Tag: SOA

Review: The Bastard Executioner

TBX_S1_24x36_SWORD_poster_thumbFirst of all, let me say this:

Kurt Sutter is a sick, twisted whack-job…and I love him like a brother. Very few TV showrunners today have the stones to go into production with a show that is certain to produce such volumes of notes from the network (even FX). He does it though, and to be honest, I do NOT want to see what they convinced him The Bastard Executioner, Tuesday nights at 10pm on FX, he could do without. Really Kurt, leave that out of Blue-Ray Extras. Please.

At least three times, watching the two hour pilot episode and the excellent second week’s show, the thought that even Sons of Anarchy‘s Happy might well have had to close his eye and turn away, and remember, Happy loved Chuckie’s chili mixed with some guy’s head they were hiding from the cops. TBE in some ways, makes SOA look like CHiPs, with a few more guys.

Not really, but I think you understand where I’m headed with this. The Bastard Executioner is some damn good stuff.

Sutter’s real-life spouse, Katy Sagal stars, playing an Eastern European healer/witch, who is obviously more than meets the eye. I think we’ll find that if DNA testing had been available in medieval Wales, would have shown her mom-like attention towards main character, Wilkin Brattle…uh…justified. Note: This is NOT spoiler, since I have no friggin’ idea how the show goes. I just have my theories. Katy absolutely shines in her portrayal of Annora of the Alders, even though she appears to be working sans-makeup, which would have to be the result of makeup, of course. She’s beautiful in a stark way.

Miss Sagal’s husband, showrunner Kurt Sutter, who plays her companion/husband/boy-toy/whatever, “The Dark Mute,” continues to play out some weird self-mutilation thing as Annora’s husband? Bodyguard? In Sons, he played the always-incarcerated “Big Otto” Delaney, who over the course of the series, lost an eye, bit off his own tongue to make a point, and took a bunch of lead in a big house last stand.

The story has the potential to be a big one. It’s starting with a very limited mission of vengeance that, as these things so often do, gets complicated. I’m hooked. A word to the wise, however, as I said earlier, it’s not for the weak of stomach. I don’t think I’m exaggerating much when I say it makes Game of Thrones look like an animated Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. In the last season of SOA, Sutter shocked many with a storyline that included a school mass shooting that occurred just off camera.

How do I put this? The Bastard Executioner wastes no time in striding right across that line in the pilot. This is going to be a big show.

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Checkov’s Knucklehead

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“Sons of Anarchy” is a great show, because it doesn’t try to portray the MC world as it truly exists, but, as Paris Barclay and Kurt Sutter say, a “great comic book.” A character on “Vikings” has it right when he says “Everything begins with stories,” and the mythology of “Sons” has power that extends beyond the world of bikers. There’s so much story told underneath and in between the narrative, and that is what is powerful, not all the speed and guns.

For instance, two or three times in this final season, we’ve seen the guys in the garage working on restoring JT’s 1946 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead, the bike John was killed on, that the bike not just be the unfired rifle hanging above the fireplace mantle that Checkov references. I believe the SOA mythology will wrap with Jax dying on that bike. Jax’s riding a big bagger Road King this season isn’t just about his needing a replacement bike after his parked Dyna Wide Glide was run over by that pimp from early in the season. He’s become the leader he was destined to become, and the Road KING helps reveal that. Riding a bike with bags also, I think, represents the additional *baggage* he’s accumulated since taking the gavel. It’s not just for the convenience of having saddlebags in which to hide the gun he needed to kill Damen Pope in the Season 5 finale. Unto his last, Jax’s stepfather Clay, who was responsible for JT’s death, always rode a Dyna. He was never the legitimate King of SAMCRO. Jax is, and that has changed him. I believe it will ultimately kill him. 

Gemma was always grateful that “the family flaw,” a heart defect that she survived, but killed Jax’s younger brother Thomas, didn’t manifest in her oldest son. What she has realized, over the past seven season of “Sons,” though, is that a darker flaw, passed down from JT to his firstborn, an existential question shared with Shakespeare’s Hamlet, did, and it’s one that if not answered correctly, will be Jax’s undoing. JT let the flaw overcome him and drive him to despair and the loss of his will to fight for his life. Jax took the opposite road, attacking the question head-on, determined to overpower it. The correct response lies in the middle of these two choices, and it’s one that the audience hopes Able will discover. Fix the problems you can, while not letting those things you can’t control destroy you.

Like “The Shield” before it, a show Kurt Sutter wrote for, “Sons” is a masterclass in telling a story on television, and as a writer, I’ve learned a lot from it. I hope to work with KS someday.

Update: ***Spoiler*** Looks like I was right, though I admit that when I wrote this, I had no preminition that *The Shield’s* Michael Chiklis would play a part. I also realized, in posting this update, that Jax hadn’t replaced his Dyna Super Glide with a Road King, but a Harley Road Glide. Sorry about that. 

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The Straits

I’ve been a Hulu+ user since the beginning of their pay service, and at first, wasn’t a big fan. There didn’t really seem to be any benefit to paying for the content, since not everything was available, and you still had to endure commercials.

Except for the commercials, that’s all changed. There’s a lot of content, some of the best being The Straits, a bit of a melding of Breaking Bad, The Sopranos and even a little Sons of Anarchy thrown in. It’s dark, funny, and full of drug and gun-running crime. Oh, family stuff, too.

The story, an Australian ABC1 production, centers around Harry Montebello, played by Brian Cox. Harry’s London born, but came to Australia in his 20s. He has a Torrest Strait born wife whose mother was Maori. Kitty helped Harry create a thriving crime family with their four adopted children.

The writing is excellent, the characters sharply drawn, making it easy for the viewer to understand the setting and the conflicts from the first episode.

Like Line of Duty, Hulu+ is coming through with great content. Well worth the monthly fee.

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