TV shows

In BBC’s ‘Gunpowder’, desperate men and desperate measures (and Kit Harington)

The ‘Game of Thrones’ star plays the ringleader of a plot to assassinate King James I of England in 1605.

“Remember remember, the fifth of November; gunpowder, treason, and plot.”

Over the last few hundred years, the Guy Fawkes mask has evolved from being the face of a traitor to being a symbol of modern protest. Popularised by the graphic novel David Lloyd’s V for Vendetta and then its movie adaptation, the mask is also the insignia of the hackers’ collective Anonymous and was most recently leveraged by the Emmy award-winning show Mr. Robot as an image of cyberanarchy aimed at overthrowing an evil corporation.

While the image has survived through the centuries, in reality Fawkes was simply a man tasked with pulling the trigger in a more elaborate plan to assassinate King James I of England. The BBC One mini-series Gunpowderi, starring Game of Thrones actor Kit Harington, takes this highly celebrated symbol of subversion and gives it a face and a backstory.


Gunpowder follows the plot to blow up the House of Lords in London 1605 to protest against the persecution of Catholics. As Robert Catesby (Kit Harington) and his cousin Anne Vaux (Liv Tyler) watch their middle-aged cousin Lady Dibdale (Sian Webber) stripped, tortured and crushed to death, Robert vows revenge. He brings together a band of fierce, committed Catholics willing to assassinate King James I (Derek Riddell) and liberate their fellow believers, who refused to conform to the new Church of England.

Robert is joined in the struggle by Guy Fawkes (Tom Cullen). As they plot, escape capture and hide away, they are being chased by the Secretary of State Robert Cecil (Mark Gatiss) and William Wade (Shaun Dooley), who make convincing representatives of state-endorsed coercion, lending even more legitimacy to the cause and actions of the Catholic revolutionaries.


Harington returns to the screen after the Game Of Thrones season finale (he also happens to be a direct descendant of Robert Catesby). The role and the series are very different from Harington’s Jon Snow character and Game of Thrones. Gunpowder has only three one-hour episodes, which are drawn from history – with verifiable dates, places and names – rather than high fantasy containing white walkers and dragons.

Besides, unlike Jon Snow, Robert Catesby knows what he’s doing. Though he retains his brooding demeanor, he is more willing to take the lead. He is a man with a plan and the drive to see it through. He also has friends and Catholic sympathisers who are willing to fight, kill and die for the faith. And so they do, in shock-inducing depictions of brutality.

The series has received a fair share of flak for the unfiltered portrayal of 17th-century savagery. BBC has defended the bloodshed and argued that the moments of torture are drawn from historical research.

While Gunpowder does appear to be a true and unfortunate depiction of religious oppression of the time, the series also uses brutality as a tool to drive the plot forward. For centuries, effigies of Guy Fawkes have been burnt on November 5 to mark loyalty to the king. Gunpowder attempts to provide a rationale for Catesby and his crew. It humanises the face and the story. Catesby is stripped of his property and rights, loses his wife in childbirth and is unable to connect to his only son, who he believes is the cause of her death. He has faith, but no freedom to practise it. Fawkes is a seemingly cold-hearted soldier, a man in the shadows, but he still pines for his wife Maria.

Despite not being the easiest show to watch, Gunpowder is a captivating and nail-biting drama about the human side of popular history. The three -part miniseries was premiered on BBC in the United Kingdom in October, and will be telecast by HBO in the United States of America in December.

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Advice from an ex-robber on how to keep your home safe

Tips on a more hands-on approach of keeping your house secure.

Home, a space that is entirely ours, holds together our entire world. Where our children grow-up, parents grow old and we collect a lifetime of memories, home is a feeling as much as it’s a place. So, what do you do when your home is eyed by miscreants who prowl the neighbourhood night and day, plotting to break in? Here are a few pre-emptive measures you can take to make your home safe from burglars:

1. Get inside the mind of a burglar

Before I break the lock of a home, first I bolt the doors of the neighbouring homes. So that, even if someone hears some noise, they can’t come to help.

— Som Pashar, committed nearly 100 robberies.

Burglars study the neighbourhood to keep a check on the ins and outs of residents and target homes that can be easily accessed. Understanding how the mind of a burglar works might give insights that can be used to ward off such danger. For instance, burglars judge a house by its front doors. A house with a sturdy door, secured by an alarm system or an intimidating lock, doesn’t end up on the burglar’s target list. Upgrade the locks on your doors to the latest technology to leave a strong impression.

Here are the videos of 3 reformed robbers talking about their modus operandi and what discouraged them from robbing a house, to give you some ideas on reinforcing your home.


2. Survey your house from inside out to scout out weaknesses

Whether it’s a dodgy back door, a misaligned window in your parent’s room or the easily accessible balcony of your kid’s room, identify signs of weakness in your home and fix them. Any sign of neglect can give burglars the idea that the house can be easily robbed because of lax internal security.

3. Think like Kevin McCallister from Home Alone

You don’t need to plant intricate booby traps like the ones in the Home Alone movies, but try to stay one step ahead of thieves. Keep your car keys on your bed-stand in the night so that you can activate the car alarm in case of unwanted visitors. When out on a vacation, convince the burglars that the house is not empty by using smart light bulbs that can be remotely controlled and switched on at night. Make sure that your newspapers don’t pile up in front of the main-door (a clear indication that the house is empty).

4. Protect your home from the outside

Collaborate with your neighbours to increase the lighting around your house and on the street – a well-lit neighbourhood makes it difficult for burglars to get-away, deterring them from targeting the area. Make sure that the police verification of your hired help is done and that he/she is trustworthy.

While many of us take home security for granted, it’s important to be proactive to eliminate even the slight chance of a robbery. As the above videos show, robbers come up with ingenious ways to break in to homes. So, take their advice and invest in a good set of locks to protect your doors. Godrej Locks offer a range of innovative locks that are un-pickable and un-duplicable. To secure your house, see here.

The article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Godrej Locks and not by the Scroll editorial team.