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TV Review: The Bastard Executioner

So here is what Bastard Execution and Game of Thrones have in common.

  • Lots of politics
  • Lots of blood and gore
  • Sex
  • Exposition

Here is what they don’t have in common

  • White walkers
  • The Mother of Dragons
  • The Wall
  • Fully nude sex vs hints of sex

There is probably more but I just wanted to get that out of the way. Kurt Sutter’s, (late of The Sons of Anarchy) period piece has already drawn numerous comparisons to HBO’s show and for some good reason. This show is the latest in a line of medieval period pieces where blood, guts and arse are plentiful, but can it last?

The not so simple plot is this: In 14th Century Wales, a village of farmers has gotten tired of having to pay constant tithes to their English overlords. Wait, slow down, let’s go back a bit. Wilkin Brattle (Lee Jones) is a former soldier who is one of the farmers in the village who just also seems to suffer from PTSD and vows to become a faithful servant of God and never pick up the blade again. Still with me? Ok…so Wilkin and his band of friends decide to hunt down one of the baron’s tax collectors and send him a message. If you heard this one before, stop me.

The baron Erik Ventris (Brian O’Byrne) retaliates by slaughtering the entire village.   Everyone, the children, the women…if it moved he killed it and then left all of the bodies in a pile for the menfolk to see.

So, you’re wondering where the executioner part comes in?   Hang on, I am getting to that! When the baron’s soldiers came calling, the menfolk of the village was out killing the tax collector’s men, thus the baron’s men had an easy time slaughtering the village. However, the baron’s executioner was killed during the attack. So somewhere along the line, when Wilkin and his friends return to find their loved ones killed, they devise a plan to take on the executioner’s identity and make their way into the Baron’s court for revenge.

Where does the bastard part play into this? Just watch and find out, as it’s easily explained.

In many ways, this show could be a medieval version of Sons of Anarchy. There is lots of violence, morally questionable rebels (one of the villagers is into beastiality by the way), a morally corrupt ruler with a wife, Baroness Lady Love Ventris (Flora Spencer-Longhurst) who seems like she has the common sense that he doesn’t have and more because she is sympathetic to the villagers. And of course Kurt Sutter is here playing a mute while Katey Sagal plays a witch who acts as a mentor and moral compass for Wilkin.

This is one of those shows that really needs a bit of time to grow but I also felt as if 2 hrs was a bit too much time for the premier to really get going. I understand that sometimes TV producers want to build up audiences with a big premier but realistically speaking this first episode could have been culled down to about an hour. The only other thing I didn’t like was trying to understand how Wilkin, who saw an angel on the battlefield and vowed not to raise a sword, not only does so after seeing his dead wife and unborn child splayed open, but also decides to take up the role of executioner…then again, that may have been motivation enough. After all, Sagal’s character, Annora, keeps telling Wilkin he has a destiny he needs to face and he can’t deny who he is.

Although it sounds like I may be coming down on The Bastard Executioner, this show needs time to mature. As always, I give shows like this a 3 to 4 episode look before I decide if I should let it go. The first episode, while long, kept me interested enough that I want to see more. In many ways, it’s a lot more grounded than Game of Thrones because it’s based on a real world setting but the only difference is as of now, there isn’t a whole lot of high stakes political intrigue as of yet. It’s more of the little guys vs big business and the little guys have an in.

If this pans out, this may be a show that gives fans of these types of period pieces a good slow drip of medieval drama until the next round of What’s Good in Westeros comes along. I am a bit on the fence about it but I am hoping it gets better.

2.75 Rolling heads out of 5

About Armand (1270 Articles)
Armand is a husband, father, and life long comics fan. A devoted fan of Batman and the Valiant Universe he loves writing for PCU, when he's not running his mouth on the PCU podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @armandmhill

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