If you thought the premiere episode of “The Bastard Executioner” was cringe-worthy, just wait until you see what Kurt Sutter, mastermind behind the hit FX series, has up his sleeve for the grim plot of episode 2. “Effigy/Delw” kicks off with Annora (Katey Sagal) teaching Wilkin (Lee Jones) how to slice into the skin of a sheep, while another man simultaneously instructs his apprentice how to correctly chisel a statue of their late ruler, Ventris. The witch asks Wilkin why he hasn’t inquired about her eerie knowledge on how to correctly cut up an animal.
“There are many things about you to be revealed,” he replies, foreshadowing that Annora’s true nature will be unveiled as Season 1 continues.
During Wilkin and Annora’s one-on-one, viewers get a glimpse into the executioner’s past. The flashback shows Wilkin as a child, taking on competitors in a faux sword match. And even as a blonde-haired boy, Wilkin proves to be a skilled swordsman. The Dark Mute (Sutter) looks on with approval -- and without a burned face.
“I was an infant. A young woman, a nun, left me with the monks. Told them I was fatherless. Is she my mother?” Wilkin asks Annora.
“Yes. Her journey is finished. She is gone now and watches over you,” Annora says.
Meanwhile, a group of rebel adolescents prepare to attack a carriage from the kingdom. But their plan goes awry when one of them gets captured.
Ventri's men bring the young girl back to the castle, which is when they request the services of the executioner. They knock on Wilkin’s door just as he’s having a conversation with his pretend-wife about her devotion to playing his spouse.
“I understand that the danger of your generous risk puts on you and your children. But when we are alone, we can be in the truth of who I am,” he says. But she’s persistent in thinking she’s his wife.
“You’re my husband. And I love you deeply. Is that not the truth?” she replies moments before duty calls.
Milus (Stephen Moyer) relays the news to Lady Love (Flora Spencer-Longhurst) that children sporting the rebel colors on their faces have attacked their men along with breaking the statue that was built to honor her late husband.
“They caught one of the offenders -- a girl, not yet 16,” Milus says. That’s when Lady Love questions if this could just be the “foolishness of youth” -- not treason. She requests that no harm come to the girl before she is able to speak with her. But Lady Love’s demand is relayed too late. Wilkin has already ripped off one of the girl's fingernails -- reluctantly.
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Before the heinous act, Wilkin begs the rebel to spill what she knows. But she remains silent -- until her nail is gruesomely ripped from her finger.
Lady Love promises she’ll have someone tend to the wound while also requesting the prisoner’s name.
“I can’t tell you anything. You can torture you me if you want,” the feisty teen replies.
But the child didn’t need to say a word for the Baroness to know where the prisoner lives. From her clothes to her wind-burned face she can tell the girl is from a specific fishing village in the north. Lady Love then comes up with a plan to visit the prisoner’s home, hoping to reach out to the girl's parents so that murderous measures don’t have to be taken.
The Baroness goes to the fishing village to seek a trade -- the life of her prisoner for a meeting with the Wolf, the leader behind the rebels. (She wants to know what is sparking the rebellion.) But the redheaded matriarch proves she’s like her daughter and reveals nothing. Wilkin then suggests talking to the boy, the brother of the girl, hoping to squeeze -- or should we say scare -- information from him.
“Be the big brother she needs,” Wilkin urges the boy before threatening the life of his sister. That’s when he cracks, revealing where the rebels store their supplies.
Wilkin, who is playing the part of an anti-rebel, rushes to get the news to the Wolf that the men in uniform will be raiding their goods.
While on their way back to the castle, the rebels attack the Baroness and her men. Wilkin is forced to raise a blade against his own, which is when he gains Lady Love’s trust.
Following the attack, and advice from Milus, the Baroness reveals the fate that she had decided for the youthful prisoner.
“A judgment forced by obligation,” she tells Wilkin, who is less than enthused by her decision (which wasn’t revealed to the audience). At that moment, an apparition of his dead wife Petra (Elen Rhys) appears.
“Do you show yourself to help me or to haunt me?” he asks the ghost.
“You must decide,” she replies, before revealing her death was merely a part of the plan.
But Wilkin’s hallucinations don’t end there. He then imagines a serpent slithering up his arm and suffocating him. In fear, he runs to Annora, asking if she, too, can see his demons. Annora is compassionate and offers not only empathy to Wilkin but an elixir that can ease the pain of the young girl who is being sent to her execution.
Before the beheading, Milus warns Wilkin not to step on his toes. After all, he’s the adviser to Lady Love. So if Wilkin wants to offer his insight, he needs to go through Milus. Otherwise, Wilkin’s evil foe threatens to reveal the identity of the “executioner,” which will result in the loss of his own head.
During the execution of the young girl, viewers sit at the edges of their seats as they wait for Wilkin’s blade to swing. But instead of cutting the prisoner’s neck, Wilkin slices off her nose -- just as she did to the statue of Lady Love’s dead husband.
“The Bastard Executioner” airs at 10 p.m. EDT Tuesdays on FX.