Moment of silence for our beloved show, fellow fans of The Bastard Executioner.
If you haven’t already heard, FX cancelled the series on Tuesday with creator Kurt Sutter’s reluctant blessing, citing the cost to make the ambitious series on location in Wales versus its unfortunately low live ratings. I’m disappointed for any number of reasons. Perhaps most of all, because this is a show that was made for a binge watch, especially given its complexity. With the winter TV doldrums at our doorstep — along with holiday vacation time — I’m virtually certain more folks would have found and invested in the show.
Secondly, the press screeners have been seriously belated for the past few episodes, leading me to believe that Sutter (who admitted that he knew about the cancellation weeks ago) and his writers have done their best to wrap the story up as much as possible for those of us who loved it. But I doubt at the end of last night’s series finale — and thus, this recap — any of us are not left restless about what could have been. Unless, that is, you approached TBX as a sort of “As Ventrishire Turns” with some artful killings and a dab of religious intrigue.
What about Wilkin’s upbringing, which we saw in early, small flashbacks? The enormity of his newly-revealed son-of-Jesus bloodline? What about how the Dark Mute got all burned up — or the whole of why Ruskin is such a badass? What about who actually left the dismembered bodies in the woods — because I’m not sure we all agree it was the kooky Ash. What about what led the original Maddox to be such a tortured soul? What about what happened King Edward got over his lover’s death? Gahhhhhhh!
Finally, I really loved a lot of these actors in these particular roles. TBX introduced me to Lee Jones (Wilkin), Flora Spencer-Longhurst (Lady Love), Sarah Sweeney (Jessamy) and Sarah White (Isabel) and gave Sutter, Stephen Moyer, Sam Spruell and Katey Sagal intriguing new ground to cover. Yeah. Maybe THIS is what I mourn most of all.
Sutter told Deadline that he is moving on to what viewers probably want most from the guy, anyway — more of the Sons of Anarchy tale, via a Mayans-based spinoff, for which he is seeking a Latino writer. But in the meantime … let’s bid farewell to The Bastard Executioner, such as it was.
We pick up right where we left off last week, with Wilkin learning that Annora is his mom. The Dark Mute steps out of the shadows just as Wilkin takes his mother’s hand. Family reunion, home invasion style.
Milus, meanwhile, is dealing with another father — Ruskin — digging through the priest’s cupboards and finding what he notes are “deadly tools for a priest.” He’s interrupted by the sound of Tell coming into the chapel where the Reeve folds his hands, bows his head and cries.
Back at Annora’s and the Mute’s former cave, Absolon watches over the captive Luca and Ruskin. Luca smiles trustingly at his guardian. His birth dad’s gift to him — this is one chill dude. Back in Love’s chambers, Jessamy is still sedated in Isabel’s quarters while Love admits to her maiden that the ruse about Luca fishing won’t last much longer. Isabel says she’ll handle it. Then she congratulates Love on finding the adventure her spirit longs for in loving Wilkin. They smile at each other.
Outside, Toran spies Locke heading off to gather firewood and follows him. Locke greets “Marshall” and a snarling Toran reveals his true identity. Instead of cowering or pleading, Locke chides him for hiding here in plain sight and under a false name, then spreads his arms wide and tells Toran to “make haste” of his vengeance. He may follow the orders of his commander, but he takes personal responsibility for every drop of blood he spills.
“I’ve earned no mercy,” the soldier says, keeping his eyes locked on Toran’s. Toran is impressed. “But you have earned a fair fight,” he says, tossing Locke a weapon. Poor plan. Toran is soon overcome on the ground with a blade at his throat. “This is most fitting,” he smiles bitterly, “that you be the one to deliver me to my beloved wife and boy.”
“No plea for mercy?” Locke echoes. “There is no mercy in this place,” Toran responds. “No mercy, perhaps,” Locke responds, “but there is honor.”
Locke tells his sparring partner that if there is another attempt on his life, he will take Toran’s. But fairly. For now, “our debt is clear.” Toran and the punisher have earned their place in Ventrishire. Locke takes his firewood and leaves.
