Although it’s produced by the History Channel, the Knights Templar action-fest Knightfall has about as much to do with the real-life Knights Templar as “Daddy’s Lil Monster” Harley Quinn has to do with the commedia dell’arte. It’s fast-moving, vaguely entertaining nonsense about how Templar good-guy Landry loses the legendary Holy Grail after the Siege of Acre goes badly wrong, only to discover, fifteen years later, that the Master he trusted has been hiding the Grail all along so now he’s got to track it down before some very bad things happen.
En route we find out that Landry regularly breaks his vow of chastity to enjoy some special cuddling with the Queen of France (whose husband King Philip is not only oblivious to their trysts but also has no idea that his chief advisor is up to some down-and-dirty political machinations of his own), uncovers murderous treason within the Templar’s ranks, gets on the wrong side of Saracen assassins, and befriends a Luke Skywalker-lite farmboy who should never have left his fiancée at home when there are rapist bandits hiding in the woods. There’s lots of brooding, lots of sword fighting, lots of warning people not to go into bad places only to have to rescue them when they go in there anyway, lots of faux political intrigue that isn’t as devious as it wants to be, and several subplots that are vaguely promising but never actually go anywhere. Oh, and a last battle that kind of looks like a snowy version of the climax from Excalibur.
On the plus side, it all looks fairly gorgeous, it moves so fast that you don’t have time to consider how ridiculous it all is, and the performances by the lead actors - especially Tom Cullen as Landry, Padraic Delaney as Gawain and Julian Ovenden as the Sherriff of Nottingham-ish de Nogaret - are mostly very watchable.
On the minus side, Knightfall does something which is quite hard to achieve - it takes one of the most mysterious and charismatic secret societies in history and turns them into a talky ho-hum version of the Knights of the Round Table. On top of that, the endless combat and blood-letting quickly turns a bit dull as well. And in its desperate bid to join the ranks of Vikings and Black Sails with a bit of Game of Thrones, The Borgias and Da Vinci’s Demons thrown in for good measure, it tosses out any semblance of its own original identity and rapidly turns into the television equivalent of medieval tofu - pointless, flavourless, but okay to eat if you swallow it quickly and try to forget you’re eating tofu.
For a series that’s only a slight step-up from Guy Ritchie’s godawful King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, it’s mystifying that a second season has already been greenlit and that Mark Hamill has signed on to join the cast. Maybe his presence combined with a new showrunner will make Knightfall 2.0 more entertaining. We doubt we’re going to be sticking around to find out.
KNIGHTFALL / CERT: 15 / STARRING: TOM CULLEN, JULIAN OVENDEN, PADRAIC DELANEY / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW