Previously on Pillars of the Earth: Well, a lot happened. You might be better off just reading the recaps, but essentially, Kingsbridge wanted to build a cathedral, Bishop Waleran and the Hamleighs caused a lot of trouble, and Aliena and Jack fell in love. Oh, and there was a civil war.
We pick up where we left off, at Saint Denis, where Jack is now hard at work carving away. He’s interrupted when a nearby workman on a scaffolding drops a chunk of stone to the floor, drawing the attention of a priest, who looks up at the man questioningly. The man apologizes to the priest, calling him Abbot Sugar, and tells him the stone can’t be used, because it weeps at night. He says the stone’s cursed, but the abbot doesn’t seem too concerned. Jack eyes the stone and the Abbott notices him. Jack introduces himself, and the Abbott realizes he’s English, and dismissively tells him to get back to his work. Jack instead tells him how much he wants to learn all about how to build cathedrals like this, with high walls and lots of light. The Abbott asks if Jack’s familiar with Euclid, the father of geometry, holding up a book that, presumably, holds all of Euclid’s secrets. Jack doesn’t know him, so the Abbott tells him he knows nothing and turns back to whatever it was he was working on.
Late at night, Jack steals into the church, finds the Euclid tome, and starts reading.
Meanwhile, in Bayeaux, Aliena and the baby are on the trail of Jack. Aliena takes in the stone carvings at a building site, and asks a workman, in French, if he knows an Englishman with red hair. The man tells him Jack left a year ago, but that he doesn’t know where he went. She admires a nearby carving—presumably Jack’s work—before moving on.
Kingsbridge, like Castle Creepy, has descended into perpetual gloom. Philip’s ringing the bells for prayers as Remigius approaches with a gaggle of monks, smirking. Sometime later, Philip’s praying when Remigius comes in to tell him that he has a visitor.
The visitor is Waleran, who has a proposition for Philip. He wants Philip to be his archdeacon. So, he’s promoting Philip? Why? I thought he hated Philip. He got the guy fired at the end of the last episode!
Ok, we’ll go with it. As consolation for not being named Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen’s sending Waleran to Rome, to act as a sort of envoy to the pope. Which also sounds like a promotion, to be honest. I’m confused. Waleran needs someone back at home to handle diocesan affairs in his absence. He wants Philip to be that man. Philip stammers that he doesn’t think this is the job for him, but Waleran tells him that he hopes to have Philip take over as bishop of Kingsbridge once Waleran advances. As bishop, Philip could get his cathedral built. This is coming from the guy who, not long ago, vowed to make sure Philip never got that cathedral built. What the hell is going on? Is this opposite day? Has Waleran visited Whoville lately and had his heart grow three sizes?
Philip’s looking like he might consider this offer now, and Waleran gives him the week to think on it. He blesses Philip and then gives him an oddly tender kiss on the forehead.
Abbott Sugar finds Jack asleep over the book at daybreak, and he takes in the scene and a nearby carving of what appears to be a screaming woman before taking the book and waking Jack by lightly rapping him on the head with it. He tells Jack the mouth is too small and moves off. Heh. I think I love Abbott Sugar. I wish he had a bigger role.
Jack gets back to work on the statue when Aliena comes sweeping in, carrying the baby and once again accompanied by SloMo LoveCam™. Jack stares at her in amazement for a moment before setting his tools down and running over to her. They embrace, and it’s really quite sweet. She tells him she followed his work there. Better than breadcrumbs, I guess.
Seemingly for the first time, he notices the presence of the baby, and he looks down at the tiny bundle in astonishment. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before, but Eddie Redmayne’s performance throughout this miniseries has been incredible, and it’s especially great here, as his face registers an amazing mixture of wonder, surprise, and tenderness that’s truly touching. I’ve liked him ever since I saw him in The Good Shepherd, and I’m glad to hear he’s getting all the kudos he deserves.
He holds the baby, looking like he might be about to cry, and asks what his name is. Aliena asks if he wants to call him Jack, but Jack wants to name the baby Tom, after the only father figure he ever really had.
That night, the baby sleeps as Aliena and Jack make love. After, she feeds the baby and he shares everything that he’s learned about building the light-filled cathedral Tom dreamed of. Once his reverie is over, Aliena brings him back to earth by telling him about the collapse of the church ceiling, the loss of the relic, and Philip’s subsequent firing. After Aliena goes to sleep, Jack returns to the cathedral and picks up the chunk of weeping stone and the Euclid book, a determined look in his eye. He gently wakes Aliena and tells her they’re going home.
The happy family hits the road and arrives in Cherbourg, where Aliena books them passage home for the following morning. Jack passes the time before then by carving a statue of the Virgin and child, using Aliena and little Tom as models. Some local kids come over to see what he’s doing, and their mom comes over to shoo them away. She gets one look at Jack and blanches as if she’s seen a ghost. Which she kind of has—she tells Aliena he’s the spitting image of her brother, a jongleur who died at sea many years ago. Jack and his long-lost aunt stare at each other, amazed at the coincidence.
Family dinnertime! Jack, Aliena, and the baby are gathered around a large table with the rest of Jack’s newly-found family, which includes PotE author, Ken Follett! Hi, Ken! He’d mentioned that he was going to be playing a small role as a Cherbourg merchant, and teased us with a “see if you can spot me!” Turns out, it wasn’t too hard to pick him out. You know why? Because all the other French people are either speaking French or at least speaking heavily accented English. Ken Follett is speaking in an accent so English, it’s actually jarring in the scene. Why they couldn’t have given him a small role as an English guy in one of the many, many scenes that take place in England, I don’t know.
He does provide us with a bit of exposition, though. He tells Jack that Jack’s father fell in with Prince William, and he called him ‘The Phoenix Prince’ because of a ring he wore, which depicted a phoenix rising from flames. I honestly can’t believe I got that right. Anyway, Jack Senior got on a ship with the prince and his court and nobody ever heard from any of them again. Or so the Cherbourgians thought.
