Knightfall: Death & Survival Frame Season Finale – Review, Ep. 208

I had made some assumptions leading up to the season finale of season 2 of Knightfall, “While I Breath, I Trust the Cross.” Some of them fairly obvious, others more involved, but I’m delighted to say that while I was on-point with some, the writers, actors, show runner and rest of the crew delivered a finale with more than enough surprises and revelations to satisfy my Templar fascination.

Knightfall season 2 was, on many fronts, a harder row to hoe than season 1. But I’m here to tell you that the season finale put a cap on an eight-episode arc that was wonderfully entertaining and twisty enough to keep the interest level high and tight. I was delighted with what the season had to offer and even more so after the finale, which I thought delivered quality stuff frame after frame after frame.

How’s that for effusive praise? Well, I watched it with my wife and she became a convert and offered plenty of “gasps” and “oh nooos” in the finale to validate my amateur appraisal. In short, I thought season 2 built nicely on season 1 and the climax offered some satisfying payoffs, more than a little heartache, and the climactic stand-off we’d been hoping for – but looked like we wouldn’t get.

I assumed Talus would show up again to foil the burning at the stake thing; I assumed Prince Louis would, at some point, make a fateful decision that would impact Landry; I assumed Gawain would redeem himself in some way when escape was made; and I assumed there would be a nice handful of fight sequences to quench my sword-lust.

And those came to pass. But there were other things I didn’t see coming. And that was a lot of fun. So let’s look at what happened overall.

First off, we lost a couple people that really hurt. After the Talus-led rescue plot succeeded in breaking our gang free, they spent a lot of time trying to make their way through Paris and find a way out. Through scrapes and battles and fairly ingenious ideas, they managed to make it to the palace, where they thought (rightfully) there would be few people left because they were all out looking for them.

And that’s when the plan stopped going to plan – and tragedy struck.

Unfortunately, Princess Isabella was in the process of having her barge loaded for the ill-fated trip to England – and marriage. Still, it looked like the our heroes would be making good on their escape from the city – until crossbow bolts took down Anne, and subsequently Tancrede. On the cross as it burned, Tancrede had shouted loudly of his love for Anne, so to see them cut down before they reached the boat, multiple bolts in their bodies, was a tough one.

Tancrede has been a moral compass on this show from the outset, supporting and strengthening Landry most when he was falling. To know that at the end he was also a Templar who knew the heartbeat of love, and would have it snatched from him like that, it was tough. I definitely had a moment when I shouted at the screen, “No, no, no.”

I will miss Tancrede (if he is dead, which I would think), I will miss his bravery, his wisdom and his ability to see the good in Landry. That was a tough loss. Simon Merrells gave this character heart, integrity and a decent-man vibe that was very satisfying. Just tremendous work by Merrells.

Another loss we had was kind of a two-fold thing. I was convinced as Landry, Gawain and the others sailed off, that we’d see King Philip and is continued downward spiral in season 3 (I expect a third season). But we got a fun little surprise with that, didn’t we? And with that surprise, some interesting decisions by Prince Louis and De Nogaret.

Turns out, Landry didn’t leave on the ship. He showed up in the throne room after killing what few guards remained. I’d assumed he’d sail off and the Philip pursuit of Landry would continue into next season. But no, the showdown was happening now. I suspected earlier, when King Philip beat up De Nogaret, that it might have been a mistake to toss De Nogaret out with the bath water. .

Turns out that was prophetic. When Landry appears, De Nogaret utters the words “The king is dead,” and goes to kneel before Prince Louis. A powerful moment and one that signaled there was about to be a change at the top. And there was. The fight between Landry and the King had to be satisfying for Landry, though I did enjoy Philip’s comment that “you look tired, Landry.”

It was also kind of fitting, in my mind, that their fight in the thrown room was surrounded by the loot Philip had plundered from the Templars. As much as revenge was part of his mission, an underlying motive was a chance to get his hands on the Templar money. And he did – for a moment. I admit I was surprised at Philip’s death, but took a bit of satisfaction from watching Landry skewer him through the back, then add a kick to the ribs for good measure. And with that, Louis is now king in France.

Which leads me to another stunner – the death of Margaret. Louis’ transformation during this season has been very interesting to see. Initially filled with the same kind of rage his father had towards Landry and the Templars, we saw subtle change after subtle change in the prince as his father’s wishes started to weigh heavily on the young prince.

Eventually, the imprisonment of his wife Margaret in a tower proved to be a huge tipping point. In this episode, Louis isn’t nearly as interested in getting after the Templars in Paris as he is rescuing Margaret. He breeches the doors only to find Margaret dying – she’d used pottery shards to slit her wrists.