Toran drops to his knees and sobs. I liked the exchange very much, knowing it’s all I’m going to get for resolution between these two fellows.
(Auuuugggggghhhhhh! Goodbye my beloved theme song! Goodbye! I loved you so! You were the kiiiiiiiing of the theme songs.)
Back in his house, Wilkin is reading Annora’s scripture book while she watches. “My devotion has all been a lie?” he asks him mother. She assures him it hasn’t. Jesus was just a man, but God spoke through him and filled his heart with love and devotion so that he might inspire the same in others. A church built to glorify devotion and honor that should be between men and their God was destined to lead to greed and destruction, she tells him. History has proven it over and over (and still does). A loving God would never wish those evils on his children. The church’s teaching? Well, it’s much of God’s truth, but more of man’s persuasion. We’ll call this the moral of the TBX story. It’s a solid one.
Annora explains to her son that the Seraphim keep Jesus’ word on their flesh so that, unlike written scriptures, they can never be lost. What’s contained in those words will be given to man when man is able to understand. In the meantime, four of her twelve disciples have already been killed. Wait? What? Matthew, Judas, John, Simon, Peter … Annora and the Dark Mute?
Let’s move on.
Annora comes from the lineage of the Nazarene. Her mate was revealed and they passed on the lineage. They’ve been many people with many names, always watching over Wilkin. The Dark Mute tells Wilkin he has learned too much truth too soon, but now is needed to save Luca. So follow Jesus’ example, reach out your hand and ask for help.
Wilkin goes to Love and is met by the faithful — and highly protective — Isabel. He shares with his beloved what he learned from Annora about Robinus and the Knights of the Rosula and tells her that it cannot be the Shire’s military who lead the charge against them and rescue Ruskin and the boy. It can only be men who fight for the honor of the task at hand. The remaining of Wilkin’s friends who are captives here have that faith. Love agrees to let them fight, but she says she needs to let Milus help her find other skilled men to join the effort.
Oh hey, Ed Sheeran. I choose to see your return to being a sweet, sage little pop singer in my lexicon as a small silver lining of this show’s cancellation. Especially after you just popped poor Ruskin in the face. Which, I guess, is sort of Cormac’s version of a handshake hello. He’ll give the priest one last chance to reveal Annora and the Mute’s location and then it’s curtains for the boy. Ruskin says he does not know where they are. This cave is the only place he ever saw them. It’s not entirely a lie.
As Cormac raises his dagger, Luca saves his own life, revealing the information the Rosula want.
Back at the castle, Berber the Moor and Scroobius the Pip, — OK, Aiden the scribe master — are discussing the Moor’s discovery that his boss is a Jew. Berber reveals that they are brothers in Judaism, then asks how Aiden ended up a captive here. Aiden says he was taunted for his faith as a free man and finally stabbed his tormenter. He was tortured for six straight months, then brought back to the scribe’s chambers to die. He didn’t. He was raised by wolves and learned how to survive, with only his faith as a weapon. So here he remains.
He asks if the Moor comes from nobility and Berber smiles and says he comes from scholars who taught him to never stop learning and seeking the truth. Fine skills, but not ones that have not always served him well in this world — hence his ending up here.
Love reveals to Milus that she knows who Wilkin is — and she knows that Milus has known it from the day Wilkin got here. But instead of being angry, she tells him that his ability to turn complications into advantages are what makes him so successful in the Shire’s service. Flatter gets her everywhere. He agrees to help gather the men, but he wants something in return. She should consider marrying Baron Pryce and combining the shires into one that is more powerful. She says she will stay open to all prospects. Despite his conniving nature, she is quite fond of Milus after all.
Meanwhile, Isabel tells Jessamy that she will be freed after Love has ascertained that knowledge of Jessamy’s attack on Love remains entirely within the castle walls. She can see her boy after he returns from hunting. Hunting? His mother thought he was fishing. Well, yes. Luca is hunting fish. Big ones. That must be hunted and tackled to the ground. Good “boy” activity. Jessamy is hardly fooled. She eyes the key Isabel left behind in her fluster.