Back in England, Philip sits down with Waleran to give him his answer. Put briefly, it’s a no. But he really lets Waleran have it as he gives his response, telling him that God’s work doesn’t blend with power or greed, and that Waleran’s personal church is corrupt and will collapse and take him down with it. Philip tells him he’d rather feed pigs every day for the rest of his life at Kingsbridge Priory than to feed Waleran’s ravenous ambition. He rises to go, and Waleran mildly tells him he’s damned. For what offense? I’m pretty sure St. Peter doesn’t consider saying ‘no’ to you a reason to send someone to hell, Waleran.
The civil war still rages, as we’re now reminded, joining Richard on the battlefield. We’re suddenly thrust into the midst of a battle, which is predictably brutal, and Richard finds himself sword to sword with Gloucester. They fight valiantly, but finally Richard gets the better of him, stabbing Gloucester through the chest. Man, medieval armor was useless. Gloucester asks Richard for mercy, and Richard obligingly slices Gloucester’s head off.
The head makes its way to a spike, which Stephen is parading around a circle of buddies at the after-battle celebration. Hell of a party favor. Richard looks a little grossed out by the display, but Stephen urges him to be merry, and he manages a smile. Meanwhile, Maud visits her half-brother’s headless body with her young son. She weeps over Gloucester for a moment, before reassuring her son that all is not lost, because she still has him to carry on the fight. This poor kid’s maybe 10 years old, and staring down the mutilated body of his uncle, so now might not be the time to talk about passing on the torch, Maud. She swears on Gloucester’s body that her son will be king.
Killing the king’s greatest enemy apparently gets you a private audience. Over the yapping of a small terrier that’s there for no reason, Stephen tells Richard that God told him this would happen, over dinner, the other night. Okaaaaay. Stephen reassures Richard that Richard has his undying gratitude. Richard thanks him, but clearly wants a bit more than just that. Stephen tells him he has no title to accompany his thanks, which is total bullshit. Isn’t Gloucester’s title now up for grabs? Or how about this, Stephen—you’re the king. Make one up.
Stephen informs Richard that there’s going to be a crusade, and he needs volunteers. He’ll provide Richard with a horse and armor and squires if he wants to go. Richard doesn’t look like he thinks this is a great deal at all, and he’s right. “Hey, thanks for killing my mortal enemy! What’s that, you want a reward? How about I reward you by sending you off to a totally alien place that takes years to reach and having you kill a few more people while you’re over there?” Stephen sucks.
Aliena and Jack finally arrive back in Kingsbridge and enter the cathedral, which hasn’t been worked on at all since the collapse. Jack’s carrying the statue wrapped in a sheet, and he sets it down before looking up at the ruined ceiling for a moment. Later, he’s got the statue unwrapped, and he inserts a block of the weeping stone in its hollow head, so the stone shows through the two eye sockets. He then opens the church doors, letting the late afternoon sun shine in, and sits down to wait.
Philip’s on his hands and knees, scrubbing the floors, as Remigius watches, grinning in a way that suggests he’s enjoying seeing Philip like this a little too much. Johnny Eightpence comes bursting in to announce that Jack’s returned, and Philip looks up, then returns to his floor scrubbing with renewed vigor, grinning like a kid, even though the last time he and Jack interacted, he was threatening him with expulsion from the town. How short memories are tonight.
A workman comes bursting into the tavern and yells that Jack’s back, and everyone, even Alfred, who’s slumped over a cup of ale, gets up and runs toward the cathedral. Really? Was Jack actually this popular with everyone? Because we’ve seen very little evidence of that thus far. I mean, he seemed to be decently well liked, but not liked quite enough to clear out the tavern as soon as he shows back up in town. If everyone liked him this much, how come nobody tried to speak up in his defense when Tom fired him?
At the cathedral, a nice little knot of monks and townsfolk have gathered to stare at Jack, who stands next to his statue while Aliena lurks off to the side. Remigius comes sweeping in and asks Jack if he’s there to serve the remainder of his sentence. Which was, what, a few hours at the most? Not much of a threat, there, Remigius. Jack answers that he was locked up to keep him from Aliena, but it’s clearly too late for that. Everyone chuckles, except for Alfred.
Philip comes forward and embraces Jack, telling him he was wrong, but Remigius isn’t having that. He has a better memory than everyone else, and reminds Jack that he was banished from the town, which goes double now that he’s living in sin with a married woman. Either Jack gives up Aliena or he gives up the cathedral. Jack simply tells Philip that he’s come to finish the cathedral, but Remigius tells him that without a relic to bring in pilgrims, there will be no cathedral. Ah, but Jack has a new relic! He gestures to his statue, but Remigius scoffs at such fakes. Jack glances out the door and notices the sun dipping lower and lower in the sky, so he bows before the statue. As the sun vanishes and the light disappears almost instantaneously, the statue begins to weep tears from the magical stone eyes. Everyone, even Remigius, kneels, and Philip begins to pray.
Remigius, of course, goes right to Waleran and tells him the statue must be a fake, and that it’s clearly Jack’s work, but the fact of the matter is, it’s bringing in pilgrims, who are giving money to build the cathedral.
Jack and family go to visit Ellen out in the woods, and she observes that he’s thinner than ever and needs to take care of himself now that he’s a father. Ellen seems pleased that they’ve named the baby Tom, and Aliena informs her that she plans to ask Alfred for an annulment, which Ellen tells her he’ll never give. Aliena doesn’t seem too bothered. Jack tells his mother that he met his father’s family, and she’s both surprised and happy. A while later, he’s told his mother what he knows about his father’s connection to the prince, and he asks who the other two men were who condemned him. He asks who the lord in the case was, and she tells him he’s dead. Somehow, Jack deduces that this must mean it was Percy Hamleigh, and we get a quick flashback and see that that was the case. Jack asks who her confessor was, the one she confided in after finding Jack Sr. on the beach. It was Waleran, of course. Jack wonders, if Jack Sr. never told Ellen his secret, how the other men seemed to know it.
