Critical Condition: Gunpowder

Gunpowder | Lightbox, from Thursday

➢ “This Kit Harington-starring three-parter got off to an explosive start. It might might be historically accurate but did it need to be quite so gruesome? … The first half hour is not the easiest of watches, tension followed by utter horribleness … It’s certainly historically fascinating, and genuine, in language as well. Potent and gripping too.” — The Guardian.

➢ “Based on the 1605 effort of Fawkes and some besieged English Catholics to destroy the House of Lords and kill King James 1 to put one of their own on the throne, Gunpowder is a welcomed and strong tonic for Thrones fans as they wait for the final season to premiere in 2019. While there are no dragons, there is a battle for who will rule in the historical drama and Harington’s 17th century-set Robert Catesby is very much in the Jon Snow vein.” — Deadline.

➢ “Harington may have been the presumptive star of Gunpowder, but really this classy reimagining of the 1605 plot was about giving some of our finest character actors the platform to do their thing. Here was Derek Riddell camping it up as James Stuart. There was Peter Mullan, authoritative and calm as a Catholic priest. And, above all, Mark Gatiss, louche, oily and given a splendid regal brush-off (‘my cankered beagle’) as the spymaster Robert Cecil.” — The Times.

➢ “Of all the twists and turns this long year has taken, a sexy depiction of Guy Fawkes may be one of the least expected developments. All things considered, this is not an unwelcome turn of events … Tom Cullen (who also wields a sword as a Knight Templar in History’s Knightfall) makes a strong impression as a feral, taciturn Fawkes.” — Variety.

➢ “The themes of faith-driven terrorism, political opportunism and state-sponsored torture in Gunpowder have a startling resonance with our own times … And a grim little project it is, with plenty of the muck and slop of Jacobean life but very little sunlight, literally or metaphorically … The show’s scenes of torture are tough to watch, but the real problem is that there isn’t a whole lot to grab your attention otherwise.” — New York Times.

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