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Remember, remember the Fifth of November; gunpowder, treason and plot. Thus starts the famous rhyme which many folks will unfortunately just think is a quote from V For Vendetta and not a storied recollection of Guy Fawkes. As a child, Guy Fawkes Day to me meant nothing more than a chance to set off huge amounts of fireworks (while avoiding the kids on the Cape Flats who wanted to “smeer” you with shoe polish – what was that about?), as I’m sure it was for many. But what’s the story here? Why did we commemorate this leftover from South Africa’s days as a British colony? And why in such explosive fashion.

The answer should be right there in the name. Guy Fawkes. The English Catholic ex-soldier who on 5 November 1605 was caught red-handed (or should that be black-handed?) during an attempt to blow up the House of Lords and kill King James I as a retaliation for the Protestant Church of England’s persecution of Catholics using a stockpile of gunpowder. Fawkes’ failed plot would inspire an annual public holiday in honour of the British King surviving the assassination attempt on his life and see his name infamously entered into the history books. Just one small problem: It wasn’t Fawkes’ plot.

Gunpowder, the 3-part BBC-produced miniseries now available on Showmax, delves into the real history of the “Gunpowder Plot” and specifically it’s true mastermind: Robert Catesby.

The early 17th century was a time of political turmoil as England warred with Spain just as the Protestant and Catholic Church – the control of the latter having been seized from Rome by the English years before – warred with each other through less overt, clandestine means across the empire. Many English Catholics had hoped that when James I – the son of Mary, Queen of Scots – took the throne he would put an end to the persecution of Catholics within England, and indeed he initially appeared lenient. However, as James’ increasing concern about Catholic assassination attempts in retaliation to his predecessors’ actions led him to not act, he inadvertently stoked the very fire he was afraid of as numerous plots to kill or oust him were hatched over the next few years.

It was Catesby – brought to life here with fervour by Game of Thrones’ Kit Harrington – whose work drew the most attention though. Driven to desperation as he watched his family’s livelihood – and in some brutal cases, their very lives – wrenched away from them due to their religious convictions, this handsome nobleman, gifted with the sword, was the one to actually light the proverbial fuse that nearly rewrote history in the most explosive fashion. He would assemble around him like-minded souls like his dashing cousin Thomas Wintour (Edward Holcroft), and devout Jesuit priest Henry Garnett (Peter Mullan), while relying on the goodwill of wealthy Catholic recusants like Anne Vaux (Liv Tyler) to hide them from the prying tendrils of Sir Robert Cecil (Mark Gattis), the sneering Earl of Salisbury who first got wind of the “Gunpowder Plot”. Oh and of course, there was a certain young firebrand ex-soldier by the name of Guy Fawkes (Tom Cullen), whose dark visage barely contained his propensity for violence.

This dramatic retelling of those historic events was developed and written by controversial Irish novelist Ronan Bennet – he was convicted for the murder of a policeman during an IRA robbery when only 18, and upon his eventual release and move to London years later he was arrested again for conspiracy to cause explosions. While Bennet and his accused co-conspirators would eventually be acquitted, with Bennett himself handling their legal defence, it’s clear to see why a revolutionary story like this would call to him. And Bennett pours that personal passion into the work, giving an unflinching recounting of what transpired as director J Blakeson brings to life this time of contrasting opulence and grime.

Part history lesson, part dramatic tale of woe and fiery anger, Gunpowder makes for thrilling viewing. And you can watch it all right now on Showmax.

Last Updated: July 13, 2018

24 Comments

  1. It’s got John Snow. I’m sold!

    Reply

    • Gr8_Balls_o_Fire

      July 13, 2018 at 14:00

      I wouldn’t trust him. He knows nothing.

      Reply

      • Pariah

        July 13, 2018 at 14:06

        I mean, he did end up getting caught, but placing the blame on someone else. So he had to know *something.

        Reply

        • Gr8_Balls_o_Fire

          July 13, 2018 at 14:49

          Oohhh I gave up on GoT ages ago lol

          Too slow. No dragons for years. No white-walkers. Such teases.

