REVIEW: Knightfall, S1E8 – IV

Knightfall‘s myriad conflicts all intensify in “IV,” which refers to the largest mystery of the show’s first season: who ordered Godfrey’s death? In answering that question, the show sets the stage for what is sure to be an epic battle in the finale. But there are other plots that must be dealt with first, and they each take rather unexpected turns.

Avoiding bloodshed by shedding blood.

Joan (Olivia Ross) is in a standoff with her cousin Elena, and both women display remarkable grit. But it is Joan who is thrown off her game most, when she learns that not only has Phillip refused refused to send reinforcements, but the people of Navarre refuse to fight for her because they don’t see her as their Queen. This means that it’s up to her alone to figure out a way to turn the situation around, and ironically she gets her chance once Elena presents her with an impossible Sophie’s Choice situation.

Still grief-stricken over Luis’ death, Elena is convinced that Isabella was responsible for his death – and we know she’s right. One thing “IV” handles very well this week is the shades of grey in characters that should normally be deemed antagonists, as well as the reversals from characters expected to be heroes. As vile as it is for Elena to demand the death of one of Joan’s children, she is also defending her own child as any mother mad with power and pain might. Even more surprising was Joan’s response, as she eventually picks Isabella to die over her unborn son with Landry. Whether she planned all along to get out of the choice or not, making that declaration at all still opens up a new and darker side to her.

She takes it a step further, convincing Elena to let her guard (and her knife) down in order to mourn the loss of Luis together. Just as she’s lulled her cousin into a false sense of security over shared blood, she spills that very same blood by stabbing Elena with the knife and ending her life. The red stains on her nearly white gown are as arresting as they are symbolic, but they also send a clear message to the people of both Navarre and Catalonia. Joan is a woman strong enough to fight and kill for herself, and so she manages to broker a peace and be reinstated as Queen of Navarre in spirit as well as name. As thrilling as this was as a viewer of Knightfall, I couldn’t help but feel it stretched credulity a bit. Elena may have been unpopular, but was there really no one willing to take a stand against flat out murder? The character’s – if not the show’s – naivete also came crashing back when Joan declared that she would be bringing her daughter back to Navarre with her in order to gain independence from her husband and from France, and she hoped Landry would join her. If this were a fantasy, I would merely cheer, but in a historical drama I worry very much about how that will turn out for her.

Guess De Nogaret can be sincere sometimes…

As for her husband, Philip (Ed Stoppard) finally learns the truth about her affair from De Nogaret (Julian Ovenden). And while normally I would accuse the Keeper of the Seals from being nosy and cruel once more, “IV” is the first time it feels like he is truly on the King’s side. He starts off the episode in search of mercenaries with which to battle the Pope’s soldiers – more on that later – and his desire to reveal the affair stems from a real fear for Philip’s safety and his position in the land. Regardless of how right he is, and there’s quite a bit of truth in his theories, it is his intentions that are most intriguing on this week’s Knightfall.

Because Philip loves Landry as a brother, he cannot believe that he would be a traitor either as a man or a Templar. Thankfully that loyalty buys some time, even if it makes the King almost as naive as his Queen. But he’s also not willing to leave himself defenseless, and thus hands over the money De Nogaret needs to rally an army of mercenaries. De Nogaret in turn says he hopes he’s wrong about the Pope and about Joan, and I actually believe him. It seems the good faith and friendship between these two men is tentatively restored, but Philip’s relationships with Landry and Joan will certainly suffer and a huge blow in the process. And what of France at large? Is war about to tear it apart, despite Navarre avoiding disaster?

The reason the crown is plotting against the Templars stems from the title of the episode, “IV” and its role in the largest plot of the night. Landry (Tom Cullen) returns with the Holy Grail, and prepares to hand it over to Pope Boniface (Jim Carter) despite the pleas of both his mother and Rashid. But when Parsifal’s murderer reveals the contents of the note in order to cover his own tracks and leave the Templars defenseless, he also unwittingly sets off the chain of events that wisens Landry up to what happening under his nose.

Boniface arrives after the majority of the Templars have gone on a wild goose chase in search of Parsifal, and he is ecstatic over the Grail and the fresh Crusade he has in store. But Landry has had a change of heart, and wants no more bloodshed. Perhaps it is this new clear-sighted perspective, partially inspired by the Brotherhood of the Light, that helps him connect the roman numerals on the guard men’s collars to Roland. Upon realizing that Roland was the IV in the Pope’s Guard, he immediately confronts Boniface with the few remaining men he has left. Once the Pope gleefully admits he had Godfrey killed for refusing to turn the Grail over to the Church, a bloody fight breaks out and Landry loses the Grail almost as quickly as he recovered it.

He and Rashid still acquit themselves well – and even his mother is quite good with a bow and arrow – but tragically Rashid dies in the process and his final cryptic words herald the biggest surprise of the night. “Forgive me,” he says. “It suited me to let you think he would die.” And with that, Landry turns around to find that his friend Tancrede (Simon Merrells) is alive and now a Borther of the Light himself. Hopefully these two groups can stand together against the corruption of the Church in the weeks to come.