[For The Bastard Executioner‘s “Blood and Quiescence/Crau a Chwsg” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]
Blood and Quiescence / Crau a Chwsg In the first season finale, Wilkin and Milus lead an unlikely band of brothers on a life-threatening rescue mission.
You got that spoiler warning, right? Great! Let’s set the stage then:
Wilkin Brattle was a barley farmer. One night he and his fellow male villagers set out to beat up some tax collectors. Because violence. Because taxes. Because injustice in medieval
England Wales; because Braveheart. The local Baron responds to this defiance by killing all the women, children, and elderly (including Wilkin’s preggers wife) in their protection-less village.
Unfortunately for the Baron, Wilkin is secretly one of the greatest living Knights, and has basically been masquerading as a barley farmer on account of being sick of killing folks (plus magic) (maybe). Wilkin and company kill the Baron with the help of Welsh insurgents in the very first episode.
But there are more people to kill! In order to find out about all the folks who could have wronged their village, Wilkin (with bff / sidekick Toran) takes up the identity of a dead executioner — Gawain Maddox — to install himself in the castle and uncover who killed which loved ones (to reap maxiumum vengeance). He is guided by the mysterious Annora. Plus ghosts. He is horrified over and over by the personal violence required of him to keep up his cover.
In the castle Wilkin takes up with…
- Jessamy Maddox, who, unhinged, seems convinced he is actually her dead husband Gawain. Wilkin basically adopts Lucca Maddox and ends up a better, more beloved, father to him than his own ever was.
- Milus Corbett (aka Vampire Bill from True Blood) is the conniving chamberlain of the shire, and recognizes Wilkin as the great knight… but facilitates his charade for his own agenda; which — horrendous tactics or no — genuinely seem loyal to…
- Lady Love Ventris – the Baron’s widow. Love is everything her husband was not, a kind of fictional unicorn: wise, fair, kind, and genuinely good despite being a [hated] noble. Because this is tv she is also super hot. Love is desperately trying to retain control of her little Welsh shire from the crushing grip of English or even French dominance. Love harbors a secret though…
- The Wolf — leader of the Welsh revolutionaries — is her brother! The Wolf is an all right guy, often aiding Wilkin or Love (and vice versa) on the side; but in 2015 parlance his day job would indeed be the t-word (you know, “freedom fighter”)
Woods witch Annora is married to show creator Kurt Sutter in real life; previously she was Peggy Bundy. On The Bastard Executioner she is the keeper of a great secret and seems to command actual magical powers!
Annora is opposed by the Rosula, a order of Warrior-Priests descended from the Roman soldiers who tortured Christ. They have not gotten any more pleasant in the ensuing thousand years but, connected directly to the Pope, are unbelievably powerful politically.
As we approach “Blood and Quiescence/Crau a Chwsg” Wilkin’s “son” and local parish priest Father Ruskin are in the power of the Rosula, who believe the two know where Annora is. Wilkin and wingman Toran tire of being in charge of torturing, maiming, and / or killing unarmed women as executioners, and just want to finish their vengeance. Wilkin largely blames Annora for putting him and his friends into a series of impossible positions; Annora, for her part, has just revealed she is Wilkin’s mom. Oh, and Lady Love and Wilkin have basically fallen for each other, which is all kinds of complicated.
“Blood and Quiescence/Crau a Chwsg”, the finale of the first season of The Bastard Executioner, begins, as is often the case, with a montage of different characters’ experiences and points of view.
Milus (Vanpire Bill) happens on the Reeve Leon praying in the chapel. It is kind of a weird shot. We all hate Vampire Bill right? Wilkin hates the Reeve the most! Does Milus hate the Reeve? Why is he looking at him like that?
In the caves, captive Father Ruskin, face all busted up, smiles on fellow captive Lucca, reassuring. Man, I hope they don’t get dead we all think in unison.
At Castle Ventris Isabel asks Love if she cares deeply for “the man who pretends to be our punisher” … Unsurprisingly, Love indicates she does. “It seems you have acquired the adventure your spirit longs for.”
Finally Toran mugs the Knight Locke who killed his wife and child. Toran outs himself while the Knight presses his throat against Toran’s blade, asking for no mercy.
“Make haste with your vengeance.
“I follow the orders of my commander but I alone own the blood my blade spills. I’ve earned no mercy.”
Inexplicably Toran hands Locke an axe and offers him the chance at a fair fight!
Which Toran loses!
In a reversal of the previous interaction Toran offers himself up, also asking no mercy.
“This is most fitting that you be the one to deliver me to my loving wife and boy.”
Locke says there may be no mercy in Ventris but there is honor. He spares Toran, declares all debts cleared and makes clear that he and Wilkin — the false punisher — have earned their places in his opinion; Locke will not give them up. Best buds with the guy who killed your family?
Roll opening credits.
Annora (aka mommy dearest) lays it all out for Wilkin.
According to Seraphim tradition, Jesus was just a man… But God spoke through him.
The Seraphim keep their records on their bodies (all tatted up); four of twelve have fallen to the Rosula already. Drum roll: Annora herself is the direct descendant of Christ!
Which — drum roll — essentially makes Wilkin (her son) Jesus Junior!
Macro myths aside, the Rosula have Father Ruskin and Wilkin’s kinda-son captive. Wilkin has to get them back but obviously can’t do it alone. He goes to Love for help.
There is a sweet little scene of Wilkin going to Love’s room, where handmaiden Isabel threatens “your torture devices cannot match the pain I will bring” if he does her wrong (presumably romantically).
