Two severed arms dangling from shackles is a solid symbol to represent the lack of restraint Kurt Sutter has shown (both in narrative and violence) since around the third season of Sons of Anarchy. The scene in question here shows a decrepit old man being tortured. After two acts of brutality on this poor bastard, the Castle Windsor executioner draws a wicked long sword and severs his arms. We don’t see the actual act, but the swooshing of the blade and the old man’s cries of agony make it far worse in our imagination. Then Sutter has to go and show the arms swinging there, draining the violence of palpable emotion and leaning on excess instead. Then a chicken wing is shoved down someone’s throat.
That being said, “A Hunger/Newyn” managed to be The Bastard Executioner’s best episode yet (especially following last week’s laborious drag). Still, I remain cautiously optimistic about the rest of the series. And that optimism is walking a very, very thin line.
Tonight’s episode added a lot more narrative hooks and momentum to Brattle’s universe and expanded the story outside Ventrishire and the caverns. It added an intriguing subplot concerning a secret society of “Seraphims”, which ties into Anorra’s witchy ways and, possibly later down the road, her manipulation of Brattle’s destiny.
Finally, after four freaking hours of television, it feels like the series has somewhat of a direction.
The Baroness remains the heart and soul of the series. Its themes of identity and loyalty are all wrapped up within her character. She spent much of this episode suffering through the court of King Edward II (Jack Greenless), where fancy boy Chamberlain Denley (James Rousseau) was a not-so-generous host. Ultimately her request for guidance in Ventrishire’s future fell upon deaf ears and it was only when she announced that she’s pregnant that Denley took notice. It was a great payoff and further cemented her allegiance to the people of Ventrishire and her native Welsh, not the reigning English kid. It’s obvious she’s the ruler Ventrishire needs.
While she was away, Chamberlain Corbett invited neighboring Baron Pryce (Richard Brake) over to watch men beat each other up, sniff breasts, and talk shop. With Baron Ventris dead, Corbett hopes to install Pryce in a puppet regime in Ventrishire where he can pull the strings and rule over a lucrative port. There are a lot of obstacles to this plan and Corbett was happy to show to what lengths he’ll go to make it happen – even if it means helping Brattle maintain his ruse a little longer.
Corbett got a lot of screen time in this episode and he’s setting some big wheels in motion. The problem is he’s still not that engaging of a villain. It’s a series-wide issue really. The plot can be incredibly juicy, and I think they set up a lot of interesting paths tonight, but the characters still aren’t established enough. It feels like a lot of what is happening is doing so because a historical drama plot requires them to happen, not because it’s character driven.
Like I mentioned earlier, there is an intriguing plot involving an apparent secret society calling themselves Seraphims. In Christianity and Judaism, a “seraphim” is some sort of high-ranking angel. I don’t think Sutter means for them to be actual angels, but rather the keepers of some mystical secret that’s worth collecting tattooed hides for. I really hope this angle is explored deeper as right now it’s the only aspect of the storyline that feels unique to Bastard’s world.
Rating: ★★★ Good — Proceed with cautious optimism
Bring Out Yer Dead
- This one was directed by Ciaran Donnelly, who’s got a fairly deep resume of period TV drama, including Robin Hood, The Tudors, and Vikings.
- That was a really distracting cameo by Ed Sheeran as Sir Cormac.
- Allegedly the real King Edward II had a controversial relationship with an Earl named Piers Gaveston. His favoring of and possible sexual relationship with Gaveston pissed off a lot of people in the French Royal Family. It’s a good bet that Denley is Gaveston’s stand-in on the show.
- Jessamy Maddox seems to be more mentally unstable than I originally thought. At first I thought she was cunning in sustaining Brattle’s secret identity. Not it seems like she really is delusional.
- Those scenes between Brattle and the young Maddox were very bittersweet. The moment where he calls him “son” is easily the most human moment in the series so far. They need more of those.