World Without End - DVD Review
A return to Kingsbridge, 200 years after it was featured in Follett’s previous TV epic The Pillars of the Earth, World Without End remains true to standard, delivering a violently gripping dramatic representation of the Dark Ages in England.
We follow the life of young visionary Caris (Charlotte Riley) and her difficult romance with builder Merthin (Tom Waston-Jones), constrained by her forced marriage to his boss and later to her involuntary position as a nun. Perhaps more interesting though is Caris’ aunt (Cynthia Nixon of Sex and the City) who goes to extraordinary lengths to ensure her disturbed son Godwyn (Rupert Evans) gains a position of power in the town. Once this has been achieved, of course, all hell breaks loose and tragedy ensues.
Alongside Kingsbridge’s political issues lie difficulties in the royal household, as we gradually discover more about a suspicious death of the late King Edward II and the subsequent turbulent relationship with the Queen and her son, the recently crowned King Edward III.
Add a feminist peasant, a secret gay monk relationship, some shocking violence and The Bubonic Plague (or “The Great Mortality”, as our characters like to call it) into the mix and from the first episode the show is set for a variety of turbulent storylines – which the series wholeheartedly lives up to.
World Without End maintains a “real” tone throughout as we’re shown raw emotional and physical scenes including an array of rapes and bloody fights. The most notable character though is troubled Priar Godwyn, who is obsessed with his cousin Caris and goes insane with his extreme sexual frustration, manifesting in him excessively exploiting his power. His scenes with his mother (Nixon) are the best in the series, oozing with a calculated lunacy which keeps us rapt to discover how their plans will unravel.
For those unfamiliar with Follett’s creations, World Without End is an epic medieval drama, presenting us with real, believably textured issues which people may well have faced at the time. Just as dramatic but only slightly less visually shocking, it’s Game of Thrones without the fantasy.
Extras: A behind-the-scenes featurette, ‘The Making of Ken Follett’s World Without End’, which provides an interesting insight into the making of the series.