You’d Know What to Do
So we’re starting a new show on the History Channel! Like their popular Vikings, Knightfall is a fictionalized retelling of an often neglected part of history. Dear readers, I’ll let you know from the start that I know little about the Knights Templar, but I’ll do my best to research, and cite any historical things I come across, like I often do in my Vikings reviews. If you want to hear from the star of this show, check out our interview with Tom Cullen, here.
We open up in the Holy Land, 1291–this would be the Middle East, for any of you not familiar with the Crusades. We are starting out during the Siege of Acre, which went on for over a month–we are seeing this on night 43. Historically this is called the Fall of Acre, so I think you can have little doubt as to what will happen. This is during a time when the Templars were losing the Crusade, and we learn that most strongholds have been lost, including Jerusalem. The Muslims will be attacking to gain back the city, and so the Templars must evacuate, and try to save the Holy Grail at the same time–because oh yes, this show has the Grail, as well.
There is some great action in this opening scene; we see trench buckets, and the general beginnings of siege warfare of the time. There are also some amazing first person shots, that give us the perspective of what it was like to fight in these very claustrophobic helmets. We are also introduced to Landry (Tom Cullen), the main character of our story, who is attempting to save the Grail as the city is lost.
While Landry and his fellow brothers manage to get onto a ship, the ship with the Grail on it is hit and sinks, so the most precious thing to the Templars is seemingly lost.
With that, we move forward 15 years, where the Templars are now settled in Paris, stagnant and without much purpose. Landry, for his part, has become a tutor to King Philip; he seems to have a positive relationship with the man. However, Philips’s main advisor, William De Nogaret clearly dislikes the Templars, and Landry’s influence, in particular. It is interesting to see how they are setting this up. Anyone who knows their history knows what happened to the Templars during this period–but the intrigue behind it can be fictionalized–as they are doing here. De Nogaret dislikes the Jewish people living in Paris at the time, and wishes to take their property and money in order to fund the kingdom’s debt. Sadly, anti-semitism was something that was rampant at this time, as it was in future years.
The Crown isn’t the only one struggling with money–the Templars don’t have much, either, and despite their issues with how the Jewish people are being treated, they aren’t technically supposed to get involved in the city affairs. Landry, who has been trained from an early age to fight, is being told that he can’t do that any longer; they can’t return to the Holy Land, and there are no battles to be fought here–as a result, he is having a crisis of faith. It’s a typical cliche in shows like these, but I feel Tom Cullen’s acting helps elevate it, and make it something less pedestrian.
Landry’s leader, Godfried, goes out on a mission, but before he leaves, tells him to protect the Jews. In a strange turn of events, he has found an orange, which means something is wrong. While I know this must mean something in particular, I don’t truly understand it. Now perhaps we as the viewer aren’t supposed to know — or perhaps this is something historical that is simply going over my head?
On his mission, Godfried is ambushed by bandits; a young man steps in to help, and it works–only for Godfried to have a heart attack. Seriously, the show pulled that sort of ironic twist. Still, before he dies he gives the young man, Percival, his sword, and tells him he must provide it to Landry, as, “God’s Kingdom depends on it.” With this, we begin the part of the episode that I feel dissolves into cliches, and makes the show weaker for it. However, as it is just a pilot, I’m willing to provide the show more leeway than I might otherwise.
Back in Paris, we find out Landry is breaking his vows of chastity by banging some woman. Who that woman is incredibly important–but more on that later. It seems that he is lost, and finds comfort in this woman, which is more than sexual. Which is wonderful, yes, but again, it’s a tried and true cliche of historical shows.
We also see the situation with the Jewish people come to a head, where a man posing as a Jew kills someone, turning the people against them as a whole. Of course, William De Nogaret was the one who sent the imposter, to give him a reason to urge King Philip to drive the Jews out of Paris–for their own safety, of course (when of course he means to kill them all). This is something that Landry’s lady friend over hears, and goes to inform our hero.
Landry, meanwhile, has met Percival, who has brought him the sword, and informed him of Godfried’s death. Landry throws a bit of a fit, showing his immaturity. I genuinely like his character, as he seems to be complex–save the whole ‘breaking vows’ with a certain lady, issue. Needing to deal with the impending attack on the Jews, he hands the sword off to another Templar, who finds a hidden compartment. Yes, intrigue! You didn’t think that wasn’t going to occur on a show like this, did you? It ends up showing a map to the Holy Grail, which apparently is in France.
As Landry goes to protect the Jewish people from the bandits that attack them (who do quite a good job standing up for themselves), we find out that two of them, a man and his daughter, were people Landry saved in Acre. Something to note, as well–the Templars were tasked to protect all religious pilgrims, regardless of their religion; so the Templars protecting Jews shouldn’t be too surprising to anyone who knows their history.
I genuinely enjoyed this scene, and given our current political climate, it was nice to see someone protect the downtrodden.
…but onto more cliches. Percival goes back to his home, where he finds his father and his fiance have been killed as retribution for him helping the Templars. I would really appreciate it if a show in this day and age could get through the first three episodes of a season without fridging a woman to further a character’s ‘story’–because of course Percival is going to see the Templars because of this, and start his journey there. That could have been easily done without killing a woman who had few lines, but shows still struggle to understand this.
Also–we find out that Landry’s lover is Queen Joan, Philip’s wife. So yes, of course our lead character is bedding the wife of the King, the person who is being told to get rid of the Templars.
Don’t get me wrong–I think this show is strong, and has a great deal of potential, but the way that it is peddling in cliches (some that I hate the most), is a discredit to the writing and the acting within the show. I have hopes that moving forward the show can move past some of these faults, but time will tell.