The age old first world struggle of finding a new show on Netflix to watch had me taking a risk on a show that looked like a foreign production period piece. But to my pleasant surprise it had the same quality of production one could expect from Vikings. Knightfall brought a level of excitement that one does not simply stop binging. So while the bulk of this review will focus on season two, this review will encompass the entirety of the show’s run to date. Spoiler Warning as I make no promises otherwise.
This show did to me in season 2 what Dexter did in the final episode, raising bigger issues about risks with storytelling. Dexter famously had a happy ending that they took major logical gaps to subvert. A happy ending, in Dexter, would have brought a finality to the series, but once they killed Deb off randomly in order to subvert the ending, the self-imposed exile and pity was an irrational turn of events that gave the series a famously bad ending. In subverting a happy ending, the show ending with an ending that as final as the ending for any other season. Knightfall does the opposite in a bad way. They take a perfectly good somber ending and add an entire episode that came out of a script written by the Game of Thrones writers.
The first season of Knightfall is fifteen years after losing the Siege of Acre 1291 and what they thought was the Holy Grail. The show begins with the death of a temple master which leads the protagonist, Landry, on a quest to uncover a mystery that leads to the location of the true grail. But Landry is no hero. In fact, having lost his faith after the siege, he has descended into an adulterous affair with Queen Joan, all while being good friends with the King whom he is cuckholding. It’s worth emphasizing that the Knights Templar is a monastic order. So our unworthy hero, Landry, has a renewed purpose in life which contradicts his fornicating. Meanwhile the seed of his treachery has consequences, becoming conspicuous. This ultimately leads Landry to alienate much of the Templar order including Gawain, his best friend who departs the order to work with De Nogaret, the Iago-like figure advising the King. The first season ends with great battle sequences and Landry’s final decent into darkness.
While the first season is about the fall, season two was about the repentance. Having betrayed the Templars, Landry must atone, working hard to earn back his standing with the order. It’s truly rare to see the atonement part of a story be so gritty, every bit of progress feeling earned to the viewer. But, alas King Phillip has a vendetta against the Templars and will have them destroyed. Landry then is forced to confront Gawain leading the charge against the Templars. But after defeating the Templars, Gawain is unable to reconcile working for an evil king, and is imprisoned with the Templars. Episode seven was the best episode in the series by far, featuring a diverse array of medieval torture instruments. The climactic episode is where Landry and Gawain face each other and the Templars, in facing death, choose to forgive Gawain reciting the Lord’s Prayer. The episode ends with a fire pitching as the main heroes begin to burn at the stake.
Episode seven should have featured five more minutes where Landry and others burn to death. Episode eight should not have been made. Instead, the heroes escape death. Instead they escape search.
A note on historical fiction
This story is fiction but uses real life figures as characters such as King Phillip IV The Fair, De Nogeret, Pope Boniface, while the Templar characters are inspired by the actual Templars, Landry not being a real figure. That being said, we should not judge the show by its historical accuracy rather we should judge this period piece on realism within the confines of the time period the story takes place.
The escape, coincidentally timed without foreshadow and wholly dependent on the mistakes of the villains, was just some bad television. I dreaded watching this cliché turn of events. This turn of events was disappointingly passable because of how predictable it was. The overall ending of the season was garbage. The boss fight at the end featured a student-master dynamic that Knightfall established as evenly matched in season 1. Yet, this boss fight was extremely onesided, despite Landry being wounded, exhausted, and magically appearing in a place he had no business being in. Garbage story telling. A better ending would be starting the next season with new protagonists who take revenge on the King and Pope who according to legend were summoned in a tribunal before God by the late Templar Grand Master because both died a year or so after the Friday the 13th, 1307. That would be daring and good story telling.
The first season of Game of Thrones kills Eddard Stark in episode nine, according to the book. This was a plot twist as every character expected Ned Stark to live as planned. This twist set up only by the cruelty and idiocy of King Joffrey, was effective storytelling that enabled the plot to move forward. In contrast, Knightfall has little to move forward to, other than killing off King Louis X, moving onto Philip V, and then Charles IV. The events take place prior to the Hundred Years War, as alluded to in season one with the marriage of Isabella to Edward II. There is very little foreseeable plot for Landry and the Templars surviving to cross paths with the King of France. So either way, replacing one set of characters was inevitable, so they should have gone the more realistic path.
As a Christian, I am unopposed to being catered to by entertainment wanting to produce high quality content sparing me from feminist and intersectional BS. The show has 92.5% accomplished this. It’s incredibly rare to see a show depict people wrestling with faith, forgiveness, and repentance. It’s even rarer for these concepts to be wrestled with in storytelling in an overtly Christian way. While History Channel is not a Christian organization, the higher ups are still willing to cater to a Christian audience. I would love to slap a huge recommendation on this show, but its season finale prevent me from doing so. It’s all too common for showrunners to go out of their way to maintain a level of normalcy that undermines a superior story. Knightfall is an instance of good that could have been great.
We are currently forming the American Conservative Movement. If you are interested in learning more, we will be sending out information in a few weeks.
[gravityform id=”2″ title=”true” description=”false”]