On Tuesday night, Kurt Sutter will debut his new series The Bastard Executioner but despite a 14th century setting, there are plenty of reasons Sons of Anarchy fans will love this show….
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
For seven seasons, Sons of Anarchy was one of the most polarizing shows on all of television. The outlaw biker drama combined family, betrayal, action, alpha male machismo and kick ass female characters to make a compelling series that broke ratings records on FX with audience numbers growing with each passing season.
Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter was very much cut from the same mold as his series — an outspoken, anti-establishment outlaw — who shunned the award shows after they shunned him for the better part of seven seasons. Rather than pander to Emmy voters and kiss up to critics, Sutter lashed out with expletive filled tirades that only made him even more beloved by fans who loved his non-conformist demeanor while he headed up one of the most unconventional shows on all of television.
But the ride on Sons of Anarchy eventually had to come to an end just as Sutter envisioned when he started the show. He began the series with a finite number of seasons in mind and when the tale of Jax Teller and his love/hate relationship with his motorcycle club and family came to an end, Sutter closed it down just like he opened it — in dramatic fashion.
Before Jax Teller jumped on his motorcycle one last time, Sutter had already started fleshing out ideas for his next series that would take him far away from the roaring engines of Harley-Davidsons, or even the crime filled streets in a fictional part of Los Angeles where he lived and breathed for seven seasons as one of the lead writers on The Shield.
Instead of going back to another modern crime saga, Sutter turned his attention to 14th century Wales and the story of a reluctant soldier who threw down his sword only to be forced to pick it up again when he would be called The Bastard Executioner.
Now on paper, Sutter’s new series — which debuts on Tuesday night at 10pm ET on FX — seems like a far cry from Sons of Anarchy, but there are several reasons why fans of that show should definitely tune in to watch the new one.
The easiest way to correlate the two series is to look at the friendly faces from Sons of Anarchy who will be transitioning to The Bastard Executioner.
At the front of the list is Katey Sagal, who played SAMCRO matriarch Gemma Teller for the entire run of the series, and now she will put away the tight jeans and leather jackets for long flowing grey locks and a mystical prowess that will deeply impact the lead character in The Bastard Executioner.
Sagal plays Annora of the Alders — a mystical seer who ends up on a direct collision course with Wilkin Brattle (the bastard executioner himself) early in the series. She’s flanked on her side by a scarred and burned up non-talker called The Dark Mute, who is played by Sutter himself.
Also on the show in a series regular role is Timothy Murphy, who Sons fans will remember as the maniacal IRA leader Galen O’Shay. This time around he’s playing Father Ruskin and will likely have a major role this season because the 14th century in England was a time defined by the overstretching rule of the Roman-Catholic church and there will be more than a few battles with faith on this show.
Also behind the camera is Paris Barclay, who directed the pilot episode, and while his face may not be as familiar to Sons of Anarchy fans, his vision behind the camera will definitely be recognizable. Barclay was a featured director on Sons while also serving as an executive producer for a large part of the series. His worth with Sutter goes back to their days on The Shield together and they have been collaborating for nearly 15 years at this point.
If there’s anybody who can translate what Sutter has on the page to the screen, it’s Paris Barclay.
CHARLIE HUNNAM 2.0
Before Sons of Anarchy started, British thespian Charlie Hunnam was largely unknown to American audiences and wasn’t even that well recognized in his home country either. Sutter discovered him from a film he saw with Hunnam called Green Street Hooligans — a well received cult classic co-starring Elijah Wood — and his biggest role prior to that was playing on the British version of the series Queer as Folk.
Once Sutter cast him to play Jax Teller on Sons of Anarchy, Hunnam’s career took a dramatic turn towards stardom and now he’s poised to become one of the biggest actors in all of Hollywood.
So now you can meet former theater actor and Australian Lee Jones, who is Sutter’s latest find and the new star of The Bastard Executioner.
Don’t bother looking up Jones on IMDB because his credits list is really short and The Bastard Executioner will definitely be his biggest role to date. Considering he’s about to be thrust into the spotlight in a major way, Jones seems to be handling it all very well and considering until he started working with Sutter a few months ago he had never really seen any of his previous work, don’t expect him to try and be a Hunnam clone on screen.
“That would have been good had I had the time. It really happened so fast to me landing this job. I knew about the success, I had seen some of Sons, I knew what a prolific talent and writer he is but my world really was the theater,” Jones said when speaking to NerdcoreMovement.com. “I hadn’t been watching that much television. I got cast so quickly, and digging into Sons when I have time but the schedule’s so off the chain right now. I really haven’t stopped since the pilot back in March.”
