Fall Premieres: The Bastard Executioner

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On Tuesday Kurt Sutter’s newest show, The Bastard Executioner, premiered on his favorite network with a two hour pilot. To say it was highly anticipated by me would be an overstatement. I’m a fan of Sutter’s previous works, and the show was certainly on my to-watch list, but this was in a genre that I was not sure was in the Sutter wheelhouse. As a result I was taking a slightly optimistic wait and see approach. After watching the show still not sure if it is in his wheelhouse. I should state that I really enjoy pieces based on this period of time so I may be harder to please. Rather than do a recap, I’m trying out a new layout for the premieres to save myself some time and energy. So here is the inauguration of the Good, the Bad, the Ugly, and the Verdict.

The Good

  • The teeth. Clearly someone working on the show has seen the complaints that circulate after period shows that the teeth are always too clean. It is a weird complaint but watching a show about what little people had and then seeing perfect teeth can take you out of the moment.
  • Stephen Moyer. Moyer plays a nefarious character on the show who really reminds me of Sheriff Nottingham, always angling for more power. He is written quite clichéd but not nearly as bad the Baron who would be twiddling his moustache if he had one. That being said Moyer runs with it, he commands just about every scene he is in. He stands out as one of the memorable characters though that unfortunately is not really a feat (discussed further below in the bad section). I wouldn’t watch the show just for him but he livens up the place.
  • Katey Sagal. The one who outshines them all. She is a chameleon and I really hope she gets a lot more scenes.
  • The theme and opening credits. Performed by Ed Sheeran, who will be joining the cast in a recurring role later in the season, the theme is a haunting tune played over a series of monochrome – outside of the bright red blood – shots of the tools of the executioner’s trade.
  • Moors. The show not only features but also comments on moors. Take that every period show and film that claims the addition of people of color would be inauthentic.
  • IT’S FANTASY. I’m a sucker for science fiction and fantasy so the fantastical elements were a welcome surprise. There is a thread of Christian mysticism embedded in the show that I really hope they actually explore.

The Bad

  • The lead. I have a history of disliking leads of shows but it usually takes longer than the pilot for me to get there and it is more a characterization problem, not an acting issue. But this time around it’s different. We watch the lead go through some horrific things, frankly too many things but I’ll address that later, and none of it translated on screen through the lead. It doesn’t help that Sutter’s shows are now synonymous with charismatic male leads, being blah feels unacceptable. I hope it is just a result of the bloated pilot but the lead is going to have to step it up for anyone to care.
  • The rest of cast. The rest of the cast is filled with familiar TV faces that I really enjoy watching in other roles. Unfortunately the pilot features almost all the characters in very stocky roles, the talent pooled on the show that could have buoyed the pilot was wasted. The silver lining is that the show is filled with great talent and pilots usually suck so there is a ton to be hopeful about for later episodes.
  • The pacing. A bunch of stuff happens in the pilot but the show still feels like it drags and drags and drags.

The Ugly

  • Filler, filler, filler. Part of that reason it drags is because, despite the fact stuff is happening, everything feels like filler. It was essentially an hour and forty-five minutes of tone-setting that should have been trimmed to just forty-five minutes. Most of the action felt like it was trying to go toe to toe with Game of Thrones brutality and shockwise, making it feel even more unnecessary. The main driving force of the show, based on the info given so far, is not even revealed until the last 15 minutes.
  • Too much too quickly. I live-tweeted the premiere and it lost a lot of people who were confused as to why things were happening and why they should care. The show kind of just threw atrocities and characters at you and hoped it would illicit a reaction. You had no investment in any of the characters but then they start cutting them down and you are supposed to care.

The Verdict
Will Keep Watching But There is a Chance I’ll Give Up On It
The last 15 minutes of the show presented a show that seemed like one I would really enjoy so I am hoping that show continues in that vain, not like the rest of the pilot. I am relatively optimistic considering that the show is in the hands of a creator I am fond of. What I really need is an inroad towards connection because right now I don’t care what happens to anyone. Except Katey Sagal, but that’s because she is Katey Sagal and Katey Sagal is a goddess.

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