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Scratch that Game of Thrones itch with The Bastard Executioner

The Bastard Executioner

The middle of September is upon us, and with it the beginning of the fall television line-up. Sadly for us, we still have—at the very least—seven months until Game of Thrones Season 6 debuts, so until then, we have to find a fix to satisfy for our weekly Westeros jones. With that in mind, I have been looking forward to the premier of the FX Network’s The Bastard Executioner ever since I saw the first promo for the show at the end of The Sons of Anarchy.

Having been a fan of Kurt Sutter’s violent, dark and gritty storytelling since his days as a staff writer on The Shield and all the way through every season of the aforementioned Sons, I was excited to see his take on the medieval period piece, something made more popular by the success of Game of Thrones.

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As it began, my first thoughts on the show were that I was watching a sequel to my all-time favorite movie, Mel Gibson’s Braveheart. As the show is set directly after the death of King Edward I (aka “Longshanks”), it might as well be.

To be honest, I almost turned the channel off in the first 10 minutes of the show, because it just did not feel like a Kurt Sutter masterpiece. From the trippy dream sequence fight between main character Wilkin and the Scottish militants where he is stabbed (but not stabbed?) to the naked angel walking through the battle to the demon dragon rising from the chest of his dead friend, I felt like I was watching that cheap Dungeons & Dragons movie, and I kept waiting for Marlon Wayans to jump out and say something stupid.

But then, in true mad-genius Kurt Sutter style, it started to get good. You have to get through the setup in order to be knocked out…and Sutter definitely delivered the knockout.  The more the two-hour premiere went on, the more riveting it became.

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It started with the slaughter of Wilkin’s wife and unborn child, along with the other members of their village. I thought I’d become desensitized to Sutter’s proclivity for violence during the seven season run of Sons of Anarchy, but this scene pushed things. It wasn’t enough for The Bastard Executioner to slice open the pregnant woman’s belly—it had to have the villain dab the unborn infant’s blood on the mother’s forehead, and then later display both mother and infant out in the open for the world to see. Yes, Game of Thrones stabbed a pregnant woman at the Red Wedding, but it never pulled out the fetus and played a morbid game of position the dead baby.

The resolution of the episode surprised me. The villain, Baron Erik Ventris (Brian F. O’Byrne), gets his comeuppance before the credits role, as do a few minor nasties along the way. And now a new villain has risen to take the Baron’s place: his right-hand man Milus Corbett (True Blood star Stephen Moyer), a shrewd, sinister individual with aspirations to rise above his given station in life.

Our heroes, in true Kurt Sutter fashion, are flawed. Much like Vic Mackey from The Shield, or Jax Teller from Sons of Anarchy, Wilkin Brattle (played by newcomer Lee Jones) has his demons. He was a knight in service to Longshanks, and he killed the Scots in the name of his King. Now, as the Bastard Executioner, he must overcome challenges and fulfill whatever prophetic dream he had during his last battle while dealing with visions of his dead wife and unborn child, as well as with a mystic healer named Annora (Katey Sagal—Sutter’s wife and Sons alum) and her mute companion (Sutter himself, who’s been known to throw himself into his own show from time to time—see Otto in Sons).

So, if you haven’t watched The Bastard Executioner, and you’re reading this article, wondering if you should dedicate two hours of your valuable time to watching a show that isn’t Game of Thrones, here’s my advice to you: do it. The Bastard Executioner is a complex slow-burn of a story that unfolds in surprising turns. It has just the right amount of sword and board action to keep Game of Thrones fans happy, and just the right amount of Kurt Sutter darkness and edge to keep his fans happy. Watch. This. Show.

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22 Comments

  • Thanks Razor,

    I’ve been waiting for this show since I heard Katey Segal would be involved… Even though she will always be Peg Bundy in my heart!

  • I’m glad someone liked it. I found the first episode to be an absolutely awful slog to put it kindly and I stopped. If the reviews improve substantially by the end of the season, I might give it another shot, but for now this goes into my fiasco folder.

      • It’s so bad, I’m not sure how it even got past a screening team. The acting is awful, the writing is honestly crap, and there’s a Melisandre rip-off who was a Romanian(?) accent, but it wavers so much I can’t tell.

        • It is slow for sure. But I won’t base the series on the slow introduction. Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad both had slow starts but are amazing. Hell, even Vikings had a slow start…so I have faith that it will pick up. Fingers crossed

  • Meh. It’s Sutter. This is what he does and it wasn’t a surprise at the amount of gore shown just for gory damned sake.

    I loved SOA for many reasons that excluded the acting of the main character, so I guess I’ll give this a good few episodes before moving on. The Baroness stole the show, imo.

  • I will give this around 4 episodes before I decide, it does have some interesting plots happening, however, I was initially really turned off by it. Let me explain, in the first 5 minutes we had; a horrible makeup team, a teen Khaleesi look alike, a cgi dorky dragon and a bent sword malfunction. I must also mention here the gratuitous guts and gore and not the good Sparticus type. We’ll see what happens…..I heard SOA was great, so I will give it a couple episodes to see if there are improvements.

  • The Last Kingdom TV show that premiers on 10th october on BBC America, based on Bernard Cornwell’s series Saxon Stories a.k.a. Warriors Chronicles may be something to(atleast partialy) fill in the blank between 5th and 6th GoT season in my opinion… the topics that covers are somewhat similar but it’s not as grand as GoT or Asoiaf… also it has the connections with Vikings TV series but treats that period and events that happened with more historical accuracy…
    the only problem is that with casting, trailer and some other things it doesn’t look so promising -.-
    PS. Whatever happens the books are atleast worthy of reading, also give chance to a The Warlord Chronicles the earlier series of the same author that is based on Arthurian legend with the addition of historical events that happened around that time… to be the honest it would have been better by my opinion that The Warlord Chronicles got an adaptation given the characters, background and the fact that the series is completed and that it has interesting twists and plot…

  • Sons of Anarchy was Days of Our Lives on motorcycles blended up with a bunch of violence. It was very stupid for the most part and makes it very hard for me to even consider watching another show that this hack created.

  • I feel like the show has promise, but I am not blown away. I feel like Sutter is a bit out of his element in this genre. He needs to consult with people who have successfully done things like this before because there are just a few too many things that just feel like genre stereotypes, from the dialog and accents, to many of the characters (outside the executioner himself). Game of Thrones was so good largely partly it defied so many of these stereotypes.

  • Terrible show. A jumbled mess. I couldn’t get through the pilot and kept changing the channel. I settled on watching re-run episodes of “Person Of Interest” instead…

    Yep “The Bastard Executioner” sucks donkey balls…