As the episode begins, we learn that Elizabeth I is dead. The Scottish monarch, James Stuart, has become James I of England. His Protestant kingdom has been at war with the Catholic Spain for a generation. English Catholics are persecuted and mass is forbidden. Several attempts to kill the King have been made, but all have failed. After the intro, we see Robert Catesby (Kit Harington) enjoying mass with Father Henry Garnet (Peter Mullan). Moments later, Sir William Wade (Shaun Dooley) arrives with his guards. The others hide, while Robert delays. Eventually, the door is open and Wade’s men search the house. They find nothing, but Wade isn’t willing to give us. Wade encourages Lady Dorothy Dibdale (Sian Webber) to give up the priest, but she refuses. Eventually, Daniel Smith (Thom Ashley) is discovered. Wade finds a paper in his pocket and he is immediately taken into custody.
Dorothy takes the blame for everything. This spares Robert and Anne Vaux (Liv Tyler) from trouble. Wade meets with the Secretary of State, Robert Cecil (Mark Gatiss). Cecil is upset that they’ve been unable to bring down Robert. They also speak about Stanley and his plot for an invasion. Wade confirms that Smith has been tortured. He explains that a confession would help convince the Majesty of the true danger of the Catholics. Next, Dorothy is led out of the prison. She tells Robert to remain calm and not do anything stupid. Then, she is escorted to the place of her execution. William Wade pleads with her to make a plea, but she refuses. She is ultimately crushed to death. Then, Daniel is brought out and executed violently as well. Meanwhile, James (Derek Riddell) enjoys a little entertainment.
James expresses his admiration for Philip (Hugh Alexander), before Robert Cecil interrupts. Cecil speaks to James about the Catholics. He encourages him to use a heavier hand with them. James shows no interest in doing that just yet. He tells Robert to keep the disturbances with the Catholics to a minimum, because they need peace with Spain. That night, Catesby collects Daniel Smith’s head. He is given a proper burial moments later. Garnet tells Catesby that it is not time to use the sword. John Gerard (Robert Emms) explains that any one of them could be next. Next, Wade and Cecil visit Captain William Turner (Fergus O’Donnell). The man has been locked up for a very long time. Turner agrees to serve as Cecil’s spy. He is sent to discover the plan to assassinate the king. Catesby visits his family and Thomas Wintour (Edward Holcroft). They begin collecting items to sell, so they can use the money for court fees.
Young Robert (Tom Sweet) has gotten into a fight with bullies. Robert explains that men must learn to take bruises. Next, the men appear in court. They’re handed fees that they simply cannot afford, because they’ve been refusing to go to church. They’re thrown in jail, but Anne manages to get them released a short time later. Catesby tells Tom that he is basically ruined and cannot go on as is. He explains that he will never be taken prisoner again. Catesby is told to go to London. We jump over to Brussels, Flanders. Captain Turner attempts to team up with the Catholics. Cecil decides to use Philip to his benefit. He tells the boy that he needs to explain the danger of the Catholics to the King. Philip reluctantly agrees to do so. Anne and Catesby visit Henry Garnet. Garnet tries to convince Catesby that he has plenty to live for.
They contemplate what can be done while Cecil remains in office. Robert is convinced that James will not listen to the pleas of their friends. Robert suggests stepping things up. Philips speaks with the King. He meets with Lord Howard (Simon Kunz) and the others a short time later. James is now convinced that more needs to be done with the evil doers. Howard explains that this is England and Spain should have no say so in their laws. Robin returns to Tom. Tom is concerned about Jack’s (Luke Neal) presence. Catesby explains that they need men like Jack. Captain Turner is approached by a man, who claims to be with William Stanley. He is taken to an alleyway and killed by a man claiming to be Guy Fawkes (Tom Cullen). Catesby tells Tom that God might have designed Parliament to be the place for their punishment.
The first episode of Gunpowder wasn’t bad once it actually got rolling. The first 15 minutes were nearly unbearable though. It got to the point where I was pleading with Wade to find the priest and leave. The search drug out for far too long. The executions were well done, but possibly overkill. We get it. The Catholics were persecuted. We do not need to be reminded every few seconds. Nevertheless, Gunpowder has the potential to turn into something great.
The cast is undoubtedly spectacular. After the first 15 minutes, the scheming picked up and that helped to make the episode pretty good. Hopefully, things will get even better from here on out. I enjoyed it. A 7 out of 10 is deserved.