The biggest problem with the premiere of FX’s new show The Bastard Executioner is that it took about an hour and 45 minutes before it was clear which character is the Bastard Executioner. That’s silly. If you call your show The Bastard Executioner you need to establish your title character quickly, and also distinguish whether he’s an executioner born of unwed parents or a person who executes bastards. Something like this, maybe:
RAYMOND: Hey, Frank.
FRANK: Hi, Raymond.
RAYMOND: Don’t call me Raymond anymore. I’m the Bastard Executioner.
FRANK: Is that your metal band or something?
RAYMOND: No, it’s my job. Now die, you bastard!
Tell me that’s not a dope way to start a show.
With that, you’d immediately get to the action and gore that helped make writer Kurt Sutter’s last show, Sons of Anarchy, so good, skipping over all the boring expository dialogue that dominated the debut episode of The Bastard Executioner. Sutter’s new venture managed to squeeze in about seven minutes’ worth of totally awesome and utterly barbaric swordplay around all the talking, but mostly it just executed my patience.
That’s the other thing: The premiere episode of The Bastard Executioner was two hours long, including commercials. Who do these people think they are? I get that Sons of Anarchy was the type of success that buys its creators some leeway, but Thomas Miller and Robert Boyett invented Urkel and you didn’t see them going to two whole hours for the premiere of Step by Step. I’ve got stuff to do over here, and a lot of it is more interesting than sitting around for so long trying to learn what a show will be about. I literally could have watched all of Reservoir Dogs in the amount of time it took for The Bastard Executioner to say who that is.
As it turns out (SPOILER ALERT), it’s one of the only characters who doesn’t die by the end of the first episode. The Sons of Anarchy stacked a heck of a lot of bodies in seven seasons, enough that the general lack of public response to events in Charming seemed like a massive plot hole. Enough people die in the course of a few hours in 14th-century Wales in The Bastard Executioner that it seems amazing there were still people left around for the 15th century and beyond. And somehow all the show’s mayhem only serves as awesome punctuation to far too much screen time wasted on people talking in vaguely old-timey English and dramatically exhaling through their mouths because it’s the 14th century and humans apparently haven’t yet discovered nostrils.