While “The Bastard Executioner” is technically airing a two-hour premiere on Tuesday night, this is a little bit different than “Sons of Anarchy,” where you could sometimes have a single episode that lasted for this long. These are technically being viewed as two separate installments, and we will be reviewing them as such.
If there is a word that we would use to describe the first episode, it is a simple one “fascination.” As in, we are very fascinated to see where this story goes, though the show really does not allow you to dip your toes into this at all. This episode is violent, massive in scope, and introduces you to a wide array of people. You start to understand what drives our lead in Wilkin Brattle (played wonderfully by TV newcomer Lee Jones), someone who has a complicated past that he at one point tried to get away from by living an agrarian life. He is not the monster that Jax Teller is at the end of “Sons” as a result of his decisions, but you get the sense just how easily things could tip.
Performance-wise, Stephen Moyer is the person who truly blows us away as Milus Corbett, the true puppet-master of Ventris and a guy who could not be more different in many ways from his “True Blood” character of Bill Compton. We feel like the vampires, the effects, and the “Sookie” quotes distracted in a way from how gifted a performer he is, and this show embraces it.
The episode is directed beautifully by executive producer Paris Barclay, since you get some of the color of Wales to go along with the dark grittiness that is at this this world in the Middle Ages. The writing from creator Kurt Sutter gives you such notions as visions, faith, war, and revenge, and does so in ways that make sense.
Yet, the story is still incomplete, which is why this is being presented as two hours. It is clear that Sutter is in this series for long haul, and he is setting a foundation in this episode that will surely crumble in due time. It’s an insanely ambitious show, and while there were slower moments in the first hour, we feel like this is a writer and a setup that has earned our patience wholeheartedly. Episode Grade: B+.
We’ll have a review of episode 2 and much more soon enough over at the link here, so stay tuned! Also, you can sign up here in the event you want some other TV news on everything we cover via our CarterMatt Newsletter. (Photo: FX.)