Review: The Bastard Executioner: Pilot, Parts 1 and 2

Spoilers starting now: So, we have a knight named Wilkin Brattle who is pretending to be a peasant and living the peaceful life, but at the end of this two-hour episode winds up pretending to be an executioner for one of the villains who previously betrayed him. A lot happens in between.

bastard executioner review pilot

The Bastard Executioner is the latest TV series that medieval history lovers will be tuning into. Created by Kurt Sutter, who is best known for Sons of Anarchy, it promises a lot of blood, gore and violence. Judging just by the opening credits, which show a bunch of torture devices never used in the Middle Ages, it is not aiming for historical accuracy, but Sutter isn’t making a documentary. He is setting up a tale of intrigue and revenge.

Until the last 10 minutes or so of the second-part of this episode, we are not sure what this show is going to be about. It is almost like Sutter believed he needed to create a stand-alone prequel in order to set up who Wilkin Brattle is and why he is doing what he is doing, but most viewers will find the plot and many characters fairly confusing. One hopes that this complex story will get more streamlined as the series goes on.

We get introduced to the evil Baron Ventris – you know this because the first scene shows him having rough, unsatisfying sex, followed by a bunch of other over-the-top villainous actions. However, he gets killed in a particularly nasty fashion (I wonder where they got that idea from) which leaves the main villain of the series to be his right-hand man Milus to be the bad guy for the rest of the series. He seems to be just as evil, but perhaps a little smarter than the Baron.

The person who is going to stop him is Wilkin Brattle, a knight that five years earlier was betrayed and left for dead by Ventris and Milus. However, he survived and upon seeing a vision of an angel, decided to live as a peasant in the same neighbourhood as Milus and the Baron. His commitment to God’s commandment and the peaceful life is quickly dismissed as Wilkin leads a gang of peasants in ambushing a tax collector and his men (Wilkin does feel a little bad about it afterwards). This leads the Baron to take revenge by wiping out his entire village, leaving his wife and unborn child dead. He goes out for revenge, and gets help from a Welsh rebel leader. Baron Ventris goes out to hunt him down, but gets caught in an ambush and is killed.

Then, through a much convoluted plot, Wilkin pretends to be an itinerary executioner named Maddux, and is hired (or rather forced to be hired) by Milus to become the executioner for the Baron’s wife.  The AV Club has a more detailed synopsis of the episode if you want to know more. Or you can watch this:

The two hour ‘Pilot’ sets up an interesting scenario – Wilkin/Maddux is working to an executioner/enforcer for the bad guys, but secretly one of the good guys – and the main bad guy knows who he really is – and this is all might be part of a bigger plot being run by the healer/witch Annora and her ugly sidekick.

A few more episodes of The Bastard Executioner will be needed to be seen before one can get a better feeling of how good or bad this series might be.

A few random thoughts:

The scenario of the knight living in disguise as the happy peasant has been done a few times – the most prominent might be from Kingdom of Heaven.

While the evil Baron is imposing high taxes and tariffs, it doesn’t seem to me that the peasants should be that upset about it – the village we are shown looks thriving and full of happy people. Why are they so bitter that they have to send their men out to go kill the tax collector and his men?

Baron Ventris has the entire village slaughtered, but doesn’t bother to wait for Wilkin and his men to return so he can finish them off

Later on, Baron Ventris leads a legion of men out of the castle. His legion, however, looks to be about 20 men on horseback.

When the battle with the Welsh rebels begins, all the horses but one seem to magically disappear. I guess they had to make some budget cuts.

Welsh people apparently don’t speak in Welsh.

Sign up to get a Weekly Email from

* indicates required

Smartphone and Tablet users click here to sign up for
our weekly email

medievalverse magazine