This Knightfall review contains spoilers.
Knightfall Season 2 Episode 5
“You’ve brought women into our temple. Have you lost your minds?”
When I watch or review historical drama, I make a point to avoid, as much as possible, information that will spoil the enjoyment of experiencing various narrative threads unfold as the series progresses. Such has been the case with Knightfall and Vikings. And while I can’t say for sure whether Prince Louis succeeds his father on the throne, I still hold out hope that Landry will violently put down Philip’s rabid dog. Of course, conventional wisdom tells me I’m going to be disappointed, but “Road to Chartres” more than makes up for that with a perfect blend of tightly crafted action sequences, rapidly evolving political intrigue, and emotional distress exhibited by players on both sides of the emerging campaign.
Throughout its run Knightfall has found the perfect balance of combat scenes and emotional character work, and the much anticipated showdown between Landry and Prince Louis does not disappoint. Once Louis receives the tip that a Templar was seen entering the convent that cares for abandoned children, Landry’s reunion with baby Eve becomes ground zero for the final conflict between the crown and the church. Yes, it’s upsetting that Landry doesn’t get to hold his daughter, but the dramatic irony that occurs when neither man recognizes the other creates a level of tension that would be absent otherwise. Landry takes on the prince while Tancrede fends off everyone else, a brief skirmish that leads to a chase scene that gives us exactly what we want. Well, almost.
Even more important than the well placed arrow from Landry’s crossbow is the fact that Louis must now accept that the man he thinks killed his mother may be the most formidable foe he’s ever faced. That said, all cards are finally on the table, and the Templars now understand that Philip has placed them firmly in his crosshairs. Even more significant, however, is the recognition that the survival of the child Joan conceived with Landry is no longer the secret he hoped would continue. The only problem here is that Landry makes the same fundamental mistake so many other before and after him continue to make. He has Louis down and doesn’t finish him. Yes, Tancrede calls to him, but how long would it really have taken?
Knowing he can’t face his father without Landry’s head and Eve’s dead body, Louis cauterizes his own wound and continues his pursuit, but it remains to be seen whether he has it in him to kill his own sister simply to appease his father’s lust for vengeance. Nevertheless, his next encounter with Landry allows the knight to lay out the truth about Joan’s death, leaving it up to Louis to judge the veracity of the claim that Philip, in fact, killed Queen Joan. “Your father killed your mother in front of his entire army,” leaving it up to the prince to decide how to proceed. On the one hand, Louis’ escape from this second confrontation feels a bit too easy, but it provides him the opportunity to verify whether or not Landry’s assertion is true. For all his complexities, and there are many, once Pascal verifies Landry’s story, Louis’ world has been turned upside down, and his next move unclear. Will he challenge his father or fall in lockstep during the war to bring down the Templars?
Interestingly, as Louis becomes more thoughtful and determined to learn the truth surrounding his mother’s death, Philip continues to act rashly relieving Gawain of his post as Marshall of the Army after the initial skirmish with the Templars fails. More than anyone, Philip should acknowledge Landry’s abilities on the field of battle and understand that to be defeated by him deserves no dishonor or neglect of duty. Landry trained the king to wield a sword and defend himself in the field, but he’s become so blinded by the double betrayal that he can’t see what an asset he has in Gawain.
Fortunately, for Philip, De Nogaret recognizes the value the former Templar provides, but it’s Gawain’s remarkable suggestion that sets the stage in the next step to bring the church to its knees. Despite the fact that Philip seemingly refuses to consider the long term ramifications of employing physical violence to challenge the church, De Nogaret finds a kindred spirit in Gawain and immediately recognizes the practicality of buying into the knight’s suggestion. And what a suggestion it is.
Historical dramas generally don’t require much in the way of a suspension of disbelief, but clever as it is, the suggestion to handcraft a graven image that purports to show the Templars as idol worshippers rather than followers of God Almighty does require a bit of blind acceptance. Gawain suggests fusing together skulls that represent Templar founder Hugues de Payens and the fallen angel Baphomet, and once he sees the final product, De Nogaret recognizes its value since only heretics would possess such a blasphemous object. Though this is a compelling and even mesmerizing scene as the idol is finally dipped in and covered with silver, it seems a bit of a stretch that anyone would actually believe the Templars worship this depiction of evil. Even Philip’s hand picked Pope has difficulty accepting the veracity of this accusation but will likely be unwilling to challenge the man who placed him in Christendom’s highest office.
Why Louis keeps alive the woman whose husband and child he killed during his infanticidal rampage isn’t immediately clear, though clearly she represents a deeply conflicted aspect of his emotional life that he’s been unable to reconcile. Even though she begs to be put out of her misery, he may believe that Lydia somehow holds the key toward redemption for his past acts. Ironically, Margaret finds the chained woman wearing one of her gowns and learns the truth about her husband’s dark side. While Margaret’s bold manner more than likely masks the insecurities she feels not being able to conceive a child, it’s still unsettling to watch her intellectually process the meaning of this grotesque scene. And if it’s at all possible for feel empathy for the prince, the fact that he’s got some explaining to do not only to his father but his wife as well.
“Road to Chartres” presents a complicated mass of emotions on both sides, but its power resides in its ability to provide the viewer the opportunity to understand the events that have pushed each man to the precipice of war not only with himself and his enemy, but also with his God. It certainly seems the end is in sight for the Templars, but there are significant personal battles still to be fought and Knightfall gives us a lot to look forward to this season.