Thank God I’ve finally gotten my sense of humor back about FX’s faux “historical drama” The Bastard Executioner, created and written by Kurt Sutter. I ascribe the return of my relative tolerance of the show to several elements, the most important of which is that it’s almost over for the season. Yeppers, next week is the big finale. I made it through the entire first season.
And I have no intention of ever watching another season — if, indeed, there is one — of one of the silliest shows ever created.
How The Bastard Executioner ever got the green light for production, I’ll never know.
I realize that most people who might read this blog will be those who actually like the show, since most viewers couldn’t get through the gratuitous and egregious violence of the first episode. I commend those Kurt Sutter fans for ignoring all the historical inaccuracies in The Bastard Executioner, for watching episodes that, literally, increase in time each week, for not throwing up at all the gory gore and repetitious violence, for re-watching episodes multiple times in order to understand the mumbled dialogue, for not pulling their hair out by the handfuls when they discovered that the dialogue didn’t make any sense in the first place, for trying to believe in an historically impossible romance, and for putting up with outlandish subplots.
You are brave, you BE viewers, and I salute you.
I have never seen a show, on any network, that varies its times for each and every episode. Way to go, Bastard Executioner. As if the 2-hour “premiere,” which, we learned later, was really episodes 1 and 2, wasn’t exciting enough, we’ve had fun in this household trying to guess how long each show is going to last. E3, for example, was 75 minutes, from 10-11:15. E6 “Thorns,” on the other hand, came in at a staggering 91 minutes, keeping viewers up till 11:31p.m.
Altogether, 9 episodes of The Bastard Executioner have totaled 690 minutes of air-time. That’s an average of 76.66666666666667 minutes per episode. Since most network shows with commercials come in at around 45 minutes, that’s the equivalent of 15.333333333333333 network episodes crammed into only 9.
What a challenge!
What excitement each Tuesday night to try to guess beforehand how long you’re going to have to stay up to see the entire show.
How many other writer-creators have duped a network into a contract giving their show 10 episodes, but then squeezed more than 16 episodes of air-time into those 10 shows?
You go, Kurt!
I’ll bet FX hasn’t even noticed, even if it is showing the same commercials during every break. Not commercials from the same advertisers. The same commercials. Literally. I’ll bet you saved them some big advertising bucks, Kurt.
And who cares if ever-varying and lengthening show times wreak havoc with viewers’ sleeping patterns?
Who could sleep after all that blood and gore anyway, am I right?
Gore Instead of Plot
The show has been criticized for relying on violence rather than on plot, and the consensus on Rotten Tomatoes is that “Kurt Sutter’s The Bastard Executioner doesn’t want for dark thrills, but it unfortunately has more enthusiasm for brutality and gore than necessary narrative focus.”
Oh, come on, guys: lighten up. What’s more exciting that burning an entire village because it doesn’t want to pay increased taxes? What’s more fun than cutting a killing a pregnant woman and leaving her on top of the pile of dead villagers, with her still-connected-by-the-umbilical-cord baby on top?
How about stabbing a guy through the head with a knife?
Too dull for you?
How about the torture scenes, like the drawing and quartering of a man both the Baroness and the Faux Executioner knew to be innocent?
Still not funny enough for you? How about this then: Sheep Boy’s discovery, in last night’s episode, of the remaining twin servant girl, half-sister to the King’s lover Gaveston, of her body in a field clearing.
Too, too funny.
Just like that scene in The Exorcist when Linda Blair’s character’s head twists all the way around.
Only the twin’s head seems to have twisted off.
What a sense of humor that Sutter has, eh?
Titles/Welsh for Titles
It’s super fun having the title of each episode in English, immediately followed by what we’re told is the title in Welsh. The only difficulty such a strategy might present is when the translation is not literal or direct. In the first few episodes, reviewers and critics looked up the Welsh subtitles and then carefully explained how they differed in meaning from the title in English, while also telling us what the implications of the slight-to-major variations in translations might be for the episode.
Take “Piss Profit/Prophet” as an example. It seems rather unlikely that the Welsh would mix up those two words, but then, it was completely historically inaccurate to have the King send someone to “read” the Baroness’ “piss” to see if she were really preggers, as she claimed to be, since that test wasn’t invented till the 1930s.
