The first episode of Gunpowder ended with the beginning of a Plot. Robert Catesby had enough of Parliament hunting down innocents, trying to destroy the Catholic faith. So, he took matters into his own hands. And that’s where the second episode begins.
Episode 2 opens in Spain, where both Robert and his cousin, Thomas, have come seeking aid. Spain is under Catholic rule, and they have sworn to protect the faith in England. It is, in fact, part of the peace treaty they are negotiating. But with the haste and severity of the persecution of Catholics in England, they don’t have much time. Robert and Thomas have come to beg the Constable of Castille to help them in their plot to kill King James.
This is a bold and risky decision, but the Constable genuinely listens to their proposal, an incredible achievement in and of itself. But despite Robert’s best efforts, Spain cannot help in this instance. The Constable brings both him and Thomas to Spain’s own executions that night, where they burn non-Catholics at the stake. Spain is already doing their part to protect the one true faith. As for England? They will continue to do what they can, but wars are expensive. They are glad that England has a King who is willing to negotiate and, for now, that’ll have to be enough.
These executions really speak to Robert’s character. He can’t stop himself from literally cringing. Eventually, both the screams and the stench get to him and he can’t watch it any longer, nearly puking in the street as he leaves. It proves that he isn’t a bad man, he isn’t someone who celebrates death. He’s a desperate man who wants justice. He doesn’t want a world where Catholicism rules, and all those of other religions are persecuted. He simply wants the right to practice what you will, a request that should be more than reasonable. Unfortunately, many disagree.
Speaking of, Cecil is still hellbent on finding and condemning Robert. So much so that he actually conducts a personal visit to his house, knowing full well that he is away. But he thinks Robert is at Flanders, conspiring with other Catholics. But Anne, who is spending time with Robert’s son during his absence, gives nothing away. She knows full well why he’s there and she makes that known to him. And so Cecil goes to even further lengths, carefully devising a few minutes where he will be left alone with Robert’s son, where he tricks the boy into revealing that his father is, in fact, in Spain.
From there, Cecil is able to put two and two together rather easily. But his cleverness gets the better of him when he intercepts a letter from the Constable of Castille, detailing that Spain is willing to accept the continued harsh persecution of Catholics in England, if it will allow for peace between the two nations. This letter, of course, was nothing more than a decoy, a deception that Cecil fell for. Cecil was so convinced, in fact, that he told the King of the letter and advised him to allow for even harsher punishment on Catholics. And James takes the word of his adviser. He declares the Catholic religion detestable, and by his word, Parliament plans to make Catholics enemies of the state. But when the Constable arrives in England, he informs the King of Spain’s great concern. If these words are not taken back and if the persecution of Catholics does not stop, he will have no choice but to return to Spain. And the peace treaty shall be in great jeopardy. This makes Cecil realize his grave mistake, and it makes the King lose all faith in Cecil.
Meanwhile, Robert and Thomas are returning from Spain with the knowledge that they must seek help from within their country. There must be countless English citizens that feel the same anger that they do, desperate and willing enough to do something about it. Which is what leads them to Flanders, hoping to speak with William Stanley himself. Luckily, Stanley seems to be an old family friend. And he is more than willing to support Robert’s cause. He recommends he execute the plan sooner rather than later. Every second they wait gives Cecil a second more to discover them. And now that they have the men, that shouldn’t be too difficult. Gunpowder is in more than ample supply in London. Stanley also suggests that Robert take one of his own men, Guy Fawkes. He’s silent, yes, but loyal to the cause. And he could prove to be a great asset. Robert trusts Stanley’s judgement, and so Fawkes travels back to London with Robert and Thomas to start forging the Plot.
Many stand with Catesby and are willing to give their lives for the one true faith. All men involved in the heart of the plot swear an oath, as Catesby does, that they will give everything to the cause, and this number now includes Father John Gerard, a young Catholic under Father Henry’s wing. Henry is still convinced that prayer will solve their problems, and that violence is no answer at all. But John has seen too many men and women slaughtered to stand by and wait any longer. And he isn’t alone.
