This Knightfall review contains spoilers.
Knightfall Season 2 Episode 1
“Allow me to atone for my sins in the eyes of God.”
After a solid debut as part of History’s venture into the world of scripted historical drama, Knightfall jumps feet first into its sophomore season with some fascinating cast additions and several fresh story arcs. Even though Queen Joan’s illicit love affair with Landry no longer occupies the narrative’s center, that doesn’t mean its impact doesn’t still play a relevant role. “God’s Executioners” zeroes in on tales of redemption and revenge as the life and future of baby Eve hang in the balance, and the intrigues within Philip’s palace and the Templar brotherhood shift to accommodate the changing balance of power.
The center of the tale, however, finds Landry facing an understandably hostile Templar brotherhood who see his actions with Joan as the height of betrayal. The opening dream sequence in which Philip takes the upper hand on the battlefield speaks to Landry’s fear that he won’t be able to protect his child from the clutches of one who most certainly will come after her, and also to the helplessness he feels knowing his life has spiraled out of control. Of course, it’s not unexpected that Landry entrusts Tancrede to take baby Eve and hide her away from Philip, and while we know Landry must endure a certain amount of suffering as he atones for his sins and mourns the loss of Joan, it’s encouraging that his core group of friends remains loyal.
Of course, every successful serial drama requires a solid antagonist or two, and with the duplicitous William de Nogaret already in place, Philip’s quest to ruin Landry’s life should be enough. Riding hooded and unannounced into the king’s hall, Prince Louis (Tom Forbes) returns from a prolonged off-screen absence and immediately establishes himself as Landry’s primary nemesis for the season after Philip lies and tells him that Landry murdered his mother. In spite of, or perhaps because of his father’s harsh words, Louis displays his impetuous nature and promptly sets of to learn what truly happened to his mother. “Your mother has brought shame on us,” Philip tells his son, and while there’s an element of truth in that pronouncement, Louis seems determined to challenge Landry which could lead to the truth of Joan’s death being revealed. It will be interesting to watch Philip’s reactions as his son gets closer to the facts of his mother’s death.
Nevertheless, the palace intrigue goes far beyond Louis’ new found presence there. Aside from the fact that Genevieve Gaunt (The Royals) assumes the role of Princess Isabella, Louis’ sister bears watching as she learns to navigate the dark intricacies of royal influence. When her father puts on a show interrogating the man accused of spreading “lies” about Joan’s killer, she insists on witnessing justice and watches with fascination as the king yanks out the man’s tongue before sending him to the dungeon. Symbolically, Philip throws the severed appendage into a fire, but we know this is not the last we’ve heard of the truth concerning Joan’s death. With its kings, queens, knights, and pawns, the game of chess represents the requisite strategies a successful monarch must master, and Isabella’s checkmate of her father reminds us that this is a young woman to be respected and ultimately feared.
While things move briskly at the palace, Landry finds his return to the Templars will be neither quick nor painless. Learning that he’s been expelled from the brotherhood, Landry’s persistence eventually pays off, and after waiting weeks outside the temple walls, the Grandmaster finally relents, acknowledging the warrior qualities Landry brings to the Templar cause. After a season in which he openly and somewhat brazenly breaks his Templar vows, watching Landry now humbly attempt to recapture his lost spiritual life makes for a compelling narrative even though it seems likely he’ll quickly regain his standing in the brotherhood. How long can they keep the former temple master down and his sword on the sideline?
The buzz surrounding Mark Hamill’s addition to the Knightfall family turns out to be well founded as the barely recognizable Star Wars icon carries every scene in which he appears. Given Landry’s history, it’s a bit surprising that the brothers are so unforgiving and possess such selective memories regarding the former temple master, but when his reinstatement comes down to the final deciding vote, it becomes clear that Landry faces a long and arduous journey back. Hamill’s Brother Talus takes charge of the young initiates in their Templar training, and when Landry learns that he must begin his redemption tour at the bottom rung, whether he can humble himself in front of young men far less experienced and talented will set the stage for a relationship with Talus that’s sure to have numerous bumps along the road.
And while we may never hear Talus admit “Landry, I am your father,” the stage is set for a fascinating father and son dynamic that lies at the heart of Landry’s ultimate reconciliation with the order. Though it’s no surprise that some of the Templar knights can’t find it in their hearts to forgive Landry, the fact that many of the initiates adopt the same stance is somewhat troubling. It seems unlikely they don’t know of Landry’s legacy aside from the affair with Joan, and you’d think more of them would show him a bit more respect especially since it will undoubtedly be his experience and skills that eventually saves the lives of these young trainees. On the other hand, his assessment that “God has turned his back on me for my offenses to Him,” seems a bit maudlin and heavy handed.
Though we see a fair amount of behind the scenes wrangling, the Templar mission to recover some of its treasures left behind when they fled the Paris temple provides the opening salvo in the coming fight between the brotherhood and King Philip. It is somewhat surprising that de Molay sends the still inexperienced initiates on this dangerous operation, and we have to wonder whether he wants to see how Landry will react to the complications that invariably occur. That the mission goes sideways is clearly not Landry’s fault, and to a degree, can be blamed on de Molay’s decision to send the initiates as part of the assault team.
Still, despite the fact that Landry saves the team from total annihilation, he’s told he’s not fit to become a knight and is instructed to leave the order, a humiliation that sends him to the flogging room. It’s reasonable to assume that de Molay and Talus look to make Landry’s trial as difficult as possible in the hope that he will avoid making the same mistakes he made before, but given the increasingly hostile political landscape his importance to the brotherhood’s survival is obvious.
At the heart of the new narrative is Philip and Louis’ desire to bring down Landry and the Templars, and while it’s still not clear what the king and prince hope to do if and when they locate baby Eve, her continued safety remains of paramount interest to Landry. Ultimately, it seems likely he’ll face a situation that forces him to choose between the brotherhood and his daughter’s safety, and with de Nogaret’s power renaissance in Philip’s court, this decision will probably arise soon than later.
“God’s Executioners” gets Knightfall off to a fine start by forcing Landry to pay a steep price for his sins and introducing Mark Hamill’s dispassionate mentor Talas as his primary obstacle. As the Templars and the former temple master prepare to face off against Philip and Louis, it’s going to be critical that they put the past behind them to keep the brotherhood from crumbling. Can Landry juggle the demands of his Templar commitment with his desire to keep his daughter safe? I guess we’ll see.