REVIEW: Knightfall, S1E2 – Find Us the Grail

Knightfall‘s second episode, called ‘Find Us the Grail,’ opens with a flashback of young Landry and his mentor Godfrey (Sam Hazeldine) watching over the body of a dead Templar. Not only does this tragically tie back to Landry (Tom Cullen) presently losing his father figure, but the scene has great thematic importance. Death is but a passing for a man of faith, and loved ones wait on the other side. But what to do in the meantime? Search for holy relics and play at palace intrigue, it seems.

In the present, Landry takes leave of King Philip (Ed Stoppard) in order to preside over Pope Boniface’s (played by the delightful Jim Carter) arrival in Paris. But before he goes, he sets a date with the lovely Queen Joan (Olivia Ross) to meet in the evening. Their affair gets much less play in this week’s episode – but it does do a lot for Joan’s characterization, which I’ll discuss in a moment. When the Pope does arrive, he asks after Godfrey’s death but it’s evident that he’s more interested in the glass that confirms the Holy Grail is in France. In the hopes of recovering the grail, Boniface appoints Landry as master of the Paris Temple despite the young man’s protests. He is tasked with the episode’s title when the Pope commands him to “Find us the grail.” The music in Knightfall is especially poignant and well-placed here, emphasizing the weight and importance of our hero’s mission.

Hating the main character has never ended well.

Unfortunately, the search for Godfrey’s body does not live up to the expectations set by the scene described above. Rather, it serves more as a way to bring young Parsifal (Bobby Schofield) into the fold of the Templars and to ultimately set Gawain (Pádraic Delaney) on the path to betraying his fellow Templars. Cullen acquits himself well in the fight scenes against the highwaymen who murdered his mentor, but the mystery behind why a man named Roland wanted Godfrey dead and the Grail found has not yet come together in a satisfying way. On the other hand, there is some satisfaction to be found in Parsifal using a cross to stab the scoundrel who killed his beloved Marie – but that scene does not ease the sting of another female character being raped and killed solely for a man’s pain. Especially not in a universe such as Knightfall‘s, where women are already so scarce to begin with.

However, the scene in which Landry asks Parsival to join the Templars is quite touching, especially when it directly calls back to the opening moments of ‘Find Us the Grail.’ The romance between Parsival and Marie was explored well enough in the first episode that it hits home when Landry reminds him that she’ll be waiting for him to join her in Heaven, and it makes perfect sense that Parsival might find a home with the Templars now that he has nothing else to live for. The Gawain side of things is much less developed, and really only makes him unlikable as well as provides another opportunity for the smarmy lawyer De Nogaret (Julian Ovenden) to attempt his evil machinations.

Not the face of a woman in love.

Speaking of machinations, the plot that did work remarkably well in this week’s Knightfall was the palace politics concerning Princess Isabella (Sabrina Bartlett). The young woman desperately wishes to marry Luis, the heir of Catalonia with whom she has been exchanging letters, but her father has been counseled by none other than De Nogaret that Edward of England would be a better option. We see in their first scene together how quick Philip is to turn from amiable and kind-hearted to bitter and raging when he demands that Isabella acquiesce to his preference for her marriage prospects. Joan, on the other hand, clearly supports the union between Isabella and Luis – and intimates that the prince of France is more into men. The battle between the ambassadors for the princess’ hand is a humorous scene, but the real meat of the story comes when Philip ropes Pope Boniface into making the final decision on the Lord’s behalf.

Not only is it a treat to watch the Pope go head to head with De Nougaret, mostly because it is easiest to stomach such an obvious villain when he’s in the presence of someone who knows the game he’s playing, but it’s also a window into Joan’s soul. In a beautiful moment of confession, the Queen lays out exactly why she wants her daughter to marry Luis: she cannot allow her to suffer the same marital misery that she herself has. She nearly tells Boniface about her affair with Landry to prove her point, but the Pope wisely cautions her against revealing herself. She showcases both her frailty and her strength in this scene, which is not something that women are always afforded in male-dominated stories.

Of course, De Nougaret cannot allow his carefully laid British plans to go to waste, so he arranges for the Pope’s assassination. If you don’t know your history (and I certainly don’t in this case), Boniface making it out alive is one of ‘Find Us the Grail’s’ most surprising and enjoyable sequences. Though the happy ending in this episode may be marred later on by historical facts, specifically regarding who Isabella does wind up marrying, this plot is incredibly entertaining and helps establish Philip, Joan, and Boniface as multifaceted personalities outside of their connections to Landry.

‘Find Us the Grail’ ends with the Templars cutting Godfrey’s body open and finding a literal key that can be assumed will take us to the holy relic in question. This discovery leaves Joan stranded without her lover for the night, but Knightfall has not yet done enough work for that romance to seem important to Landry. Perhaps the more tragic part is how much it means to Joan herself.