Starring: Lee Jones, Katey Sagal, Stephen Moyer, Sam Spruell, Flora Spencer-Longhurst, Kurt Sutter, Darren Evans, Sarah White, Sarah Sweeny, Timothy Murphy, Matthew Rhys, and Brian O’Byrne.
Created By: Kurt Sutter
I LOVED Sons Of Anarchy. It’s one of my favorite shows. So I was totally down for The Bastard Executioner. I was even more excited that Katey Sagal was involved, after spending season after season getting ignored by the Emmys. I can’t remember the last time I was so disappointed in a pilot.
I was slightly let down by Fear The Walking Dead, but The Bastard Executioner is on a different level. FTWD just failed to live up to the expectations set by the high bar of the original. With this, The Bastard Executioner comes nowhere near Sons Of Anarchy, or really any of the shows it clearly wants to be like. This is not Game Of Thrones. It’s not Outlander. I doubt it’s even Reign.
The show is centered around Wilkin Brattle (Jones), a man who used to be a badass, but has seen the error in his ways. However, fate pushes him into vengeance mode. The ensemble cast also involves Brian O’Byrne in a guest starring role as a Baron who is in a struggle for power, while also unable to produce a son with his wife (Spencer-Longhurst). He’s got a priest (Murphy) who is creepy as fuck for a priest, and a right hand man (Moyer). There’s also a healer/witch (Sagal), and a mute (Sutter) in the mix.
There’s talent in this cast, but it’s inconsistent and misused. I love Sagal. LOVE Sagal. I hate her in this role. She feels so incredibly miscast. Her accent is bizarre. Honestly, Brian O’Byrne was the best thing about the pilot, and he’s definitely not coming back. I didn’t have any major problems with Lee Jones as the lead, except he’s not Charlie Hunnam. He might surprise me as the season progresses.
I’m not invested in these characters or the story. I’m honestly not even really sure what the story is after one episode. The problem with the evolution of TV is that producers often get series orders before they even make a pilot, so they feel like the pilot is just chapter 1 in a 13 chapter book. Except, the pilot is really the heart of the show. It’s the thing that helps people decide if they’re in for the other 12 chapters, or if they stop reading. You have to have a strong start. You can’t just expect your audience to stick around for more episodes so they can understand your fleshed out world. I suppose somewhere out there a filmmaker is lamenting this mentality because it hampers his artistry, but the difference between a movie and TV show is that you’re committing to way more hours by watching a full season of a show, and eventually a full series. So, yeah, you need a strong pilot. I have to carve time out of my current TV watching schedule for your show, and you need to tell me why.
The Bastard Executioner’s pilot doesn’t do that. I’d be very surprised if this show survived Season 1. The pilot is already one of those “super sized” pilots (two hours), so the fact that it didn’t really work for me really worries me. I suppose the second hour was more exciting than the first hour, and the story started coming together a bit more. I’m really torn here, because I loved SOA, and I want to believe that Kurt Sutter has something up his sleeve, but right now this just seems like an excuse for lots of violence without really any point. Characters. You have to have them. We have to care. There were characters that died in the pilot that I didn’t actually care about.
I’m not sure if I’ll be back for another episode. There are a ton of new shows coming up. Luckily, Tuesdays at 10PM looks pretty barren right now (unless Limitless turns out to be phenomenal).
FINAL GRADE: C