At the cathedral, pilgrims are handing over coins to Philip as they kneel before the statue, waiting for the daily miracle. Outside, Remigius welcomes Waleran and ushers him inside. Cuthbert tries to get in a word in with Waleran about his late sister, but Waleran brushes him off, going right to the statue. Even he’s amazed to see it weep. The pilgrims crowd in, begging for favors and blessings from the statue. Waleran looks almost transported to be in its presence, even though he knows it’s fake, which seems odd.
Despite Ellen’s pronouncement, Jack goes to see Alfred, who, surprisingly, lets him into the house. Jack apologizes, in a way, and asks for him to give Aliena an annulment. It’d be better for everyone that way: Alfred would no longer be a cuckold with a wife who refuses to live with him, and Alfred could remarry, if he likes. Alfred’s feeling spiteful, though, and says he wants money to give the annulment. Jack doesn’t have any, although he will soon, once he starts work on the cathedral again. So, I guess Remigius let up on that “give up Aliena or give up the church” deal? Or is his memory now faulty as well? Jack also offers Alfred a job on the site, but Alfred says that nobody will have him, since they don’t trust him to build anything that doesn’t kill people.
Jack tries to talk him down, but Alfred’s just letting it all out now, and he barks that he was in love with Aliena, and Jack took that away from him, just like he took away everything else—his mother, his father, everything. Jack accuses Alfred of stealing something as well—Jack Sr.’s ring, which was actually nonsensically stolen by Martha, many, many episodes ago. Alfred tells him he doesn’t have the ring, and Jack leaves, frustrated.
At Castle Creepy, Regan’s peeling some apples and telling Waleran that she’s well aware he wants Jack dead. Maybe my memory’s getting faulty, but I can’t remember Waleran wanting Jack dead. He wants Ellen dead, yes, and Stephen wants Jack dead because of that cracked out Macbeth-ian dream he had a while back, but I don’t remember Waleran having a specific beef with Jack.
Anyway, Waleran tells the Hamleighs that the new relic is bringing in pilgrims, which will mean a new market soon (wow, Henry didn’t revoke the license Maud granted? That was nice of him). The new market and the new fleece fair will once again start to leech away money from Shiring, so it’s in the Hamleighs’ interest to have Jack dead too. Come again? How will Jack’s death mean the end of the market or a fleece fair? The relic’s already there and bringing in money, independent of Jack, all he is is the cathedral’s architect, really. They could, theoretically, always get another master builder to complete the cathedral. It happened all the time—these things took decades to finish. See, this is what happens when screenwriters start screwing around too much with the source story. The logic starts to break down all over the place.
So, whatever, they’re going to kill Jack, and of course William wants Aliena dead too. But how best to do it? Regan suggests, in succession, poison, assassination, and an attack, all of which Waleran shoot down for one reason or another (Ellen’s a witch and could counteract poison, Jack might be out of town during an attack, etc.) So, for some reason, Regan decides that the best plan would be to combine all three, because somehow doing that would defeat all the strikes against them? Yet another logic fail, if you ask me. Her big plan is to attack the town and, during the attack, have someone stab Jack with a poisoned knife. Why is the attack even necessary, then? As some kind of distraction? Talk about using a nuke to destroy an anthill.
In order to check to see if Jack’s home, Regan plans to make a pilgrimage to the cathedral, and while she’s there, she can talk to Waleran’s inside man about how best to go about this. Off in a corner of the room, completely forgotten, sits William’s child bride, Elizabeth, who’s silently taking all this in.
Regan and Elizabeth arrive at the cathedral and pay Philip their dues. As Regan sails towards the statue, Elizabeth whispers to Philip that she needs to confess. He tries to tell her that confession’s in the morning, but she needs to confess right now. They sit down together, somewhere out of the way, and she tells him that William’s planning to attack the town in two days. She also informs him that there’s a spy in the priory who plans to assassinate Jack during the attack.
Philip takes the news to Jack, who immediately guesses that the would-be assassin must be Remigius. Philip says he’ll have to try to find some way to lock him up, and Jack says he’d rather catch him in the act. Well, yes, that would be ideal, but it could also very easily get you killed, Jack, so I think Philip’s plan’s a bit better in this case. Philip paces and wonders aloud how they’ll be able to defend the town this time. Jack doesn’t know, but he knows someone who might.
Luckily, Richard’s home, paying his sister a visit. As he sharpens his sword, he tells Philip that the best plan would be to meet William in the fields outside town. He guesses William will bring twenty men, at most, wereeas there are hundreds of people to defend the town. Or not—Philip informs him that monks don’t fight, and he can’t ask the townspeople to do so either. Why not? It’s their home too! At least ask them if they want to defend it! Philip asks if there’s any way to avoid a pitched attack, and Richard informs him that that’ll be unlikely, without walls to protect the town. Jack suggests they build some walls, then, since walls are pretty simple to put up and they have the men and materials already there. Richard points out it wouldn’t even have to be a good wall, just good enough to hold them back for a little while, keep the attackers exposed so the defenders can throw stones and other weapons down on them. Looks like the plan’s a go.
Monks, townspeople, and craftsmen labor away, all day and through the night, digging a ditch and throwing up an earthen rampart with wooden spikes sticking out of it, and building a stone wall where possible. At one point, we see Richard showing Johnny Eightpence some defense moves, so what was that about monks not fighting, Philip?
As the night wears on, Jack’s working away when a sinister figure in a hood sneaks up behind him, scaring the crap out of him, but it’s just Ellen, there to help. Aliena sent word (how? By messenger pigeon).
Over at the castle, William, Walter, and their men are having a frat party, with booze and whores, which seems like a bad idea right before a battle, but whatever. William leaves the party and goes upstairs to rape his wife, whose screams echo through the corridors.
The people of Kingsbridge are still hard at work, but the wall’s not going up fast enough. Remigius wanders around looking sinister, while Jack tells everyone they need to build faster and crappier. Out in the woods somewhere, Cuthbert weeps over the grave of his sister, who didn’t get to confess her sins before she died, and so can’t be buried in consecrated ground. Though burying her way out in the woods seems a little extreme.
In the early morning light, William and his men gallop towards the town. Up in the top of the cathedral, little Jonathan spots them and starts ringing the bells, waking the monks and townsfolk, who take their positions on the wall. William directs his men as, in Kingsbridge, everyone waits, tense.
