The Bastard Executioner Season 1 Episode 5 Review: Thorns / Drain

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Wilkin Brattle's grand plan for vengeance would appear to be over before it ever really got going anywhere.

The Bastard Executioner Season 1 Episode 5 didn't quite kick things into high gear (still waiting for that point), but it did provide several interesting developments and showcased some of its more minor, intriguing recurring characters.

I'm specifically talking about Matthew Rhys as Gruffudd y Blaidd, obviously.

Quest for Revenge - The Bastard Executioner

There were a few concurrent plot lines running alongside one another in this installment, so let's unpack them one at a time.

Wilkin, our ostensible protagonist, found himself in dire straits when he and Toran attempted to smuggle some weaponry over to the rebels (to replace the weapons they were forced to uncover for the nobles back in The Bastard Executioner Season 1 Episode 2). Their plan went south so rapidly that it was almost comical.

The writing was on the wall about Jessamy. Sarah Sweeny, her portrayer, has been doing a fantastic job teetering on the edge of madness. It has been obvious for a while that Gawain's much-abused wife was deeply unhinged. While it was stupid of Wilkin to disregard that and just hope for it to go away, there wasn't really anything else he could have done with her to prevent this from happening.

Oh. The wife. She is quite mad. Take concern in that.

Milus

Of all the things that Jessamy was going to the castle to tell Milus, the last thing I would have guessed was that she'd be covering for Wilkin and ratting him out so that Milus would be forced to detain him. Did she really think she was helping him, or did she just want to stop him from forcing them to leave?

I am curious to see how Wilkin will deal with Jessamy's betrayal in The Bastard Executioner Season 1 Episode 6. He has an affection for Luca, but if I were him, I'd have just about had it with loony Mrs. Maddox.

Toran: If we are to be crushed under Corbett's thumb, at least give me the relief of knowing who took her life.
Wilkin: You think it gives me relief every time I se Petra's cross swing from our Reeve's neck? It tortures me.
Toran: Yea. And it will drive you to a madness only soothed by thrusting a blade into the belly of the Reeve. Allow me the comfort that madness will serve! A deeper burden.

The highlight of Wilkin's subplot by a landslide was the confrontation with Toran. Sam Spuell's performance as the farmer posing as a marshal has been really astounding. I've enjoyed his character ever since he shoved that spear through Ventris' head. Toran's breakdown as he was torturing the knight that Milus offered up as an appeasement for their vengeance was just – whoa.

Toran's anger and frustration with Wilkin has been building up all season. In The Bastard Executioner Season 1 Episode 4, we even saw him allow nutty Jessamy to see her "husband" embracing the Baroness (which I'm sure didn't help much with her fragile state of mind). This confrontation was a long time coming. I feel for Toran and his deep pain, but the payoff of this build-up was quite a thing to behold.

And so we have vengeance.

Wilkin

The name of the game is not vengeance anymore. The show has evolved beyond that, for the better. I am excited to see where the show will go now that Milus has shut down the farmers' plan for revenge killing the Ventrishire knights.

Plus now it seems that Toran, Wilkin and their friends have been invariably conscripted into Milus' secret army of sneaky evil things. This will definitely not end well for anyone involved.

Honestly at this point, Wilkin and Toran have killed so many important people, why don't they just kill Milus and stage his death to look like an accident? That would take care of the problem easily. But then, of course, we'd have no show at all, so who am I to complain about logic?

Meanwhile, Lady Love dealt with a secret of her own (or several, actually – though the baby/no baby secret was relegated to the background for now). She and Isabel snuck away to unwind while picking berries, only to be kidnapped by Gruffudd ("the Wolf") and his men.

The real shock of the hour, and probably one of the better twists in the very twisty The Bastard Executioner Season 1, came with the reveal that the Wolf is actually Lady Love's half-brother. And that she seemed to have known the legendary Wolf was her sibling the whole time!

I certainly didn't see that coming, but I enjoyed the twist. Lady Love is an excellent, complicated character and this family twist just made her that much more interesting. It makes me want to know even more about her family life, and it's always a good sign when you're antsy to hear more about a character.

