A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Bastard Executioner is a historical-fiction series about a violent political conflict between England and Wales. The brutal violence is near constant and particularly disturbing: Unarmed women and children are stabbed and their throats slashed on-screen; battlefield footage shows slashed throats and noses and flying gore; crowds of peasants are murdered by soldiers, and their village is burned to the ground. Some violence has a religious edge that may make it more disturbing to some viewers. Women and children are hit and punched by angry men. Rough language includes four-letter words ("damn" and "s--t"); "whore" is used to refer to women. Couples have sex with moaning and thrusting; a woman is visible nude from the rear.
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What's the story?
In epic historical drama THE BASTARD EXECUTIONER, a Welsh knight in the service of King Edward vows to lay down his sword and lead the life of a common farmer after a near-death experience on the battlefield and an unearthly vision. But fate will intervene in the life of Wilkin Brattle (Lee Jones), with English nobles such as Baron Erik Ventris (Brian F. O'Byrne) and his right-hand man, Chamberlain Milus Corbett (Stephen Moyer), exacting a brutal price on the lives of the Welsh serfs who work the lands the English owns. The Welsh are chafing under the bit of English rule, and the English are ever more determined to bring them under control. The result? Brattle is forced to take up an executioner's sword and fight for both his country and his life.
Is it any good?
Epic in scope, sprawling in cast, and so beautifully photographed that every shot is a glorious painting, this period drama's brutal violence will polarize viewers, but it's still high-quality TV. Even viewers who know nothing of the history behind the plot points will quickly fall under the spell of the dramatic setting: medieval Wales in the midst of a bloody revolution against England. Life, death, battles, court intrigue -- this is classic period drama stuff, done very well under the hands of show runner Kurt Sutter (Sons of Anarchy), who brings a similar feel to his new outing.
The show has big events, big drama, Grand Guignol violence, and a massive cast, including Sons of Anarchy's Katey Sagal, almost unrecognizable here as a witchy mystic/healer. It's mesmerizing, but it's really very disturbingly violent and not for kids. Anyway, kids would have a tough time understanding the Welsh (or pretending-to-be-Welsh) accents. Even adults may want to put on the closed captioning.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the real-life events behind this drama. Is this historically accurate? Does it depict real events? Real people?
Period dramas with a lot of violence are TV staples. Why? What sorts of dramatic possibilities do they offer, and why are they attractive to viewers?
Are the viewer's sympathies supposed to lie with the English or the Welsh in this show? How can you tell? Consider dialogue, plot, and characterization.
For kids who love epic dramas
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