The Pillars of the Earth

Year: 2010

Type: Historical

Subtype: Could all the nobles who are fighting over this shitty little kingdom please quiet down a bit, we’re trying to build something over here?

Primary audience: People who want to find out if folks in the dark ages talked, behaved and had sex just like we do. (They did.)

Tics: Witch hunts, Ian McShane and other anachronisms.

Worth watching: Yes.

There’s little to live for in England in the 12th century, unless you can take part in one of the four worthwhile pursuits of the age: Scheming, murdering, incest and witchcraft.  And possibly cathedral building, if you’re up to it.  It’ll take you a couple of lifetimes.  And you’ll have to contend with a class of nobles to whom chivalry and the Peace and Truce of God movement are just some fancy schmancy continental innovations.  But at least you’re not a peasant or cannon fodder like everyone else.

You don’t get a sense that religion matters much to these people.  Everyone feels like secular people who have occasional flashes of religious feeling.  But nobody watches this for the history, right?  And it’s actually those few religious moments that separate this from Rome-me-too’s like The Tudors: The work on the cathedral.  The fake relic.  Or that brilliant scene where the monks intimidate the workers of a quarry to give them the stones they are entitled to.

And then all the enjoyable-annoying Ian McShane Deadwood shenanigans fade away, and reveal something beautiful: A story about the joy of building.