REVIEW: Knightfall, S1E6 – The Pilgrimage of Chains

The quest for the Holy Grail is set into rapid motion on this week’s Knightfall, and ‘The Pilgrimage of Chains’ shuttles between Landry’s (Tom Cullen) crisis of faith and De Nogaret’s  (Julian Ovenden) brush with failure. While the stakes are high and the Templar plot has never been more compelling, the palace plot for once wears a little thin.

Adelina (Sarah-Sofie Boussnina) actually kicks off the action by going after Roland and turning the tables on him so that he winds up arrested and sent to the very Templars who have been looking for him since the premiere. It’s a nice way to tie up her story (for now) and open up avenues for the rest. Parsifal (Bobby Schofield) and she share a bittersweet farewell that borders on romantic, but she leaves with him a mysterious note that was meant for Roland rather than a kiss.

Landry is not having the best week.

Landry, meanwhile, appears dehydrated and exhausted the next morning after being set free by the Brotherhood of Light. He recovers enough to beat Roland senseless and expel Tancrede (Simon Merrells) in a fit of rage, but Landry’s Templar brothers can tell something significant happened to him while he was kidnapped. And they were very much right, given the immediate awkward transition to a set of excruciating flashbacks.

Locked in a box that quickly fills with water, Landry prays for God’s forgiveness. It is a harrowing sequence that is reminiscent of even modern-day torture methods, especially when Rashid pressures Landry into revealing personal details that may unlock the scroll. When the Templar refuses to so much as say his mother’s name for fear of betraying his people, the water is replaced by flames and his captivity grows that much more uncomfortable.

Rashid knows that Joan (Olivia Ross) is with child and uses this against Landry in a moment that does more to express his love for her than any of their scenes together thus far. His mental conversation with her is interrupted by another member of the Brotherhood helping him escape, revealing that he met Landry in the dunes as a boy. This time the story is that the scroll requires Landry’s place of birth, but our hero is ready to fight the trap rather than give into it.

Godfrey’s legacy becomes even more tarnished in ‘The Pilgrimage of Chains,’ and Knightfall takes every opportunity to assault Landry with the knowledge of his mentor’s betrayals. The fact that Godfrey allowed thousands to be killed in order to save humanity in the hypothetical may very well be responsible for Landry’s emotional break this episode. He is given a test before he can gain access to the Grail’s location: deliver Tancrede to the Saracens. Cullen plays the struggle within Landry beautifully, and in the end he makes the choice to save Tancrede through banishment rather than let him be killed. This brings us back to the start of ‘The Pilgrimage of Chains,’ and all of his actions make much more sense in retrospect.

Refusing to be a traitor like Godfrey, Landry offers himself up to Brotherhood before Tancrede shows up to do the same thing. The back and forth is a little melodramatic, but the bond of brotherhood between them runs deep and is showcased nicely in ‘The Pilgrimage of Chains.’ In exchange for Tancrede’s surrender, Landry learns that he must go back to the place he met Godfrey in order to begin to the true quest for the Grail.

A whole new level of creepy uncle.

The rest of this week’s Knightfall was devoted once more to De Nogaret’s machinations. A large swath of the English Ambassador’s court members are being executed for his supposed crimes, which affects Isabella (Sabrina Bartlett) more than murdering her betrothed did. Due to his plotting, De Nogaret is at the peak of his political career, which of course means it’s time for it all to come crashing down. A complication appears in the form of his uncle, who arrives to discuss getting rid of the Pope and taking the Grail for themselves. At first it seems like he’s just there to add even more backstory to De Nogaret’s avarice (something ‘The Pilgrimage of Chains’ goes a little bit overboard on), but he serves a vital role at the climax.

It is Isabella who winds up being the most interesting cog in Knightfall‘s palace plot this week, though, when her mood swings as dramatically as only a teenager’s can. Now that the adrenaline of having pulled off such a plot has worn off, she sees the situation more clearly and quite cleverly realizes that her dear ‘uncle’ payed her like a fiddle. Not only that, but the discovery of his precious peephole makes her take the logical (and horrifying) leap that De Nogaret has seen her as a sexual object rather than a young girl in his care for far too long. She then takes a delightfully bold action and accuses him of treason in front of the entire court.

To his credit, Philip (Ed Stoppard) believes his daughter. A few barbed words lead to a fist fight the likes of which I did not expect the King of France to partake in, but it’s nothing compared to the disgust in Isabella’s voice when she confronts De Nogaret in his cell. “You don’t believe in God,” she spits when he swears to the Lord that he had no lascivious thoughts about her. It is a satisfying moment, but one that cannot last if history is any indication.

And last it does not. De Nogaret is dragged to his execution with Isabella’s cold gaze watching him, but his uncle spares him at the last minute and the two run off. It would have been anticlimactic (and historically inaccurate) to lose him this early, but I must admit to feeling a twinge of disappointment when he survived. Thankfully, Knightfall has kicked the quest for the Grail into high gear with ‘The Pilgrimage of Chains’ so the palace story stalling stings less.