Lady Love: I have your word brother that we do this together
Gruffudd: Yes. An alliance of noble and outlaw. It is rather poetic.
Lady Love: Poetry will not keep our necks from the king's axe.

It is clear that Love only has the best interests of the shire and Wales at heart. That said, the fact that she has now supplied the rebel "enemy" with funding is definitely not going to look good if (when) it eventually comes to light.

Matthew Rhys is wonderful in this role. He hasn't had anything really meaty come up yet to dive into, but the fact that I already know that he's a fantastic actor has me itching for more of Gruffudd (or "Griffy," as Love calls him). Also, it was difficult to restrain myself from just copying down every one of his lines of dialogue in our collection of The Bastard Executioner Quotes. He gets some of the best lines!

Lady Love: May our savior keep you safe, Griffy.
Gruffudd: Of course he will. Jesus was a rebel.

Seriously, how great was that exchange above, and Rhys' delivery of it?

There is also some tension behind their bond – Love doesn't disagree with his goal, but she is firmly against his violent methods. She also doesn't seem to quite believe that he wasn't against the attack that caused the death of Lady Trula, Baron Pryce's wife. Of course, we know that he couldn't have been part of that attack, since her death was directly caused by Toran and Wilkin, acting on Milus' manipulative orders. But the fact that Love was willing to believe that of her brother was very telling.

On that note: what is going on with that note from Baron Pryce? Who confessed to the attack on Lady Trula? Was that whole thing just a fabrication by Milus – did no one confess? Suppose we'll just have to wait til next time for that one.

The third major subplot dealt with the religious sect stuff, and featured Annora and Father Ruskin prominently. This is the least interesting aspect of the series so far. It is still too clouded in mystery to make heads or tails of what exactly is going on. Perhaps it will become more enthralling after we get more of a sense of what's happening.

That said, the scene between Father Ruskin and Annora was great. Timothy Murphy and Katey Sagal are both fantastic actors, so the dramatic tension was great even if their encounter didn't quite make sense to me yet. Why is Annora warning Ruskin of the danger of the Archdeacon's visit, specifically? What does he have to do with any of that?

It is good that this will at least draw Ruskin into the fray, and perhaps give him something to do. He's part of the main cast but has spent the first half of the season doing basically nothing, save that one really awesome fight move during the caravan attack on Lady Love.

Stray Observations:

  • How great was it that immediately before getting "kidnapped" by the Wolf's men, Lady Love was in the middle of telling Isabel that she craves adventure? Boy, lady, be careful what you wish for.
  • Though it's not dwelled upon much, the relationship between Wilkin and Luca Maddox is really lovely. We know that Wilkin has daddy issues (never having had a real father at all) so the paternal bond he's formed with the executioner's son is an excellent way to develop that theme. Also the kid is just adorable.
  • Wilkin and Lady Love bonded really quickly. I enjoy their interactions and the burgeoning relationship, but I have some issues with it. For one, it was a very obvious thing to have happen. For another, I don't really buy it. They hardly know one another! And why is Love so quick to give her heart to a married man?
  • Still loving the Baroness and Isabel's friendship and Isabel's general sassiness.
  • It was great that Wilkin asked for the Wolf's reassurance that the Baroness wouldn't come to any harm in a scene almost immediately before the Gruffudd/Love pre-existing relationship was revealed. His strange look at Wilkin's request didn't make sense at the time but in retrospect it totally fits – of course he wouldn't do harm to his sister.
  • While the religious subplot is not too interesting yet, the reveal that the Dark Mute has knight's armor and weaponry was really interesting. Who was this guy before he was Annora's manservant?!

What did you all think of "Thorns/Drain"? Which subplot or character are you most intrigued by at this point? Which could you do without? 

Chime in with your thoughts below and remember to watch The Bastard Executioner online right here at TV Fanatic!

Thorns / Drain Review

Editor Rating: 4.25 / 5.0
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Rating: 3.8 / 5.0 (4 Votes)

Caralynn Lippo is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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The Bastard Executioner Season 1 Episode 5 Quotes

At least it will be a familiar blade that tries to kill us when the rebels attack our next caravan.

Wilkin

Milus: 'Tis best left to the imagination.
The Reeve: Indeed.