THE DOVEKEEPERS, a four-hour limited event series from executive producers Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, will be broadcast Tuesday, March 31 and Wednesday, April 1 (9:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
The project stars Cote de Pablo, Rachel Brosnahan and Kathryn Prescott in the title dovekeeper roles, Sam Neill as first-century Jewish scholar and historian Josephus, and Diego Boneta as a star warrior of the Jewish army at Masada. The series is based on Alice Hoffman’s bestselling, critically acclaimed historical novel about a group of extraordinary women whose lives intersect in a fight for survival at the siege of Masada.
The next day, Shirah and Yael, who are still being held by the Romans, report back to Josephus to continue their story of what happened at Masada. Shirah takes note of the abundance of scrolls written by Josephus for the Romans, and taunts him by suggesting that his historical accounts are likely written from a point of view that will please the Romans.
Silva and Claudius strategize how to get their soldiers into the seemingly unreachable fortress of Masada, and wonder how many people have taken refuge there.
Meanwhile, with Eleazar away on an expedition to scout the Roman camps rising up around Masada, Aziza goes to his wife, Channa, to attempt to get permission for Yael to visit the incarcerated Wynn. At Yael’s suggestion, Aziza brings Yael’s infant daughter with the hope of currying favor with the childless Channa. Initially, Channa is not inclined to help, but she is entranced by the baby and agrees to Aziza’s suggestion that she return with a potion to help Channa’s labored breathing. After her breathing is eased by Shirah’s remedy, Channa arranges for Yael to visit Wynn. Yael is dismayed to find Wynn bloodied and delirious, and vows to get to him as often as possible to nurse him back to health. As a result, Yael ignores Shirah’s warnings to not trust Channa, who persuades Aziza to leave the baby with her overnight in exchange for another visit for Yael with Wynn.
Upon his return to Masada, Eleazar gathers the people and informs them of the horrors Silva has inflicted on fellow Jews, despite promising freedom for their surrender. He says they cannot retreat, and Amram leads the warriors with the chant, “Freedom or death!” Noticing that the mysterious warrior Yoav (Jonas Armstrong) is not joining in the chant, Amram asks if he’s afraid to die, to which Yoav replies, “I’m already dead.”
Yael is relieved to see an improvement in Wynn’s condition, but is soon horrified to realize that Channa is planning to keep her baby. Shirah appeals to Eleazar, who retrieves the baby from an anguished Channa. As an act of revenge, Channa rallies the masses to punish Shirah for being “a witch,” but with a little help from Eleazar, Shirah manages to turn the tide that had been rising against her. Back at her abode, Shirah warns Aziza not to love Amram or anyone, saying it will be her undoing. Aziza does not want to abide by Shirah’s wishes and implores Shirah to tell her why she raised her as a boy. Shirah tearfully reveals that when Aziza was a young girl alone with Shirah in their tent in Moab, bandits came and violated Shirah until Sa’Adollos returned, killing the bandits in a rage. They decided then to raise Aziza as a boy to protect her. Aziza is deeply moved and tells Shirah that she wants to be a warrior – that it’s her fate.
When Amram discovers that a convoy is en route to bring supplies to the Romans, he gets Eleazar’s blessing to depart with fellow warriors to intercept the supplies. Despite telling Adir he’s not ready to fight, Adir joins anyway and is seriously wounded by a spear to his leg. Shirah blames Amram, who later tells Aziza that she and Shirah coddle Adir, who should not hesitate to fight again. As the warriors prepare to depart for another battle, Aziza joins the ranks disguised as Adir. While battling the Romans at their camp, Aziza proves to be very skilled with her bow and arrow. Shocked to observe Amram recklessly slaughtering women and children within the camp, a distracted Aziza is almost slain by a Roman, who is killed in time by Yoav. When Yoav spies Aziza outside the warriors’ barracks after battle dressed as a woman, he lets her know he is aware that she was fighting. He vows to keep her secret and suggests she fight next to him in the future. Later, Aziza asks Yoav why he’s always alone, and he shares a tragic tale of his wife’s death at the hands of the Romans.
Eleazar joins Shirah and her children for a Shabbat dinner, their first time eating together as a family, but Aziza doesn’t know he is her father. Later that night, Shirah tells him she’s pregnant. She asks if their child will ever see peace, to which he tenderly replies that he’ll be fighting for that. Meanwhile, Yael finds a way to help Wynn escape Masada.
When the warriors determine that the Romans are building a siege wall to keep the Jews from being able to leave Masada, it becomes clear to those at Masada that time is running out. Yael and her father reconcile, but Amram starts to unravel and can’t accept the fact that Aziza no longer wants him.
Silva tells Claudius that they will build a ramp to reach the top of Masada. The warriors plan a dangerous mission to attack those building the ramp and to destroy it. Yael, who has been training under Shirah to learn ancient rites of magic and how to make potions, grabs a vial of poison and stirs it into the water to be drunk by the Romans. The warriors are shocked to happen upon all of the dead soldiers, and everyone believed demons were responsible.
Silva calls out to Eleazar, ordering him to surrender to save his people. Eleazar instead motions for the warriors to use their crossbows against the Romans below. The Romans’ siege tower and battering ram start to rise closer to the top of Masada. When the Romans ultimately get close enough to use catapults to send flames over the top of the wall, setting Masada on fire, Eleazar gathers everyone. He somberly says that they must slay themselves rather than be killed, raped and enslaved by the Romans. He chooses 10 death givers, including Amram, and Eleazar assigns Yoav to be the last standing death giver, who must kill himself at the end.
Instead of preparing to die, Shirah and Yael vow to live to tell the true story, not the one they imagine the Romans will tell. Aziza chooses to stay behind, and meets her fate – as does Amram. When the Romans make their way into Masada, they are stunned to see all of the bodies and no one left to fight them. When some of the Roman soldiers discover Shirah and Yael hiding in a cistern with Adir and Yael’s baby, they are brought to Silva. Shirah appeals to Silva, asking that he grant them their lives in exchange for their insights about what happened at Masada. He agrees, which is how they end up with Josephus. Moved by their story and his shared heritage with Shirah and Yael, Josephus vows to document what they told him and instructs the Roman guards to release them.