A templar knight falls in love and consummates it in contravention of his vows of celibacy, and puts into motion events that will culminate with the destruction of his order and the death of the King of France. This is not a show you would want to miss
Words Aninda Sardar
Friday, October 13, 1307 Anno Domini, marks the date when the virtually the entire French Templar Order was arrested on the orders of the then Pope. They were charged with devil worship, homosexuality, financial fraud, spitting on the Holy Cross and, above all, heresy. Hundreds were burnt at the stake in Paris, seven years later, in 1314 after many Templars, including Grand Master Jacques de Molay confessed under frightful torture. Up until that day however, when Pope Clement V ordered the arrest and subsequently disbanded the Templars in 1312 under pressure from the French King Philip IV, the Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon, or simply Templars, were a formidable fighting force feared across the World and unimaginably wealthy as an order even though individually each knight was a monk and therefore penniless. Theirs is a story that stretches the imagination with its scope for theatrics, and it is against this very backdrop that the creators of Knightfall have etched their story.
The knights of Knightfall
Knightfall starts at the ill fated siege of Acre during the Crusades. The year is 1291 and a force of just 10,000 Templar knights are holding off an Egyptian Saracen army of 100,000. Outnumbered ten-to-one there is no doubt that Acre will fall. The only thing the knights can hope for is to save the most sacred of Christian relics that they have – the Holy Grail. Among the knights we are introduced to Temple Master Godfrei, the fierce Landry du Lauzon, Tancrede and Gawain. They somehow manage to escape even as Acre falls but in the ensuing fight Gawain is left with a wounded leg that will trouble him for the rest of his life. Here onwards the story shifts to France where we learn that Landry, in contravention of his vows of celibacy, is in love with a woman who turns out to be Queen Joan of France and wife of Landry’s close friend King Philip. Landry and Queen Joan consummate their love for each other several times until she is pregnant with Landry’s child.
The rest of the story unfolds over the course of two seasons and there’s a lot that will hold your eyes glued to Netflix on your gadget. First among them is the very depth of the story itself. There are several layers, each with its own set of thrills and dramatics. So you never feel bored and none of the episodes feel overly drawn out. The danger of a multi-layered story however often is that to the viewer it seems somewhat disjointed and out of sync. No danger of that with Knightfall where every layer is linked to another layer to form a composite story that you know will all come together in the end. There are enough twists and turns in the plot as well that keep you on your toes. That essentially happens when the story telling over the course of the episodes and subsequently Seasons is done exceedingly well.
The cast of Knightfall
The other aspect of this, which is becoming something of a Netflix trademark, is the strength of the cast. There is no doubt that Welsh actor Tom Cullen does a stellar job of bringing Landry alive for us, but equal credit must be given to Ed Stoppard who plays the murderously jealous King Philip. When Tom (Landry) and Ed (King Philip) are together on screen it’s like two medieval knights jousting for supremacy. They spar with each other, engaging, disengaging and battling each other while English actor Julian Ovenden tangos around the sparring characters with the brilliance of a master danseuse as the scheming William de Nogaret. You are never really sure what goes on in his head and where he will strike next. He uses everyone he can and hits them with whatever information he has at his disposal. Without compunction or remorse. He is only interested in one thing – power. At the other end is the ever loyal Tancrede, portrayed by Simon Merrells, who refuses to betray the Order even in the face of torture by members of the Order itself, led by none other than his beloved friend and Temple Master Landry. Honestly, while Merrells does a fabulous job of creating Tancrede, somewhere it’s the only character that seems to not reach its full evolution even at the end of the second season. On the other hand, Padraic Delaney brings the jealous and bitter Gawain to life with remarkable flair. It’s almost as if you understand what angers Gawain so much. Actress Olivia Ross shines too in the role of Queen Joan. The transition of the pivotal character of Princess Isabella from Sabrina Bartlett (Season 1) to Genevieve Gaunt (Season 2) will catch you unaware and is a bit jarring but that’s pretty much all there is to it.
Should you watch Knightfall?
The other things that are striking about this brilliantly produced series is its authenticity and attention to detail. From the knights’ uniforms to the model of the ship on which they escape from Acre to their weaponry, everything has been detailed out to near perfection. The regular meetings on their banking infrastructure, their battle tactics and even the training of the initiates is accurate. The other refreshing bit is their portrayal as deeply pious warrior monks instead of the zealots that they are often thought to be (reference: The Kingdom of Heaven, starring Liam Neeson, Jeremy Irons, Eva Green and Orlano Bloom).
Finally, and this is the biggest pull in my opinion, you cannot predict the end of Knightfall, and just for that alone I’d give it five stars out of five without hesitation and spend the weekend binge watching it all over again.