Father Ruskin clearly can’t believe his senses. Having read the scriptures “hand-scribed by the Nazarenes” three times over, his incredulity floats in the dark of Annora’s cave as palpable as the campfire heat and witchy weirdness. In particular, the book’s “Jesus, son of Joseph” assertion — an affront to Ruskin’s “Jesus, the Son of God” faith — blows the holy man’s mind.
“If these are truly his words, the very foundation of all I believe in and all that I preach…“ Ruskin begins to say. “Is shattered?” Annora interrupts.
“That’s why Robinus and his army pursue us,” the healer continues. “We are the Seraphim: the ones chose to carry and protect the words of the Nazarene.”
Eight episodes into basic cable’s bloodiest offering, The Bastard Executioner pulls back the kimono on several of the series’ most compelling characters with this reading of scripture: a book that will, in later centuries, come to be know as the New Testament. Within the series, it’s presented as a narrative catalyst whose import is announced by a mounting body count.
Carrying The Word — not paganism —compelled Annora to alter Brattle’s fate by ordering the Dark Mute to murder Petra. Obliterating The Word is Robinus’ primary directive (by extension, Ed Sheeran’s character’s too). For they are Knights of the Rosula, a.k.a. the descendants of the soldiers who killed Christ. And protecting The Word allows Kurt Sutter’s Dark Mute character to proceed in battle as a kind of magical, invulnerable, grotesquely disfigured archangel.
But when Robinus’ men rush into the far caverns where the healer-witch and her bizarre factotum are presumed to have taken Bin Laden-like refuge, a little magic and some clever booby traps redress the pursuer-pursued power dynamic. Snakes hanging limp on a clothesline come hissing to life to bite chunks from a Knight of the Rosula’s face. A strategically placed letter releases a plume of flame that ignites a bubbling cauldron of oil. And several henchmen die hideous deaths. The upshot: Robinus upgrades Ruskin from a suspect to a full-on person of interest worthy of kidnapping, along with (somewhat inexplicably) “a male child.”
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Meanwhile, England teeters on the brink of civil war. A consortium of influential barons called the Ordainers has seized power from Edward II and his A-hole right-hand man, Piers Gaveston, is on the run (for “leading the king astray”) with a bounty on his head. Will Lady Love, the Ordainers would like to know, provide Ventrishire’s military might in exchange for a spot at the royal negotiating table?
The Baroness doesn’t let her three-month old fake pregnancy preclude Machiavellian maneuvering. Ventrishire, she counters, will round up Gaveston in exchange for the self-determination to deal with the Welsh rebel uprising. (What goes unsaid: To give an opt-out for her rebel leader half-brother, the Wolf.) “We have to try compromise before combat,” the Baroness argues.
Prichard and Brattle ride out to Annora’s new Tora Bora — the Eastern Bay Coves — where she treats the erstwhile executioner to a vision from his infancy: A nun is shown in flashback attempting to drown baby Brattle during his christening only to be slain by a faceless knight.
Then rebel nomads attack our heroes only to be repelled by the Dark Mute’s mysterious, take-a-knee ninja skills. “Bury them in the soft sand,” he tells Prichard of the dozen or so men the Mute has just slaughtered. “I thought he was without tongue,” Prichard replies, incredulous on the beach.
NEXT: The Baroness admits her baby bump is fake
Across the shire, Corbett blows the lid off the Sexual Wonder Twins’ heretofore unheralded duplicity. “We took note of the English Earl here this morning,” says Ramona — or is it Clara? — in what amounts to either twin’s first line of spoken dialogue since being introduced as the “condolence gift” for Baron Ventris’ death in episode 2.
The Chamberlain casually lets drop that the barons have tracked down Gaveston and are planning imminent attack. So when the sisters try to head off on horseback in his aid, Corbett is one step ahead. He orders Leon Tell to torture the Wonder Twins until they reveal where Gaveston is hiding. First, however, Corbett makes an extremely unflattering comment about how one of the women’s sexual organ “droops like wet clay.”
Turns out Clara and Ramona are Gaveston’s half-sisters and co-conspirators. Their brother is camped out at a nearby monastery. Over Leon’s objections, the Chamberlain resolves to set off with Brattle and Prichard to capture the royal bail jumper.
Toward the end of episode 7, Jessamy found momentary happiness sharing physical intimacy with Brattle, whose sudden horniness may have been informed by the fact he had just come home from yet another sexually frustrating interlude with Lady Love. Increasingly impossible to ignore, the delusional Mrs. Executioner had been after “Maddie” to join her in the marital bed for some time before he finally relented. In Tuesday’s installment “Broken Things / Toredig Pethau,” she goes all Fatal Attraction on her man.
Against the counsel of both Isabel and Chamberlain Corbett, the Baroness has finally arranged a secret sexytime assignation with Brattle in her family crypt; there she admits her baby bump is fake. The executioner is taken aback — but flirty. “You are aware that giving birth to a pillow neither serves the Shire nor yourself?” he tells her, prompting a round of giggles.
The veil of secrets between the characters finally drops and seemingly alone with their inflamed passions, Lady Love and Brattle kiss for the first time. Only they are not alone at all and are rudely interrupted by the raging Jessamy in the mother of all romantic buzzkills. “Noble whore!” she shouts at the Baroness.
Ruskin shows up to sedate Jessamy with something called “Irish tonic” that may or may not include alcohol as an active ingredient. And soon Brattle, Prichard, and Corbett are leaving on horseback for Gaveston’s hideout.
With his mother unconscious in a castle crypt and his “father” off on a search-and-destroy mission, Luca merrily heads off with Father Ruskin for the night, both of them exuding suspiciously cheery demeanors that effectively telegraph the tragedy waiting around a dark corner. Inside the rectory, Robinus’ men pop out to knock the priest unconscious and carry the boy off kicking and screaming inside a cloth sack.