The attackers come galloping in and stop in surprise when they meet the unexpected wall, which kind of looks like it’s only ringing the cathedral, not the whole town, but maybe I’m just missing something. The monks start to pray fervently, and Richard draws his sword, ready to fight. William and his men walk their horses back and forth, not entirely sure what to do.
Ok, I have to pause a minute here to pose a question: I know that at some point somebody mentioned that law kind of flew out the window during the war, but could someone, even the local lord, just keep raiding a freaking market town whenever they felt like it, and not have to face any consequences? I mean, come on, this guy can just roll into Kingsbridge and start burning private property and murdering people and nobody has an issue with this? Where’s the local sheriff? Where’s Stephen? Considering the fact that Richard’s been way more useful to Stephen than William has (as far as we’ve seen), you’d think Stephen would be a tad pissed off that William keeps attacking Richard and his home and destroying everything. Plus, market towns brought in a lot of revenue for the crown, so Stephen would be losing money by William attacking Kingsbridge. You’d think that would upset him, even if nothing else did. Maybe this is just another example of Stephen being a horrible king, but it just doesn’t gel with me, and it didn’t really make much sense in the book, either, to be honest.
Ok, back to the action. The townspeople begin to shout defiantly at the invaders, and then commence slinging stones and arrows at them. Hey, we get the triumphant return of Jack’s handy slingshot! The attackers back off a little to regroup, and then find a ladder that was pretty carelessly left lying around and start scaling the wall, which isn’t that high at all. They manage to take out a few townspeople, although everyone’s fighting tooth and nail here. Ellen and Aliena are kicking some serious ass. I love the women in this story. Richard takes William on himself and manages to knock him off the wall. William gets to his feet, but Jack nails him right in the head with a rock, which knocks William silly. He’s too out of it to direct his men now, so Walter calls for the men to retreat. William’s pissed but beaten, for now. The townspeople cheer and celebrate, and I’m sure a few of them mooned the men at arms now riding away. Philip can’t believe this actually worked. Jack and Richard receive the adulation of the Kingsbridge residents, and Aliena drags Jack into a nearby shed for a good makeout session. Yet another sinister hooded figure, this one with a knife, lurks behind a curtain, but before he can strike, Richard and Philip come running in to congratulate Jack. Because Richard’s kind of awesome, he spots the figure behind the curtain and without asking any questions, he stabs it with his sword before jerking the curtain aside to reveal…Cuthbert.
Oh, hell no. Cuthbert? Come on, show! He was such a nice character in the novel and here you’ve inserted this stupid sister subplot so you could make him an assassin? I’m sorry, but screenwriters, you’re on notice for this one. And Ken Follett—did you read this script before they started production? Did you actually allow them to crap all over the source material this badly? Why?
Philip leaps forward to catch the falling Cuthbert, who tells him Waleran promised to absolve his dead sister’s sins if Cuthbert committed murder. That’s so completely stupid I don’t even know where to begin, so I’ll just move on. Cuthbert dies.
Remigius is facing the music—the monks are accusing him of coercing Cuthbert into murdering Jack, which Remigius denies, but he did know about the attack ahead of time and didn’t warn anyone, so Remigius is now out, and they want Philip back as prior. Well, that was fairly easy.
Regan’s pissed at how the whole thing went down, and she paces back and forth, railing at William for bringing only twenty men to attack a town with a wall. He wearily tells her that he didn’t know the wall was there. She tells him he’s as stupid as his father, and twice as cowardly. William’s starting to lose it as she goes on and on, and he finally shouts at her to shut the hell up. She seems to realize she’s gone a step too far, and she hurries over to play their “who do you hate the most/love the most game”. But now the answers are a little different. He now hates Jack the most, and wants to skin him alive. She asks who he loves the most, twice, before he finally, dutifully, answers “you.”
“And what would you do to me?” she asks, kissing him on the neck, He finally seems to get how totally wrong this is, and throws her away from him, into a nearby stone wall. In the adjoining room, Elizabeth looks up from her sewing, scared, and William starts to direct his anger at her. He raises a hand to strike her and she flinches, so he grabs her sewing basket and throws it away. In one hand, she’s holding a little doll, and he takes it and goes back over to his mother, who’s crawling away from him, sobbing, He cradles her in his lap, stroking her hair, and then jams the doll in her mouth, suffocating her as Elizabeth watches in horror. Woah. Ok, why is he doing this? Because she yelled at him once? I almost feel like this section was written by different writers who didn’t read the rest of the script or the original book, because it’s so completely out there in so many places I’m actually finding it hard to comprehend.
Immediately after, William grabs Walter, and together they dump Regan into the moat to make it look like she fell in and drowned. Man, Cadfael would be all over this.
In Kingsbridge, Remigius is finished. Philip’s kicking him out of the priory altogether. As a parting shot, Remigius tells Philip he’s no better than Waleran, which hurts Philip, because he thinks there’s truth in them. There is? Have you ordered any murders lately, Philip? He gets over it fairly quickly and tells Jack, who’s also present, that he wants him to be master builder on the cathedral. Guess the rush wall was a good tryout.
Outside the town, Aliena’s seeing her brother off on his crusade. He promises to bring her a Saracen’s head as a souvenir. I think a keychain that says “I <3 the Holy Land” will be fine, Richard. Meanwhile, Waleran’s praying, naked. Ok, then.
We pick up ten years later, in 1156. Jack’s gotten very comfortable with his job as master builder and is sharing plans with other craftsmen. They’re about to start work on the towers, and despite the tight budget, he wants to get them done ASAP, before war breaks out again.
In Winchester, Stephen’s giving his teenaged son, Eustace, a pep talk ahead of his first King Training Session. Eustace is worried he’ll make a bad decision on behalf of his father, but Stephen tells him to stop whining, he’ll be fine, and anyway, his advisors will advise him. If he couldn’t figure that much out on his own, England’s in real trouble. Eustace is going to be playing King for the morning, and ruling on a simple petition. The petitioner is shown in, and it’s Richard, back from the Holy Land, and wearing a wig so absurdly bad I honestly have trouble taking him seriously from here on out, which is unfortunate. Seriously, it’s like he stole Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio’s hair from 1991 and stuck it onto his head. It’s awful.
