Olivia Ross (Queen Joan) and Ed Stoppard (King Philip) dance a strained dance in Knightfall.

Knightfall: Two Wolves, One Man & A Missing Grail — Review

Before we delve too much into episode 3 of “Knightfall,” I think it’s high time we sung the praises of an unsung hero through the first three episodes — the older initiate who has created virtually all the positive movement in the Grail search thus far.

I don’t know the name of this character (someone probably called him by name and I missed it), but he’s older, with long graying hair, and in three episodes he has 1) discovered the hollow part of Godfrey’s sword; 2) managed to figure out how to open the compartment; 3) discovered the carved stone and what to do with it (brilliant insight into figuring out it was a jewel from a lantern, by the way); 4) passed along the information to the Templars; 5) discovered the key from Godfrey’s body was not a key at all; and 6) figured out it was another illumination piece and deduced out how to use it to project the Coat of Arms that our Templars eventually followed to a very interesting discovery.

So let’ s hear it for this initiate who, through intuition, guile and straight-up determination has single-handedly given the Templars the chance to not only discover the Grail is in France, but where to start looking. I don’t know what this guy’s rank is, but he should be made a full Templar immediately and a banquet held in his honor because without him, that sword is buried and gone, along with any thought of a Grail retrieval. So, unknown initiate with the clever mind, here’s a few paragraph saluting you for your contributions thus far. Keep it coming, big guy.

Tancrede (Simon Merrells) and Landry (Tom Cullen) ride out in search of the Holy Grail.

Episode 3, “The Black Wolf and the White Wolf,” leads us down the path to a potential Grail recovery, but as we surmised, there are more people involved in the search, though their motives are still somewhat cloudy. What we did find out in episode 3 is that the Saracens have also been made aware of the Grail’s residence in France and are looking to keep the Templars away from it.

But first, Queen Joan is preggers. Given the birth control methods of the time and the insinuation that she and Landry have been, shall we say, pretty active over an extended period of time, you could kind of see this one coming. As I noted before, this development has all kinds of potential for disaster for so many people. That’s why you can’t help but think that De Nogaret will get hip-deep in the middle of all this before it’s done. One can only imagine what was racing through Queen Joan’s mind as she A) found out she was pregnant, B) realized that her husband won’t be fooled since they haven’t shared a bed in two years, C) Contemplated ending the pregnancy with some 17th century “morning after” solution, and D) was dumped by Landry later in the episode.

Now here’s a woman who has lost her love and desire for her husband, the king, so much so that she embarks on a torrid affair with a Templar Knight. So much risk for pleasurable rewards — and within a day, it all comes crashing down in a smelly, messy heap around her. Landry gets to walk away while she is faced with court life that no longer will include her Templar lover, the father of her newly-discovered child. In the end, she really only had one legitimate option left, take the elixir of abortion and hope that she survived it.

Templar initiates await their duties at the temple.

I couldn’t help but feel an ache for this woman who seemed to go from a passionate high to a life-alerting low in mere hours. I was not familiar with Olivia Ross’s work up to this point, but her portrayal of Queen Joan has been on-point — exultant, concerned, delighted, morose, hopeful and finally despairing to the point of hopelessness. Three episodes in and I’m very anxious to see how our heart-broken queen deals with the circumstances that conspired to push her down that final path. Does she rise, Phoenix-like, to reclaim a modicum of self-respect and joy, or does something more sinister take hold? Calling De Nogaret.

But this show is very much about the Holy Grail and the decided desperation that Pope Boniface and the Templars have to reclaim it. As mentioned above, our erstwhlie initiate discovers what the “key” actually is and through a nice bit of lamplight manipulation, a crest is revealed, one that Landry and Tancrede both recognize. There’s hope, but of course it won’t be easy. What fun would that be?