          Reply

    • Original Heretic

      July 13, 2018 at 14:04

      So did Pompeii.
      And that’s two hours I’ll never get back.

      Reply

      • Pariah

        July 13, 2018 at 14:05

        You just hate all the good things, don’t you? First Fresca, now John Snow? What is wrong with you?!

        Reply

        • Original Heretic

          July 13, 2018 at 14:09

          Jon Snow, I’m totally okay with.
          Pompeii just sucked so bad.

          As for what’s wrong with me, well, right now I am so bored that staying awake at work is taking a concerted effort.
          If you mean “in general”, then damn, where do I even bloody start?!

          Reply

          • Admiral Chief

            July 13, 2018 at 14:15

            Bored? Try drinking some Fresca, it tastes like nothing

          • Original Heretic

            July 13, 2018 at 14:17

            Like nothing good, you mean.

          • Admiral Chief

            July 13, 2018 at 14:20

            Nothing tastes like Fresca

          • Original Heretic

            July 13, 2018 at 14:23

            And for that I am forever grateful to Cthulhu.

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            July 13, 2018 at 14:33

          • Pariah

            July 13, 2018 at 14:34

            I’d buy that

          • Original Heretic

            July 13, 2018 at 14:36

            Cthulhu fhtagn! What a wonderful phrase. Cthulhu fhtagn, it ain’t no passing craaaaaaze.

          • Original Heretic

            July 13, 2018 at 14:36

          • Pariah

            July 13, 2018 at 14:38

            D… Dad? Is… Is that you?!

            WHERE WERE YOU?!

          • Original Heretic

            July 13, 2018 at 14:48

            Getting smokes.
            Wow, just did a image search, found some more awesome pics.
            This one freaks me out a little bit.
            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/14a3a8e0c3fd8a75c5fc6448e0c0d2ed1e002123b2a01e242a2928d53628e910.jpg

          • Original Heretic

            July 13, 2018 at 14:48

            Getting smokes.
            Wow, just did a image search, found some more awesome pics.
            This one freaks me out a little bit.
            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/14a3a8e0c3fd8a75c5fc6448e0c0d2ed1e002123b2a01e242a2928d53628e910.jpg

          • Pariah

            July 13, 2018 at 14:48

            Just looks like an R2D2 skeleton in front of a painting in a cathedral to Cthulhu. Nothing weird about it.

          • Original Heretic

            July 13, 2018 at 15:07

            My overactive imagination is getting the better of me.
            I’m picturing/imagining myself in a sub, going deep down to some recently discovered lost sunken city.
            The city is deep, little light bleeds down from above. The only worthwhile illumination comes from the sub: a pair of high-powered halogen lights that cut through the murky water easily, revealing the ancient city. The engravings in the underwater stone edifices show various creatures that no longer walk the earth, strange beings that defy logic. The enormous walls are covered with these designs.
            The sub enters a opening in the one wall and all the details witnessed before are suddenly gone. No more walls, no more structures, just murky water as far as the lights can penetrate.
            Slowly, a smooth structure comes into focus. Unlike the previous walls, there are no engravings, no details whatsoever. It appears rounded and the sub follows the path of it. After what feels like an hour, it becomes evident that this new structure is a large pit that sinks deep into the ocean floor. The size thereof creates a knot of panic in my belly. Who could have built something so impossibly huge and for what purpose?
            Suddenly, a creature pushes itself out the pit, a creature so enormous and alien looking that my eyes cannot take it all in at once glance.
            The sub speeds away, my heart hammering in my chest.

            See how bored I am? You see?!?

          • Admiral Chief

            July 13, 2018 at 15:12

            Have you tried some Fresca for the boredom?

          • Original Heretic

            July 13, 2018 at 15:17

            Did you fall down and hit your head really hard today? or was it last night?
            Or are you really high? Or did someone just moer you stukkend?

            It’s unlike you to repeat stupid shit ad nauseum.

          • Admiral Chief

            July 18, 2018 at 14:17

            Try some Fresca, it’s like nothing

  2. Admiral Chief

    July 13, 2018 at 14:14

    Remember, remember…

    Reply

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