This episode is basically Dar Williams’s first album:
Whatever secrets! Not-executioners are outing themselves! Wilkin tells Love about Annora, who the Archdeacon really is, and his own place in this amazing story. Love is loathe to oppose the Archdeacon (and Rome), but acknowledges the rightness of rescuing Father Ruskin and Lucca.
Speaking of the Archdeacon, he and pop star Ed Shearen (really) implore Ruskin “priest to priest” to tell them where Annora is. Of course he won’t relent; they threaten Lucca (because holding a knife to a young boy’s throat is so noble). Lucca himself flips! (and consequently keeps breathing)
Love goes to the one man who can get things done in this shire: Vampire Bill for help with the rescue mission.
“Your ability to turn complications into advantages is what makes you such a valuable chamberlain.”
It’s kind of a great scene. Love knows Milus is a monster, but he’s her monster… Something every good ruler probably needs. Milus can get a posse of “Knights and horsemen who will fight for pay” but they will probably still be outnumbered by the Rosula. Love has something — or rather someone — in her back pocket to help (and we can all guess who that is).
Jessamy gets in trouble (again) and tries, jealously, to clock Love (again) and gets thrown in the dungeon. Wilkin goes down to see his “wife” and encounters the Reeve in a scene mirroring Toran’s from the beginning of the episode. He points out that the Reeve is wearing (actual) dead Mrs Brattle’s cross; and the Reeve claims he did not kill her — could not kill a pregnant woman — and wears the cross as a reminder of “God before crown.”
They throw down anyway and Wilkin effortlessly defeats his wife’s presumed murderer. But wait! Ghosts!
Fake-wife Jessamy is replaced temporarily by the angelic ghost of dead-real-wife Petra (who we haven’t seen since her gratuitous-for-basic-cable-full-frontal scene in “Piss Profit/Proffidwyr Troeth”), who instructs Wilkin to spare his life.
So… All buddies / all good?
The Reeve realizes in that moment that Corbett always knew who Wilkin was, and turned him into “his obliging whore.” No hands are clean. No one is happy. All is brutal in medieval Wales.
Both the Reeve and Locke join the raiding posse. And Petra’s cross is returned to The Bastard Executioner.
It’s time for battle! Waiting for the Ventris Knights and mercenaries are the Wolf and a legion of Welsh insurgents. Vampire Bill &c. seem pretty surprised that Wilkin and Toran are already best buddies with the Wolf, but Wilkin points out that without their help, they will be badly outnumbered.
Two legions of Rosula riders meet our heroes (“heroes”?) on the field. The Dark Mute (who hasn’t been mute since the Pilot) declares “we will not defeat them on steeds” and tells the good guys to unhorse. We learn a lot about Kurt Sutter’s character in that moment. HE SETS HIMSELF ON FIRE and runs directly into the scrum of Rosula. Lots of the Rosula are thrown from their spooked steeds, making them easy prey for the assembled Knights and Welsh.
The Rosula are completely routed. Wilkin frees Father Ruskin and Lucca, who take up blades.
The Archdeacon tells Ruskin “If you kill me, Priest, you secure your place in hell.” Ruskin — formerly an assassin — is given pause, but Lucca just murders the Archdeacon from behind! Attaboy!
Ed Shearen, distraught at the death of his master, chases off Lucca, so Wilkin chases after them both. Then Lucca cripples the eff out of Ed Shearen, who is now in no position to fight the approaching Wilkin. Wilkin can obviously kill him but Lucca begs his father to stay and comfort him.
Everyone pats everyone on the head. Ventris lost exactly four men. The Rosula kept maximum one man (Ed Shearen), who according to Wilkin, was probably too injured to survive. The Dark Mute died a “righteous and most fitting death” from flames, not Rosula swords.
And now it’s time to tie a bow on Season One of The Bastard Executioner.
Love only had 2-3 months of masquerade in her. Corbett suggests “the child of Lady Love and Baron Ventris so special” it was “called to heaven before even born.”
A miscarriage might cover up one lie, but doesn’t actually secure the lineage of Love’s shire.
I don’t buy that Ed Shearen is dead. I don’t even buy that The Dark Mute is dead. That he was already burned to all holy heck indicates the self-immolation-to-harangue-horses was not his first rodeo. The Dark Mute was by all indications an invincible fighter — almost supernaturally gifted — so maybe he was also more fireproof than usual.
Of course the season ends with gratuitous butt shots of both Love and Wilkin, who finally smash; long, slow, and accompanied by the full cut of the show’s theme song. One of the macro concerns of The Bastard Executioner has been noble Love pairing with commoner Gawain Maddox; of course Gawain was always at least a great Knight, and now we know Wilkin is of the most noble blood of all! So symmetry.
Though The Bastard Executioner got officially axed today, Sutter made sure to leave us with plenty of mysteries unsolved. What’s up with those mutilated bodies? Can Love retain control of Ventris? Who’s good and who’s not so good? If not the Reeve, who killed Petra*? That said, I think he put a happy enough cap on the show that “Blood and Quiescence/Crau a Chwsg” can make for a satisfying series not just season finale. The good looking people end up together, accounts are largely settled, and even Milus is confirmed to be on the side of the Angels, even if he himself is a devil.
* In echo of Katherine‘s end-of-recap hot takes on Scream Queens I’ll vote here for Ash. Petra seemed like she knew her attacker back in the Pilot, and there is just something wrong with that kid. We’ll now likely never know.