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The Bastard Executioner - Pilot - Review: "You Have a Destiny"

16 Sept 2015

The Bastard Executioner - Pilot - Review

A period drama, The Bastard Executioner tells the story of a warrior knight in King Edward I’s charge who is broken by the ravages of war and vows to lay down his sword. But when that violence finds him again he is forced to pick up the bloodiest sword of all.

"I've no plan, but vengeance" Wilkin Brattle

‘Executioner’ is a tale of Wilkin Brattle as he tries to seek vengeance for his family. And like all great stories, we start at the beginning before the tragedy occurred. Sutter does a good job at making us feel for the main protagonist straight away, making us emotionally attached to him. To show us all that he had, and then have it all tragically ripped away from him is cruel and devastating, but it makes Wilkin's journey all the more intriguing. Kurt Sutter loves to focus on characters and their journeys, and that's exactly what he's begun here; not just with Wilkin, but Prichard, Berber and all the others too.
The men's tragedy is slightly avenged when they manage to lure Baron Erick Ventris into a trap, and surrounded, killed his men, and then killed him. The main villainous role will be played by Stephen Moyer so the Baron's death wasn't all that surprising, but that fight scene was bloody and brutal, and classic Kurt Sutter. You can count on one thing from this series, there's going to be a lot of blood involved.

The Baron's death opened up a tactical advantage for Wilkin, as it just so happens that one of the men with the Baron was a local Executioner heading to Castle Ventris. Returning the body of the Baron to the castle was smart and a show of good faith. Being inside the enemy lines can allow Wilkin and his friends to seek the others that were involved in the slaughter of their village. It also now ties Wilkin to those at the castle, such as the Baroness.

Speaking of the Baroness, unlike her brutal - now deceased - husband, she wants to end the bloodshed and make Wales a peaceful country. Although she never said that, there were signs of her divided loyalties throughout. Now, with Wilkin taking a new role and identity, I can definitely see her and him working together - possibly her taking his council on board when making tough decisions. They only shared a brief scene, but there was an obvious connection between them, and she seemed overjoyed to see an outsider - someone not born of privilege. That's one of the reasons I think why she's so drawn to him or at least will be.

Wilkin also made a connection with Milus Corbett, but not the good kind. Both Milus and Wilkin are clever and ambitious but hold something over the other. Corbett has elevated himself to a position of great power, but now that power is in jeopardy, so he needs to keep Wilkin on his side. This creates a wonderful story arc for both of them and a beneficial relationship. Both can use each other. Milus can use Wilkin to seek out other rebellious groups, and Wilkin can use him to learn of who else was involved in the massacre of his village. Even though Milus was there, he won't be on the kill list.

Stephen Moyer is excellent as Corbett and shows his exceptional versatility as an actor, but it was Lee Jones who stood out the most. Jones does a superb job playing Wilkin. This is the actor’s first television role and first lead role in anything. To have to step up and take on a role for a series a big as this, that not only has high expectations because of who created it, but because he's surrounded by some of televisions biggest names, requires a remarkable talent. Jones doesn't disappoint and portrays Wilkin excellently; a star in the making. Darren Evans also shines in the series as Ash, adding a bit of comic relief to the medieval period drama. He's hilarious in Galavant, and it's great to see him carry that over to this role, even if it's a more serious one.

"You have a destiny"Annora

Visions play an important role in the pilot, giving us insight to Wilkin's troubled and haunting past. He was a knight, and after he's bloodied and wounded in battle, he receives guidance from a divine messenger urging him to lay down his sword. Giving us back story on who he was before a farmer was clever, and it sets the tone for his character - especially with it coming in the opening scene. The continued use of visions throughout the pilot built up tense scenes such as the execution, but it also became a bit bothersome in others such as the church scene. There needs to be a balance.

Annora of the Alders - played brilliantly by Katy Sagal - knows of these visions Wilkin's been getting. She will play a vital role in uncovering why he's been getting them and what's the message behind them. The show's spiritual elements could be interesting, as long as it's handled right and doesn't take over the entire show. The show does also need to delve into more detail about Wilkin's supposed destiny, but also his childhood. Learning of his childhood will be important, as it will give us a better understanding of why he's so special, and how he got to become a knight. All of that mentioned though needs to not be a central focus, so that the show doesn't move too far away from the medieval aspects, such as the war with the West.

It's also obvious Brattle is an orphan, but I'd like to know why. That's important, I think. It would be a twist if one of the Dark Mute or Annora turned out to be related to him - that could explain why they're focusing so heavily on him. Annora isn't a messenger, but I just hope her knowledge of these messengers is something that will make sense. If it's not, I worry that could bring the show down.

There will be a lot of controversy surrounding the death of Wilkin's wife, as it was brutal and gruesome, but I thought it was necessary. It adds layers of mystery to the Dark Mute and also Annora. Sure, they didn't need to have The Dark Mute stab the fetus, that was a bit unnecessary, but I can see why they did include it. It adds more of an emotional effect to when Wilkin finds the child and mother if we see how both died. It also raises questions if the Dark Mute acted alone, or if he was told to kill her by Annora - who, if true, seems to be pulling all the strings. She will definitely serve an important role throughout the show's run, and I'm very excited to learn more about her. I love a show that doesn't give too much away, and adds that bit of mystery to everything. That's important for making the story compelling, but also the reveal even more shocking or surprising too.

The Bastard Executioner is everything that Kurt Sutter promised, it had blood, action, and surprising twists. Not to mention a compelling story, and a brilliant ensemble. The only fault I have - which is minor - is that some of the actresses (Sarah Sweeney and Flora Spencer-Longhurst) failed to consistently speak in an English or Welsh accent. At times, it was a bit muddled but that's only a minor fault, and I'm sure it won't be a continued problem throughout the season.

The Bastard Executioner is a riveting, but a tragic tale about Wilkin Brattle. The show may be a slow burn at times, but the compelling story and the journeys of these characters - not to mention the cast - will be enough to keep the series going. Some of the accents were a bit off for that period, but I'm sure they'll get better in time. The visions Wilkin gets can be an intriguing aspect to the show, but they need to appear at the right time, not just for the sake of adding emotion to a scene. Overall, Executioner is a gloriously bloody show with an excellent concept. Kurt Sutter makes a triumphant return to cable, in what is one of the best period dramas I've seen in recent years.

As always, thank you for reading. Let me know in the comments what you thought of the première!

About the Author - Robert Fruin
Robert is a sixth form student from the United Kingdom, currently studying Business Studies, IT and Media. Robert is a huge fan of the ended ABC series LOST; he has seen it many times over and has even visited some of the filming locations for it. Robert mainly watches drama series such as Game of Thrones and Person of Interest, but has a soft spot for the comedy The Middle. Some other interests include Cycling, Kayaking and Photography. Robert joined SpoilerTV in 2014 and currently reviews Colony, Outlander and The Bastard Executioner. He also previews Ash vs Evil Dead, Black Sails and Counterpark and runs weekly articles such as Most Memorable Moments and Quote of the Week. You can contact him at or feel free to connect with him on any of these social media sites.
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