While he won’t try to top what Hunnam did on Sons or even what Michael Chiklis accomplished on The Shield, Jones is already learning the ropes from Sutter while spending a lot of time together on set. Sutter seems to have a way to connect with his leading actors and Jones is no exception.
“It’s been great. From day one he’s been very, very supportive, looking out for me and making sure I had enough to go on and he’s just a really caring guy,” Jones said about Sutter. “He cares about how we’re feeling so we can deliver the work. We speak about where the character’s going from time to time and I’m always just interested to know what he’s thinking behind things. I’m just trying to serve that back.
“He’s feeding off what we’re doing and so stuff might come up in a couple episodes down the track that he might have picked up on. He’s a great guy. He’s very supportive me. We have a great friendship.”
If The Bastard Executioner enjoys even a small percentage of the success that Sons of Anarchy had for seven seasons, Jones is about to watch his life change before our very eyes.
GAME OF THRONES FANS WILL ENJOY IT, TOO
Certainly not all Sons of Anarchy fans were Game of Thrones fans and ultimately not all Game of Thrones fans enjoyed Sons of Anarchy, but the demographic dominated by 18-49 year old males definitely crossed over a lot between the two shows and that same audience will likely tune into The Bastard Executioner on Tuesday night.
Game of Thrones is a wide reaching fantasy story that runs neck-and-neck with The Walking Dead as the most popular show on television and The Bastard Executioner will share some of the same qualities.
Now first off — The Bastard Executioner is based in reality so don’t expect dragons to start flying around or icy snow creatures to haunt England, but the look is similar and the sword play will definitely be familiar. Actually many of the elements George R.R. Martin used to create Game of Thrones came from the same time period Sutter is using as the basis for The Bastard Executioner.
Both creators are huge history buffs so it’s no surprise that the viewers for the shows should be similar as well.
Jones warns that The Bastard Executioner is a much different show, but he also teases the deep-rooted mythology that Sutter has used for the groundwork of the series, which sound eerily familiar to what we see for 10 episodes each spring on Game of Thrones.
“I think they’re very, very different. I think this is very based in reality. It’s not fantasy in any way. There is a very well thought out mythology behind the show, which Kurt (Sutter) is developing, but I think this is much more grounded in actual history. It’s a very gritty, real medieval world than fantasy,” Jones said.
“There is a bigger mythology that he’s laying down that’s going to bring things in. I can’t talk about it because it’s going to be a complete spoiler, but it is certainly, I’d say it’s a backbone to individual characters as well as creating the world. My character is struggling with his faith as a result of everything that’s happening to him, but it is also getting back to that is what’s driving him forward and he’s trying to find a higher purpose and that all has to do with his spirituality as well as his religion.”
THERE WILL BE BLOOD
Story drove Sons of Anarchy the same way it will drive The Bastard Executioner, but there’s no denying that a certain level of violence will also help to define both shows when it’s all said and done.
While some critics (I won’t name names) berated Sutter and Sons of Anarchy for what they called gratuitous violence, the reality was nothing happened on the show in a brutal way without ultimately coming back around with some tragic consequences. The Bastard Executioner will portray the same kind of karmic ritual when it comes to violent acts, but there’s also another important reason to understand why we’re seeing severed heads and blood soaked swords in every episode.
It’s the 14th century in England!
For those that don’t like history very much, realize that this was an ultra violent and bloody time in the history of the world.
King Edward I fought in a civil war as well as crusades and the conquering of Wales, which serves as the backdrop for The Bastard Executioner. King Edward II was also involved in any number of wars during that period including the Scottish uprising that most will remember from the film Braveheart.
The point being Sutter is only reflecting the violence that actually took place in history and ignoring what really happened isn’t serving anyone justice. In fact, considering just how deeply read Sutter is on the subject, this series will probably be more accurate in terms of violence and the types of violence perpetrated that almost any show on television right now.
IN SUTTER WE TRUST
The biggest reason anyone who was a fan of Sons of Anarchy will watch The Bastard Executioner is because this also comes from the mind of Kurt Sutter.
Sutter is a master story teller with dialogue that cuts sharper than a razor blade — or an executioner’s sword if you will — and his attention to detail is virtually unmatched right now on television. As much as Sutter immersed himself in bike culture ahead of doing Sons of Anarchy, he did the same for The Bastard Executioner as he read tons of books over the course of his lifetime to understand this period and what it was like to live in these complicated times.
The show might take place at the turn of the 14th century, but Sutter has undoubtedly tackled many of the same issues that he did on Sons — love, betrayal, family, alpha male machismo and kick ass female characters — and The Bastard Executioner will now become the newest obsession you’ll have on Tuesday nights.
The Bastard Executioner debuts with a special two-hour episode on Tuesday night starting at 10pm ET on FX and don’t forget to read our recap when the show is over!