The Bastard Executioner: Overly Ambitious, Convoluted & Axed After One Season [Review]

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The Bastard Executioner has concluded it’s first and only season from Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter on the FX Network. It stars Lee Jones, Katey Sagal, Stephen Moyer, Flora Spencer-Longhurst, Kurt Sutter, Sam Spruell and guest star Matthew Rhys.

“The Bastard Executioner” tells the story of a warrior knight in King Edward I’s charge who is broken by the ravages of war and vows to lay down his sword. But when that violence finds him again he is forced to pick up the bloodiest sword of all.

What a shame. After the season finale of Kurt Sutter’s medieval epic series The Bastard Executioner — we’ve found out that it was in fact the SERIES finale as FX has decided to cancel the show. Well shit. Even in Sutter’s farewell ad he admitted that viewers’ reaction was and I quote “meh”. TBX has had several ups and downs all season long, going from one extreme to the other but this is still disappointing because there were some truly memorable characters and work being done here to build the world. Sons of Anarchy took time to settle in but the problem here with TBX was that it focused on some extremely dense and convoluted mythology, only resorting to extreme violence to progress the plot.

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I loved the pilot, as shocking and brutal as it was. Children were killed violently on-screen. A pregnant woman was stabbed to death and bodies were mutilated in some of the most grotesque ways I’ve seen on television. Sutter did not hold back and he shouldn’t have – so I applaud his efforts to show what this world was like back then. Newcomer Lee Jones plays the titular character and I really did like him, he was wronged, he seeked vengeance for his family’s murder and wound up posing as an executioner in order to infiltrate the ranks of those responsible. It’s a wonderful plot.

Where TBX failed was when it tried to compete against other period series like Vikings or Game of Thrones by attempting to mash up far too many genres. Fantasy (dumb dream sequences), extreme torture (Ramsay Bolton ain’t got shit on this crew) or politics (Lady Love made me want to punch myself in the face). Nothing ever felt cohesive and important plotlines were overshadowed by a complicated show that was too ambitious for it’s own good. Ed Sheeran was in this for some reason too but he was so fucking annoying…. Scroobius Pip however — FANTASTIC. Who casts UK rapper Scroobius Pip in a medieval drama series? Sutter does – and he made the correct choice sir.

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The performances were fine – Stephen Moyer as the villain was an excellent decision and as despicable as he was (sort of a Joffrey meets James Bond type of asshole), we never really found that “love to hate” him vibe because even in his moments of weakness he still wasn’t sympathetic. I’m assuming if this series were to have lasted longer than this character could have turned into something brilliant but we’ll never know because Sutter threw EVERYTHING at the wall with him to see what would stick and what wouldn’t. Katey Sagal was solid, but we never really went places with her or the dark mute (played by Sutter himself) that made much sense by the end.

Rating:

Spoilers Ahead

TBX was so messy that I missed some major subplots and didn’t even realize that they had been “resolved” or at least addressed before the end of the series. Why did the Dark Mute murder so and so in the pilot? It’s because it was to keep “that guy” on track in order to fullfill his destiny. Ok? I got ya – but you went a little far don’t ya think there buddy? It’s OK though because you lit yourself on fire and went out like a motherfucking warrior badass in the end. That sequence was my favorite of the series by the way.

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The foundation of TBX is revenge and by the end of the finale — it turns out that vengeance doesn’t mean shit. The entire show – or series in this case was fuelled by vengeance, so the battles in the finale came across as depressing. I understand why they ended the way they did, but the actual evildoers responsible for those hideous acts in the pilot — didn’t even matter at this point in the show.

Or how about the dismembered and re-arranged corpses that littered the forest? Turns out that little donkey loving dipshit with awful lines of dialog was responsible. I missed that revelation too. There was always just a little too much going on and nothing was super interesting enough where it rang home for me. Even the series ends with a goddamn sex scene. Really? That’s how we’re going out? I wanted to love, hell I would have settled for “liking” The Bastard Executioner but I just can’t recommend it knowing that we’ll never expand upon what was built in these 10 episodes.

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