"The Bernadette Maneuver" was incredibly intense. My head is still spinning from all that was revealed in this penultimate installment of The Bastard Executioner Season 1. We can probably all agree that this was an incredibly effective build up to what is sure to be an explosive, action-packed season finale.
The Bastard Executioner Season 1 Episode 8 focused on each of the major plots evenly, and some of the threads began to wind where there hadn't before been overlap (for instance, Milus and Lady Love have now become tangentially involved in the Seraphim/Rosula plot due to Luca's kidnapping).
Not only did "The Bernadette Maneuver" catapult us towards the finale with substantial plot development (setting us up for all kinds of crazy fall out), it even managed to throw in a few solid moments of continued character development and revealed secrets.
Milus and Wilkin spent most of their time together, begrudgingly working alongside one another to track Sir Gaveston and recapture "the French bitch" (Milus' words, not mine) in exchange for a load of money for the shire.
Did anyone else see more than a few hints that Wilkin and Milus were managing to build some kind of bizarre pseudo friendship? Or if not a friendship, that they were at least arriving at an ever-increasing understanding?
I can think of a handful of moments demonstrating this right off the bat. One prominent moment occurred after Milus commanded Wilkin and Toran to torture Pembroke's mistress (in order to have Pembroke sign his allegiance over to the anti-king Barons and give up Gaveston willingly). Wilkin and Toran understandably resisted. Not being cruel men, they were heavily against torturing an innocent like the mistress.
Wilkin cleverly set up his torturer's "station" (for lack of a better word) so that no one could quite see the pain he was inflicting. By that method, he was able to faux-torture the girl. Thanks to some grade-A acting on the part of the young woman, the Earl of Pembroke broke down and was convinced to sign the declaration in record time (seriously, I'm pretty sure he sat through less than three minutes of "torture"). Which I guess is really sweet, if you think about it – he must really love that chick to be willing to risk the King's wrath!
Only you, Corbett, would use death to buy pain.Wilkin
The main point is: when Milus realized that Wilkin had faked the torture, he gave off a vibe that he was, more than anything, impressed with Wilkin's cleverness. I was expecting some kind of anger, or at the very least Milus to renege on his offer to allow Toran and Wilkin to finish their vengeance by turning a blind eye to their murder of Locke and the Reeve. Neither happened. He was simply impressed and nothing more came of the deceit.
Sidenote: Toran gave seriously great face when Milus raised an eyebrow at the lack of blood on the chair that the young woman was "tortured" on. It was equally parts a goofy expression and a "Yeah, what of it, man?" sort of rebellious look. Hilarious.
Decidedly less hilarious (speaking of Toran) was the ex-farmer admitting to Wilkin that he felt more himself in the executioner's assistant role in which he'd found himself thanks to their increasingly elaborate ruse.
I must confess, Wilkin; I am more myself inside this turn towards blood.Toran
Poor Toran. He's such a wonderful, tragic, fantastically-portrayed character. He is clearly tortured by the anger and the pain that he's been through. This was demonstrated most acutely in his earlier torture of one of the marauding Ventrishire knights who killed their families, when he was determined to get the names of the specific culprits out of the knight.
Between that confession and the closing scene of Toran intensely watching terrible Locke embrace and laugh with his family, it's increasingly clear that Toran is headed down a dark, ever more violent path.
Another clear moment of understanding between Wilkin and Milus occurred when Wilkin intercepted the older man's blade as the Chamberlain was about to be goaded by Gaveston into performing the execution himself. You could see in Milus' eyes how impressed and grateful he was that Wilkin interceded, particularly with Wilkin's reasoning that it would be best for him to handle the execution since the king learning of Milus killing the king's favorite wouldn't bode well for either Lady Love or her Chamberlain.
While Milus' motives and true intentions are never fully clear, it really does appear that he is, in some small way, either growing as a person or revealing his complexity. It was always apparent that Milus Corbett was not a straightforward one-shade villain.
