This Knightfall review contains spoilers.
Knightfall Episode 7
“It is possible to hear God’s call and ignore it.”
Landry recovers the Grail, Parsifal exacts revenge, and William De Nogaret plants the seeds of his return to prominence in an episode of Knightfall that goes for the jugular right from the start. “And Certainly Not the Cripple” even takes the love triangle story and sends it in an unexpected direction despite again employing the tired dramatic irony surrounding King Philip’s blind trust in his best friend Landry. Still, there’s a lot to like here as the History drama introduces some new threads and subtly tweaks ones already in play.
The jarring opening establishes not only that Catalonia and Queen Elena have attacked Navarre, but also the brutality possessed by Joan’s cousin as she sends a strong message to France after Isabella’s engagement fiasco. Though Knightfall has had its share of violent action sequences, the delivery of a sack of severed hands to Navarre’s noblemen while Joan is there to pledge France’s support takes the graphic nature of the the show’s visual language to a different level. Later, Parsifal’s horrific murder of Roland confirms a willingness to display just how tortured some of the characters have become.
Landry’s search for the Grail has found him chasing one cryptic clue after another, and when he and Gawain arrive at the place he first met Godfrey, it’s not surprising to see the orphanage burned to the ground. What is surprising though is that the woman they meet turns out to be Landry’s mother. However, even before reaching this revelation toward the end of the episode, the pope informs Landry in no uncertain terms that he is to have nothing to do with the Brotherhood of Light. But this is a man on a mission who thinks he knows better than the pope and fully intends to pursue the Grail on his own terms.
However, Landry’s multiple obsessions have taken control of his actions, and his inability to focus during a Templar business meeting reveals a man struggling to maintain some semblance of order in his life. Philip tells him about Joan’s defiance and that he’s come to the conclusion he was foolish to think a child could solve the problems inherent in their relationship, but of course, he’s telling the wrong person. While Landry’s angst regarding the king has grown a bit tiresome, when the king decides they need to change into workingman’s clothes and hit the pubs, seeing both men in a different light makes for a welcome departure from how we usually see them. Apparently, the training sessions with Landry have paid off, and the king acquits himself well in his first bar fight. It’s a fun scene that shows the king is not blindly accepting everything his wife tells him.
Unfortunately, as invigorating as the fight is for both viewer and king, we fall right back into Philip’s talk of betrayal by those close to him. “Everyone lies to the king. Sometimes I think you’re the only friend I’ve got. Never betray my trust.” Too late, Philip. At some point this situation is going to have to resolve itself, and the sooner the better. Now that Joan’s pregnancy is apparent, her decision to travel to Navarre to try to broker a deal with her cousin and assure the nobles that France will support them, highlights the physical danger in which she’s put herself and her unborn child. Hiding her affair with Landry from her husband is one thing; hiding the fact that this is his child is quite another.
While Catalonia’s attack of Navarre is not unexpected, Queen Joan’s reaction to the news raises some questions about her awareness of the actual day to day management of a kingdom and its military force. It’s one thing to humiliate the king in front of his advisors, but to throw a minor tantrum when it’s explained to her that the army’s deployment requires time to plan displays the childlike attitude of a woman who’s used to getting everything she wants. Of course, the fact that she’s queen implies that ordinarily she does get what she wants, but the attitude that she’s free to do whatever she wants with few consequences doesn’t address the reality of her situation.
The love triangle thread continues to be the show’s weak link. With her marriage to Philip experiencing a bit of turbulence, Joan certainly doesn’t make things any easier still holding onto the unrealistic idea that she and Landry can forge some kind of life together. Whether her journey to Navarre is meant to help the situation or provide a means of escape from the romantic turmoil at home is unclear, but either way, the threat posed by De Nogaret resurfaces just in time as the fugitive begins putting the pieces of the pregnancy puzzle together after a conversation with Gawain.