He comes in and bows to the king and Eustace, who’s practically sweating bullets. Stephen tells him Eustace is making all the decisions today, so Richard asks him for his earldom back, now that he’s served the king faithfully for years. William, on the other hand, has been a turncoat and has some serious back taxes due, which Richard would make sure were paid to the crown immediately. Ok, says Eustace, you have your title back. Simple enough. In fact Richard can’t believe it was that simple. All those years, and all it took was a kid’s two-second decision.
Oh, but of course, it can’t be that easy. Waleran now speaks up from a seat off to the side, where we barely even noticed he was sitting before. He’s now traded in his Bishop purple for Cardinal red. Seems he’s been promoted during his time in Rome. He points out that there’s a little issue: Richard will have to take Shiring Castle by force. And it’s well armed, so Richard will have to raise, pay, and arm his own army, unless Stephen is willing to provide said army. Of course, he isn’t, because Stephen is absolutely useless in every way.
Kingsbridge Cathedral is rising over the town, a sight that gives Jack enormous pleasure, even as he’s having a nice picnic with the family in the fields outside town. Little Tom’s running around with a kite, not having much success with it, and it looks like a storm’s about to blow in. Also stormy? Aliena, who’s in a right snit because she thinks Jack’s spending too much time with his cathedral and not enough with his kid and non-wife. She bitches that Philip barely pays him and works him to the bone, and that she feels like a neglected mistress—she’s not even his wife. Jack can give as good as he gets, though, and reminds her that she’s not Jack’s wife because she chose to marry Alfred. And she did that because Richard needed the money, and Richard’s pursuit of the title is her great obsession. Aliena looks a little surprised to actually have him push back against her.
As the storm starts to roll in, a servant brings Waleran a message from an unknown sender. He opens it and it reads ‘Your secret will out. Your time has come. I have proof. The Ghost of Jack Shareburg (sic)’
In Kingsbridge, Jack enters the cathedral as the storm gets itself really whipped up. He walks down the aisle, but stops when his foot crunches on some fallen mortar. Uh oh. He heads up into the ceiling to check things out and finds cracks forming between some of the stones, illuminated by the lightening outside.
Aliena and little Tom are dashing through the town’s streets, heading home, when the little boy notices Elizabeth, crouched near their door.
In her cave, Ellen prepares dinner while a hooded figure creeps in. She goes to fetch an ingredient and is grabbed from behind by the figure, who holds a knife to her throat. She asks what he wants, and he hisses that he wants her to help him. She reasonably points out that she can’t help him if he kills her, so he lowers the knife and hood and reveals Remigius, who wails that he doesn’t want to hurt anyone. He kneels in front of her, completely broken, and says he has no one to turn to. What’s he been doing these past ten years? Just wandering around waiting to sneak up on Ellen?
At Shiring Castle, William’s having a fitful night. He wakes and finds his dead mother in the bed beside him, and he begins to hyperventilate until he wakes up for real, alone.
Elizabeth’s been beaten up pretty badly and is now being tended by Aliena, who gently asks who did this to her. Who do you think, Aliena? Elizabeth responds that her husband did it, because he was drunk and angry. Aliena asks who Elizabeth’s husband is, which makes no sense. Aliena’s seen Elizabeth with William before; she’d know who she was. Maybe she just doesn’t recognize her, all bedraggled like this? Elizabeth tells her she’s married to William, and then Aliena recognizes her.
At Ellen’s, Remigius is in a sharing mood. He tells her he was in love once. Ellen asks if the woman died, but Remigius tells her that “he” hanged himself.
Elizabeth’s sharing too—she tells Aliena that she was only 13 when William married her, and that the church forbade him from touching her until she was older, which he ignored, of course. The subsequent damage he caused rendered her unable to have children. Or to ever bear to have anyone touch her again for the rest of her life, I imagine.
Remigius tells Ellen that he truly loved “him”, and “he” loved Remigius, so they didn’t see how it could have been a sin. He told his confessor, which made Remigius’s lover take his own life, and the confessor used the whole situation to blackmail Remigius for years. Ellen asks if the confessor is still alive, and upon hearing that he is, she tells Remigius he should denounce him to the church. I kind of doubt the church would take any action, at that time, against a man who punished a monk who was having an affair with another monk (presumably). They tended to frown on those sorts of things. Remigius informs her that his confessor is the church, but it’s ok, because Remigius sent him a letter, pretending it came from Jack Sr. That gets Ellen’s attention, of course, and she asks what he would do to see justice done, just as Aliena asks Elizabeth the exact same question. Both reply that they would do anything.
In his private chapel, Waleran kneels before the cross, sheathing a dagger, and declaring that, for the church, he would do anything.
Jack has brought the cracks to Philip’s attention and tells him he can’t use the church again until they figure out what the problem is. Philip, naturally, is a bit freaked out by this, considering what happened last time the ceiling cracked. Jack doesn’t have any answers to explain what’s happening, since his walls, unlike Alfred’s, are well buttressed and should be able to take the extra weight. Philip demands to know why the ceiling’s cracking, if that’s the case, and Jack snaps that he doesn’t know. Tom would know, but Jack isn’t Tom. Actually, I highly doubt that Tom would know, since he didn’t know a damn thing about putting stone roofs on cathedrals.
Richard and his bad hair return to Kingsbridge and greet Aliena, who happily throws her arms around him. He’s happy to be home, and tells her that he’s now the Earl of Shiring. Aliena can’t quite believe it, but she recovers and congratulates her brother, also, briefly, getting a “well, now what?” look on her face. Well done, Hayley. Because when you define your entire life by one goal, once that goal is reached, what else do you have? Richard does break the news that before they move in, they’ll have to move William out, which will be no easy task. The only way to take the castle will be through some sort of trick, or treachery. Elizabeth, who’s been puttering around behind Richard, looks up at his words and catches Aliena’s eye. Aliena smiles and tells Richard they have a way in. He looks up and notices Elizabeth for the first time.
