It is odd to be saying this given how many media-types out there during “Sons of Anarchy” complained about the length of some of the episodes, but with Kurt Sutter’s new show “The Bastard Executioner,” we are actually starting to think that it could benefit from running more than just a few minutes over the hour. There is a lot going on here, and while most of it is fairly compelling, there is something holding it back slightly from being the mind-numbing entertainment that we had in Charming for many years.
We’re not sure that we are far along yet to pinpoint it, but connectivity seems to be the main issue. You just have so much going on, and since the show is pacing itself fairly slowly, it is forcing us as a viewer to put trust in that many of these threads will matter and relate down the road. It’s an issue that “Game of Thrones” struggles with slightly, but it gets away with more than perhaps it should because there is that source material to fall back on.
The two parts of the episode that were the brightest to us were the plight of Baroness Love over the state of Ventrishire, and then also Milus working to further establish trade connections thanks to a new alliance. Yes, the show has brutality, sex, and Wilkin choking somebody who figured out his secret, but the moments that are the best to date are those that make us feel like we’re watching medieval “House of Cards.” Much of the credit for that goes to Flora Spencer-Longhurst and Stephen Moyer, who are at present giving the best performances on the series to date.
With some of the rest of the show, we are waiting still to fully embrace them. Annora and her various visions / branches make for enchanting television, but we’re not entirely sure what we’re meant to focus on here. Even with Wilkin, we don’t necessarily know what we are striving for once we get past the revenge. Maybe that’s in part because he doesn’t quite know the answer to that just yet, but it would be nice to be illuminated over time.
It probably sounds like we’re being fairly critical in this review, and much of it is because of how much we believe in the concept and the work. If this show was a dud, it wouldn’t be worth the effort. It’s just doing so many things that are risky and quite frankly awesome that you can feel it just waiting to get over that hump into truly “great” territory. We love that Sutter has the guts to put someone like Ed Sheeran with no major TV acting experience (other than a cameo as himself on “Undateable”) on the show, and then have him play a man who orders another’s eyes to be gouged out. We love the visuals, the ambition, and that you can feel Wilkin’s heart beating with emotion as he tackles his quest and, in some ways, his burden.
Four episodes in, and we’re just waiting for the show to have that moment where it drops the mic, or whatever a mic is in the Middle Ages. Maybe it swings a sword in victory? Grade: B.
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