Elsewhere in the castle, a meeting of the minds is taking place — Love, Milus, Toran, the Moor, Ash, Wilkin and Annora. Annora knows that the Rosula will use Luca to get the truth from the priest (well … close enough) and be waiting for her to return to the coves. But there will be three times the men than the half-legion Milus can summon. Love says she can call in some “familial help.” Yes. Berber knows another who would be willing to fight the Rosula in return for his release from servitude. For sure. Meanwhile Annora and the Mute will be kept safe here at the castle. Annora nods.
Sure enough, Jessamy has freed herself and races home to find only the Mute waiting for her. She runs back to the castle and bursts in on the meeting, screaming accusations and fury until Milus knocks her out cold.
Oh hey, Ed Sheeran. Annora’s not at the coves after all, huh? Ruskin says he’ll talk to spare the boy.
Jessamy won’t be talking anytime soon. Tell has her imprisoned in the punisher’s chambers and before she was gagged, he says, she had quite the tale to tell. Madness, says Wilkin. “Perhaps … Wilkin,” says Tell, drawing a sword. So then. Who are you really? Wilkin explains. Including the part where Tell currently wears his murdered wife’s cross around his neck. Tell says, yes, he wears the pendant, but he did not commit the murder. He was ordered to, but he let Petra go — which we already know.
A mighty sword fight ensues and Wilkin knocks Tell to the ground. Tell clutches the cross and swears he wears it not as a trophy, but as a reminder of God before crown. Wilkin prepares to pierce his throat, but Jessamy cries out. Wilkin looks up and sees a vision of Petra telling him not to complete the deed. And then it’s just Jessamy again.
Tell gets to his feet and says he realizes now that Milus knew all along who Wilkin was and easily turned the once mighty solider into his pawn. An unspoken alliance seems to be forming. And speaking of Milus, here is he is, saying Jessamy should only be imprisoned for now. Sensing the unspoken communication between Wilkin and Tell, he asks his Reeve what happened before he got here. “Nothing you do not already know, sire,” Tell informs him, taking his leave.
At the cove, Robinus, Cormac and their men find Annora’s and the Dark Mute’s camp. Robinus tells Cormac that if this, too, does not pan out, he is to kill Luca and make Ruskin watch. Cormac grins at the prospect.
Wilkin finds Love lighting candles at the chapel. He asks if one is for him. She asks if he believes the vision they share is truly of their own child’s birth. He does. She says that fills her with nothing but good feelings. No fear. Of how he arrived in her shire, and thus, her life, he tells her that the journey had a greater plan than the man. Perhaps “home” was the destination, after all, not the return. Toran shows up and says it’s time for them to ride out. Love tells her love that all of the candles burn for him and his safe return. “Please find your way home,” she smiles.
Locke and Tell join the forces — for noble reasons, they say, and I kinda believe them. Tell hands Wilkin Petra’s necklace. As the Moor promised, Aiden mounts up, too.
On a teeny, tiny piano, Annora plays a lullaby her dad used to play for her as Love strolls up. They talk about Annora’s upbringing, which she says was nomadic. Home was merely the love of her mother and her father. Love says she misses that kind of comfort and Annora says she is happy Love found it with Wilkin. As for her own bond with Brattle, that will be revealed soon enough. Love just looks worried.
On a seaside cliff, the Ventrishire men make their battle plan, then watch as another contingent peacefully approaches. It’s Brother Love — the Wolf — and the men of the Byth Encil. Milus is suspicious, but Wilkin and Toran says the battle is already lost without them. In the grasses, a spy for Robinus watches the goings on.
And here come the Rosula.
Brattle and his men realize they are impossibly outnumbered — but another solider appears among them. The Dark Mute. The battle cannot be won on horseback, he tells Wilkin, but “You will know what to do. You will.” He says something else, too, something that sounds like “If they’re lucky,” but I’m not exactly sure.
Walking ahead of the rest of the men, the Templar draws two swords and heads toward Robinus’ legion. Halfway between, he plants two swords in the sand. Cormac notices Milus is there and says it means that Annora is likely at Castle Ventrishire. “Kill the heathens,” bellows Robinus, and the battle begins.