I thought this was a nice twist and turn finding out that Godfrey had been leading something of a double life and discovering the impetus for his becoming a Templar. He was from a family of wealth and property, but through his greed and hot-headedness as a youth, delivered tragedy to his family. It was that incident, and the apparent healing powers of the Grail (Good for the brother) that transformed Godfrey into a Templar Knight. An interesting bit of backstory in this episode regarding Godfrey and confirmed our suspicions that he certainly knew more about the Grail’s true whereabouts than was previously thought.

Funny though, as Godfrey’s brother was recounting the story, I started to think “I hope this guy doesn’t suddenly get killed.” Lo and behold, the Saracens were in the house and that’s exactly what happened. There are some interesting situations at play here. On the one hand, the Pope wants to reclaim the Grail and use its symbolism to raise another army to take back the Holy Land. The Templars, while falling in line with Boniface’s admitted desires, also want a bit of redemption after seeing their previous attempt to save the Grail sink in the harbor of Acre. The Saracens have an interest in the Grail because they hope to stymie the Pope’s desire to use it for an invasion of the Holy Land and the inevitable carnage that would ensue. Oh, there are likely some other entities scurrying around the Grail reclamation project who haven’t fully revealed their reasons why yet. I’m sure we’ll get to them. And De Nogaret? Well, he’s always a man with a plan, right?

Pope Boniface (Jim Carter) honors Godfrey.

What else was going on? Landry brings a surviving Saracen to the temple and before they can extract information from the captive, his throat is slit. De Nogaret has a thing for Princess Isabella and isn’t above employing a little peeping Tom action (I wonder who really knows about those hidden corridors running next to everyone’s room?). England is threatening war after Isabella is promised to her Catalonian prince and their envoy conspires with De Nogaret to see if things can be “arranged.” Oh, and yes, our prince actually turns up in another fun and surprising twist.

In the receiving line for the king and queen, the Catalonian envoy’s “servant” has a word with De Nogaret and it turns testy. De Nogaret, as you’d expect, gets a bit huffy and arrogant that a servant would speak thusly to him. The big reveal with a room full of people was that this servant was not only the heir apparent to the Catalonian throne, the beloved of Isabella and a sneaky kind of showman, but promised that France would receive military support should England follow-through on its plans for war with France.

You could see this kind of coming, yet the way they pulled it off was both stylish and effective. The prince has some “game” and Isabella seemed so delighted that he dropped the mic in the middle of the hall with so many guests in attendance that she took her intended right to bed. Of course, as the two made young, passionate love, De Nogaret had his eye peeled through the hole in the wall. He had been fooled and bested not once, but several times leading to this moment. Had to be a bitter pill for our councilor to swallow. He’ll be back, though. I have faith in his self-interested ambition.

Landry (Tom Cullen) and King Philip (Ed Stoppard) discuss business at a celebration.

So, what to look forward to? Well, we’ve got that young lady and her companions that seem to have an interest in Parsifal. Looking to see where that storyline leads. Is it Parsifal himself or something he may know or possess that they covet?

The queen drank the potion that was in the “flagon with the dragon,” so we’ll see where that leads after Landry drop-kicked her to curb. Last we saw, she was a hot mess who was crying on her bedroom floor and reacting to the swill she drank.

De Nogaret and the English envoy continue to plot and scheme to break up the Catalonia-France match. Where will that lead?

A sliced throat of their Saracen captive left the Templars with few clues to the whereabouts of the Grail. The search that seemed to be showing such promise earlier in the episode appears to have reached a dead end. What new clue will pop up and send them headlong into renewed pursuit?

And Gawain’s disdain for Landry continues to grow, setting up some interesting opportunities that De Nogaret continues to probe at. Will Gawain’s anger and hurt send him down a path that damages Landry or will he right the emotional ship and again be the asset he was before?

Three episodes in and I think “Knightfall” has found a nice rhythm in terms of storytelling. There’s a lot going on, but so much of it is interwoven — parts of it obvious while others are more subtle — that in lesser hands it would come off as confusing. I haven’t found that to be the case yet. The story, even with the little twists, is satisfyingly entertaining and each episode leaves me with questions that I’m anxious to see answered. In short, it leaves me wanting more.

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