What have you been watching? Including Knightfall, Travelers, No Activity and Mr Robot

Knightfall

It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend anything you’ve been watching this week

So much TV, so little time, particularly if you’re stranded in Germany, queuing for three hours to arrange a new flight home and then get a stomach bug on top of a cold. Grrr.

There are also too many boxsets for me to take in: I’m still only on episode 3 of Dark, and I’ve seasons 2 of Professor T, The Crown and Babylon Berlin to hit up, as well as seasons 1 of Godless and She’s Gotta Have It; there’s more due out this week, too, including season 3 of The Tunnel and season 1 of Jean Claude Van Johnson. What should I watch, hey, pop-pickers?

Still, I did manage to watch the first episode of Happy! (US: Syfy), as well as of Knightfall (US: History; UK: History UK), which I’ll discuss after the jump.

Also after the jump, the remaining regulars: Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Marvel’s Runaways, Mr Robot, No Activity and a double-helping of Travelers as Showcase in Canada tries to get the finale out before Christmas and Netflix starts airing it in the rest of the world. One of these is for the chop, best beloved, two are about to walk the plank, but which will it be?

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Knightfall

Knightfall 

In the US: Wednesdays, 10/9c, History
In the UK: Acquired by History UK. Will air in 2018

There was a time when people watched the History Channel to get educated about history. Halcyon days. It was probably about the time that the channel started trying to sensationalise things with documentaries about whether JFK was killed by aliens (Ed: he wasn’t) that that stopped, so History started to branch out into dramas with a vaguely educative quality. Vikings was a winner at first, but the less said about Six the better.

Now we have Knightfall, which ostensibly is all about the Knights Templar, the military band of monks whom you may know from such classic wars as the the Second Crusade (1147–1149) and the Third Crusade (1189–1192). Is that plot enough for History these days? Hell no. Because…

The Knights Templar were the most powerful, wealthy and mysterious military order of the Middle Ages, entrusted with protecting Christianity’s most prized relic – the Holy Grail – and harboring secrets capable of great destruction.

Knightfall goes deep into the clandestine world of this legendary brotherhood of warrior monks. From their battles in the Holy Land, to their complex relationship with the King of France, to the betrayal that would ultimately lead to their tragic dissolution, the story of the Knights Templar has never been fully told until now.

Yep, the Holy Grail. “Has never been fully told until now”? It’s not history then, is it, because if it were, it would have been in books and thus told. So this is stuff they’ve made up.

That minor niggle to one side, Knightfall isn’t atrocious, strangely enough. Instead, it’s more an odd combination of Vikings and Six, with just a hint of Dan Brown and the feel of one of those 1950s ITC shows, like Sir Lancelot or Ivanhoe with a bunch of mates dressed up in chainmail and having spiffing adventures. It starts during the siege of Acre (1291), with the Muslim hordes (for indeed the show does indeed depict them as such, to its discredit) turfing the Knights out of town with the help of some great betrayer. In the process, the Templars’ most venerated possession, the Holy Grail, gets lost at sea.

Fast forward 15 years to Paris and the Templars are moping around, complaining that no one’s paying off their loans. The Jews are being persecuted, which aggrieves 2IC Tom Cullen (Guy Fawkes in Gunpowder), but head honcho Sam Hazeldine doesn’t want to involve the order. He’s probably right as it’s being organised by one of the king’s advisors (Julian Ovenden). But then, revealed in a secret hiding place is a clue to the location of the Holy Grail!

The show tries hard on a budget that’s just a tad lower than it needs to be to pull all of this off. The CGI-ed Dubrovnik used to depict Acre is about 75% convincing, there are too many times when people are roaming around Paris or the Parisian countryside when it’s blindingly obvious it’s Eastern Europe, and although exec producer Jeremy Renner (yes, that one) is due to guest at some point, the regular cast are the usual jobbing Brit actors that fancied appearing in something American while staying in Europe for a change.

