It’s finally time: The Bastard Executioner, Kurt Sutter’s follow-up to Sons of Anarchy, premieres Sept. 15 on FX. The two-hour opener is dense and twisty as it establishes the world of 14th Century Wales, where rebels oppose the increasing tariffs of English barons and punishment is delivered swiftly by a blade. To give you a lay of the land, here’s a cheat sheet for the main characters you’ll need to know — minus their biggest reveals, of course.
Wilkin Brattle (Lee Jones)
Once a knight under Edward I, he laid down his sword to become a farmer in Wales. He’s forced to pick it up again for revenge after his village’s rebellion against the Baron Ventris (Brían F. O'Byrne) has disastrous blowback — as seen in the clip below showing Ventris questioning Wilkin’s pregnant wife, Petra (Elen Rhys), and the fiery photo above.
Ultimately, a mystical healer (Katey Sagal’s Annora of the Alders) urges Wilkin to assume the identity of a journeyman executioner, and he ends up inside the walls of Castle Ventris — biding his time while struggling with the requirements of his new profession.
As Sutter told Yahoo TV, that conscience is something Wilkin shares with SOA’s Jax. “As well-versed as Jax was in violence, the same way Wilkin is well-versed in violence — it’s something that comes natural and something that comes easy, something they do very well and is a default for them — ultimately it’s not something that’s easily compartmentalized. It’s not something that they can distract themselves from. It chews away at them and begins to bleed all over their choices and behavior,” he says. “To me, that’s really important, especially when you throw in the religious components and the spirituality stuff we’re playing with [in Bastard Executioner]. That then becomes even a deeper layer of what maybe triggers that vulnerability.”
Annora of the Alders (Katey Sagal)
Sutter looks at the prescient, mystical healer who counsels Wilkin to fulfill a mysterious destiny as the spirit guide of the series. “She drives a deeper, bigger mythology,“ he says. “She is moving these bigger chess pieces around the board. There are times when her actions are extreme, but there’ll be moments where you see her as a safe place for Wilkin."
Milus Corbett (Stephen Moyer)
Sutter sees him as the medieval Dick Cheney, the ambitious right-hand to Ventris’s Bush who serves as his Chamberlain, aka his most trusted advisor and strategist. "He likes being the power behind the power,” Sutter says. “He came from some f–kng dirt poor village and he basically crawled, fought, and f–ked his way to the top. You may not love everything he does, but at least you’ll understand where it comes from.” He’s the character you’ll love to hate, and the one you’ll love to watch.
Baroness Lady Love Ventris (Flora Spencer-Longhurst)
“I just love the conflict of who that woman is,” Sutter says of Ventris’s wife. “She’s from a family of Welsh nobles that got crushed by Edward I and basically signed some prenup to protect her family and married this dude. She made that great sacrifice for her family when she was a kid. She’s got this deep respect and loyalty for her country, and she has to walk this fine line of being the wife of an English noble and yet wanting to protect her country. It’s this dance that she’s been doing for a few years now, and Milus is the devil in Ventris’s ear and she’s the angel in Ventris’s ear — they’re sort of fighting for the strings that control that guy. It’s this battle of will and intellect between the two of them.”
The character begins to emerge as a true force in the Sept. 22 episode. “if you don’t have an actor that can play that duality and that nuance, you’re f–ked,” Sutter says. “I come out of watching episodes where she’ll just add four more layers. She’s one of those big wins in terms of actors. You just go, ‘Yeah. That’s what I need.’”
Toran Prichard (Sam Spruell)
A fellow Welsh farmer and family man who’s among Wilkin’s hooded rebel riders, he remains Wilkin’s closest friend inside the castle’s walls.
Ash y Goedwig (Darren Evans)
An orphan who has raised himself in the forests of Wales, he is a skilled trapper who has a very close relationship to animals (one sheep, in particular). He wants to join Wilkin’s rebel crew, but is he ready?
The Dark Mute (Kurt Sutter)
Described as a former Templar Knight of German descent, he is Annora’s companion and protector. Viewers will see what he’s hiding under that shroud before the end of the premiere.
Isabel Kiffin (Sarah White)
Once Lady Love’s childhood companion, she is now her personal handmaiden. She is a character who calls it likes she sees it, therefore making her one of the series’ most relatable.
Father Ruskin (Timothy V. Murphy)
The priest and teacher of the Ventrishire Court, he’s also a former Irish soldier (something that shouldn’t surprise viewers who remember him as an Irish King on Sons of Anarchy). He is Lady Love’s counselor.
The Bastard Executioner premieres Tuesday, Sept. 15 at 10 p.m. on FX.