This Knightfall review contains spoilers.
Knightfall Season 2 Episode 3
“Only God decides whether we live or die.”
For a time, “Faith” comes across as the prototypical setup episode that presages the calm before the storm, and while that’s certainly an accurate description, there’s no doubt Knightfall saves the best for last this week. Though Landry’s seemingly futile attempts to satisfy Initiate Master Talus’ exacting standards play at the center of the season two narrative, it’s the fortuitous return to importance of former Templar Gawain that reminds us of the physical and emotional toll becoming one of Christ’s soldiers takes on these men. And with Philip’s kingdom attempting to right itself amidst political and papal complications, to witness the breakthrough of forgiveness among the Templars allows a moment to rejoice even though we know what the future holds for these brave knights.
Without question, the episode’s centerpiece focuses on Landry’s further plunge into the depths of despair that leads to the eventual, at least partial, reconciliation with Talus. It’s been painful to watch him berate himself for results that are really not wholly his responsibility, and when Draper’s body returns to the temple along with the other slain knights, Landry can keep silent no longer. And while he has offered numerous bits of combat advice to his younger initiate brothers, it’s the stirring scene in which he instructs Kelton in the ritual purification of a fallen brother’s body that allows the young man to experience a darker side of Templar life.
Throughout his initiate experience, Landry has generally held his tongue, but when it becomes clear that the young men are to be sent unprepared into battle against the Luciferians, he confronts his superiors even though this act may lead to his dismissal from the brotherhood. He’s clearly not wrong that these men are being sent to their deaths in what appears to be another tactical blunder, but when he openly challenges Talus, the master strangely fails to retaliate and make an example of Landry. It’s not clear why the Temple Master and Talus are prepared to sacrifice the initiates, but their silence towards Landry’s protestations speaks volumes.
Nevertheless, at the core of Landry’s feelings of helplessness is his acknowledgement that God has abandoned him at his most desperate, a point driven home through repeated visuals of him standing beneath various depictions of Christ on the cross, almost as if waiting for a sign from Above. But it’s the sense of obligation towards the younger brothers that keeps him going. “Please, Landry, just tell us what to do,” one of them implores having resigned themselves to the fact that he is, in fact, their superior. And while their faith in his willingness and ability to help them is important, Tancrede’s steadfast support throughout this agonizing struggle continues to give Landry a rock upon which to depend.
And while each of these moments is significant in its own right, it’s the act Landry perceives to be his final offering to God in a heart wrenching attempt to atone for his prior sins that produces the most emotional scene of the series. From the start, there’s always been the sense, and perhaps even hope, that Talus’ attitude toward Landry was simply an attempt to employ tough love in bringing the fallen knight back into the brotherhood. But on the eve of battle, Landry’s decision to face the Luciferians alone simply reinforces his desperation and acceptance that he has no place among a group of men he loves and who once loved him. Whether his death sends him to heaven doesn’t matter; in his mind, he has no remaining options.
Of course, Landry doesn’t die, and after an auspicious opening attack, the pagans recover, surround, and spear him. As he’s about to receive a final, yet welcome death blow, Talus rides into the fray and saves Landry’s life. Does Talus hear Landry moving about before leaving the temple, or does the master anticipate the former knight’s plan of action? Regardless, it sets into motion a poignant confrontation between the two men. “I didn’t give you permission to leave the temple grounds, initiate,” he tells Landry, but his voice and manner betray the likelihood that this reprimand will be different.
After Landry explains that he didn’t “plan on coming back” and sought to die alone in battle, the long awaited fatherly side of Talus emerges, and we begin to understand that Talus sees much of himself in Landry. The simple act of tenderly placing his hand on the distraught man’s shoulder provides a glimpse into the true nature of the Initiate Master and sends Landry the message that God has not forgotten him. “When there’s nothing to hold onto, hold onto your faith.” The facial expressions and body language of the knights seem to reveal that they too understand what has just taken place, and not only has Landry spared the lives of the initiates, but likely some of theirs as well. Talus’ reaction to Landry’s selfless act begins to break down the barriers they’ve chosen to erect in response to the perceived betrayal of Landry’s affair with Joan, but the fact that they’ve allowed one of their brothers to fall so low before offering him a helping hand remains difficult to accept.
However, Landry is not the only Templar knight struggling with his faith, and even though Gawain appears more hardened than his former brother, there’s a sense that given the right circumstances, he too could forgive those he feels abandoned him. That said, he now must prove to Philip and Louis that De Nogaret is correct in his decision to bring Gawain on board in the fight to bring down the Templars and the church. Like many modern day athletes, he’s willing to take the needle in his attempt to prove that he is, in fact, “the best swordsman in France.” But he also knows he must justify the faith he’s asking Philip and Louis to place in him. “Any faith I have left, I place in steel,” he tells a still skeptical Louis.
As Philip discounts Gawain’s worth after the knight’s knee injury prevents him from kneeling before the king and then later chops Joan’s throne into little pieces, it becomes eminently apparent that it will be up to De Nogaret to prevent father and son from going off the rails. Now that Boniface is out of the picture, it makes sense that Philip chooses to back a French Cardinal as the next Pope, and it seems only a matter of time before De Nogaret must work his behind the scenes magic to see to it that the king’s wish is fulfilled. To this point, Philip’s faith in De Nogaret has been well served, and while there’s no mistaking the adviser’s inclination towards self-interest, his suggestions do ultimately protect the royal family.
Since returning to his father’s kingdom, Louis’ presence has created a general sense of agitation within the family, and now, with wife Margaret’s arrival, the plot thickens even further. That her brother assigns their mother’s room to his wife obviously won’t sit well with Isabella, but it’s Margaret’s condescending approach to the princess that shows she doesn’t know her sister-in-law as well as she thinks she does. Interestingly, Philip’s faith in his son doesn’t appear absolute, and his admonition regarding the lack of an heir coupled with the scene in which Louis is unable to perform in bed with his wife leads us to consider that Isabella’s stock may be rising. There is a deliciously twisted irony that Louis is killing babies while he doesn’t seem to be able to father one of his own leaving a gaping hole where an heir should be. It’s not fair to say the royal family is falling apart, but there are cracks.
If there were any concerns about the direction Knightfall would take in its second season, those apprehensions have been put to rest. “Faith” continues a trend of increasingly strong episodes that make us momentarily forget that the brotherhood will not be able to rewrite history and avoid the oncoming wave Philip plans to unleash. Despite our bonds with Landry and the Templars, what keeps the series fresh, however, can be found in the developing plot intrigues within the royal household. There’s a lot to like, and a lot of story to tell.