Great Expectations airs during the bicentennial of Dickens' birth and marks the fifteenth Masterpiece adaptation of the great novelist's works.
On a cold winter's day in the marshes, a young orphan boy (Pip) encounters an escaped convict. In order to remove his shackles, the convict orders the terrified lad to steal a file from his brother-in-law's forge. When Pip returns, he not only brings the file but a piece of pie as well. This innocent act of kindness touches the filthy and battered man, who is soon recaptured despite Pip's help. We soon learn that Pip is being raised by his sister and brother-in-law (Joe), who is the only person that has ever treated him with tenderness. Pip's sister (Mrs. Joe) constantly abuses him and Joe's assistant (Orlick), menaces Pip for sport.
Soon, Pip is summoned to the grand but dilapidated Satis House by its reclusive owner, Miss Havisham. There, Pip is subjected to fresh abuse and humiliation by Estella, the cold-hearted but beautiful adopted daughter of Miss Havisham. Pip desperately yearns for a closeness with Estella as he tries to overcome Miss Havisham's inscrutable manipulations. When Pip learns that an anonymous benefactor has bestowed great expectations of status and wealth upon him, only then does he dare to hope that Estella can be his. Pip journeys to London to pursue the life of a gentleman, unsure of what trials await there or how far he might have to go for love.