Aliena brings Jack some lunch and rather coolly informs him that Richard’s back and has won his title. She leaves before he can say anything.
Richard’s giving the hard sell to the townspeople, reminding them of just how much of a horrible dick William is. He asks the men to join him, and promises to pay them from the gold they capture. Aliena and Elizabeth are watching, and Elizabeth’s looking pretty scared.
Jack’s sitting in the cathedral, looking depressed, when Philip comes across him and asks him what’s up. Jack tells him that he’s been an ass and an idiot, and Philip slings back that if that’s a sin, they’ll all burn in hell. Hee! Philip encourages Jack to continue, and Jack gets all choked up about how he’s just screwed everything up, his family, the cathedral, everything. Philip sighs that Jack was right, that morning, when he said he isn’t Tom. He’s actually kind of better than Tom, because Tom was a dreamer, but Jack’s a genius. Oh, and by the way, Aliena’s on her way to capture Shiring Castle. Seriously—this whole scene was just a hamfisted way of working in that bit of information. Jack leaps to his feet and runs out of the cathedral.
Aliena and Elizabeth approach the castle on foot and wake a sleeping guard at the gate. Elizabeth asks if William’s around and is told he’s out looking for her. She tells the guard, as he swings open the gate, to assemble everyone in the courtyard for an announcement. And leave the gate open. He’s surprised, but obeys.
In the courtyard, servants and men at arms have gathered, and Elizabeth informs them that William’s been stripped of the title, which has been presented to Richard. Walter joins the crowd, frowning in puzzlement as Elizabeth tells everyone she’s surrendering the castle to Richard, and everyone should lay down their weapons to avoid bloodshed. Walter starts forward towards Elizabeth, but Aliena steps into his path, protecting the younger girl. A horse neighs in the lower keep, and Walter investigates and discovers Richard and quite the little army, mounted up and ready for a fight, if necessary.
Richard tells them to give up, already, just as Jack gallops up and joins Aliena, who smiles at him gratefully. Walter’s not ready to give up without a fight, so Richard dismounts and attacks. The last time he and Walter went head to head, Richard was a frightened boy, but now he’s a battle-hardened man. They’re pretty evenly matched, and for a while, it seems that Walter might get the better of him, but them Richard regains the upper hand with a neat kick to the balls, and he gets Walter on his back, weaponless. Richard straddles him, pulls out a knife, and cuts Walter’s ear off, as payback for the half-ear Richard lost to Walter’s own knife, years ago. Richard tosses the ear to a couple of mastiffs nearby, who happily chow down. Yummy!
Walter gasps that now they’re even, and then pulls a knife and nearly stabs Richard. Richard finally manages to stab Walter through the throat and decides that now they’re even. Then he screams a couple of times, as though in pain. For no apparent reason.
William goes wailing to Waleran, unable to believe that Elizabeth actually betrayed him. Waleran points out that, if you kick a dog, chances are, it’ll bite you someday. It’s a lesson Regan never learned, and now she’s burning in hell because of it. William refuses to believe that, and asks Waleran what he can do to save her. Waleran tells him it’s too late, he needs to save himself, now. Waleran has some dirty work for William to do, but first, he’s of a mind to appoint William sheriff, which apparently, Waleran has the power to do. Once William’s sheriff, Waleran wants him to arrest someone for murder. Arrest whom? William asks. He’ll find out soon enough, the murder hasn’t been committed yet. William is, understandably, confused, but Waleran tells him to just go with it. Waleran’s setting a trap for a witch.
It’s late at night, and Kingsbridge Cathedral is empty, except for a cloaked figure with a candle that descends to the crypt and reveals itself to be Ellen. She pulls a brick out of the wall, revealing a hidden compartment behind, and retrieves a letter stashed there. Also up late is Jack, who spots her leaving and meets her near the Virgin Mary statue. He asks what she’s up to, and she tells him she’s retrieving a letter for a friend, and laying a trap for a bishop. A cardinal, Ellen, didn’t you hear the news?
Martha comes bursting into Alfred’s bedroom and wakes him the following morning, none too gently. How is he still paying for that house? Who’s still hiring him? Anyway, Martha tells him to get his ass out of bed, because Waleran’s downstairs.
Alfred—who, by the way, has joined the Bad Hair Club with his tragic Prince Valiant haircut—comes running downstairs and grovels at Waleran’s feet. Waleran has no time for this nonsense and says he’s there to grant Alfred a favor. Alfred asks if this is about the annulment, which apparently still hasn’t gone through, and Waleran says that he’ll do whatever Alfred likes, if Alfred does a little something for him. Waleran places a sheathed dagger on the table, and Alfred starts to look a little uncertain. Waleran asks him to provoke a fight with Jack, just enough of a fight to make Jack spill some blood. Just a few drops (and how would Alfred control that?) so Waleran can have Jack arrested. If Alfred does this, Waleran will dissolve the marriage and Alfred can remarry, Waleran asks if Alfred has a bride picked out, and Alfred replies that he has several. Because he’s such a catch, now, I’m sure.
In France, Maud’s proving that she was a much more successful parent than Stephen was, because while his kid is a whiny, uncertain little brat, hers is a pretty fierce young warrior who’s taking practice swings with a sword and telling his mother he plans to head back to England soon to fight for his rightful crown. She smiles wanly at this idea, and tells him that Father Francis (Francis! Where’ve you been?) thinks Henry could still be king, but through diplomacy, rather than bloodshed. Francis tells Henry that Stephen’s old and Eustace is weak and unpopular. He asks Henry for permission to travel to England with him, to try and broker a compromise. Henry poo poohs the idea of a compromise, because he’s a soldier first and foremost, and anyway, he’s already getting an army together.
