It was another fascinating night on the Starz original series The Pillars of the Earth, which managed to push the envelope just a little more, by throwing a number of obstacles and other issues in everyone’s way, both hero and villain alike. While Jack fled to France due to the marriage of Aliena and Alfred (but not after a night of passion, resulting in an unintentional pregnancy,) William was declared Earl of Shiring, and Waleran very nearly became Archbishop of Canterbury (before Stephen withdrew the blessing.) Meanwhile, Philip was ousted from his position as prior, largely due to the collapse of the roof of the cathedral and the vicious machinations of Remigius and Waleran.
In many ways, this was the strongest episode of the series that has yet aired, due to the fact that it brought in some of the human magic that was such a hallmark of the novel. While the plot up until this point has been a shifting of advantages from one side to another, this episode took things a step further by showing us the strong relationships between the characters, including and especially that between Jack and Aliena, which must go down as one of the better screen romances in recent memory.
Furthermore, and this could be seen as either a good or a bad thing, we did not see much of William Hamleigh, who took a bit of a backseat to the machinations and workings of the always-villainous (yet surprisingly devout) Waleran. Indeed, even though he is responsible for most of the ills in the series, we get to see him as a man of some depth and complication. While he always aspires to gain more power for himself, often at the expense of others, especially Prior Philip, he is also shown as being extremely devout, to the extent that he often inflicts pain upon himself in order to bring himself closer to God.
If there was one thing slightly amiss about this episode of The Pillars of the Earth, it was the ousting of Prior Philip, an event that does not have a corresponding event in the novel, where Philip remains Prior. However, this is a minor detail, and one no doubt created to help generate a sense of drama and immediacy (as if the series is lacking in that department in any case.) However, it also helps create a sense of sympathy for Philip who, due to his constant and impeccable morality, has up until this point been somewhat hard to relate to.
All in all, this was certainly an exciting and emotionally deep episode of The Pillars of the Earth, and it has certainly raised expectations of what is to come. Once again, the series has managed to take the enormous complexities of a very intricate novel and render them into something comprehensible and also believable. It stands as an example of what can be done when a very talented group of creative people come together to create a project that is both meaningful and entertaining.