But it’s quite fun, tossing a load of pretty decent swordfights and cavalry charges at the viewer’s general direction every time there’s a lull. There’s a certain pleasing “hail fellow well met!” to the dialogue, as everyone rushes around in a vaguely matey way, like it’s one step away from being Saturday teatime viewing – although there are a few too many CGI crossbow bolts and blood spurts for that to ever happen. The inclusion of the Holy Grail is bonkers but lifts the show from something sub-Vikings into a more entertaining action-adventure fantasy show. There’s even a trusty peasant boy hanging around for viewer identification.

It’s not going to win awards, make careers, teach you much you didn’t know about medieval Europe already or tax your mental capacities in any way. It’s also liable to provide you with a lot of misinformation about history. But Knightfall is at least a fun old piece of nonsense with a sturdy and plausible cast that The Musketeers could have learnt a lesson or two from.

Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending

Marvel’s Runaways (US: Hulu)

1×6 – Metamorphosis

Not quite as cool-filled as last week’s episode, but more a continued filling out of backstory and motivations, including a flashback to how some of the parents became involved in Pure Evil. The depiction of Gert’s SJW persona is hugely clumsy, annoying and reactionary, so I wished they’d dial that back, mind. Still, Julian McMahon getting to be sexy evil reminds me of Charmed when it was occasionally good, so the show’s still a winner.

Episode reviews: 1-4

No Activity (US: Hulu)

1×5 – Golden Age of Tunnels

And I’m out. With Patrick Brammall not writing this episode, it seems the show is basically just quite dull or sexually crude dialogue that’s not even slightly funny. I couldn’t even make it to the end of the episode, I was so bored.

However, there was one good scene where Darren Gilshenan from the original Australian No Activity turned up, pretending to be an American pretending to be an Australian and everyone criticised his accent and tried to do better ones. Except they were worse. Hilares, right?

Episode reviews: 1-3

SEAL Team (US: CBS; UK: Sky1)

1×9 – Rolling Dark

Odd how similar shows can end up having nearly identical episodes. This week, our team has to go behind enemy lines in China to get to a target before their opposite numbers in the Russian special forces (and the Chinese) get there first. If that rings a bell, it’s because it was the plot of The Brave‘s Stealth just a few weeks ago.

Comparisons are interesting: Rolling Dark is more accurate and grunt-centric than Stealth, with long conversations about the different divisions of Spetsnaz that Stealth glossed over; Stealth was more action-packed and gave the Chinese more credit, with the Chinese infantry not even being allowed night-vision in Rolling Dark, although Rolling Dark was overall more convincing militarily. Rolling Dark was also stupider, positing that the Chinese-Russian-Afghanistan border in the middle of nowhere would have a sign saying that in English.

But actually, both episodes were good and had their merits, so horses for courses really.

Episode reviews: 1, 3

Recommended shows

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (US: BBC America; UK: Netflix)

2×9 – Trouble is Bad

Sigh. This really hasn’t been a great season in retrospect. It’s just been a lot of running around, Dirk’s been either depressed or reacting rather than instigating. It feels like Max Landis had a good idea that he then left other people to put into practice and they took the word ‘holistic’ to mean lots of hugging and being life-affirming. Still, the idea of a holistic actress was quite fun and John Hannah had a laugh. But if it doesn’t pick up massively in the finale, I might give it a rest if there’s a third season.

Episode reviewsFirst episodethird episode

Mr Robot (US: USA; UK: Amazon)

3×9 – eps3.8_stage3.torrent

I’m really feeling a bit bored of Mr Robot now. It’s starting to feel like a chore, watching it. Has it really been nine episodes of Elliot trying to launch a Stage 3? Nine episodes? FFS. No amount of 80s references and synth music can cover that up. Come on guys. Get on with it. Oh wait, there’s only one episode left this season. Season’s end might result in a cull if it’s no good…

Episode reviewsFirst episodethird episode

Travelers (Canada: Showcase; UK: Netflix)

2×9 – Update – 2×10 – 21C

Two very interesting episodes that expand the general Traveler mythos and rules. The first is once again a play on the question of what you should do if you know the future and the burden that that places on you, making it a great character piece all round. The second not only builds on Marcie’s back story in unexpected ways but finally taps back into Enrico Colantoni’s story. Clever moments, emotional moments, funny moments – basically, Travelers.

Episode reviews: First episodethird episode