First Impressions: The Bastard Executioner

Updated 23.10.15

Premise: After his family and village are brutally murdered, a former knight assumes the identity of a deceased executioner. So… it is kind of like  Robin Hood meets Banshee.

Verdict: Not the strongest pilot ever, but I am a believer.

Some of the early reviews were quick to proclaim that The Bastard Executioner [TBE?] is not as compelling as Sons of Anarchy. I have to agree. Sort of. But not really… Let’s take a closer look:

The story

The first episode of this new gritty drama is very much an “origin” story. We find out how our leading man, WILKIN, assumes the identity of a deceased “executioner” and is forced to work for the man responsible for the death of everyone in his village [including his pregnant wife and unborn child].

The premise wasn’t fully established until the second hour; as a consequence, the first half of the episode dragged a little for me. However, once the general story became apparent, I was in. This feeling was cemented by a couple of twists towards the end that reminded me that Kurt Sutter has always had a high stakes aspect to his writing: No-one is safe… and expect the unexpected. Remembering this made me feel more invested.

The one aspect I am not thrilled about is the “mysticism” element. Witches, visions, destiny [OK I can get behind that one], hallucinations of flying chimeras [not so much behind that one], etc. It didn’t really work for me. I was hoping for more of a straight gritty earthy drama, rather than a fantasy show [that’s what I have GoT for]. Since Katey Sagal’s character is a witch, and she is not going anywhere [married to the exec producer an all that], I should probably get used to it.

The Tone

I have one other minor criticism [or rather an observation] for the show. And this might be a consequence of me watching too many British shows lately. Historical British dramas have an air of old-timey authenticity like no other. They tend to be gloomy and understated… The Bastard Executioner felt a bit edgy and contemporary at times. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But it is different. Might just be a matter of getting used to its particular tone [Vikings is another show that made me feel this way].

Characters and Cast

I really liked Wilkin, played by newcomer Lee Jones [who seriously came out of nowhere]. I think he is well cast and I found myself rooting for him. He definitely has an approachable quality, yet you still believe he can be a badass killer. Having said that… I didn’t have the same “He was born to play this role” reaction I had to Charlie Hunnam when he first rode his Harley into frame.

Supporting cast was good too. My favourite was Stephen Moyer, who I assume will become the Big Bad of the show from now on [or he might die in the next ep, who knows?]. I was unsure about the leading lady at first, but she won me over by the end. I think there is much more to her character than meets the eye. Finally, we have Katey Sagal as Annora and her mute, disfigured minion/lover played by Kurt Sutter himself. Those two are definitely up to no good… [and may or may not have killed Wilkin’s wife to put some destiny plan in motion].

Should you watch it? Yes… I was not blown away, but I am confident this will be a good one. To be fair… I wasn’t that into SOAuntil episode 7. This might not be as great as the classic Sutter show, but it doesn’t mean it won’t be good.

Update: Much like it happened with BATB a few years ago, I've considerably changed my feelings about this show. (I've also rewatched the pilot and enjoyed it much more during the 2nd viewing. For my updated reactions go HERE)
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The TV Empress is a Media Management graduate, screenwriter in the making (and financial engineer in the meantime). She has serious plans to take over global television. You can follow the TVEmpress on twitter @TVRepublik

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  1. I was not blown away either... have not got myself to watch episode 2 yet ... did u? and if yes, did it get better?

    1. I watched last week's episode... and I gotta say... I am beginning to get into it... SPOILER ALERT if you haven't seen it yet

      I thought the whole interaction with the kid was really sweet and it made me like Wilkin more and then there is a twist at the end where everything began to make sense and I do want to see what happens


      I was thinking back to SOA - and yes I liked it more from the get go - but I spent a fair amount of time not really knowing all the secondary characters or what their deal was but when I did I loved them all... so I think I am going to enjoy TBX... maybe not as much as SOA but I think I will enjoy it a lot (I hope it doesn't get cancelled!)


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