At the cathedral, Jack’s finally figured out the problem—the cracks are being caused by wind stress, and the high winds during the storm revealed the weakness. They go out onto the roof, and Jack tells Philip that all the parts of the cathedral need to work together, and so far they have been, but the wind’s a new part that they have to account for so they need a new part that hasn’t been invented yet. Really? The flying buttress hadn’t been invented yet? I’m going to have to look that up, because that sounds a little fishy to me. Annnd, yeah, it looks like some form of flying buttress dates back to the Roman period, and was also used in England in Durham Cathedral. History fail!
Out in town, Aliena’s going about her day, not realizing that Alfred’s gone back into his stalker mode.
Jack’s now showing Philip the buttresses he plans to put in, using model pieces. Philip priggishly wonders if the new buttresses won’t look a little, um, naked? Geez, Philip, it’s ribs of stone. It’s not like they’re carved to look like women’s legs or something. Jack points out that if they make them thicker, they’ll lose the light.
Alfred’s still creepily following Aliena around, and he finally catches up with her and greets her menacingly as “dear wife.”
As Jack continues to explain his plans to Philip, Martha comes running in to tell him that Alfred’s gotten drunk again, and he attacked Aliena. Jack goes running out and finds Aliena with a bruised face and skinned arm. Aliena tells him she’s seen worse, but Alfred’s just pressed Jack’s Berserk Button hard, and he runs off, yelling for Alfred. He finally catches up with him, and they start to tussle, trashing the marketplace a bit, and then Alfred gets Jack down on the ground, stealthily draws the knife Waleran gave him, and nicks himself in the chest with it, just as Aliena and Martha arrive on the scene. Alfred screams like a stuck pig and accuses Jack of stabbing him. Jack tries to say that Alfred stabbed himself, but before things can go any further, Alfred starts to stagger, then collapses onto the ground in pain. He manages to gasp “he tricked me, it was poison” to Jack, who rushes to his side, before screaming in agony, bizarrely stroking Jack’s lower lip, and expiring. Martha screams and wails as Jack eyes the knife. Seriously, folks, call down to Shrewsbury and get Cadfael on all this! It would be one of the best crossovers ever!
At the cathedral, the monks chant over Alfred’s body, as on some battlefield somewhere, Henry bravely leads his men into the fight. Eustace, of course, just stands there, looking like a scared, lost little boy at the mall who can’t find his mommy. Henry gallops up to him, introduces himself, and kills Eustace very, very dead.
Word reaches Stephen, who’s in bed being bled, which is so not the time to break bad news. He starts to hallucinate that King Banquo is back, standing at the foot of his bed, thankfully not speaking in rhyming couplets this time, and he panics, leaping out of bed and running to the opposite side of the room. He then hallucinates that his doctor is Eustace, and he’s happy to see his son’s alive, but then sees the hideous, fatal gash in Eustace’s neck, and he collapses, wailing.
Alfred’s body is carried out of the cathedral for burial, but before they can take it anywhere, William comes galloping in with a bunch of men to arrest Jack for murder. Philip protests that the area is consecrated ground, so Jack can claim sanctuary there (which, at the time, made you pretty untouchable by the law), but then Waleran arrives to tell everyone that sanctuary only applies in churches that have been dedicated and sanctified, which Kingsbridge Cathedral has not, meaning God’s law is nothing there. So, does that mean all the services carried out in there were null and void? All the confessions, marriages, baptisms, etc.?
Guards seize Jack, who tries to lecture Waleran, who isn’t having it. Jack accuses him of burning his father, and Waleran calmly says the church burned his father, and he was merely a priest. Jack demands to know what his father knows, and Waleran orders him gagged and tells William to send for the executioner from Winchester. As Jack is dragged off and Waleran turns to leave, he growls at Philip to try and finish his cathedral now. So, now he hates the cathedral again? Didn’t any of the actors realize their characters were no longer making sense? Obviously not.
At the trial, it looks like the verdict’s a foregone conclusion, since the hangman’s putting up the noose even as Aliena’s giving evidence that Alfred attacked her, provoking Jack. Waleran’s obviously not an impartial judge and tells Aliena that she was Alfred’s wife and publicly rejected him, so his reaction was understandable. Hang on a second–why is Waleran the judge here? Why is he involved in this case at all? If this was a church matter I could understand it, but this is a murder trial, which is secular, so there’s no reason for a cardinal to be presiding. If anyone should be in charge of this, it should be the local lord, which is Richard. So why is Richard down on the ground with all the riff raff? Whatever, I give up trying to make most of this make any sense at all.
Aliena argues as well as she can on Jack’s behalf, but it’s not going well. Waleran dismisses her and condemns Jack to death. It seems that the crowd isn’t any happier about this than Aliena is, and they shout in protest as Jack is wrestled into the noose. Before he can join Tom in the afterlife, Ellen comes strolling in to give evidence of regicide. Um, ok. Waleran orders her arrested as a witch, but nobody moves. Ellen holds up the letter she retrieved from the crypt and goes back into the whole story of Jack’s father, but now it’s got a different angle. The letter was written by Jack Sr. before his arrest, and found in his clothes by Remigius when Jack Sr. was stripped for torture, and it’s quite the tale. Jack Sr. boarded the White Ship with the Prince and his wife, and when the ship caught on fire, he was able to swim away. He saw the prince and his wife get away in a rowboat, along with the Hamlieghs and Waleran, who proceeded to stab the prince and slit the young princess’s throat. Jack tried to dive after the prince, but he was already dead. As he grabbed the man’s hand, his ring came off in Jack’s hand. He used the ring to seal the letter, to give it credence.
The crowd starts to revolt against Waleran, who denounces the letter as a forgery, along with the seal. Ellen tells him Jack Sr. gave her the ring, and Alfred stole it from Jack, but no! Now Martha finally steps forward with the damn ring she stole years and years ago and hid for no reason at all. She claims she took it because he said it was worthless and she thought it was pretty. What the hell kind of upbringing did this girl have? Hey, that’s pretty, I think I’ll just take it!
Aliena brings this whole crazy thing full circle by somehow making this about William, and how he kept attacking the town, and now he and Waleran are attacking it again and my brain now hurts at the pretzels it’s had to tie itself into to make all this logic work so it’ll make any sense at all for William to end up dead at the end of this miniseries. I can assure you this was all handled much, much better in the book, and I have absolutely no idea why they changed it here. It used to make sense, and now it really doesn’t, and I find it really dissatisfying to be cheated of all the great comeuppances from the book. Sigh.
