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‘Knightfall’ review: Watchable historical drama

Jim Carter, left, and Tom Cullen star in

Jim Carter, left, and Tom Cullen star in History's "Knightfall." Photo Credit: History / Larry Horricks

THE SERIES “Knightfall”

WHEN | WHERE Premieres Wednesday at 10:01 p.m. on History

WHAT IT’S ABOUT In 1291, Acre — now in northern Israel — fell to Muslim attackers, ending the Crusaders’ control of the city, and within a few years, they would be forced out of the Holy Land too. The Knights Templar — or the Templar — were a Catholic military order that had also been forced out of the city. That’s where this 10-parter picks up. Then, just as the forces withdraw, the Holy Grail — or the chalice that Christ drank from at the Last Supper — is lost. Years later, Landry (Tom Cullen) sets out on a quest to find the Grail again. He has support from King Philip of France (Ed Stoppard), and a little more support from the queen, Joan (Olivia Ross). Landry has enemies, too, notably a confidant of the king, William de Nogaret (Julian Ovenden), but he has an especially powerful supporter in Pope Boniface VIII (Jim Carter). Then, there are his stout friends, Parsifal (Bobby Schofield) and Gawain (Pádraic Delaney). 

MY SAY The Holy Grail would probably turn itself in if it knew how many movies have been looking for it all these years. In recent times, Monty Python started the quest back in the ’70s, then Indiana Jones picked up the chase from there. Anything to do with King Arthur has had a Grail plotline. What’s missing in all of this, besides — of course — the actual Grail: some real history.

 How much “real” history there is in “Knightfall” and how much hooey is something we’ll leave to the Templar experts. Clearly, the hooey flows in abundance, but that shouldn’t be too much of a hindrance. Fans of History’s “Vikings” don’t come to learn of the intricacies of 10th century Norse ethnography. They come for the blood and sex. “Knightfall” has lots of blood, while the first sex scene arrives midway in the pilot. The series blew most of its budget on the first five wild blood-soaked minutes of the siege of Acre so be sure to savor those. 

But what’s especially interesting here is that history — such as it is. The Templars were indeed a powerful and feared military strike force during the Crusades. They did indeed have close relations with the King of France — until they did not. They did (indeed) claim to have the Holy Grail, which they presumably hid. At least over the first three episodes, “Knightfall” sticks to the record, with some fanciful detours to keep the action moving.

The cast is good, the fight scenes prolific, the overall lifting not heavy. Grailies among you could do worse.

BOTTOM LINE With lots of blood, some hooey, and even some history, this appears to be a decent — and watchable — period drama. 

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