YMMV / The Pillars of the Earth

  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • At least in the TV adaptation: Remigius comes off for most of the series as a slimy snake who doesn't care about anyone but himself. It's not until very late that you learn he's a closeted gay man whose love for another monk led to him confessing to Waleran, and being blackmailed by Waleran into denouncing his lover, resulting in the lover's suicide. Which was then found by Remigius. And followed by Waleran forcing Remigius to castrate himself. With all this in mind, it's not hard to see Remigius as a severely broken man, clinging to obedience to the church as the only thing he has left in life. It doesn't make him sympathetic given what a jerkass he is the rest of the time, but perhaps more of a conflicted anti-villain, compensating for his deep fear and misery by hating everyone else.
  • Anvilicious: The book doesn't let you slip through any detail, including the morals.
  • Complete Monster: William Hamleigh begins as an arrogant, boorish young aristocrat with some sketchy ideas about a woman's consent whose nastiness is shown when he threatens Tom Builder's life in an argument over wages Tom is fairly owed. After his fiancee Aliena breaks their engagement, William takes advantage of her father being deposed as Earl of Shiring to rape her, murdering her faithful steward and forcing her younger brother to watch before allowing his groom to rape her as well. William later discovers he is now impotent unless he commits violence, as seen when he beats and rapes a prostitute. William soon becomes Earl and becomes a scourge to the people: brutalizing and raping when he isn't given his "proper due." He fixates on Aliena, doing everything he can to ruin her life further and attacks the town of Kingsbridge, burning and killing, causing the death of Tom Builder personally. When he finally gets married, William finds himself impotent on the wedding night, and beats his wife bloody when she gives him a reassuring smile over it.
  • Designated Hero: After being insinuated as the underdog for most of her time onscreen, Queen Maud shows she's Not So Above It All once she's in power when she has the hostage being passed off as Stephen's young son killed when he breaks their truce agreement. Then there's her son, the future King Henry II, who comes off as an entitled teenager with a hard-on for war and who catches his cousin and rival Eustace unawares on the battlefield, courteously introduces himself, then casually cuts a fatal wound into the other boy's neck. Oh, and he's later thanked alongside God in Philip's closing narration.
    • See Anvilicious, above: a big part of the point is the Not So Different nature of the people who want power, and the way it affects the "little people" who are actually trying to build a better world, rather than a better one for themselves.
  • Hollywood Homely: Regan Hamleigh in the TV series. In the books, she's described as gag-inducingly ugly. In the series, she's got a marred face, and an unsightly boil, but unlike the books, it's really not difficult to look her in the eye.
  • Memetic Molester: William. Not played for laughs, though.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • Alfred is a sadistic jerk towards Jack from the beginning. He crosses the line when he starts beating Aliena. Poor girl.
    • William starts out as a jerkass and a doofus, nearly running over Tom's daughter and later being a pig to Aliena. His sack of the castle is just politics, but he really crosses the line into mustache-twirling villainy when he rapes Aliena in front of her brother.
  • Retroactive Recognition: Is that Peggy Carter as a wool baron?
    • And how about Newt Scamander as her lover and a master builder of cathedrals?
  • Tear Jerker
  • The Woobie: See the Moral Event Horizon entry. At some point you just want to hug poor Aliena until she stops crying.