O's Quick Guide to The Pillars of the Earth
Ken Follett's best-seller The Pillars of the Earth, now a lusty eight-hour miniseries, features these forces of good and evil.
Waleran Bigod
Waleran Bigod (Ian McShane)

Sepulchral bishop who would literally kill to be the first English pope. Makes the depraved saloon owner that McShane played in Deadwood look positively priestly.
Lady Regan Hamleigh
Lady Regan Hamleigh (Sarah Parish)

Noblewoman in cahoots with ruthless clerics. Murders an enemy by bloodletting. Her face is covered in boils; presumably so is her soul.
Maud, Empress of England (Alison Pill)

Pitted against whiny King Stephen for possession of the throne. Doting mother. Tantrum-thrower. Looks fabulous in chain mail. Not above extorting cash from hard-up monks.
Tom Builder
Tom Builder (Rufus Sewell)

Handsome, penniless architect and stonecutter. Promises wife on her deathbed that he'll build a cathedral that's "God's anteroom, halfway to heaven." Cheekbones that could carve a gargoyle.
Prior Philip
Prior Philip (Matthew Macfadyen)

Noble monk who prays in a silky baritone. Despite living in filthy, pestilent 12th-century England, has glowing skin and perfect piano-key teeth—a sure sign of divine grace.
Ellen (Natalia Worner)

Tom's horny, survivalist, woods-dwelling lover. Solves problems by putting curses on people (but they usually deserve it!). Widely mistaken for a witch; is actually a proto-hippie.
Jack Jackson
Jack Jackson (Eddie Redmayne)

Flame-haired son of Ellen and stepson of Tom, gifted mason, well-meaning arsonist (he torches a cathedral to create work for Tom). Flirts with joining the monkhood; invents the flying buttress instead.