Rather, he is a troubling, difficult to comprehend character, who appears in turn to be a violent disturbed man and a man doing what he thought best for his community (often at the expense of his soul). The "lighter" (for lack of a better term) aspects of Milus' personality were revealed near the end, when he bizarrely stroked the cheek of the servant that he'd viciously beaten episodes before. And moments earlier, he snapped into action after hearing from Lady Love that Luca Maddox and the priest were missing.
I did try to consider what darker, ulterior motives Milus could possibly have in his apparent concern for Wilkin's "son's" safety, and his suggestion that Lady Love gently break the news to Wilkin since she calms him. I came up blank. It really does seem as though he simply wants to do right by Wilkin in that moment. Obviously, this could all very well be turned on its head in the season finale, but if Milus' intentions were genuine, I think it makes for a much more interesting, complex characterization of the Chamberlain.
In short: I absolutely love the depths they've given Milus in such a relatively quick span of time.
Wilkin: How are we to know they hold the Frenchman?
Milus: He's there. I can smell the arrogance.
Of course, he's still sassy as hell. And I love that too.
It looks like Ash's "purpose" has finally been revealed. The daft, animal-"loving" kid definitely has more than a few screws loose and is apparently the one who has been mutilating those corpses we heard about a while back (which were then never mentioned again). Ironic that Milus falsely imprisoned Ash, Calo, and Berber on those charges when all along Ash had actually done it.
I may be half-witted but you're half-hearted! Bernadette doesn't like horses.Ash
Unless, of course, I read that all totally wrong. Feel free to contradict me if you read differently Ash's ear-to-ear grin at the site of the mutilated twin's body (appendages replaced with deer hooves) and that pair of dismembered hands he was carting around!
Elsewhere, in a cave... somewhere, the Rosula/Seraphim storyline (which I've vocally been all "eh whatever" about) got a whole lot more interesting thanks in large part to – shocker! – Father Ruskin being a total and complete badass.
We caught a glimpse of the priest's nifty fighting skills way back when, at the time that the Baroness' caravan was attacked. But this was really on another level. The reveal that Ruskin was an assassin during his military service was perfectly played. It was one of the best scenes all season, between the manner of his escape via chicken bone and the ease with which he dispatched of Absolon and Robinus' other men.
Unfortunately, all of that badassery was for naught – as soon as Ruskin and Luca escaped their confinement, they were surrounded by Robinus and the rest of his men, including creepy Ed Sheeran (whose character name I completely blanked on and literally could care less about because we haven't seen him in weeks, so I'm just going to call him Ed Sheeran).
I still can't stand Annora. Her accent has gotten annoying again, and that fake-sounding sob she gave when begging a furious Wilkin not to yell at her was especially grating. Of course Wilkin was right on the money. It's all but certain that Annora killed Petra and single-handedly set Wilkin's bloody journey in motion.
What I didn't see coming was the reveal that Annora was Wilkin's mother. Not because it was unexpected but because it was actually so obvious that I never thought the show would possibly go there. Not impressed, show. Really hoping this is a fakeout of some kind.
Back at Ventrishire, Lady Love, using her womanly know-how and rather scary serious-voice, managed to break through Jessamy's deep-seated denial and convince the woman to give up her delusion that Wilkin was her husband. I loved the interactions between these two women in Wilkin's life, and the uneasy rapport they developed.
Again, though, this will all be for naught once it comes to light that Luca is missing and Lady Love lied to Jessamy's face about it. I understand why Love did it, but this turn of events is all but guaranteed to be the straw that breaks the camel's back in regards to Jessamy's already-shaky psyche.
What did you all think of "The Bernadette Maneuver" (which, by the way, is totally the best episode title of the season)? What are your predictions for the finale? Sound off with your thoughts by commenting below and watch The Bastard Executioner online here at TV Fanatic to catch up before the final episode airs!
Caralynn Lippo is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.