THE SHOW "The Bastard Executioner"
WHEN|WHERE Premieres Tuesday night at 10 on FX
WHAT IT'S ABOUT Kurt Sutter's ("Sons of Anarchy") new series is set in 14th century Wales, where people are chafing under brutal local English rule -- particularly the rule of Erik Ventris (Brian F. O'Byrne) and his evil crony, Milus Corbett (Stephen Moyer). A rebellion against a tax hike has unexpected consequences, and former warrior (now farmer) Wilkin Brattle (Lee Jones) is forced back into the field of battle. For reasons unknown, a sorceress, Annora (Katey Sagal), gives him some counsel and -- long story short -- he becomes an "executioner," or pretends to become one, in service of Corbett. Only his friend Toran Prichard (Sam Spruell) knows his secret. But what of the lovely Baroness Lady Love (Flora Spencer-Longhurst)?
MY SAY Still in mourning for their beloved show, "Sons of Anarchy" fans will come to "Executioner" for an answer to only one question -- has Kurt done it again?
Oh yeah, Kurt's done it again, all right. Give Sutter a mandate to make a show with motorcycles and guns, and he'll use 'em. Give him a mandate to make a show with swords and axes, and he'll use those too -- with predictable consequences. The violence is over the top, but nothing you haven't already seen in "Spartacus: War of the Damned" or even History's "Vikings."
There are obvious parallels here with "SOA." The dialogue is densely packed, all of it laying out or hiding motive. And like "SOA," "Executioner" also forces you to listen carefully, to begin the necessary process of unpacking that dialogue. There are vicious cycles of escalating revenge and mystical, quasi-magic flourishes (remember the "Homeless Woman" in "SOA"?).
Meanwhile, Sagal (Sutter's wife) is back in a Gemma-like role. As a sorceress, she's either -- metaphorically speaking -- Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, or the Wicked Witch of the West. Sutter doesn't make entirely clear which one. But if you recall Gemma, you can guess.
The cast is good, and not just Jones -- whose character distantly mirrors Charlie Hunnam's Jax Teller. (Both also have mommy AND daddy issues). First-raters include Moyer, stage actress Spencer-Longhurst and Spruell.
You've probably already heard "Executioner" is slow to get into. That's true. But (I think) the setup works, and (also think) it promises a satisfying series.
Satisfying, at least, for "SOA" fans in mourning.
BOTTOM LINE The violence is appalling. The show is well done. Your call.