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'The Bastard Executioner' recap: 'Behold the Lamb / Gweled Yr Oen'

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Ollie Upton/FX

The Bastard Executioner

type:
TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
seasons:
1
run date:
09/15/15
performer:
Stephen Moyer, Darren Evans, Kurt Sutter
broadcaster:
FX
genre:
Drama

And so it was that every last character on the show previously unaware of Brattle’s secret identity finally faced the bizarre truth: that Castle Ventrishire’s highly skilled hatchet man is, in fact, a noble knight slumming in the name of revenge.

In episode 7, Confession A takes place inside Lady Love’s boudoir where the existentially conflicted character breaks down the whole scheme. With sincere anguish spreading across his face, Brattle explains he was once a mounted soldier in the employ of Longshanks’ army and, after the king’s grand deception, one of the hooded men who killed her husband. Moreover, he hands the Baroness a confession of his crimes: the killings of Corbett’s half-brother, Lady Trula, and that wrong-place-wrong-time royal soldier from episode 4.

All things considered, she takes the news pretty well. As the Executioner Formerly Known as Maddox goes in for a late-inning lip-lock, the Baroness gives a minor head-fake before consenting to a pleasure-pain kiss for the ages. “My time with you — it was worth the punishment I’m about to receive,” Brattle remarks.

Confession B is purely gestural. Brattle bursts into the dungeon, rips Petra’s necklace from around the neck of Leon Tell and draws his sword; He’s taking revenge before being taken out. The Reeve and Sir Locke quickly realize who they are dealing with when Pritchard rather unsubtly exclaims, “Brattle!” But the situation is diffused when Lady Love bursts into the dungeon and tells them to play it cool. “I do not know if what I feel for you is God’s will or the work of a clever demon,” she tells the executioner. “But I am certain, Wilkin Brattle, that whatever this may be, it is the thing for which I have been waiting.”

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For the past six installments, the show has sustained intrigue by piling lies on top of secrets on top of deceptions and ruses, while twisting screws on the characters ever tighter with manipulations and power plays based on those untruths. Given Brattle’s new, “free to be you and me” outlook, though, it begs the question: Can Chamberlain Corbett continue to bend Brattle to his will absent the threat of blackmail?

Meanwhile, the rest of Episode 7 is best explained through a selective examination of certain objects appearing in Tuesday’s broadcast.

The Daffodil and Dagger do-rag: Leon and Sir Locke drag Brattle and Pritchard reluctantly out to help bust up a rebel encampment. Once there, Sir Locke uncovers a cache of golden antiques (assumedly laying around to help finance the operation) guarded by a fierce “wench” who dies by the nobleman’s sword. He pulls a Daffodil and Dagger-branded hankie out of his pocket and throws it on the woman’s body — incriminating evidence she’s in cahoots with the Wolf and his posse of rebel brigands.

This plays into an as-yet undercooked story line concerning the Wolf’s inability to keep a handle on the Welsh uprising at a time when Ventrishire shot-callers seem to want to stitch him up for crimes he hasn’t even committed.

Of course, Locke has scarcely thrown down the do-rag when a bunch of rebels on horseback show up at the encampment and fighting commences in earnest. Along the way, another member of The Guilty is stabbed through the head — a crime for which Brattle knows Chamberlain will blame him and his men. And Leon ends up saving Pritchard from a knife-wielding rebel. Will that good deed change the calculus of his revenge?

NEXT: Prepare for the gore[pagebreak]​

The branding iron of destiny: Since getting swept up in the rebel dragnet in episode 4, Calo and Ash have had it pretty bad. By day, they toil knee-deep in mud. By night, the characters sleep al fresco in a pigsty. When Calo wakes up for a midnight pee, however, Corbett emerges from the darkness to whack him in the head with a branding iron. As Calo bleeds and whimpers, the Chamberlain takes a trip down memory lane about the cleric at the orphanage where he grew up who used to habitually assault him as a 9-year-old boy — a scene standing out amid Bastard Executioner’s depictions of physical carnage that could fairly qualify for its own trigger warning.

“I was his favorite,” Corbett recalls, his voice pregnant with faraway regret. “Pretty. Firm. As he would tear his gnarled meat into my innocent bottom, do you know what he would call me? His little lamb-y.”

He has the terrified Calo utter the word “lamb-y” a couple of times — one potential explanation for the episode being titled “Behold the Lamb” — but nevertheless murders him with the branding iron to send Brattle precisely the message he feared: You kill one of mine, I kill one of yours.

Lady Love’s lil’ brown violin: Showing impressive fiddle skills, the Baroness plays a plaintive tune without the aid of sheet music for assembled Castle gentry and Baron Pryce. It turns out he gifted her the instrument — a kind of violin/ukelele-looking thing with strings and a bow — a citole? — as a show of goodwill. “It’s God’s desire to melt away the years of ill will between our shires,” Pryce tells her with thinly disguised ardor.

There’s a mounting pressure on Lady Love to make a love connection with the feudal lord now that Lady Trula is out of the picture and Castle coffers are running bare. As well, Corbett reminds her the clock is ticking on her fake pregnancy through the pointed use of a funny pun. “We all know the Baron was barren!” he exclaims. And the Baroness slaps him.

Book of secrets: The Archdeacon has redoubled his efforts to locate Annora and blow the lid off her mysterious spiritual sect. In episode 7, Ed Sheeran is notably absent as the holy man’s holy muscle. But that crusade involves stripping Calo, Berber, and Ash to the waist to search them for “heretical markings.”

We discover Father Ruskin is even more sympathetic to the healer and her cause than we previously imagined. After consultation with Berber, Ruskin heads off to the “far caverns in a cave at the base of the widest gorge” where Annora is holed up with the Dark Mute to warn the witchy woman that bad things are coming her way.

She immediately grasps the Archdeacon’s agenda, handing Ruskin a leather bound tome by way of explanation. It’s the Book of the Nazarenes, she explains — one name for a book more commonly known nowadays as the New Testament. “Read, then we will talk,” Annora intones.

Death box: The innocent seldom go unpunished in The Bastard Executioner and the show’s seventh episode provides no exception. In exchange for the repayment of debts and the promise his wife and family will enjoy elevated station, a shire man named Burwyn Cairns (Paul Bullion) has confessed to the murder of Lady Trula, who he says he offed at the Wolf’s bidding. The guy’s innocent, of course, but condemned to die in a most hideous manner.

Never mind that Brattle/Maddox has just confessed to three separate murders and admitted his secret identity to knights who would sooner kill him. At Lady Love’s bidding, Brattles goes through with the execution using a special metal-studded death box of his own design.

Cairns’ arms and legs are placed in special shackles. Incisions are made above his shoulders. Chains are affixed the shackles and tied to horses that are whipped to run in different directions. And thus modern audiences are treated to an ancient spectacle: a doomed man being drawn and quartered to die in abject agony.

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