I’ve been very intrigued by The Bastard Executioner since I’m really into historical fiction. Plus, I’ve heard comparisons to Game of Thrones and Outlander. Those are some pretty big shoes to fill. Can The Bastard Executioner live up to it? Let’s find out.
The Bastard Executioner is set in Wales, and the Welsh are fighting for their freedom. The premiere opens with a brutal start. Wilkin Brattle is dreaming about a gruesome battle he fought in. However, he hallucinates Jesus and more. He winds up getting stabbed and hallucinates an angel, who tells him he has “a destiny to claim.” He has to lay down his sword now. And he swears he will. He’s somehow able to get up and walk around, though he’s the sole survivor on the battlefield, but he starts to hallucinate a monster coming out of his friend’s skin.
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Wilkin’s New Life
Wilkin wakes up and starts to pray. We meet a whole bunch of characters real fast to help set up the show. Honestly, as they try to set everything up, the whole two-hour premiere is a bit of information-overload and things tend to get bogged down.
Wilkin’s wife, Petra, comes in and they talk about her having his son soon. They frolic around without a care in the world and show the stark contrast between his new life and his life on the battlefield.
While Wilkin has taken up a happy, peaceful life, Baroness Lowry’s troubled relationship. She needs to get pregnant fast and says that she needs “so much more.” And we see how depressing her life is throughout the episode.
Meanwhile, Annora, who is some kind of witch or healer, and her companion, the hooded Dark Mute, watch as Wilkin and Petra frolic around without a care in the world and meet up with Ash y Goedwig, the “orphan of the woods.” “It’s time,” Annora tells the Dark Mute.
The Baron’s Tariffs
The Baron’s getting worried about the unrest, but his adviser Milus tells him to just use steeper taxes and tariffs. Someone comes with a message that the tariffs are too steep, but the Baron decides to “taunt” him by raising the tariff.
The Baron also has problems in his relationship with the Baroness. Not only do they not have an heir, but she’s also sympathetic to the Welsh.
The executioner is also being paid less than he wanted and leaves with his family. Throughout the episode, we see him with his family and learn how abusive and troubled he is.
Things aren’t as good as they seem in Wilkin’s new life, though. There’s a lot of frustration with the Baron’s taxes. Wilkin and his friends are worried that everything they have will be taken, so they decide to ride off.
Petra tries to convince Wilkin that he’s “not a rebel” and shouldn’t be going after “vengeance,” but Wilkin explains that this is for survival. Something tells me this adorable couple isn’t going to make it for long and that Wilkin will become the rebel despite his protests.
Annora gives Wilkin something for his wound before he leaves, then goes to the Dark Mute to explain that “God has put him on our path.” Clearly, she has bigger things for Wilkin in mind.
So Wilkin and his friends take off. They put on hoods and massacre a bunch of taxmen who had made camp. They leave one, though, and send him with a message about the unfair taxes.
This brutal scene, of course, winds up giving Wilkin a flashback from his final battle. He overhears two soldiers thinking he’s dead but realizing they don’t want to make him a martyr to the Welsh. So they leave his “body.”
The Baron’s Response
The Baron hears of the attack and decides to send people to find the bandits culpable. And the Baroness takes a particular interest, which Milus Corbett calls her on. “You won’t break them, Milus,” she says. “And we both know there’s nothing more dangerous than a Welshman with nothing to lose.”
So Milus and his men ride down to Wilkin’s village and a soldier immediately barges into Petra’s house. They’ve grabbed everyone out of their houses and see that all the men are gone. Petra says the men are hunting, but they’re not buying it. They threaten to kill people, so Petra owns up to it. They then slit a young boy’s throat and decide to “kill them all.” They even kill the collector, who said what they were doing was wrong. It’s horrifying. Their plan is to have the farmers see the fire and come back.
Petra runs for her life but is quickly caught. She begs for her and her unborn child’s lives, and the man takes her necklace and tells her to run. She runs into the woods and freaks out. And after all that, someone comes up to her and stabs her in the belly. Then they paint a cross on her forehead with her blood.
Wilkin’s New Mission
If Wilkin wasn’t out for vengeance before, he is now. The farmers come back to see their village burned to the ground and everyone they love dead in a pile on the ground, and Wilkin has a predictable meltdown. He runs to the remains of his house and digs up his old sword he had sworn to lay down.
“This is my fight!” he declares to his friends. Sure, he has some history with these people, but I feel like the other farmers had some dead loved ones in that pile of dead bodies too. They want to join his fight. “I have no plan but vengeance,” he says. They’re down.
Wilkin and the farmers set off to the Baron’s and stumble upon the witch and the Dark Mute. She tells him he needs to “alter your purpose” and that he shouldn’t be working alone. The Baron hears of Wilkin’s mission and starts making plans.
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The Big Battle
Some soldiers get the executioner and tell his family to go leave and wait for him. They then ride off to the bandits, and the Baron learns that Wilkin is indeed alive. “I live with the terror of your betrayal every day, but I’ll spare you that pain. Death will quiet your mind,” Wilkin says.
Suddenly, the soldiers are surrounded and the rebels attack. It’s a bloody battle. In the end, it comes down to Wilkin and the Baron. Wilkin almost has him, but he sneaks in and stabs Wilkin. Another guy kills the Baron, but Wilkin isn’t looking too good either.
The Witch’s Real Purpose
The witch helps him but also cuts his hair and burns a cross into his cheek. Everyone’s pissed, but the witch says that she tried to disguise him as the now-dead executioner. She tells him that he has a fate that will seal his place in history. Her purpose is to help tell his story, which has “just begun.”
She even brings up the angel that he saw during that battle. “I hear the same voices,” she tells him. The angel had said he needed to lay down his sword and be a “different man” and now he is. He’s the executioner now.
Wilkin’s New Identity
Wilkin shows up with the dead Baron, and the Baroness sees her dead husband. Before she goes inside to mourn, she sees Wilkin, who introduces himself as the punisher. However, a man calls him out and says he’s not the real executioner. He’s one of the rebels.
They call the executioner’s wife up and ask if Wilkin really is her husband. He tells her he’s “sorry” and she goes along with the ruse. “My love. Thank god you’ve come back safe,” she says.
The man, who is actually Milus’ brother who fled from the battle and lied about it, continues to say that Wilkin is lying. Wilkin announces that the man fled and Milus orders that he be sentenced to death, which means Wilkin has to kill him. He’s welcomed into the castle and now things are going to get interesting.
Wilkin and the Baroness bond while Milus eavesdrops on them. She even takes a look at his wound. But when she touches it, we see a flashback of a baby and things get real awkward.
After the Baroness leaves, Milus approaches her about how the executioner’s arrival could “turn to good fortune” if they use him to hunt down the rebels. She says it’s “well advised,” but she doesn’t look convinced.
So Milus goes to see Wilkin and tells him it’s time for his brother’s execution. He informs Wilkin that he has ultimate power here and that he has to stay here. “Why are you doing this?” Wilkin asks. Milus says he needs a man “with the heart of a dragon.”
Annora and the Dark Mute’s Goal
Near the end of the episode, Annora and the Dark Mute “ready our faith.” Clearly, something bigger and stranger is going on with these two. So what’s their real goal?
Wilkin’s First Execution
At the end of the episode, Wilkin gets ready to do his first job as executioner. He suddenly sees his wife and would-be baby. But the angel comes and walks them away. He comes to and hears some soldiers make some crass jokes. Suddenly, he’s ready. And he chops the guy’s head off.
The Bastard Executioner airs Tuesdays at 10pm on FX.
(Image courtesy of FX)