For some reason, however, the critics stopped doing looking up the translations, and it’s super-hard to find Welsh translations of the titles listed, even on the Super-Google. But, hey, that’s one of the fun bits of the show, ain’t it? Nothing’s historically accurate in any event, and the Welsh “titles” can’t be verified by any of us here in the US or at FX, so who knows what jokes are hidden in these Welsh titles:
“Pilot, Parts 1 and 2”
3 “Effigy / Ddelw”
4 “A Hunger / Newyn”
5 “Piss Profit / Proffidwyr Troeth”
6 “Thorns / Drain”
7 “Behold the Lamb / Gweled yr Oen”
8 “Broken Things / Pethau Toredig”
9 “The Bernadette Maneuver / Cynllwyn Bernadette”
10 “Blood and Quiescence / Crau a Chwsg”
I’m guessing those Welsh titles are another one of “Sutter’s Hat Tricks.”
I mean, the “Bernadette Maneuver/Cynllwyn Bernadette” involved a doe and Sheep-Boy, who, as you know if you’ve been watching, not only talks to animals but has sexual relations with sheep. And everyone else acts like it’s normal.
So what does “Cynllwyn Bernadette” really mean?
And that’s who the Chamberlain used to help him get into a Baron’s guarded castle to kidnap and execute the escaped exile Gaveston, formerly the King’s favorite.
If I could’ve found a photo of one of the major characters laughing, I would’ve put it in — to show what a good sport I am about the joke with the titles in Welsh, and with their not always meaning what they do in English, for some obscure reason.
But the closest I could find was photos of Stephen Moyer, who plays the Chamberlain, smirking, and one of Danny Sapani sort-of-smiling. Since I’ve already remarked in earlier posts on Moyer’s smirking throughout virtually every scene, I went with Danny’s kinda smile.
This show has some wild and crazy dialogue, I can tell you. If you can figure it out, it’s a hoot. Let’s look at an example from E6, “Thorns,” when Annora became some kind of Stigmatic or something and had thorns coming out of her body. She gave some of them to the Priest on the day she was in the marketplace.
Priest (after Annora gives him a handful of bloody thorns): The market does not trade today, Healer.
Annora (giving him more bloody thorns): I am here to see you, Father.
Priest: I do not deal in remedies.
Annora: These are not to heal. They are to warn.
Priest: It is not wise to show your pagon-ness (?) so openly.
Annora (quotes Leviticus, pulls another thorn from between her breasts): Crown of Thorns. You will know the evil when you see it.
Try this one, between the Faux Executioner and his faux wife:
Faux Wife: My love.
Faux Executioner: I need you to sit and listen. Stop holding on to the lie.
Faux Wife: There is no lie.
Faux Executioner: Stop. I am not your husband nor an Executioner.
Faux Wife: You commit no sins.
Faux Executioner: All I do is commit sins.
Faux Wife: You are pious in the eyes of God.
What about this one, between the Baroness and her (bastard) half-brother, who is apparently the real leader of the rebels in Wales, and goes by “The Wolf.”
Baroness: An independent Wales is my greatest wish as well, but it won’t happen with violence.
Wolf: Longshanks started this revolution.
Baroness: A revolution with no leader is chaos.
Wolf: Revolution cannot be tucked inside a box. It has no laws.
Baroness: Nor does chaos.
Baroness: You want me to fund your revolution?
Wolf: I know you have family heirlooms.
Baroness: Why not just steal them?
Wolf: I’m not a thief.
Baroness: Were you there in the grass fields when my husband was killed?
Wolf: I was, but another killed him.
One reviewer or blogger said he turned on Closed Captioning to help him understand the dialogue, most of which is mumbled.
I wonder what he thinks now that he can read the lines of mostly nonsensical and certainly non-sequitur dialogue.
If you’ve read any of my previous blogs on The Bastard Executioner or watched the show itself, you know that the Baroness and the Faux Executioner are always meeting, alone, in private places, like the Baroness’ chapel, garden, and bedroom. Despite the class distinctions that would have kept their lives completely separate, and despite his perpetually dirty, stringy hair, which would have repelled most noblewomen in any age, the two have “fallen in love.”
Ain’t that just the sweetest thing?
Even though they know that they can’t be together — legally? socially? logically? — they keep holding hands, calling each other “Love” and “Wilkin” every time they meet, and even kissing in the hallways, even if the hallways are in the basement of the castle.
They’ve been caught by the faux wife, who went so berserkers on the two of them, threatening to reveal their “affair,” which actually hasn’t been consummated yet, that they tied her up and locked her in a room in the underground passages in E8-9. I’m guessing she did not find it amusing.
