A historical drama rooted in real events would be compelling enough on its own. But throw in Kit Harington, a fan favorite from "Game of Thrones," and you've got yourself a captivating watch for a few hours. HBO's "Gunpowder" goes even further by immersing viewers in some of the most infamous moments in British history, like the notorious Gunpowder Plot. This three-part miniseries delves into the thwarted efforts of a group of British Catholics, led by Robert Catesby (played by Harington), who happens to be Harington's own ancestor, to blow up the House of Parliament on its opening day. "Gunpowder" tells a true story, parts of which still influence the customs of present-day Britain.

The saga of the Gunpowder Plot, vividly portrayed in brutal detail by the HBO miniseries, is a familiar tale to many Britons. Episode 1 of Gunpowder endeavors to shed light on the sequence of events leading to a failed scheme by Catholics seeking retribution against King James I for his persecution of their faith, as depicted in the series. Through a harrowing portrayal of the atrocities of one of England's bleakest periods, the initial episode not only sets the stage for the miniseries but also delves into the motivations of its central characters, laying the groundwork for the unfolding narrative.

 

'Gunpowder' Is Inspired by Real Events

In "Gunpowder," Mark Gatiss assumes the role of Robert Cecil, the 1st Earl of Salisbury, who emerges as the primary adversary against Kit Harington's portrayal of Robert Catesby and his fellow conspirators seeking political change. Throughout the miniseries, Cecil is depicted as orchestrating schemes to suppress Catholics and wielding significant influence over the decisions of King James I. Notably, Cecil played a pivotal role during the transition from Queen Elizabeth I to King James I in England. Despite expectations that the Protestant King would adopt a more tolerant stance towards Catholics, they soon found themselves subjected to ongoing persecution. In "Gunpowder," this persecution is exemplified by the public execution of Lady Dorothy Dibdale (portrayed by Sian Webber), who meets her demise under the weight of crushing weights. Subsequently, a Jesuit priest is hanged and quartered, a common form of punishment during the era, as outlined in an interview with on-set consultant John Cooper by The Times.

As reported by TIME, Lady Dorothy's ordeal in "Gunpowder" may draw parallels to a Catholic martyr who suffered a similar fate nearly two decades prior to the events depicted in the series. In "Gunpowder," Robert Catesby's witnessing of Lady Dorothy's execution serves as a pivotal moment that influences his subsequent actions, leading to his plans to detonate explosives beneath the House of Lords. Despite receiving education at Oxford University, Catesby remained steadfast in his allegiance to the Catholic Church amidst widespread persecution of Catholics in England. According to information from Royal Museums Greenwich, the inception of the Gunpowder Plot can be attributed to Catesby, who began assembling a team to execute his scheme. As revealed in "Gunpowder," Cecil discovers that Catesby's plan involved installing Princess Elizabeth, daughter of King James I, as a figurehead monarch following the destruction of the House of Lords on the opening day of Parliament, which ultimately transpired on November 5, 1605.