Review – Gunpowder: Episode 2 (BBC One)

Robert Catesby Gathers Support in Gunpowder Ep. 2

The second episode of Gunpowder takes us to Spain, where Robert Catesby and his cousin, Thomas Wintour, appeal to the Spanish government to aid the persecuted Catholics. The Constable believes King James I will relent on his laws in order to make their peace treaty successful. Then, with no success there, Catesby moves on to Belgium to meet up with Guy Fawkes and other Catholic resisters.

In this one, I found many of the same problems I saw in the pilot – the acting was good and the story had potential to be interesting, but the pace is so slow.

Scenes Drag On and Accomplish Nothing

Gunpowder Episode 2 BBC One (a)This was definitely an improvement from the first episode, but not enough to really hold my attention all the way through. The part in Spain seemed to drag on, only to prove kind of unnecessary later on. Since Catesby can’t get Spain on board with his plan, which he surprisingly announced to the Constable, he goes to Belgium. I felt like this time was wasted because it didn’t change anything about the situation. It didn’t make Spain any more eager to protect the Catholics, and Catesby still had no allies. It would have been more interesting to have him go ahead to Belgium and just say through dialogue that he had not been successful in Spain.

Cecil makes a trip to Catesby’s home to try to find him, and has a conversation with Anne Vaux, who reveals nothing of Catesby’s whereabouts. Cecil then tricks the information out of Catesby’s son. But I thought after this scene, why waste all the time with Vaux? The scene had some dialogue but it was mostly them staring intensely at one another until she left. Why even bother? Just cut right to him swindling the information out of the son and go from there. I just don’t understand why every scene has to be long to create intensity.

Some Parts Were Done Well

Gunpowder Episode 2 BBC One (e)There were two places where I was really interested, and they didn’t come until a good way into the second half of the episode. There was a fight where Catesby and his men faced off against William Wade and his. This scene was interesting because the fight choreography was engaging, but also a priest, Father Gerard, is taken prisoner. Gerard used to follow Garnet, but then agreed that Catesby had the right idea by taking real action against the king. Catesby is also injured in his fight against Wade, so we do get worried for him. But also in this fight, we see that Guy Fawkes is a total badass. Watching him fight was really exciting and I hope we see more of it.

The second interesting part was Catesby breaking Gerard out of prison. It was similar in style to the opening scene of the first episode, but there was more action going on. Catesby is having to carry a weak Gerard around to find an exit, all while Wade is hot on his heels. They have to crawl through the sewers to escape, which is both gross and realistic.

We Lost Characterization

Gunpowder Episode 2 BBC One Anne VauxA few characters seemed to lose themselves in this episode. There is a scene between Garnet and Vaux which has them talking in front of a fire, and they come to the discussion of her heart. He compliments her courage, and she reminds him that she has “a woman’s heart.” It would have been romantic between any other two people. But here it was just creepy. Garnet is well over a decade older than Vaux, but we also know he is celibate because he is a priest. And yet, this weird sexual energy exists between them that is just uncomfortable.

Also, Catesby makes amends with his son, whom he so resented in the first episode. This was a drastic change. It was no small gesture we see, to change their relationship gradually. Catesby comes to his son’s bed, and we think he is about to be angry. Instead, he gets on his knees and begs the boy to forgive him for being such a horrible father. It is a stark difference that really jarred me as a viewer. What brought about this change of heart? Sure, the scene was touching, and I’m glad Catesby wants to do better, but I couldn’t see the motivation behind it.


Gunpowder Episode 2 BBC One (d)
Guy Fawkes

Basically, more happened in this episode, but most scenes were just people in rooms talking. That works well if you’re Aaron Sorkin, but it didn’t keep my attention in this series. Also, the characters were not the same as they were in the first episode. I like parts of Gunpowder, but I’d like to see more consistency.


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