The Bastard Executioner Series Premiere Review (Season 1 Episodes 1 & 2)

The Bastard Executioner Pilot
I am a huge fan of Kurt Sutter’s work, so I was thrilled to learn that he already had another series in the works, The Bastard Executioner, before Jax Teller and SAMCRO took their final ride of the series. I’m still holding out hope for a Sons of Anarchy prequel and I’m definitely intrigued by the rumors of a Mayans spin-off. For now, however, I will follow the story of Wilkin Brattle and his journey to make a few course corrections in the world.

Although most of the faces are new and we’ve left modern day Charming, California for 14th Century Wales, I definitely picked up on some of the common themes previously explored via Jackson Teller. Like Jax, Wilkin is a man who is trying to make the best out of a less than charmed life. His resolve to be peaceful unravels when Wilkin pays the price for his role in leading a group of bandits to attack English emissaries. One of the emissaries, the over-the-top Baron Ventrils discovers where the bandits live and has Wilkin’s entire village burned to the ground. Wilkin returns to find his wife stabbed and their baby dead in a gruesome manner that does not bear repeating.

The first hour of the show was mostly set up, which is understandable. The murder of Wilkin’s family was a good turning point in the pacing of the story. I was happy to see Baron Ventrils receive his well-earned comeuppance before the conclusion of the two-hour premiere. After doling out a little vengeance on Ventrils, Wilkin takes on the identity of a traveling executioner, expecting to let the English rulers know that justice was served and to then be on his way. He gets a surprising proposition when Milus hires him as an executioner and charges him with keeping rebellious factions under control. This was a really intriguing premise and should make for an interesting series. However, I hope that we are done with exposition, which took up a large portion of the first two hours of The Bastard Executioner. Although I’m generally not a fan of 10 PM shows lasting a whopping two hours, I appreciate that F/X aired the two together. I think the audience needed to get to the end of the second hour, which was when the story picked up and the intriguing premise of Wilkin as the executioner was revealed. Had F/X only shown the first hour of the show, I would have felt entertained but the level of anticipation for next week’s episode would have been much different.

Wish List for Season 1 of The Bastard Executioner:

– No more supersized episodes! Fans of Sons of Anarchy and the final season of Justified know all too well that F/X does not shy away from 90 minute episodes. As much as I loved both shows, I rarely felt like the additional content was put to good use. For Sons of Anarchy, it usually meant a longer musical montage and more commercials. I’m guessing that on The Bastard Executioner, it will equate to more battles and more commercials. I’m all for a good battle scene, but I hope that the show runners will give us the battles within the traditional 60-minute format (plus commercials).

– Fans have been warned that the violence on Sons of Anarchy will pale in comparison to what we see on The Bastard Executioner. Given the theme of the series, that’s understandable. However, the scene with Wilkin’s baby and Petra felt gratuitous. I’m all for blood, gore and violence when it’s well done. I hope the show will find its balance and I will remember not to eat while watching.

– I want great things for Stephen Moyer! I love Moyer as an actor and I think this role will be a great opportunity for fans to see him as more than vampire Bill on True Blood. I’m really excited for what he will bring to the show and to see him in such a different role.

– It wouldn’t be a Kurt Sutter show if he didn’t find fun and unique ways to incorporate well-known actors from his previous projects into his show. I am still in awe over Walton Goggins’s brilliant guest spot on Sons of Anarchy. I can’t wait to see how Sutter finds creative ways to bring a few of our favorite “Sons” over to the world of The Bastard Executioner.

Until Next Time!

I will be doing a dual review of The Bastard Executioner this season, which means I’m checking in with the pilot and will return after the finale to discuss the season as a whole. I’d love to hear your thoughts about the show. Sound off in the comments below or come chat me up on Twitter @southernbelleva and join me for a live tweet.