I don’t think the faux wife’s “problem” with the romance between the Baroness and the Faux Executioner has anything to do with their social class and separation, however. I’m guessing it has more to do with the fact that the Faux Executioner, despite constantly reminding the faux wife Jessamy that he is not her husband, has already made love to her.
In her eyes, and in the eyes of most of the people of the time period, that would make him her husband.
She had every right to get mad that the Baroness was trying to “steal” him from her.
Besides being caught by the faux wife, the Faux Executioner’s friend also figured it out and confronted Wilkin about the inappropriate relationship.
I’m guessing the Chamberlain knows all about it, too.
I mean, that guy knows everything.
He knew that the Faux Executioner was not the Shire’s Executioner. He knows the Faux Executioners friends are the Rebels, and he clubbed one of them to death (relating, first, his own childhood rapes by a man who called the not-yet-Chamberlain his little “lambie”).
The Chamberlain also knows the Baroness is not really with child — he confronted her with that.
No doubt, the ever smirking Chamberlain, with his hidden network of spies, already knows about the Baroness’ and the Faux Executioner’s silly, improbable romance, too.
I wonder if he laughs about it, alone in his chambers, or whether he just smirks.
And Then Came Jesus…
I’m sure you’re wondering what Jesus has to do with the Faux Executioner.
So am I, and I haven’t missed an episode.
It’s one of the most bizzarro subplots ever, and not just because it’s so convoluted or because it made me laugh out loud. It’s just downright silly and has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the show.
All through the last few episodes, the Archdeacon has been looking for, torturing, and killing people suspected of being or of knowing the whereabouts of a groups of Seraphim. I know the word means “angel” but I don’t know what “Seraphim” stands for in the show.
Anyway, it turns out that Annora is one of them. I don’t know whether her scarred husband is, but I know he’s supposed to be a former Knights Templar. According to this show, the Knights Templar saw Jesus when he came out of the grave on Easter and he forgave them (they were the soldiers who’d mocked and killed him). They then received his “writings” and they’re supposed to protect them. Annora showed them to the Priest.
Wowza, was he ever stunned.
Not only could Jesus, “the Nazarene, son of Joseph” — why not son of Mary? — read and write, but he had all his “nine, hand-scribed scriptures” with him after he arose from his death on the Roman cross, and gave them to the very men who helped crucify him for safekeeping.
And the content of the “writings of the Nazarene, Jesus, son of Joseph”?
Nobody told us yet.
Nobody even told us how all these people can read ancient Galilean Aramaic, which would have been the language and dialect that Jesus of Nazareth spoke (it’s unlikely that he could read or write, in any language, since only the wealthy aristocrats and the privileged could do so).
Maybe we’ll find out what the “Nazarene” supposedly wrote in his “nine, hand-scribed scriptures” in the finale.
I’m guessing Sutter will try to keep that an ongoing secret till season 2.
It’ll be a long wait for that secret’s revelation — if the show even gets renewed — because the ratings for The Bastard Executioner have dropped from 2.11M to around 83K in just a few weeks.
In any event, I have no idea what Jesus has to do with the story of the Faux Executioner and his Rebel-mates.
While We’re On the Topic
of Annora & her Weird Scarred Husband…
How about that subplot with Annora, the Healer, who’s played by creator-writer Kurt Sutter’s real-life wife Katy Sagal, and her scarred husband, played by Kurt Sutter himself?
We found out that Annora was a nun who got expelled from her convent for having sex with the scarred guy, who’s now her husband, and he’s a Templar Knight. Since the Faux Executioner was told that a nun left him at the orphan home, we guessed — episodes ago — that Annora was his mother. Last week, after showing the Priest the bound scriptures, Annora told the Priest that her scarred husband was punished for having sex with her by being burnt.
But here’s the “real shit and giggles part,” (as Christopher Walken’s character in What to do in Denver When You’re Dead would say). Annora’s husband — yeah, that’s scarred guy — is the one who killed the Faux Executioner’s real preggers wife and cut out their baby.
If Annora got thrown out of her convent for having sexual relations with a Templar Knight, who got punished by being burnt and is now scarred, and the scarred guy…
Wait till the Faux Executioner finds out that his own Dad killed and mutilated the Faux Executioner’s wife and cut out their baby.
Wonder who’s gonna laugh hardest during the torture scene that ensues…
The Bastard Executioner: Martin Guerre Meets Game of Thrones (premiere, s1 e1-2)
The Bastard Executioner: When Martin Guerre Doesn’t Know the Rules (s1e3)
Hunger and the Piss Pot: FX’s The Bastard Executioner, e4-5