The Dark Mute pulls a canister of dark fluid out of his robes and pours it over himself, then raises his swords on the advancing army. When they reach him, he brings the blades down on a pair of vessels that promptly explode, creating a wall of fire. Maybe this is how he dies every time. In any case — game on. Wilkin and his men advance and so does the burning Templar, igniting and fileting rival soldiers until he finally collapses.
It’s a fearsome fight — one Annora feels from the safety of the castle. Wilkin spies the fallen Mute. Cormac tells Robinus their surviving men should flee, but the archdeacon walks toward Ruskin and Luca instead. The Moor gets there first and cuts their binds. “If you kill me,” Robinus tells Ruskin, “you secure your place in hell.” He didn’t mention what would happen if Luca did the deed. It’s more relevant information.
Ruskin falls and Cormac chases the boy into the grasses, knocking him to the ground. Wilkin sees what is happening and follows. As he calls for his boy, Cormac turns, giving Luca the chance to slice the killer’s leg and escape into his father’s arms. Cormac gets away, but Luca pleads with his dad to stay with him and not give chase. If there were more episodes, I’d be annoyed, but what’s the worst that can possibly happen now? We get to call the big, bad killer a kid-vanquished ninny and sally forth with that.
Surveying the aftermath of their victory, Milus asks the Wolf what was to be gained from joining them in battle. “We fight for what was already ours,” says the Wolf. Milus nods. I’m guessing he figured that’s what Love meant.
Just then father and son emerge, smiling, from the grasses.
The men return to Ventrishire and Love warmly greets Ruskin, who asks to be excused to get some rest. Milus tells her that just four soldiers died in the battle, along with the Dark Mute. Love says that is sad, but Milus assures her it was a noble death. And we know it’s not the end for the fellow’s soul. Not even close.
Then Milus says the Byth Encil were an unexpected addition to their ranks. “Highly unexpected,” says Love. “But humanity before pride — that is the hope in the prospect of peace.” Perhaps, says Milus, sitting down beside her.
Onto more important things. Love runs her hand over her belly and wonders how long she has before the truth of her fake maternity is revealed. He tells her that the king is consumed with grief, so perhaps a few months. Or …
“Perhaps the child of Lady Love and Baron Ventris was so loved and so special that God called him to heaven before he was even born,” Milus suggests gently. “We will handle it with grace, Love.” Then he tells her where she can find Wilkin and assures her of his faithful service — no matter how godless he might be.
The shire bells ring as Isabel and the French houseboy bring fresh rags to the punisher’s chamber. “So pretty. So dumb,” Isabel says of her none-the-wiser companion. She heads over to free Jessamy.
Meanwhile, Wilkin triumphantly delivers Luca to Annora. She kisses them both and Toran, too. Luca begs Annora for another plinky song, but Toran carries the kid off to get cleaned up at home, while Wilkin assesses the day for Annora. One “red cape” escaped (oh, final hey, Ed Sheeran) but he is soundly injured and without provisions, so death is certain. She knows the news that comes next. They hug, as Love rushes into the room.
Wilkin greets her with a kiss. “I’m home, my Love,” he tells her. Awwwwww! Happy ending! Petra can rest in peace.
Meanwhile, a drugged Jessamy is bundled beneath skins into the back of a wagon, apparently to be delivered by the pretty, dumb Frenchman to Baron Pryce along with a bag of money. She will be given a particularly awful kind of sanctuary there. No word about what will become of Pantry Baby. Maybe Wilkin is the single dad of two.
As the wagon pulls away, Milus propositions Isabel and they head off the castle. Oh what the hell. Why not? He’s pretty and smart, so there you go.
In Love’s bed chamber, Love says she used to be an honest and most pious woman until the Baron died. She likes this version better. Of herself and of Wilkin, too. Time to make that baby in the vision. But first: “Do you love me?”
“I’ve always loved you,” he says.
And so the bastard executioner, who is not a bastard after all, and The Bastard Executioner each go out with a bang.
What say you, TBX fans? Are you mourning the tragic loss of Season 2? Is the ending we did get satisfactory enough? What of the many loose ends are you particularly bummed about? Looking forward to the next Sutters series? Share your thoughts in the comments section below — and thanks for taking the journey with me.