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MCN Review: 'The Bastard Executioner'

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The Bastard Executioner is the kind of murky action series that, if you are engaged enough to see through the two-hour pilot episode, you are probably going to stick around for more. It is set in Wales in the 1300s. Hero Wilkin Brattle (Lee Jones), we learn in an opening flashback, was a potent warrior for the English King Edward I who has a battlefield vision of an angel urging him to lay down his sword and “live a life of a different man.”

Brattle says he understands, but he really doesn’t, and it takes most of the episode before the viewer learns he’s intended to live the life of a specific different man. He is manipulated toward that realization by Annora of the Alders, a gray-haired mystical figure played by Katey Sagal, wife of series creator Kurt Sutter (Sons of Anarchy). Sutter plays Annora’s companion, The Dark Mute.

There are sword-hacking battles and brutal mistreatment of peasants in Brattle’s shire by the sadistic local baron, played by Brian F. O’Byrne. There is some torturing and skillful beheading. There is also a fair quotient of bad teeth, in a nod to period realism.

Brattle’s path to becoming a different man leads him into his adversary’s inner circle. That includes befriending the baroness, Lady Love Ventris (Flora Spencer- Longhurst), who loves her Welsh countrymen much more than the baron does, and encountering the ruthlessly ambitious chamberlain, Milus Corbett, played by Stephen Moyer.

Annora has a destiny in mind for Brattle that’s not immediately revealed, and one can expect that the hero will see a lot more blood shed, including that which he causes to be shed as an executioner.

CORRECTION: This story was updated to correct the launch date to Tuesday, Sept. 15. Multichannel News regrets the error.