A bunch of angry townspeople storm the porch where they were holding this little trial, and Ellen frees Jack from the hangman’s noose as Waleran slinks off. A few burly townsmen get the noose over William’s head, and he tries to shift all the blame onto Waleran, explaining that Waleran was Stephen’s confessor (Was he everyone’s confessor? He really got around, didn’t he? Was there one confessor in all of England at that time? Because I’m a little bewildered as to how he was on the White Ship, and also plotting with Stephen, and just happened to be the confessor for a beachside nunnery where the one survivor of the disaster washed up, and none of that raised a single eyebrow. This is stretching credulity pretty seriously, folks.). Anyway, Waleran worked with the Hamleighs to scuttle the ship (with what, napalm? Because that thing was a giant, flaming wreck!) so Stephen would be king and they could all live happily ever after. Man, what did the prince do to them for them to think that this—years and years of misery and civil war—would be better than having him as king?
William struggles a bit too much and falls off the platform, hanging himself, and of course nobody steps forward to help him. Waleran, stupidly, calls attention to himself by telling the people of Kingsbridge that they’ve brought the wrath of God upon them for harboring witches, murderers, thieves, and sodomites. As well as an unholy priest, Jack reminds them. Because of Waleran and his friends, the country’s been steeped in war for almost two decades, and the town’s been trashed over and over again. But despite all that, the town keeps surviving and rebuilding, and they’ll be just fine, thank you very much. Waleran flees, with the townspeople in pursuit mob-style, which is a bit ridiculous, actually, and hugely cliché. He runs up onto the porch of the church and claims sanctuary (another history fail—church porches weren’t consecrated ground, just the area inside the church). Apparently that pesky memory malady’s struck again, but Jack reminds everyone that Waleran himself said the church wasn’t consecrated yet and sanctuary didn’t apply. Bet you didn’t expect that to bite you so hard in the ass, did you, Waleran?
Waleran runs into the church, barring the door behind him, and starts to climb the scaffolding. The bar on the door sucks, and the townspeople bust through in about a minute. Somehow, all these fit, healthy people are unable to chase down a man who’s got to be in is 50’s by now. Waleran makes it all the way up to the roof, where he finds he’s trapped. So, he does what any reasonable person would do and tries to climb along the gargoyles, using little metal spikes sticking out of the wall (I think they’re from holding scaffolding in place, but don’t quote me, there) to hold onto. Jack follows him out on to the roof, just as Waleran gets his rosary tangled on a spike and starts to fall. He manages to catch himself on one of the gargoyles. Jack is probably cursing his good workmanship right now. Incidentally, Waleran’s grabbed the gargoyle Jack was working on when he and Waleran first met, which depicts a man singing (I think we’re supposed to believe it’s inspired by Jack’s memory of his father singing as he was burned to death, but Jack was only a few months old at the time and couldn’t possibly have that memory, so who knows?) Jack decides to be the bigger man and climbs out to retrieve the cardinal. Waleran watches him approach calmly, and then lets go, sailing down to the ground before landing with a pretty gross thwack. Philip hurries over and quickly gives Waleran absolution before he dies. As a thanks, Waleran spits a bunch of blood right in Philip’s face. What a loss.
And now, we must end with a wedding, as these epics love to do. Philip is smilingly presiding over the marriage of Aliena and Jack, at last, and it looks like the entire county’s turned out for it, judging from how packed the cathedral is.
We then move forward to 1170, and Jack is placing a stained-glass window (quite the innovation, in those days) in the now-finished cathedral. He’s grown a beard and looks older and more distinguished now, and I really have to say, Eddie Redmayne should totally grow that beard and wear his hair that way forever after, because it seriously raises his hot quotient by about 3000%. I didn’t even recognize him for a couple of moments.
Anyway, in voiceover, Philip’s telling us that Stephen is dead and Maud’s son is now on the throne. Jack leaves the window and meets Philip in the aisle of the cathedral. They both look around at what they’ve accomplished together, pleased and a little awed. And they should be—the cathedral’s gorgeous, all soaring walls and lots of light, just as they wanted. The VO continues as Philip expresses his hope that the cathedral will continue to change and grow along with the times, and we cut to the cathedral’s dedication, the voiceover being Philip’s speech. We get a look at the crowd—Aliena and Jack are now surrounded by a gaggle of redheaded kids, and accompanied by Ellen.
As the congregants leave the cathedral, we see that there’s a roundel over the door carved with a face that looks a lot like Tom Builder. Aww. The camera pans back to reveal the majestic cathedral, and then we see a closeup of the bell ringing, and pull back again to show the cathedral, beautifully aged, in the middle of modern-day Kingsbridge, still standing tall. It’s actually a pretty awesome ending.
Hey, it’s only 3:15!
Well, that’s it, folks. There was plenty to love, and a bit to moan over, especially near the end. I’m not, generally, one of those crazy purists who kick and scream over any little detail that gets changed, but I do tend to have an issue with major parts of the plot either being changed or discarded completely, resulting in an incoherent narrative. Still, I understand this was a challenge. The book’s huge, spans decades, and has a lot going on in it. So, some things got changed. We can all argue about whether the changes were for the good or for the worse on the message boards. Meanwhile, I want to thank all of you for reading and leaving comments—it’s been a real pleasure, and I’ve had a lot of fun. Although Pillars is done, I’ll still be here, recapping anything that looks interesting and has some awesome costumes to look at. I’m considering tackling Boardwalk Empire next, and definitely The Borgias, whenever that starts up, but if anyone has suggestions, I’m all ears.
Hope to see (at least) some of you again soon!
* Pillars of the Earth: Anarchy, Master Builder
* Pillars of the Earth: Redemption
* Pillars of the Earth: Battlefield
* Pillars of the Earth: Legacy
* Pillars of the Earth: Witchcraft
* Dangerous Beauty
* The Duchess