The Bastard Executioner spent two hours last week setting up its premise and leaving opportunity wide open for some interesting paths. Now that the starting gate is open and the characters are all in place, Episode 3 would be the perfect time to really get into the lean, mean storytelling Kurt Sutter is damn good at. Instead, “Effigy/Ddelw” was a lot of moping about as Brattle settles into his new role as (imposter) executioner and more rebels are put in their place.
“Effigy/Ddelw” showed the brutal lengths that Brattle will have to go to get revenge, while also seeping us in some of Sutter’s trademark foggy morality. Brattle’s first act as executioner was taking the nose of a young female rebel in exchange for the rhinoplasty she did to the Baron’s effigy. This was just a minor surgery, but clearly his duties will get worse. The quandary here is how worse? Is revenge worth butchering and killing rebels you once fought alongside?
This material is ripe for exploration. The problem is that with the exception of a few, the characters inhabiting Sutter’s medieval world aren’t compelling and feel like facsimiles ripped from shows/films we’ve seen before. It’s like a checklist: warrior monk, soldier thrust back into violence, compassionate queen, beguiling witch, dude who sleeps with his sheep (all right, I’ll give Sutter that last one).
The painful dilemma of Brattle is barely communicated on the mug of Lee Jones, who brooded his way through the entire episode. I’m sure he’s a great actor (we saw hints of it in the pilot), but he really has nothing juicy to work with yet. So far the only absorbing characters are the women. Across the board. Jessamy continues to maintain Brattle’s ruse, even when they’re alone. It could be this consuming relief she’s experiencing following her abusive husband’s death. I’m not sure what she stands to gain by so strongly holding on to Brattle’s phony identity, but so far it’s damn interesting to watch.
Last week I came down kinda hard on Katey Sagal’s accent (harkening it to Maria Ouspenskaya). It grew a bit on me this week. She still seems to be steering Brattle’s destiny in some unforeseen direction. And Baroness Love tried hard to understand the rebels this week. The tug-o-war of loyalty between her native Welsh and England should be exciting to see play out as the series goes on.
Like I mentioned last week, Sutter is an excellent writer when he shows restraint. He needs to stop being enamored with every idea he has and streamline the damn thing. I’m all for slow burns, but when the interesting aspects of the plot (Jessamy’s disturbing commitment to the ruse, Corbett & Brattle’s hushed tête-à-têtes) are suffocated by long stretches of what ultimately feel like non-story.
We’re essentially three hours into the series and I still don’t have a firm grasp on who Brattle is beyond a large man out for revenge. None of the characters feel well established yet, which in turn makes the story carry little weight. It’s too early to give up on the series completely (I go by the four episode rule), but man, it’s not looking good.
Rating: ★★ Fair
Bring Out Yer Dead
- While the pilot had some fine moments of black humor, “Elligy/Ddelw” was too self-serious to take seriously.
- It was only a matter of time before we were treated to an ol’ Sutter montage – the type he used to open and close Sons Of Anarchy with. Let’s just hope they don’t begin dragging it out to music video length like they did on the former series.
- Another layer of the Annora/Dark Mute mystery was peeled back this week when Kurt Sutter appeared in Brattle’s flashback. We saw him, sans makeup, nodding in approval as young Brattle beat the snot out of people in some kind of soldier training camp.
- Brattle experienced another vision, this time of a black ringneck snake. This is the same type of snake Annora has a big collection of back in her cave, hanging from hooks. Snake symbolism abounds in every culture around the globe as a symbol of rebirth, sin, and a whole lot of other things. Seeing as how Annora pulled one from the mouth of the dead bloated guy, I’m going to lean towards rebirth in this case.