A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Gunpowder is a historical drama about the failed 1605 British Gunpowder Plot. Teens may be drawn to it thanks to Game of Thrones star Kit Harington's portrayal of the main character, but it isn't intended for young viewers thanks to gruesome torture, execution scenes, and full nudity. Drinking (wine, sherry, and ale) is commonplace, too.
What's the story?
GUNPOWDER is a historical miniseries about the British Gunpowder Plot of 1605. The drama, which originally aired on the BBC, stars Kit Harrington as Robert Catesby, a devout Catholic who is resolved to defend his faith from persecution under the rule of the protestant King James I (Derek Riddle). Royal spymaster and Puritan Robert Cecil (Mark Gatiss) is committed to eliminating what he perceives as the Papist threat against the king by systematically oppressing worshippers while hunting down and killing priests like Father Henry Garnet (Peter Mullan). Helping him carry out the task is Sir William Wade (Shaun Dooley), the lieutenant of the Tower of London. In hopes of installing King James' young Catholic daughter as head of state, Catesby devises a plan to blow up the House of Lords on November 5th, 1605, with the help of other faithfuls, including his cousin Thomas Wintour (Edward Holcroft) and former soldier Guy Fawkes (Tom Cullen). But their plot is uncovered, and the conspirators pay a fatal price for their actions.
Is it any good?
This compelling and dramatic series manipulates history just enough to create solid characters and intense moments that keep viewers engaged. Kit Harington, a direct descendant of Robert Catesby, offers an angry and bitter rendition of the group’s leader, while Robert Cullen personifies the now very stylized idea of who Guy Fawkes was. It also nods to the lingering questions about some of their Catholic allies, including the disapproving Jesuit Henry Garnet and family friend Anne Vaux (portrayed as Catesby's cousin by Liv Tyler), and whether they compromised the overall operation.
The depiction of the torture and killing of Catholics is both brutal and disturbing, but much of the series is dedicated to the ongoing discussions taking place among royal operatives, and between Catesby and his co-conspirators. As a result, some may find the show's momentum a little slow for their liking. But despite the pace and historical inaccuracies, at the heart of Gunpowder is an attempt to pay homage to a group of Papists who had the courage to rebel against religious intolerance, and a monarchy that was allowing it to happen.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the events that led to the Gunpowder Plot. Why was there such a lack of religious tolerance in Britain at the time? Are things different now?
Did you know that Robert Catesby was the mastermind behind the Gunpowder Plot, but Guy Fawkes is most associated with it because he was in charge of the explosives? How central is Guy Fawkes' role in this version of Gunpowder? Does the way he is portrayed match how he is characterized in popular culture today?