“Unforgivable sins.” These are what plague Wilkin as he discovers truths about his path thus far and the people who surround him in “The Bernadette Maneuver/Cynllwyn Bernadette,” but unforgivable sins aren’t just reserved for the titular character of The Bastard Executioner. No, the ninth and penultimate episode of Season 1, and the series in general, shows the characters engaging in all kinds of unforgivable sins and how they handle the burden of carrying those sins with varying degress of difficulty.
On the road to Deddington Monastery, Wilkin and Corbett sit with the other soldiers as Corbett attempts to begin the day in a good mood. “Perhaps one day they will sing songs of our bravery,” Corbett cheerily states. But those words of encouragement are immediately dashed as Prichard and Wilkin reply in pessimistic tones to the statement, “And it will be a short and clumsy tune.” “Full of sour notes and harsh rhymes.”
Sweet, supposedly innocent Ash is seemingly tricked by the living Twin via seduction (as per usual) to loosen her binds so that she can escape from the men. Ash attempts to cover up his stupidity by placing the blame on whoever tied the Twin’s binds rather than himself for loosening them in the first place, but something seems a bit off by how nonchalantly he let the woman escape without making haste to capture her or let the others know.
While it’s clear that the hunt for Gaveston is the main story line in “The Bernadette Maneuver/Cynllwyn Bernadette,” we quickly find ourselves back at the Castle with Jessamy who has now been bound to a bed in the maiden’s chambers of Lady Love. “You are restrained because of your misguided rage,” Lady Love tells Brattle’s fake wife. Jessamy to her credit (or way more accurately her insanity) still refuses to believe that Wilkin is not in fact Maddox, and that is Lady Love’s purpose in binding Jessamy. “The grip of that illusion must be broken,” Love tells the poor woman, but seemingly nothing can reverse her thinking at the moment. It takes only about a minute of effort for Love to break from her illusion of kindness. Love tells Jessamy that if she refuses to admit the truth about her fake husband’s true identity, she will be charged with assaulting a baroness, she will be put to death, and her children will be taken away by what is basically old-timey Child Protective Services. Love leaves Jessamy to let those consequences properly sink in.
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Of course, no one seems to realize just yet that Luca Maddox has been kidnapped with the Father Ruskin aside from Annora, who suddenly wakes with the knowledge and lets the Mute know. But thankfully for now, Luca is not in danger. Luca’s captor, Robinus, feeds him but has much more sinister plans in place for Ruskin and his faith. After realizing that torture is not the way to get Ruskin talking, he switches to a new game plan: to discuss the dangers of the Book of the Nazarene (which, as Chris has explained in his previous recaps, will eventually become known as the New Testament).
The men quickly make their way to Deddington Monastery but find that getting inside to nab their weaselly little Frenchman will be more difficult than planned. Here we get quite possibly one of the best moments of the episode as Ash introduces his new lady friend to the gang: Bernadette, a pet deer who will ultimately be used as bait for those guarding the monastery. Ash is sent in to find out how many men are inside defending Gaveston and just how long they plan to stay in their current location by using the animal’s meat as a lure. Later that night, Ash returns to the men with Wilkin in tow to once again use Bernadette’s meat, though this time it’s as a distraction as we see one of the monastery soldiers take an arrow through the face by Prichard, Corbett, and the rest of the men.
It doesn’t take long for the men to make their way inside the monastery and get Gaveston’s location after Corbett threatens one of Gaveston’s men with an insane punishment: Killing him and stuffing the…ahem, nether regions of his fallen friends in his mouth and being left at the door to “be found by noble guests.” If that doesn’t make a man talk, I don’t know what else would. Gaveston is found moments later relaxing upstairs with some dinner.
He is quickly bound, and the man in charge of keeping Gaveston safe, Lord Pembroke, is brought out to sign off on handing over Gaveston. When Pembroke refuses, Corbett tells Wilkin to torture his mistress as punishment. He refuses at first, as does Prichard, but Corbett tells them that if they do as he says, he will allow them to “complete [their] vengeance,” meaning the deaths of reeve Leon and Locke are on the table. “Only you, Corbett, would use death to buy pain,” Wilkin says, but ultimately he and Prichard agree to the terms… Kind of. Wilkin begins his “torture” of the mistress, but in truth, he tells the mistress to feign much more pain than he is actually inflicting in order to sell the lie of injury. The plan works as Pembroke signs an affidavit of sorts, saying that he willingly handed over Gaveston to the Barons. Of course, Corbett isn’t an idiot and finds it rather suspicious that the torture of the mistress yielded no blood.
