Halfway through the first season of The Bastard Executioner, the show has begun dropping hints that a change of tactics is in order: Rather than employing extreme violence to solve their problems (and create new ones), characters seem to be considering sex and seduction as more effective methods of manipulation. Considering the name of the series, however, it isn’t too shocking when episode 5 ends with yet more burned and bloodied bodies. On The Bastard Executioner, whoever is comfortable inflicting the most pain holds the most power. Not even sex can compete with that.
“Piss Profit / Proffidwyr Troeth” — and now you can add cursing in Welsh to your list of party tricks — opens nearly two weeks after the events of the last episode. Lady Love is still not pregnant and, adding insult to injury, she’s just gotten her period. While asking her handmaid, Isabel, to hide her soiled garments, Isabel delicately suggests that there is a way to solve her Lady’s dilemma. For all her plotting and outsmarting, the Baroness couldn’t figure out that she needs to sleep with someone to produce an heir and get Edward II off her back? Conveniently, the show has set up Brattle as the obvious choice to sire the next Baron of Ventrishire.
Brattle is experiencing some marital stress of his own at the moment, however. He and his adopted son, Mica, meet Annora at the market, where the healer is selling her wares. Annora hands Mica a stick to gnaw on, and while the boy ecstatically chows down on the 14th century version of a lollipop, Annora cautions Brattle to be wary of his new wife, Jessamy. “Her angry ghosts push her close to madness,” the witch says, and you’d better believe it.
Back at work, Brattle and Prichard (alias, Marshal the Soldier) are trying to make their friends Ash, Calo, and Berber as comfortable as possible in their coffin torture chamber, when Chamberlain Corbett comes in and catches them. The Chamberlain exploits this moment of weakness to force a deal: If Brattle and Prichard intercept and destroy Pryce’s caravan of envoys, who are on their way to curry favor with the King, Corbett will release their friends. Last episode, it seemed that Corbett had allied himself with Pryce over their shared vision of getting rich off harbor tariffs. But, as always, the Chamberlain has only his own future in mind.
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Lady Love is still fretting over how to produce a pregnancy, when she gets even more bad news: Weaselly Lord Gaveston has traveled all the way to Ventrishire to confirm she is with child. There were no cheap plastic pregnancy tests in medieval times, so Gaveston has brought his best substitute: the king’s own Progeny Prophet and Horoscoper — or, as the locals know him, the Piss Prophet. Gaveston only adds to Love’s dismay be haughtily pointing out that, should she continue with this farce and not confess to her lie, he’ll disembowel her and cut off her breasts. Corbett, also trying to weasel his way out of this latest dilemma, finds those ever-so-helpful twins and encourages them to loosen Gaveston’s tongue. Corbett wants to know what the French lord is really after.
The Chamberlain’s other plot, the hijacking of the caravan, is soon underway. Brattle and Prichard seize Pryce’s wagon, kill all his men, and set the thing on fire. Except, oopsies, they discover too late that Pryce’s ailing wife is trapped inside. The men have unwittingly just eliminated the last remaining obstacle preventing Pryce (and, by extension, the Chamberlain) from seizing power in Ventrishire by marrying the Baroness.
Brattle confronts Corbett — by punching him in his oh-so-punchable face — but the damage is already done. The twins show up to comfort Corbett and to relay that Gaveston wasn’t interested in their advances, but he made it quite clear that he’d welcome a visit from the Chamberlain himself. “I suppose that would have been an obvious turn,” he replies, smirking. (There is historical evidence that the real Lord Gaveston and King Edward II may have been lovers.) Sex, again, seems to be the smartest strategy.
Except that Lady Love isn’t quite as willing to take that route. She comes upon Brattle contemplating his woes in the castle garden, and realizes that he can connect her with Annora, who has knowledge of “the humors” (a.k.a. lady problems).
NEXT: Gaveston makes a grave error[pagebreak]
Corbett makes it clear to Lord Gaveston that he is experiencing no such problems himself. They meet in Gaveston’s chambers, and heavy flirtation ensues. Each is stealthily trying to figure out the other, and Corbett is so bold as to suggest that, perhaps, Gaveston’s interest in their humble shire is motivated by a need to hide. The Lord doesn’t deny it, but for more information, he tells Corbett that the Chamberlain will have to get on his knees. Corbett obliges, but his chance at discovering Gaveston’s secrets turns out to be a ruse. The Lord slaps his head away, before mockingly informing him that the common-born Corbett isn’t fit to pleasure one so nobly born. The Chamberlain is deeply humiliated, but his wheels are already turning: Gaveston may have just sealed his own fate. This turn of events also aligns Corbett’s cause with Lady Love’s even more strongly and, having exhausted sex, violence seems his only recourse.
The Baroness is doing her best to solve her own problems without getting busy. Rather than just becoming pregnant the old-fashioned way, she enlists Annora to make her a solution to the Piss Prophet’s pregnancy test. While that’s going down, Brattle has another vision of his late wife, Petra. Though his previous hallucinations have indicated Petra wants him to move on (presumably to Lady Love), this one is more sinister: Petra urges him to follow her, telling him “this is where you belong,” before disrobing and falling into a coffin-shaped torture hole. Brattle tries to fish her out, but it is Pryce’s burned wife who emerges instead, also telling him this is where he belongs.
The next morning, Isabel comes to help her Lady falsify the pregnancy test. Annora has given the handmaiden materials, including urine from a very pregnant wolf (just $14.99 at your local Costco) to mix into her own pee before presenting the concoction for inspection. On his way to hear the results, Gaveston runs into the twins, whom he enthusiastically kisses. Turns out, he promised them their freedom in return for tricking Corbett. Oh, and they’re his half-sisters. Honestly, that’s only the third-grossest thing to happen on this show so far.
Gaveston’s exuberance is short-lived, however: Lady Love’s pregnancy test came back, and, surprise, she’s a werewolf with heir! Her urine did in fact rust nails and change the color of a dish of blood — though it didn’t soften a goat’s bone, but the Piss Prophet assures his audience, that test has never been the most reliable anyway.
The Baroness rushes to the chapel to give thanks because her plan worked. There, she finds Brattle, trying to atone for his latest sins. She thanks him for Annora’s help, and they embrace. First Prichard, then Jessamy both happen by the open chapel door at that moment, and discover Love and Brattle in their intimate hug. Prichard just walks away, disgusted by how close his friend is getting to their enemies. But Jessamy stands, transfixed, with an aggrieved expression clouding her face. Annora’s own prophecy, that Jessamy’s “angry ghosts push her close to madness” is coming to pass.
Ironically, it’s Brattle’s lack of sexual relations with his wife that has pushed her toward this point. Now, it seems, Jessamy finds her only recourse is violence as well.