The numbers grow with each passing day, and it seems that despite public persecution of Catholics and Catesby’s own disgrace, there are hundreds that will stand and fight with him. Thanks to the support of noblemen, they have secured access to the tunnels underneath Parliament. Surprisingly, however, it is not this that raises suspicion, but a meeting held between the conspirators in a tavern.
Cecil, as we discover, has many spies throughout England, many of which are just ordinary people. This man looks like nothing more than another drunk, but upon seeing Robert, Thomas, and the others that have gathered, he grows suspicious. He watches as they go up to a private room, and immediately rushes to tell Cecil everything that he witnessed. But Cecil isn’t nearly as impressed as he thought he’d be. When he learns that Catesby and his men are still at the tavern, he pays the man only half of what he promised and orders Wade to go after them. He is to finally arrest Catesby and all other men that they can.
Wade and his soldiers reach the tavern just as the conspirators’ meeting ends. All has already been plotted and planned as Wade attacks, and a duel ensues in the middle of the tavern. Catesby is skilled with a sword (not quite as skilled as Jon Snow, but who is?) and easily keeps up with Wade, but he gets sliced across the abdomen during the duel. Father John manages to sneak out with the help of Thomas, but it is Fawkes who truly saves the day. No one fights quite like he does. His strength and brutality is unmatched, and had he wanted to, he could have easily killed Wade as he does some of his men. But he only leaves him with scrapes and bruises. For now.
Though John escaped the tavern, he is cornered in the street, surrounded by all of Wade’s men and taken to the Tower, where is beaten and tortured for hours. Wade interrogates while Cecil watches in the corner, but absolutely nothing comes of it. They torture him until he passes out, and yet still, nothing. John is loyal and resilient, but both Wade and Cecil believe he can be broken. They toss in him his cell for the next few hours until he will be ready to torture again. Which gives Robert plenty of time to rescue him.
Robert visits Father Henry and Anne to get patched up before dangerously attempting to infiltrate the Tower. It is after Anne sees to his wounds that he admits everything to Henry under the guise of confession. But he does not seek forgiveness or absolution. And this is what most excites me about seeing Kit Harington in a role like this. We get to see true, unadulterated anger and hatred from him, something we never see in Jon Snow. Jon seeks justice, but only through honorable and noble ways. He feels anger, but never lets it impede his sense of duty. Robert is different. He also seeks justice, like Jon, but he is willing to go to any lengths to get it. And he’s willing to kill whoever he needs to in the process. Robert plans to not only kill the King, but also his son, the Prince. That kind of hatred is one I’ve never seen Harington embody before, but he does a truly excellent job of it.
Robert and Fawkes work together to break into the Tower, with a boat hiding nearby. They hold two of the guards hostage while they eat at a local tavern, and Robert takes one at knife-point, disguising himself as a fellow guard. They enter with no obstacles and under no suspicion, making it to John’s cell easily. Once the door is opened, he knocks the guard out and tosses him into John’s cell, stealing the keys. John wakes as Robert arrives, but he can barely stand on his own. This slows them down, but Robert is more than capable of supporting John as he limps down the corridors. But this delay costs them dearly. It is only a few minutes after John leaves his cell that guards discover his escape and sound the alarm. Robert and John rush as fast as they can, but the guards have access to all routes, whereas they do not. If they don’t hurry, they’ll be trapped in from all sides. That’s when Robert looks down and sees a sewage grate. It’ll be a tight and disgusting fit, but it’s their only hope.
They climb into the filth just in time. Wade and his men remain clueless, continuing to search the Tower to no avail. Robert and John make it to the yard and then into the boat before any guards can discover them. And as Fawkes killed the other man back at the tavern, their identities shall remain a secret. John will be a wanted man, but he’s alive. And he didn’t reveal anything to Wade. All hope is not yet lost, but as we know, the Plot does not end well for the conspirators. And with only one episode to go, I wouldn’t be too optimistic.
Stay tuned for a recap of Episode 3 of Gunpowder.