NEXT: Annora & Wilkin’s true connection is revealed
We return to Ruskin still captured yet being treated relatively kindly and to a meal. Robinus just wants to know where to find Annora and the templar. Annora senses the trouble she might be in if Ruskin talks and attempts to ready herself for escape. Of course Ruskin won’t do anything of the sort; he instead has some hidden tricks up his sleeves. He tells Robinus that he is willing to lead them where they desire to go, but he later uses a bone from his meal to break free of his chains and stab Absolon. He tells the dying man that during his time as a soldier, he was an assassin. He frees Luca from the captors that watch over him and his chains, but as they run away, they encounter Robinus and many, many men, including Sir Cormac, who knows all about the warrior-priest Ruskin.
With Gaveston still bound, Corbett arrives to talk of potentially helping the Frenchman, so long as he’s willing to do a little something for Corbett. Much like when Gaveston slapped Corbett’s head away while down on his knees earlier in the season, Corbett now has his chance to embarrass Gaveston. He forces the Frenchman to begin the task but then has Gaveston choke on his manhood before knocking his head away in similar style. Corbett then tells Gaveston there’s nothing he can do for the man now. “Bind the little French bitch,” Corbett states as a final insult to injury (a line I’m sure anyone would enjoy saying on television).
Meanwhile Love returns to Jessamy to provide her with food and reassure her that all she has to do is accept the truth about Wilkin’s identity. But Jessamy is more interested in finding out just how deep Love’s feelings are for Wilkin and whether Love believes there is actually a future for the couple. Jessamy asks to see her children in the morning, but Love soon realizes that Ruskin and Luca are nowhere in the castle to be found. Jessamy seems at peace at the moment with her baby, but when she asks about Luca, Love lies and says the boy has gone fishing with the Priest. Love asks Jessamy if she has made a decision regarding Wilkin’s identity. Jessamy states that she will accept Love’s truth but only if she can provide proof that Love will take care of her children. Love says Jessamy has her word “in the presence of God and your child.”
Corbett, Wilkin, and the rest of the men finally meet with the Earl of Warwick, and his soldiers to receive Gaveston’s sentence: He is to be put to death. But neither Corbett nor the Earl wants to carry out that punishment because if the King discovers his lover has been murdered, he will seek revenge on the man who makes the final blow. Gaveston taunts the “bluster and pomp” of both Corbett and the Earl, stating that neither of them has the courage to actually do the deed. So Wilkin finally offers his services as the executioner to carry out the sentence. He chops Gaveston’s head off at the mouth (with a visceral, horrifying moment where Gaveston’s half head continues to blink before finally dying out).
As the men head out, we catch a glimpse of a smiling Ash and then the image of the other Twin, who has indeed not escaped but has been murdered in similar fashion to the many other dead, mutilated bodies this season. It turns out Ash has been the murderer all along, and as we see earlier in the episode, he has kept the Twin’s hands and feet as some kind of souvenir.
When Corbett and the men return, Lady Love tells him that Luca has gone missing. Surprisingly Corbett tells Love he will leave at sunrise with some men to find the Priest and the boy, and also tells the Baroness that it would be best for her to reveal the news to Wilkin herself. “Your grace and calm manner bring much comfort to our Punisher. He seems a different man when he is near you,” Corbett says. Corbett then continues this small moment of kindness by stroking the face of the chamber boy he hit earlier in what looks to be an act of remorse.
Love reveals the news of Luca to Wilkin and her worry over Jessamy’s fragile state if she discovers her son is missing. Wilkin reassures Love that they will find the Priest and the boy, and he heads out to meet Annora as Prichard possibly begins to doubt his plans for revenge as he sees Locke with his family.
Wilkin finds Annora hiding out in his home where she reveals that she knows the Priest and Luca have been taken because of her. Wilkin screams at Annora for her not properly seeing the pain and strife he has had to endure, thanks to the “unforgivable sins” under which he is pinned, all of which are on her head. Wilkin calls Annora a devil and begins to storm out, until she cries “my son.” It’s about time we get real connections between these main characters, and yet there is so much left to uncover about this revelation and more in the finale.