If you thought Kit Harington's new show Gunpowder was going to be a typical BBC drama — a lavish historical adaptation with plenty of big names and beautiful cinematography — prepare to be shocked. Sure, the UK the series definitely packs a punch when it comes to star power, with Harington joined by stars like Liv Tyler and Mark Gatiss. The setting is definitely atmospheric, too, but it's also unforgiving when it comes to showing the realities of life in England in the 17th century. Following in the footsteps of shows like Taboo and Peaky Blinders, it heads into seriously dark territory. In the first episode alone, viewers witness brutal executions played out in their full gory glory, including one particularly gruesome moment when a young priest is hung, drawn, and quartered.
The Guardian describes the show as "Game of Thrones minus dragons plus history", and it's true that thematically and visually, there are comparisons with Kit Harington's other big show. But the big difference here is that Gunpowder is based on a true story.
The BBC historical drama tells the story of the Gunpowder Plot, a plan by a group of dissident English Catholics to assassinate King James I by blowing up the House of Lords during the State Opening of Parliament in London. The show has been smartly scheduled to conclude on Nov. 5, which is known in the UK as Bonfire Night. During the event, communities come together to remember the plot by letting off fireworks and sometimes even burning an effigy of Guy Fawkes on a bonfire. Fawkes was the unlucky plotter who was caught hiding under parliament, primed to light the fuse on barrels of gunpowder. There's even a rhyme dedicated to the story, which you may recognize from the movie V For Vendetta. It begins:
"Remember, remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder treason and plot.
We see no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!"
Fawkes may have become the figurehead of the event, but he was just a small part of a large group led by Robert Catesby. Kit Harington plays Catesby in the show, and it's a role that means a lot to the actor. Kit's full name is Christopher Catesby Harington, and he's actually a direct descendant of Robert Catesby himself. For Kit, this wasn't just an opportunity to take on a really interesting character from British history; it was also a chance to explore his own heritage. He produces as well as stars in the show. "It kind of came about in me knowing that as part of a strange quirk in my family history," Kit told the Radio Times.
Episode two of Gunpowder airs on Sunday Oct. 29 in the UK. Here's hoping it'll soon hit US screens soon, too.