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The Pillars of the Earth

Episode Guides

Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, Hayley Atwell and Donald Sutherland star in this adaptation of Ken Follett's 12th-century story of love, war, religious strife and power struggles

About the Show

Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, Hayley Atwell and Donald Sutherland star in this adaptation of Ken Follett's 12th-century story of love, war, religious strife and power struggles

  • Ian McShane as Waleran Bigod

    Episode 6

    In the final episode, Aliena takes her child to France, exiled after giving birth to Jack's illegitimate son. There, she miraculously finds her lover and tells him of the collapse of Kingsbridge Cathedral. Having learned more about his real father, Jack is determined to return home to complete Tom's work.

    Philip, ousted as Prior of Kingsbridge after the roof's collapse, rejects an offer by Archbishop Waleran to become his archdeacon. Ellen warns Jack that Waleran is one of three men responsible for his father's death, and therefore wants Jack dead.

    William attacks Kingsbridge yet again, and when the raid fails, turns his frustrated fury on his mother. Then Richard returns from the Crusades, intent on petitioning the King for his Earldom one last time.

  • The Pillars of the Earth

    Episode 5

    King Stephen defeats Maud, who flees to France. Aliena and Richard, penniless after the attack on Kingsbridge and the reverses of the war, search for a way to start over.

    Alfred proposes marriage to Aliena, infuriating Jack, who attacks his rival and is imprisoned. Subsequently, Ellen helps her son escape; he makes his way to France to study architecture and seek the truth about his mysterious father.

    William Hamleigh marries young Countess Elizabeth for her money, only to abuse her as he did Aliena. And King Stephen visits Kingsbridge Cathedral, where Waleran announces the award of the Earldom to William, just moments before catastrophe strikes.

  • The Pillars of the Earth - scenes of battle

    Episode 3

    William Hamleigh and Aliena's brother Richard are in contention again as they compete for the King's attention and the title of Earl of Shiring.

    Meanwhile, Waleran joins forces with William in an attempt to strip Kingsbridge of its lucrative market and bring work on the cathedral to a standstill.

    Prior Philip, Richard, and Jack journey to Lincoln to seek justice from the King, but Queen Maud's forces attack, and in the ensuing battle each side's leader is taken hostage by the enemy.

    Jack is attacked by a mysterious assailant while Philip is captured by Maud's troops, falsely accused by Waleran of treason, and condemned to death.

  • The Pillars of the Earth - Tony Curran as King Stephen

    Episode 2

    Aliena's father the Earl is executed for supporting Maud. To prove her family's loyalty to King Stephen, she vows to fund her Brother Richard's knighthood so that he can fight against Maud.

    William and his mother Regan plot with Waleran to have the cathedral project transferred to Shiring, which is now in their possession. Despite their interference, Tom and Prior Philip continue work on the cathedral.

    Waleran arranges a visit by the King, intending to sabotage the cathedral project once and for all, but Jack's newly-carved statue of the cathedral's patron saint has an unexpected and shocking effect on the King, who is plagued by madness and religious visions.

  • Alison Pill as Queen Maud

    Episode 4

    News of Prior Philip's imminent execution reaches his brother, who is now secretary to Queen Maud.

    Waleran and Regan Hamleigh struggle to convince Maud that they were on her side all along. They then proceed to squabble over Prior Philip's assets in front of the Queen.

    Alfred's jealousy erupts when Jack returns to Kingsbridge seeking to be reunited with Aliena. Their violent rivalry forces Tom Builder into making a harsh decision about one of his sons. Then William Hamleigh shows up, with murder and destruction on his mind.

  • The Pillars of the Earth - Rufus Sewell as Tom Builder

    Episode 1

    A double-bill opens this epic realisation of Ken Follett's hit book.

    A white ship sinks under suspicious circumstances, drowning King Henry's sole heir.

    His nephew Stephen takes the thone, triggering a power struggle with Henry's daughter Maud and bastard son Gloucester, and plunging England into anarchy.

    Aliena, daughter of the Earl of Shiring, rejects William Hamleigh's brutish proposal of marriage, sparking the young man's bitter fury.

    Visionary mason Tom Builder and his family search for work in the English winter, but meet tragedy on the road.

    In Kingsbridge, the monastery's idealistic new Prior, Philip, learns a dangerous secret and becomes obligated to ambitious, sinister cleric Waleran Bigod.

    However, Tom Builder's fortunes change when he is engaged by Prior Philip to rebuild Kingsbridge's ruined church as a cathedral.

    Much to his shock and anguish, he discovers that the child he thought dead is actually alive, but lost to him. And his elder son, Alfred, clashes jealously with the gifted son of Tom's new partner Ellen - Jack - who now carries a damning secret of his own.

    Ellen, accused of witchcraft, shares with Tom her knowledge about Jack's father and the white ship's sinking.

    Philip's plans for the cathedral are nearly destroyed by Waleran's devious political maneuvering.

    William Hamleigh discovers Aliena and her brother hiding in the ruins of Shiring Castle, and inflicts further revenge on the girl who rejected him and her brother.

The Pillars of the Earth synopsis

Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, Hayley Atwell and Donald Sutherland star in this adaptation of Ken Follett's 12th-century story of love, war, religious strife and power struggles

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