Given the huge success of Vikings, it was only a matter of time until America’s History channel delved into the past once more to find inspiration for another series combining bloody violence, (some) historical fact and compelling characters. They’ve come up with the goods once more in Knightfall, which delivered the third best cable drama debut of last year for the network - and it's scheduled to air on SBS from 1 February.
Here's a taste...
It’s set during the Middle Ages
Mostly taking place in the early 14th century, Knightfall follows the decline of the Knights Templar – i.e. the fall of the knights – as they try to track down the Holy Grail in France. The Christian order had suffered a massive blow when it was ousted from Jerusalem at the end of the 13th century and, with questions rising about their purpose following the end of the Crusades, the mission is latched onto as a way to regain relevance. It’s a story packed with all the swordplay, religious intrigue and political manoeuvring you could want from a premium historical drama.
Half the cast of Downton Abbey are in it
OK, that’s a slight exaggeration, but two of the main characters are played by actors who once vied for Lady Mary’s (Michelle Dockery) affections in the British period drama. Tom Cullen (Downton’s Lord Gillingham) stars as Landry, a man who’s pretty bummed out about the knights’ failure in the Holy Land but jumps at the chance to find the Grail, while Julian Ovenden (Charles Blake in Downton) plays William de Nogaret, an adviser to King Philip IV of France (Ed Stoppard). And Mr Carson himself (actor Jim Carter) brings all his gravitas to the role of Pope Boniface VIII.
Where are the women?
While the Knights Templar were an all-male affair, two female figures from history will loom large in Knightfall: Queen Joan of France (Oliva Ross) and her daughter, Princess Isabella (Sabrina Bartlett). Ross describes the queen as “a medieval feminist icon [who] like so many female leaders of the past, tend to be underwritten by history.” She also rocks some awesome Princess Leia-ish hairstyles in the trailer.
It might end up featuring a certain Avenger
One of the producers behind Knightfall is Jeremy Renner, who’s rumoured to be making an appearance in the 10-episode drama and says the series is right up his alley. “When I was a kid, it was cowboys and knights,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “But even when I was a struggling actor, I collected knight swords — who knows what I thought I was doing.” Guess they’ll be coming in handy about now.
Knightfall premieres Thursday 1 February at 8.30pm on SBS and continues Thursdays at 9.30pm. SBS On Demand will have a sneak preview of episode one available from 25 January. Then, all episodes will be available after broadcast anytime, anywhere, for free via SBS On Demand.