This Knightfall review contains spoilers.
Knightfall Episode 8
“It suited me to think you would die.”
I’m beginning to think Knightfall should be retitled “Landry Knows Best.” Despite the Templar master’s maddening propensity to ignore the sound advice that those close to him have to offer, the action filled “IV” more than makes up for Landry’s blunders. It also addresses several lingering plot threads that chart a path to an exciting finale two weeks down the road.
Queen Joan’s impulsive diplomatic trip to Catalonia to challenge her cousin Elena takes a page out of Landry’s playbook, but it also opens a door to a side of her we’ve never seen. Now that she’s flung the door wide open, the possibilities really are endless, and while it still seems difficult to envision a scenario in which she and Landry can be together, her willingness to kill in order to protect her children can’t be easily dismissed. The strength of this segment though depends on Joan’s ability to adapt to the fluid nature of the situation, and when she finds out that Philip has ordered his army to stand down, she’s forced to take action on her own.
Much of the dramatic narrative on Knightfall has centered on the intrigue of De Nogaret’s scheming behind the king’s back and the mystery of the Grail’s location, but when Elena presents her cousin with a medieval “Sophie’s Choice,” Joan’s initial answer might reveal her true feelings, or it might simply be an attempt to buy some time before figuring out her next move. Regardless, the fact that she chooses to save Landry’s unborn child is telling, and it also frees a dark side of her that emerges in reaction to the terrible choice she makes.
Another compelling aspect of the exchange between the black clad Elena and her cousin in the light-colored gown is the knowledge that Elena’s correct; Isabella murdered her son. After she demands a child for a child, Joan’s choice of Isabella immediately sets our minds racing as we contemplate how she’ll possibly explain this to Philip. However, the pace picks up, and when Joan grabs her cousin’s sword and kills her, the tension on all fronts continues to mount. Nevertheless, the visual of Joan in her blood soaked dress walking ahead of Elena’s dead body as it’s carried into the square for the Catalonians to see, sets the stage for the queen of France and Navarre to win the hearts and minds of her newest subjects. Joan takes a huge risk and wins, but now must face an even greater foe once she returns to France and De Nogaret’s revelation.
Last week we didn’t get to hear Roland tell Parsifal about whom he was working for, but all indications pointed to the pope. Tonight we receive verification of that and some closure regarding the young squire’s future with the Templars. Fortunately Knightfall does not appear to be going down the road that so many shows travel these days, and when Pierre throws his dead body into a grave to prevent it from being discovered, we’re assured that Parsifal is dead. That said, the true importance here involves the pope’s complicity in murder as a means toward the Grail’s recovery. And once we learn of the pope’s intentions now that he possesses the Grail, it seems only a matter of time until Landry comes into conflict with his boss.
Like Elena before him, the pope may not be wrong even though we perceive that he’s doing something underhanded and even reprehensible, but he’s quite open about resuming the Crusades and plans to use the Grail as a rallying point to turn the world Christian. As Landry warns Boniface that the men who were after the Grail are still out there, the pope’s nonchalance leads to the temple master’s realization that Roland was, in fact, working for the pope and killed Godfrey at Boniface’s direction. After that, all hell breaks loose.
Knightfall has done well to keep its action sequences small scale and tightly choreographed, and “IV” delivers two notable examples as Landry’s men take on the papal guard. The first skirmish leaves Rashid grievously wounded, and after successfully tending to the laceration, Draper tells the Saracen that he did his best to save Rashid’s son. It’s a touching exchange that reinforces the Brotherhood of Light’s commitment to the Grail’s safety even though Rashid does not ultimately survive the assault. Still, the final encounter finds the Templars badly outnumbered in what seems to be a last stand against the pope’s soldiers. The picture of Landry’s mother adeptly wielding a crossbow may be the highlight until several unknown archers enter the fray on the side of the Templars. It’s understandable that Landry kills Pierre even though the initiate could provide valuable intel regarding Boniface’s plans. However, a great scene ends on a high note when Tancrede reveals himself as the leader of the archers setting up a reunion with his Templar brothers.
While Joan bests Queen Elena, and Landry plays catch up to the pope like a cat with nine lives, William De Nogaret re-enters the picture by boldly confronting King Philip about the Grail and his wife’s infidelity. It was only a matter of time until he resurfaced, and while it seems a bit improbable that he’d be able to so quickly re-establish a connection with the king, De Nogaret and the writers handle this skillfully. “I’m the king’s adviser, and I intend to advise him.” Throwing him back into the mix this quickly makes a lot of sense because he possesses so much information that can drive the narrative in new directions.
The relationship between Queen Joan and Landry has always been problematic because there was nowhere it could realistically go, and to this point has really just been treading water. And now, with De Nogaret’s disclosure to Philip that his wife not only has been sleeping with his best friend but probably carrying his baby as well, Philip has no choice but to take action. Knightfall has never suffered pacing issues, and while his wife’s betrayal may be first and foremost on Philip’s mind, De Nogaret’s assertion that not only is the Grail in France, but he has already begun assembling a mercenary army to prevent the pope from usurping the king’s power. What a tangled web De Nogaret weaves.
“IV” takes some giant steps forward and does a nice job reinventing not only some of the characters but the plotlines as well. Can the presence of Landry’s mother provide the troubled knight some much needed guidance, and more importantly, can the French court survive the queen’s actions in both the bedroom and Catalonia? Much more than a mere setup episode, Knightfall moves its story into some uncharted territory, but now that the Grail has been found, and Philip told the truth about his wife, Landry faces the biggest tests of his adult life.