Another gut-wrenching moment to watch Margaret die before his eyes. And it was the impetus to lay down his sword in the throne room when Landry came calling, leaving his father to Landry’s tender care. As much torment as Landry has undergone in these two seasons, it’s hard to accurately portray the terrible emotional road Louis has traveled.

In the end, his father and sister have broken him. I look forward to seeing how Louis handles his sister now that daddy isn’t on hand for protection. Let’s hope retribution is best served cold.

What I’ve enjoyed thus far in Knightfall is the insightful and interesting storytelling of this time period. I admit to a love of all things Knights, court intrigue, and the slash, hack and bludgeon of the battles that surround them. History Channel has once again provided us with a show that delivers characters that you simply want to dial into. It’s textured and rich while being gritty and brutal. I think it’s so well done.

There’s a quality to this show that, much like History Channel’s Vikings and Project Blue Book, feels like a cut above other efforts in these genres. I have so many characters that I enjoy within the show that I’m continually interested in what’s happening to each.

Two of my favorites, De Nogaret (Julian Ovenden) and Talus (Mark Hamill), didn’t have a lot to do in this episode, but what they did was pivotal.

Talus staged the “jail break” that sent Tancrede, Anne, Landry, Gawain and others, on their way toward freedom (Tancrede…nooooooo), then demonstrated just how fearsome a warrior he is by buying time for the others – defeating a large group of French troops. When last we see him, he’s limping off down a stone street, bodies of the fallen soldiers behind him. Powerful stuff and a reminder that there’s plenty of stout fiber beneath that gruff exterior.

De Nogaret had perhaps the episode’s most subtly pivotal moment. The king had earlier called him worthless and beat him repeatedly into a blood-strewn mess. Later, when Landry makes his appearance, it is De Nogaret, who reminded the kind that he was “worthless,” that signaled that the winds had officially changed direction.

By spurning the king and kneeling before Prince Louis, a man he has a contentious relationship with, De Nogaret essentially said “no more of this.” And that change in France was about to occur. Powerful stuff by a character I love. Tremendously well-played.

Huge applause for the continued stellar work of Ovenden as De Nogaret (bring back the goatee, please) and for the addition and work of Hamill, who infused Talus with a crusty charm and hardened soft-heartedness. Just two great characters delivered by two talented performers.

I had speculated that Gawain may have some redemptive moments and he certainly added his sword arm to the escape. But what I most enjoyed in this final episode was he and Landry ending up together, hiding out, and both getting to say what they needed to. You know it’s interesting to me that, as Gawain pointed out, this downfall of the Templars can be traced directly back to Landry’s affair with Queen Joan and the baby it produced.

I’ve said that all along and was in total agreement with Gawain as he lit into his one-time brother. While Landry verbally fought back with his own argument about how much he’d suffered, I had a momentary pause that he simply didn’t get it. Landry is the cause of virtually all the misery that has been dispensed against the Templars and plenty of French peasants, nobles, etc.

Landry doesn’t really take responsibility, direct responsibility for what he did. I know, he talks about his suffering and his forgiveness from God, but he doesn’t ever just say he’s sorry. And I think that’s what Gawain is looking for – Landry putting down his defenses and admitting his fault in all that’s come since. Just humbly saying “I’m sorry.”

For me, Gawain is a great character in that he’s a former Templar that, unlike Landry, has not only fallen to the lowest depths, but has lost his hope as well. Landry still clung to hope, but Gawain had simply tossed it away, which on some levels makes his depth of despair somewhat more tragic than Landry’s. And the guy pulled a nail out of his knee – without biting on anything. I mean, that’s a gentleman to fear and respect.

I was glad to see him rise up a bit at the end and admit that working for Philip was something he couldn’t stomach any longer. But I was also pleased to see him not give Landry a free pass on things as well. Gawain is a wonderfully complex character and I enjoy Padraic Delaney’s take on this character. I’ve just become a huge fan of Delaney’s work on this show.

So what do we have to look forward to in season 3. Well, first of all I’m expecting a season three; in fact I’m expecting Knightfall to go a few more seasons. I know it’s a niche type of show, but I also know that History Channel’s success with Vikings seems to portend a longer run for Knightfall. At least that’s what I’m counting on.

But in terms of story, I think there’s a huge chance for things to go in different directions. Will we stay in France and in this time period or will there be a time jump to pick up the Templar story later on? What of Landry and Eve, will we see him raise her? Will Mark Hamill return as Talus? Will we be in another country or will we see King Louis, De Nogaret, Isabella and others try to sort out what has happened in their kingdom?

There is a lot of potential to take Knightfall in many different directions. Historically speaking, this time period of 1307 is near the end of the Templar run as a dominant military and financial source. So we’ll see if that has any bearing on what is to happen. Whatever the next phase, I’m anxious to see what is in the offing. Hope you are, too.

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Follow me on Twitter: @jbakeR2D2 and @threeifbyspace.

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