A World Without End
Despite an elastic use of history and lack of character evolution, World Without End, the miniseries based on Ken Follett's historical novel, still retains the requisite elements of a good story: love gay and straight, rape, Machiavellian intrigue, power, greed, ambition and lust run amok, and lots conflict and violence. Set in England at the start of Edward III's reign, the 100 Years War and the Black Plague, this riveting tale of murder and ambition pits peasantry against nobility, church against state, and modernity against the Dark Ages. Dung poultices versus tourniquets.
This grand historical sweep is illustrated through various characters, who despite credible acting and the very tumultuous events that occur to them, remain either good guys or bad, with no room for human complexity. The villainous Petranilla (Cynthia Nixon) and heartless Godwyn (Rupert Evans) remain unrepentant until their demise. Visionary Caris (Charlotte Riley) is good throughout.
This this not a series for the squeamish. People are stabbed, hung, and disemboweled, their intestines proudly displayed for the leering mob. Limbs are hacked off and throats slit. Yet modern touches belie historical accuracy. Despite all the filth back then, characters remain remarkably clean and sport gleaming white teeth even though Crest wasn't invented for another 500 years.
But for all this nitpicking, "World Without End" is solid, thrilling entertainment with a plot twist few will see coming. The production values are rich, the sets and costuming lush, and the story gripping. And viewers learn a lot of history to boot.
"World Without End - The Epic Eight-Part Miniseries"