From the cold open during which Draper lances Landry’s injured knee to the haunting aerial shot over Queen Joan’s burial plot among the fallen Templars, Knightfall takes viewers on an emotionally charged journey that irrevocably alters the landscape and the hunt for Christianity’s most holy relic. “Do You See The Blue” masterfully brings into focus the events that send Landry from the depths of despair to the heights of joy in a matter of moments, but more importantly, the extended season finale sets the stage for the larger battle between church and state as both must renew their efforts to possess, once and for all, the Holy Grail.
During the course of this first season, I have been critical at times about how the relationship between the queen and the Temple Master has been presented, and though Philip ends any future they might have together, the manner in which Joan’s death plays out leaves room for growth. Having viewed the season in its entirety, it certainly can be argued that the writers knew what they were doing all along with Joan and Landry. Knightfall continues to thrive by keeping the audience off balance in its feelings about the characters, and while Landry still exhibits numerous flaws, at his core, he’s a good man trying to serve God. Though losing Joan will undoubtedly harden him, Landry does come away with a precious reminder of the love he enjoyed with her.
Throughout the season we’ve watched Landry struggle with his sins, Joan attempt to keep two men satisfied, and De Nogaret work behind the scenes to create a world order that he deems necessary for the survival of Europe and his place in that world. But it’s been Philip that undergoes the most profound changes. Last week, we watched as his sarcasm turned into a physical brutality he’d kept hidden from view, and tonight his thought process proves to be just as cruel. That said, while it’s difficult to justify the extent to which he punishes his wife for her infidelity, he has been played for a fool. So when he apologizes to Joan for his behavior with Sophie, it’s again unclear whether his contrite behavior is genuine, or this is simply another ploy to hurt his wife.
Philip asks his wife and the audience to believe that he’d be willing to take her back and raise the child as his own, but we’ve seen this tact before and are not so willing to immediately buy into his proposal. Joan’s refusal to accept this arrangement again brings out this darker side of Philip that it seems even she didn’t know existed. “Well damn you then. You belong to me. You will do as you’re told.” But the cat and mouse game the two later play reveals the depths to which both are willing to go to achieve some shred of dignity. Holding the Grail, literally and metaphorically, over her head, Philip taunts her with the relic’s power and his plan take from her everything she holds dear. However, he goes too far in this powerful scene, and when he vows to cut out the baby’s heart, Joan strikes the back of his head with a candlestick sending a clear message. It’s also heartening to see Joan keep her composure, grab the Grail and alert the guards in the hallway that the king has fainted. Obviously, at this point, we’re rooting for her to escape, but the tension builds as she rides away from the palace, Grail concealed under her cloak. It’s a turning point, and there can be no mistake; Joan has signed her death warrant.
Having Joan go into labor while the battle rages around her serves to distract Landry from the task at hand – fending off Philip’s mercenary army, and forces the Temple Master to make a choice. Should he take Joan and ride to safety leaving the fight to the rest of the order, or stand and fight hoping that Draper will be able to tend to her. Regardless, the action unfolds rather quickly, and Philip takes that choice away from Landry when he plunges a sword into his wife’s stomach only to retreat at the announcement that De Molay’s reinforcements have arrived. It’s a terrible scene on so many levels, and while Philip’s descent into darkness can be understood, his state of mind once he’s had time to process what he’s done remains to be seen. He’ll likely be more open to De Nogaret’s influence than usual, but now, with daughter Isabella at his side, the royal circle has become more fluid.
After a season spent chasing the elusive Holy Grail, two fascinating twists emerge. However, even before these can be explored, Landry faces the prospect of a life without the woman he loves. Going back on an earlier stance he takes to not use the Grail for its healing properties, he fills the relic with water for the gravely wounded Joan. “Here, my darling, drink from this.” Obviously, he’s grief stricken when she dies anyway, but throwing the church’s most sacred relic against a tree, shattering it, goes beyond reasonable behavior. The Grail is so much bigger than he is. Is he ready to abandon a God he feels has abandoned him? It’s a question that still might surface, but for now, he must contend with a reality he likely considered only in the abstract. He is now the single father of a baby daughter, and while his mother has conveniently reappeared as an option to raise the child, her knowledge of the Grail’s history and powers seem too important to keep her on the sidelines.
Since the fall of Acre fifteen years prior, the Grail’s location has been a source of mystery and intrigue, and now with the implications that its power may be greater than ever imagined, the stakes have been raised exponentially. Both Landry’s mother and Pope Boniface know of the relic’s powers, but Landry remains in the dark. However, though Joan succumbs to her wounds, the baby survives. Is this perhaps due to the Grail?
Nevertheless, the most puzzling question has to do with the Grail itself. Is this cup we’ve been following the actual Grail? While the others are occupied with the burials, Berenger goes into the tent where the box holding the pieces of the Grail now resides, removes the cup from the box and begins scraping at its bottom. He quickly extricates a small scroll and reads it before quickly swallowing the document. How does he know to look for the scroll, and what information does it contain? We now must question whether this cup is the actual Grail, or does the scroll merely provide another in a series of clues to the holy relic’s true location?
Now that it’s completed a solid first season, it will be a shame if Knightfall does not get the chance to continue its story of one of Christianity’s most sacred objects and the individuals who seek to possess it. Even though Queen Joan won’t return, the writers have brilliantly set up the triangle of Temple Master Landry, King Philip, and William De Nogaret, each of whom sees the Grail in a different light. Looming in the background is the pope, who always seems to be one step ahead of all the principals, and now that Philip has the Templars in his crosshairs, Boniface will be put to the test. There’s a lot to like in Knightfall’s freshman offering, and hopefully a lot to look forward to next winter.