Below is a synopsis of the show. You've been warned.
A Tale of Two Cities will be relevant as long as stories about sacrifice, redemption, revolution, and love are relevant. That is to say that it will always be relevant. It’s a big story set in a sweeping world, where people try their best in a political and economic system that does not make it easy to be a good person. Contemporary America is very different from eighteenth-century France and England that A Tale of Two Cities explores, but in many ways, it can be strikingly similar.
In 1775, Lucie Manette is reunited with her father, the haunted Dr. Manette, newly released from the infamous Bastille fortress. The pair flee France in crisis and share a boat with the wry, but kind, Charles Darnay on their way to England. Five years later, when Darnay stands accused of treason, Lucie and the Doctor attest to his good character. After some skillful legal maneuvering, Sydney Carton – a prison official and a known drunk – wins Darnay an acquittal, saving him from the death penalty.
Despite Carton’s intercession on Darnay’s behalf, and despite the strange physical similarity between the two men, Darnay and Carton soon realize that they do not care for each other at all. They do, however, care deeply for Lucie Manette. This leads Darnay to propose, and to reveal his family secret: although he has disowned his inheritance, he is a member of the elite Marquis family. Lucie accepts his proposal, and they soon have a daughter, Little Lucie. However, Lucie is still committed to helping Carton cast off his bad habits, like over-drinking, and embrace his best self.
Meanwhile, in France, the lord Marquis runs into trouble of his own. After accidentally running over a child in his carriage, killing him instantly, the Marquis responds to the shock and horror of the locals with disinterest. The next day, the Marquis is found with a knife in his heart and a note, written by the child’s father, Gaspard, taking responsibility for the lord’s murder. At the advice of Monsieur Defarge and his wife, Madame Defarge, prominent leaders in the French Revolution, Gaspard resists arrest, and the revolution begins in earnest.
Darnay returns to France, where his true identity is discovered and he is arrested for his status as an aristocrat. At the trial, Monsieur and Madame Defarge use a note that Dr. Manette wrote in prison, condemning the Marquis and his descendants as evidence against Darnay. Dr. Manette’s pleas on behalf of Lucie’s husband are ignored, and Darnay is sentenced to death. This devastates Lucie, but with her daughter in mind, she is determined to save her family.
Carton, Lucy’s former suitor, is determined to help her. With the help of Barsad, one of his friends, Carton sneaks into the jail where Darnay is held. The two switch clothes, and Carton drugs Darnay. Carton remains behind in Darnay’s clothing, and a surprised Barsad carries the unconscious Darnay out of the prison and back to his family. A shocked and grateful Lucie, Darnay, and daughter return to England as quickly as possible. Darnay’s escape heightens tensions within the revolutionary camp, and Madame Defarge is killed. In response, Monsieur Defarge stops the search for Darnay and his family to mourn his loss.
In the prison, a seamstress jailed alongside Darnay sees through Carton’s deception and blesses him for his sacrifice. Carton walks to the guillotine and reflects on the love that Lucie introduced to his life.