The rift between Gawain and Landry has simmered in the background for a while now, but Gawain’s encounter with De Nogaret reminds us of the level of resentment and even hatred that the knight feels towards the Templar master. While it’s understandable Landry feels the need to unburden his conscience, that he chooses to do so with Gawain raises an important question. Is he attempting to mend the rift between them by baring his soul to his former friend, or does he literally have no one else in whom to confide? The situation creates narrative possibilities for sure, but also reminds us that Landry has become a very lonely man. Granted, Landry feels overwhelmed by the baby, the Grail, and his recent appointment as Templar master, but to reveal to a man he knows despises him that he’s broken his sacred vows by fathering a child with a married woman borders on lunacy. It’s understandable that he feels God is testing his faith and he must make a choice between God and the Grail and his child, but in the end, what does he think will be the outcome of this admission?
What else remains unclear is why Gawain not only allows De Nogaret to remain free but also betrays his brother knight by detailing Landry’s fall. Ever the opportunist, De Nogaret seizes on Gawain’s discontent and questions whether Landry will allow the crippled knight to avail himself of the Grail’s healing properties. “How far would you be willing to go?” he asks the Gawain. Nevertheless, once Landry denies his friend’s request and Gawain decides it’s God’s will that he play Judas to the temple master, the fate of the Grail hangs in the balance. Watching these two grapple with their faith and their humanity has become the most compelling aspect of the overall arc.
On the one hand, it is a bit surprising that Landry recovers the grail with three episodes remaining, but meeting his mother and the Mother Superior from his childhood gives him renewed purpose. Granted, his mother’s sudden appearance does seem to come out of nowhere, but the mystery surrounding her whereabouts during the past twenty years and Landry’s quick acceptance of her entry into his adult life, leave plenty of room for narrative development. When she leads him into a dark, mysterious hallway and tells him “this is as far as I’ve gone,” his first question should address why she never went further.
The second question likely should be why Landry brings Gawain with him knowing full well the knight wishes to use the Grail to heal his injured leg. Does Landry expect this is just another in a progression of clues that fail to lead him to the holy relic? Regardless, even when we see the box hanging in the orange tree, the expectation is that it contains either another clue or is empty. What follows is both sad and shameful.
There’s no question that Gawain calling out his master as a hypocrite for taking the high ground in refusing the cup’s healing power is warranted. Drawing his sword speaks to the desperation the crippled knight feels as he battles to hold onto what little self-worth he still possesses as warrior no longer able to hold his own against a worthy opponent. Landry should have more compassion about his friend’s struggles, and it’s heart wrenching to watch him dispense of Gawain with relative ease.
And what of the Holy Grail? Landry’s mother instructs him to hide it once again, and then lays a rather foreboding prediction on the son she hasn’t seen in decades. “This will be the death of you.” Now what? Where does Landry hide the Grail, and does he divulge its location to anyone within his inner circle? Now that his mother has re-entered his life, will she provide emotional support that he’s unable to receive elsewhere? Of course, that assumes this woman truly is Landry’s mother.
Finally, despite the support of the Templars, young Parsifal has really never recovered from the death of his fiance. Unable to let go of his vengeful feelings toward Roland, the young squire removes his ring from the tree, an act from which there is no going back. While Parsifal has planned his revenge carefully, he hasn’t thought of everything, and his naivete, in the end, becomes his undoing. There’s no feeling sorry for Roland as he sits, tied to a tree, while Parsifal interrogates him, but when the young man drives his ax into the stomach of his prisoner, it’s clear that even Roland now takes him seriously and finally gives up the information Parsifal seeks. The blow to the gut is gruesome enough, but the explicit kill shot to the face is a bit over the top. In much the same way that Landry trusts Gawain, Parsifal makes the mistake of revealing too much to the wrong person and ends up on the wrong end of what appears to be a fatal sword thrust.
“And Certainly Not the Cripple” continues to take baby steps with the love triangle arc, and sooner or later must address it with some semblance of finality. That said, recovering the Grail earlier than expected, Landry’s mother appearing out of nowhere, and the Gawain/De Nogaret coalition all provide Knightfall with some intriguing possibilities. Now, what to do with that pesky relic.