History has made a splash in the scripted television fray with Vikings. Now, it looks to capitalize on that momentum and the embrace of genre television to carve out a lucrative spot in the hearts of sword-and-sandal saga devotees. The topic this time? The legendary Knights Templar. Knightfall is historical fiction meets Game of Thrones-vibes meets the fascination of a clandestine organization.
Done properly, that sounds like a recipe for satisfying television. History has experience on their side as well, plus a cast that practically constitutes a Downton Abbey reunion — two of Lady Mary’s post-Matthew suitors — Antony Gillingham and Charles Blake — turn up in significant roles. Tom Cullen leads the cast as Landry, a Templar Knight on a Grail quest and Julian Ovenden serves as a lawyer who sits at the right hand of the Pope, brought to life by none other than Jim Carter, formerly the most beloved butler in all the land. And theirs aren’t the only familiar faces. If you’ve watched The Crown, War and Peace or DaVinci’s Demons, you might have some moments of deja vu.
Do all of these elements add up to must-see tv? Only time will tell. A glimpse at the first episode reveals that Knightfall won’t shrink away from violence or gore, and will lean on the realities of life and culture in the 1200s to create dramatic tension. The sprawling cast suggests an ambitious scope of storytelling to come, but it seems certain that Landry’s mission (and by extension the mission of all the Templars) will dominate this narrative of the last days of the mysterious order. History promises to tell the full story of the Templars and share with the world “who these knights were, how they lived and what they believed.”
Drama, particularly historical drama, takes time to build and marinate, so the one episode taste we’ve had is but an appetizer — not nearly enough to reveal if Knightfall will achieve its ambitious aims. For now, we’re curious to see how things evolve and that’s as much as we’ll venture to say. But, if you want the opinion of someone who has seen and heard more from Landry and his band of crusading brothers, look right over here.
Meanwhile, we’re going to daydream about a future where Jeremy Renner (who serves as an executive producer on the series) dawns some armor and gets in on the action. We wouldn’t say “no” to a few more Downton Abbey vets cropping up either — sure this isn’t a swoony costume drama, but a spiritual reunion of Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson is better than no reunion at all.
Knightfall premieres on History at 10 p.m. EST on Wednesday, December 6.