches for quite some time, and as another bad bout comes on Petranilla uses potent mushrooms in a brownie to kill the woman. After Caris’ mother has died, Petranilla is required to tend to the household, giving her the ability to sell her home and use the money for Godwyn’s education.
In London, Roland gives the Queen a list of people in Kingsbridge who did not support her in her usurpation of her husband. On this list, is the current Earl of Shiring, and Caris’ father, Edmund Wooler who he quickly arrests for treason, making him the new Earl of Shiring. At the Court of Petitions, Petranilla and Caris bribe Earl Roland with all of their silver to save Edmund Wooler, which they succeed in doing. Merthin’s father, the Earl of Shiring, is not so lucky. His two sons are given away as faithful workers, Merthin to Elfric the carpenter and Ralph to Roland the new Earl of Shiring.
Caris doesn’t just want to be a homemaker, so she enlists Mattie to teach her about ailments and the different herbs and leaves used to heal them. Petranilla is not fond of this, and as they are suddenly broke after freeing Edmund, Petranilla engages Caris to Elfric so they can regain their position. As Merthin is in love with Caris, and she definitely sees something in him as well, this leaves Caris in an unfortunate position. Unable to change what has been done, but desperately not wanting to be involved with Elfric, what will she do?
King Edward III seems to have some of the right beliefs in this episode, he doesn’t seem all excited to be the king at the cost of his father’s death. Hopefully we can expect more of these moral decisions from him. Or perhaps it was just to spite his mother that he did this, from the way it was portrayed it seemed to be the former, but we shall see in future episodes.
There were so many characters and stories, and with such a fast paced first episode, it became difficult to learn all the characters and place them with their correct stories. I’ll try to make a list of the main characters from each episode with some key points before the recap so it’s a little easier to keep up. Luckily there are only two main settings: Kingsbridge and the royal court, so it shouldn’t get too confusing separating those two.
What did you think of the premiere episode?