A nose for a nose – fair's fair in Medieval Wales, I guess?
The Bastard Executioner Season 1 Episode 2 somehow managed to up the gore quotient even higher than that of The Bastard Executioner Season 1 Episode 1 while simultaneously trying fervently to deepen our views of the existing characters. It was only partially successful (and mostly on the upping-the-gore front).
In "Effigy/Delw," Wilkin Brattle struggled with his assumed identity when he was tasked with the torture of a teenager. Nia, a young rebel girl from a nearby fishing village, went along with her brother and his friends, a band of rebels out to cause trouble for traveling knights of Ventrishire.
Lady Love, meanwhile, struggled with the proper way to deal with the attack, and with balancing her roots as a Welsh girl (and concordant rebel sympathies) alongside her responsibilities to Ventrishire as the Baroness.
I understand that Kurt Sutter is going for an ensemble-cast, sprawling medieval epic kind of vibe, but I find that the very split focus is doing more harm than good. The individual scenes are extremely short, and we often jump from one character to a completely new character and setting with no warning.
I've been able to keep up with who everyone is (or at least their names), but it's difficult to follow everyone's individual tales with any serious interest, what with all the jumping about.
The problem, in a nutshell, is this: we are getting a sampling of everyone's tale, but not enough time is spent deepening any one character.
Rather, we get random moments of characterization that don't make a ton of sense in context – like Milus suddenly growing a heart (or at least it felt sudden to me!), caressing that stick figure doll and incorporating the thing into his sexcapades with the twins. Or Berber the Moor being revealed as a Muslim. Again, we hardly know Berber (or any of the villager rebels, for that matter), so I don't understand the timing of this reveal.
I'm having a hard time connecting to most of these characters because after three solid hours of story, I still feel like I hardly know any of them.
That said, there were small moments I really enjoyed, and I still feel as though the show has potential to be something very, very good, if not something great.
For example, I liked Annora's unexpected sassiness. You wouldn't guess that her character would be a humorous one in the slightest, given that she's all mystical and creepy and whatnot, but I loved her little jibes about Calo's large appetite and the surplus of fish with which he returned.
I also enjoyed Father Ruskin's totally random badassery. When he slipped that sword out of his robe sleeve, I cheered. There's something mysterious and intriguing about that character – somehow more mysterious and intriguing than the dark past of our purported lead, Wilkin Brattle, that we've been teased so much about.
Wilkin Brattle: Strong hand for a learned man. I've never seen a priest work a mace like that before. Wasn't learned in the seminary.
Father Ruskin: We all have a past life, good Maddy.
Stephen Moyer is still the highlight of the show for me, though he had less opportunity to shine in this installment than in the last. I can't get a read on what type of person he really is, but I absolutely want to know more (which, again, is more than I can say for most of these characters).
I wasn't expecting to get confirmation that Milus knew Brattle's secret so soon into the series. I assumed it would remain likely but purposely ambiguous for at least a while. But nope: they laid it all right out there, with Milus threatening Brattle's friends and Maddox's family with death should he try to retaliate or disobey Milus, or unveil him as a co-conspirator.
Which was kind of humorous given that the *real* Gawain Maddox probably could have cared less about the welfare of his family.
Wilkin: I serve the Baroness, not you.
Milus: Gawain Maddox serves the Baroness. Wilkin Brattle belongs to me. Do not challenge me, simple man. I will shred you -- body and mind.
Flora Spencer-Longhurst continues to impress in the role of the Baroness. I'm enjoying her portrayal and that character a lot. Her repeated instances of standing up to Milus and refusing to be bullied by him (or be blinded by his smooth-talking, as her dearly departed husband so obviously, constantly was).
I also think that her backstory is one of the more intriguing ones. The fact that she is a Welsh woman, literally "in bed" with the enemy, and the fact that she is clearly torn between her Baroness duties and her desire to help the Welsh rebels, makes her an interesting, complex figure. I could do with more consistent, deeper focus on Lady Love.
Maybe I'm a cynic, but I was surprised that the cut-off nose was all the punishment Nia received. Based on how Brattle and everyone else was reacting, I really thought that Wilkin would wind up having to kill her.
That visual of the nose being cut off was one of the most disturbing things I've seen on TV. Maybe because it was so realistic and I didn't see it coming? Anyway, I gasped aloud at that and now I feel like the image is burned into my brain. Thanks a ton, Kurt Sutter.
- I really don't like the theme song. I tried to give it another chance and keep an open mind this time around, but I'm still not feeling it.
- Also not a fan of the fading to black and white at the end of every scene. Again, can't quite articulate why.
- Lady Love's edict on Nia's fate turning into a snake actually made me laugh, which I'm sure wasn't the intended effect. It just looked a little silly.
- On a larger level, does anyone else feel that the mystical, overtly "magical" elements of the serious (Annora and Wilkin sharing memories, random snakes and dragons appearing out of nowhere) to be sort of awkwardly appended onto the series? It strikes me as something that the show could do without. It doesn't add much. Why the need to literalize Annora's mysticism?
What did you all think of this installment? Was it an improvement on the tremendously length premiere? Remember to watch The Bastard Executioner online right here at TV Fanatic, to catch up on anything you might have missed!
Caralynn Lippo is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.