Review by C.J. Bunce
Despite its gratuitous gore and overall squalid setting and circumstances, the new television series Bastard Executioner pulled off a good opener last week. Bastard Executioner, in its two-hour pilot, pulls together every historical action drama archetype and bits of myths and legends to create a compelling drama in the midst of a struggle between the English and Welsh in not-so jolly old medieval England.
Fans of History Channel’s Vikings and Showtime’s Outlander as well as costume dramas like Braveheart, Rob Roy, and First Knight will all find something here of interest. Not yet as exciting as Vikings but likely to be better than Outlander, it may just be another twist on Robin Hood, but episode one gave us hope this new series will keep our interest for a while.
It would seem an entire season’s worth of activity transpired in the first two-hour episode with an entire story arc begun and ended already. A village is decimated and the avengers have sought–and gained–revenge on those that caused it. The man we first believe to be the “bastard executioner” of the title in fact isn’t, sending the viewer’s notions of what this series will be about into a tailspin. Instead, a mysterious Man With No Name type hero is thrust into the service of those that destroyed his wife, unborn child, and their village. The producers’ grasp of time and place, quick plotting, and surprising twists mean we will be back for more next week.
The brutality is every bit real even if it is a bit in-your-face. Yet as bloody and violent as you could imagine, graphic and at times gory, some sense of purpose comes through for the stories’ heroes. Loyalty, bravery, injustice, the faithful and the faithless, noble heroes and loathsome villains all can be found here. Look for Katey Sagal (Lost, Married With Children) as the elder, mystical, witch-healer Annora, in what could prove to be an Emmy-worthy role.
Check out this preview for the show here:
The Bastard Executioner also stars Lee Jones, Flora Spencer-Longhurst (Father Brown), Sam Spruell (The Martian, Ashes to Ashes, K-19: The Widowmaker), Sarah Sweeney, Stephen Moyer, and Galavant’s dead ringer for Dobby the Elf, Darren Evans.
It airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX. Look for its second episode tonight and the pilot available On Demand.