TV shows

In BBC’s ‘Gunpowder’, desperate men and desperate measures (and Kit Harington)

The ‘Game of Thrones’ star plays the ringleader of a plot to assassinate King James I of England in 1605.

“Remember remember, the fifth of November; gunpowder, treason, and plot.”

Over the last few hundred years, the Guy Fawkes mask has evolved from being the face of a traitor to being a symbol of modern protest. Popularised by the graphic novel David Lloyd’s V for Vendetta and then its movie adaptation, the mask is also the insignia of the hackers’ collective Anonymous and was most recently leveraged by the Emmy award-winning show Mr. Robot as an image of cyberanarchy aimed at overthrowing an evil corporation.

While the image has survived through the centuries, in reality Fawkes was simply a man tasked with pulling the trigger in a more elaborate plan to assassinate King James I of England. The BBC One mini-series Gunpowderi, starring Game of Thrones actor Kit Harington, takes this highly celebrated symbol of subversion and gives it a face and a backstory.


Gunpowder follows the plot to blow up the House of Lords in London 1605 to protest against the persecution of Catholics. As Robert Catesby (Kit Harington) and his cousin Anne Vaux (Liv Tyler) watch their middle-aged cousin Lady Dibdale (Sian Webber) stripped, tortured and crushed to death, Robert vows revenge. He brings together a band of fierce, committed Catholics willing to assassinate King James I (Derek Riddell) and liberate their fellow believers, who refused to conform to the new Church of England.

Robert is joined in the struggle by Guy Fawkes (Tom Cullen). As they plot, escape capture and hide away, they are being chased by the Secretary of State Robert Cecil (Mark Gatiss) and William Wade (Shaun Dooley), who make convincing representatives of state-endorsed coercion, lending even more legitimacy to the cause and actions of the Catholic revolutionaries.


Harington returns to the screen after the Game Of Thrones season finale (he also happens to be a direct descendant of Robert Catesby). The role and the series are very different from Harington’s Jon Snow character and Game of Thrones. Gunpowder has only three one-hour episodes, which are drawn from history – with verifiable dates, places and names – rather than high fantasy containing white walkers and dragons.

Besides, unlike Jon Snow, Robert Catesby knows what he’s doing. Though he retains his brooding demeanor, he is more willing to take the lead. He is a man with a plan and the drive to see it through. He also has friends and Catholic sympathisers who are willing to fight, kill and die for the faith. And so they do, in shock-inducing depictions of brutality.

The series has received a fair share of flak for the unfiltered portrayal of 17th-century savagery. BBC has defended the bloodshed and argued that the moments of torture are drawn from historical research.

While Gunpowder does appear to be a true and unfortunate depiction of religious oppression of the time, the series also uses brutality as a tool to drive the plot forward. For centuries, effigies of Guy Fawkes have been burnt on November 5 to mark loyalty to the king. Gunpowder attempts to provide a rationale for Catesby and his crew. It humanises the face and the story. Catesby is stripped of his property and rights, loses his wife in childbirth and is unable to connect to his only son, who he believes is the cause of her death. He has faith, but no freedom to practise it. Fawkes is a seemingly cold-hearted soldier, a man in the shadows, but he still pines for his wife Maria.

Despite not being the easiest show to watch, Gunpowder is a captivating and nail-biting drama about the human side of popular history. The three -part miniseries was premiered on BBC in the United Kingdom in October, and will be telecast by HBO in the United States of America in December.

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

When did we start parenting our parents?

As our parents grow older, our ‘adulting’ skills are tested like never before.

From answering every homework question to killing every monster under the bed, from soothing every wound with care to crushing anxiety by just the sound of their voice - parents understandably seemed like invincible, know-it-all superheroes all our childhood. It’s no wonder then that reality hits all of a sudden, the first time a parent falls and suffers a slip disc, or wears a thick pair of spectacles to read a restaurant menu - our parents are growing old, and older. It’s a slow process as our parents turn from superheroes to...human.

And just as slow to evolve are the dynamics of our relationship with them. Once upon a time, a peck on the cheek was a frequent ritual. As were handmade birthday cards every year from the artistically inclined, or declaring parents as ‘My Hero’ in school essays. Every parent-child duo could boast of an affectionate ritual - movie nights, cooking Sundays, reading favourite books together etc. The changed dynamic is indeed the most visible in the way we express our affection.

The affection is now expressed in more mature, more subtle ways - ways that mimics that of our own parents’ a lot. When did we start parenting our parents? Was it the first time we offered to foot the electricity bill, or drove them to the doctor, or dragged them along on a much-needed morning walk? Little did we know those innocent acts were but a start of a gradual role reversal.

In adulthood, children’s affection for their parents takes on a sense of responsibility. It includes everything from teaching them how to use smartphones effectively and contributing to family finances to tracking doctor’s appointments and ensuring medicine compliance. Worry and concern, though evidence of love, tend to largely replace old-fashioned patterns of affection between parents and children as the latter grow up.

It’s something that can be easily rectified, though. Start at the simplest - the old-fashioned peck on the cheek. When was the last time you gave your mom or dad a peck on the cheek like a spontaneous five-year-old - for no reason at all? Young parents can take their own children’s behaviour available as inspiration.

As young parents come to understand the responsibilities associated with caring for their parents, they also come to realise that they wouldn’t want their children to go through the same challenges. Creating a safe and secure environment for your family can help you strike a balance between the loving child in you and the caring, responsible adult that you are. A good life insurance plan can help families deal with unforeseen health crises by providing protection against financial loss. Having assurance of a measure of financial security for family can help ease financial tensions considerably, leaving you to focus on being a caring, affectionate child. Moreover,you can eliminate some of the worry for your children when they grow up – as the video below shows.


To learn more about life insurance plans available for your family, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of SBI Life and not by the Scroll editorial team.