This Knightfall review contains spoilers.
Knightfall Season 2 Episode 2
“The Pope is dead; long live the Pope.”
Unless its series creators plan some sort of alternate history version of the Knights Templar’s final days, we already know the outcome Knightfall will present at the end of its run. But that doesn’t mean viewers can’t have some fun along the way. While King Philip and Prince Louis’ drive to make Landry pay for the indignities he thrust upon the royal family naturally drives the core narrative, “The Devil Inside” travels down a new path and digs deeper into de Nogaret’s past to add fuel to a fire destined to eventually bring down Christ’s soldiers.
On the one hand, Knightfall has evolved into a series of psychological studies as the principal characters wrestle with the residual aftershocks of Landry’s affair with Joan, and the deft revelation that sheds more light on de Nogaret’s motivations now casts a wider net in the ploy to bring down the disgraced knight and his church. We watch with horror as a young boy witnesses his Cathar parents burned at the stake in the episode’s opening sequence, and it’s not until the conclusion that the genesis of de Nogaret’s deep seated hatred of the church and its pope becomes clear. It’s a fascinating addition to an already complex narrative, and his final act can do nothing but solidify his position within Philip’s inner circle.
And while de Nogaret’s behind the scenes machinations have fueled many of the king’s past acts, he seems to understand political ramifications in ways that Philip does not. It will be interesting to see how the court councillor facilitates the growing conflict between the king and his son, and Louis’ demand for a royal burial for his mother sets the stage for a showdown that plays right into de Nogaret’s hands. How long Philip allows Joan’s body to lie in the chapel remains to be seen, but her corpse’s presence only serves to escalate hostilities between the Templars and the king, a situation that should ultimately benefit de Nogaret.
After her impressive entrance in the season premiere, Isabella’s limited appearance here gives her brother more of a chance to establish the kind of man he’s become. The uneasy relationship Louis has with his father sits nicely against Landry’s attempts to please Talus, and when the king gives his son the Templar temple from which to plan and launch a campaign against the knights, de Nogaret’s call for restraint shines light on the fact that there’s no love lost between the councillor and the prince. Though the crown stands together in its crusade to bring down Landry and the brothers, cracks within the kingdom have already become visible, and it might not be long before Philip must choose between his son and his advisor.
Nevertheless, those around him continue to question the king’s decisions, and even as he burns his dead wife’s clothes, Isabella challenges his order that she marry Edward and become the queen of England. Clearly ahead of her time, Isabella doesn’t relish having to defer to another man, and her father’s admission that “your mother tears me apart from the grave” falls on deaf ears. It’s not clear whether Philip truly appreciates his daughter’s potential or the psychological path she’s traveling, but it’s likely he’ll soon find out.
Though father and son will likely continue to clash, Philip does understand what he has in Louis, which is precisely the reason the king trusts him to carry out his Herod-like scheme. Does he instruct Louis to seek and destroy, or is he interested in using the child to draw out Landry? Either way it’s a horrific enterprise that seems to give the prince free rein to do whatever he pleases. For all his histrionics, Louis does conceive a multi-pronged approach that not only threatens Landry’s child but lays blame at the Templar doorstep for the killings that his reign of terror looks to carry out. Posing as Templar knights is a brilliant move whose intent to destroy confidence in the church carries with it few drawbacks.
But this is the Catholic church, arguably the most powerful organizations of its time, and any plan to bring it crashing down will need to do more than simply crush the local Templar outpost. Once we witness the pivotal moment in de Nogaret’s childhood, it becomes difficult to fault him for his vengeful feelings towards Boniface, and when the Pope comes face to face with his accuser and former Templar Gawain, the ignominy of the punch to the face, at first, seems to be enough for de Nogaret. Does Philip really expect the Pope to be killed or only removed from office as he instructs? Regardless, it’s a poignant scene made even more so when de Nogaret extracts his parents’ ashes from the small leather pouch and draws a cross on Boniface’s forehead.
As the royal household’s descent into darkness brings the final conflict more clearly into focus, Landry and the initiates enjoy significant strides in their training, strides that impress even Brother Talus. To overcome a seemingly impossible wall climbing task, Landry realizes that “we become the ladder” and the group scales the wall as one unit, a point of progress which sits in stark contrast to the growing storm that awaits them on Philip’s end. Amidst the rain and muck, this pivotal scene also reveals a glimpse into the true nature of the seemingly ice cold Brother Talus. Having watched Landry bear the physical and spiritual weight of his entire team on his shoulders, the Initiate Master’s sly grin as he looks down at Landry preparing to ascend the rope and complete the task betrays his true feeling about the former knight’s struggle to rebuild his relationship with the temple and with God.
Though the Templar half of the episode examines Talus and Landry’s attempts to bring the order together, the contraband prayer scroll plot point just gets in the way, and Landry’s attempt to take the blame falls narratively flat. It’s an insult to Talus and his awareness of what’s going on with his charges, but the brother manages to save the scene by banishing the ill advised informant.
While The Luciferian attack of Landry and the initiates offers a chance for the men to put their lessons to an unexpected test, the whole human sacrifice at the hands of Devil worshippers feels a bit unseemly, its appearance more for shock value than to serve the story. Some of the brothers blame Landry for Quentin’s death during the skirmish, eventually burning a cross onto his chest, but given everything the older brothers know about Landry and his commitment to the temple, this reaction seems grounded more in jealousy than as a true affront to their core religious beliefs. And once again, it doesn’t go unnoticed that Landry carries the mortally wounded Quentin on his back only to discover that even Draper’s skills can’t revive the valiant initiate.
Though de Nogaret’s buried past provides a nice twist in the plot to bring down the church, “The Devil Inside” also wisely lays the groundwork for some fascinating interplay within the royal family. There’s no denying that Philip, de Nogaret, and Landry stand at the center of the story, but here’s hoping that Isabella and Louis’ roles continue to expand and maybe even give their father and his advisor a run for their money.