REVIEW: Knightfall, S1E3 – The Black Wolf and the White Wolf

‘The Black Wolf and the White Wolf’ picks up with Godfrey’s funeral, and the opening sequence is emblematic of how Knightfall handles its metaphors. The show wastes no time in illustrating how as one life departs this Earth, another is blossoming inside of Queen Joan (Olivia Ross). The only problem? It’s not the King’s, and there’s no way it could be. The episode is full of dramatic irony and dramatic reveals such as this one, and some work better than others.

Are you there, Grail? It’s me, Tancrede.

The most intricate plot in ‘The Black Wolf and the White Wolf’ revolves around the key uncovered inside Godfrey’s body. Landry (Tom Cullen) and Pope Boniface (Jim Carter) soon discover that it contains a message in the form of the De Coul family crest. Obviously it’s too soon to find the Grail yet, but Knightfall gets a lot of mileage out of the detective story this week. The reveals here come in quick succession, and each one leaves Landry more shaken than the last. First, the very fact that Godfrey knew the Grail’s location all along and kept it a secret is a blow to the man who trusted his mentor with his whole heart. Then, there’s the fact that Godfrey was Marcel De Coul in another life. The caretaker weaves the tale of how Marcel nearly killed his brother before turning to Christ and healing him with the Grail’s powers. Moments later he reveals that, yes, he is the brother in question. But before he can hand over the scroll with all the answers to the Grail’s whereabouts, he is murdered and the scroll is stolen right out from under the Templars. The dramatic twists and turns happen almost too quickly for the audience to digest, but the fight sequences that arise from them are undeniably epic. Perhaps the most interesting tidbit – aside from the knowledge that the relic contains immense power – is that Landry recognizes the voice of the person telling him to give up on the Grail.

Not everything the Templars do in ‘The Black Wolf and the White Wolf’ is high stakes or even gripping action, for that matter. Since being relegated to teaching duties, Gawain (Pádraic Delaney) must spend his time trying to shape Parsifal (Bobby Schofield) into a monk before he can become a Templar. The young initiate quickly learns to say “By the grace of God” in response to everything, but he can’t bring himself to care about handing out food for charity or cleaning up messes. Thankfully, he doesn’t have to deal with it for long because Adelina (Sarah-Sofie Boussnina) steals the bags he’s carrying and sends him running after her. She is the same Jewish woman who helped Landry fight in Knightfall‘s first episode, so it’s refreshing to see that she’ll have a larger role in the story. Unfortunately, her righteous declaration that she is helping the poor Jews who have been cast out by the King is undercut by the last-minute revelation that she is secretly working to kidnap or otherwise entrap Parsifal. Since we don’t know all the details, I’ll reserve judgment on her for now outside of considering her an exciting mystery that’s sure to liven up Parsifal’s story.

When your boyfriend finds religion again.

Meanwhile, the Palace storyline is full of emotions. Philip (Ed Stoppard) is concerned by how long it’s been since the Queen has visited his chambers, and he finds the perfect shoulder to lean on in Landry. ‘The Black Wolf and the White Wolf’ leaves no stone unturned when it comes to ironic dialogue, making Landry guiltier and Philip more gullible with every word uttered. Just as the King is planning to have his favorite Templar convince his wife to sleep with him, said wife is begging her handmaiden for an abortifacient that will resolve the issue of her pregnancy. Her servant warns her that it left another woman blind and nearly dead, but Joan does not see another way out if Landry won’t run away with her. I must admit that I expected Joan to simply go to her husband’s bed and ensure that he had no suspicions, so the turn the story took was a shock to me. But that doesn’t mean it was a particularly pleasant one, given that Joan’s choice seemed to rest entirely on decisions Landry made without even knowing her situation. As tragic as it was to see her hopes of a romantic future crumbling in the face of his renewed devotion to his faith and his temple, it once again tied Joan as a character primarily to him and his whims. We did get a little more insight into Philip’s nasty temper, though, when Joan speaks of her husband having a musician’s fingers broken only because she liked to hear him play the lute. Given how many hints we’ve now gotten that the King is not as gentle as he appears, there is sure to be a confrontation before Knightfall finishes its first season.

Isabella’s (Sabrina Bartlett) impending marriage once again provided the highlight of ‘The Black Wolf and the White Wolf,’ creating the most delightful reversals. England’s ambassador publicly threatens war, and of course Philip once again trusts exactly the wrong man by asking De Nogaret (Julian Ovenden) to make sure Catalonia joins them in battle. When Rodrigo insists that no Catalonian blood will be shed to protect France’s land, De Nogaret gets the refusal he’d been hoping for. It’s no surprise that he is secretly working for England in this regard, but the outcome pulls off the feat of letting the good guys win (for now) while keeping the bad guy from appearing incompetent. De Nogaret remains the lone non-believer in the series, which is interesting given that he is also the only character who is flat out evil. But it’s not Christianity that Knightfall is necessarily subscribing to as a cure-all, but rather having faith in anything at all. The only thing De Nogaret believes in is his own power. Good thing Rodrigo’s servant is actually Prince Luis, and his faith in his love for Isabella allows him to see right through the schemes. There’s nothing better than a character who can go toe to toe with the villain and face him on an even playing field. For now, he and Isabella get to be very happy together in a sweet moment of romantic love – though it is uncomfortably marred both by De Nogaret watching them from the shadows and by a devastated Joan taking the deadly drought which will keep herself safe from her husband.

The mystery of the Grail is pushed back further by the end of ‘The Black Wolf and the White Wolf,’ when the Saracen that Landry captured is killed before he can be questioned further. Who is the murderer among them? And what did the Saracen mean when he foretold that the Grail would be their doom? Knightfall has certainly managed to set up a large number of tantalizing mythological mysteries amidst the palatial politics, so hopefully the season follows through on them.