It’s probably safe to say that anyone who previously clung to the notion of Ed Sheeran as pop music’s most huggable, mom-friendly ginger has, by this late point in the day, experienced a shift in that preconception.
From the moment the multiple Grammy nominee appears onscreen as youthful pain-dealer Sir Cormac — the hatchet-wielding henchman to a mysterious clergy elder who’s in pursuit of an even more mysterious and arcane body of information — in “A Hunger / Newyn,” it is impossible to shut from the viewer’s mind: That’s the little English guy who sings “Thinking Out Loud” chopping off some dude’s arms!
Dressed in black skully and tunic, Sheeran malevolently smirks his way through two scenes of cowering dread in the Knights of Rosula Catacombs where a “seraphim” named Tobias is being tortured in pursuit of a crucial translation that will lay bear the secrets of a “sacred text.” Later in the episode, the singer puts down his knives and metal pokers to triangulate where Tobias was likely headed using a handy familiarity with maps and tide charts.
But sadly for the Internet, there will be no GIFs of Sheeran’s bloodletting; his fictive savagery takes place off camera, heard but not seen. He is observed dragging Tobias’ shredded torso across a stone floor. But in the absence of axe-hacking footage to chop into digital loops, Sheeran’s status as the culture’s Most Sensitive Millennial remains intact.
His story line is just one small tributary of intrigue into the surging river of power struggles that play out in episode 3. It’s all set in motion by Richard Branson-lookalike Baron Pryce (played by Richard Brake) who’s bait-and-switched into traveling to Castle Ventris. And we are soon aware the character will likely dictate the fates of several plotlines: Brattle’s continuing fakery as bastard executioner, Lady Love’s grip on baronial power and Chamberlain Corbett’s tyranny as a self-styled Machiavelli. Even Ash, the sheep-sexing orphan with The Worst Teeth in All of Wales™ finds his future indirectly in the hands of the bitter nobleman.
But first, Lady Love must be “negged.” Traveling to Windsor to take counsel with King Edward II regarding her future rule of Ventrishire (accompanied by her trusty handmaiden Isabel), she has much to lose. Both the aroness’ father and grandfather ruled the shire “with kindness and grace” before her and she married her late husband (slain by Brattle in the pilot) in a bid to maintain status quo. Seizing upon this power dynamic, smarmy yet obsequious royal advisor Piers Gaveston (Tom Forbes) flatters the young aristocrat’s beauty before lowering the boom. He tells Lady Love she will need a new dress to be “presentable” to the king—never mind that she’s already wearing her finest glad rags.
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It’s a classic neg: a play ripped straight out of author Neil Strauss’ memoir-come-speed seduction manual The Game where a man gives an attractive woman a back-handed compliment in an effort to subvert her self-confidence and make himself seem more important (and, by extension, desirable). But the weasel-y Gaveston doesn’t stop there. He keeps Lady Love and Isabel waiting in isolation as virtual captives in the royal dining room for hours, waiting for a monarch either unwilling or unable to come to lunch. And for all the baroness’ patience, her eventual meeting with the French-born king — who Gaveston refers to as “Ed-wahr the sec-own” with a demented, Depardieu-esque gusto — is brief, ridiculous, and thoroughly dispiriting. Taking a break from middle-of-the-night flaming arrow target practice, fey youth Edward dismisses Lady Love as a “little golden beetle” and foists any decision concerning the future of Ventrishire upon none other than…Piers Gaveston! “I hate the French,” Isabel grouses.
Meanwhile, in the far caverns, the binds that tie Brattle’s rebel homies together are beginning to fray. After spending two months living in the bushes and sleeping beneath open sky, mourning their respective loved ones, and waiting for a chance to exact vengeance upon The Guilty, the question has set in: Do they really want to be there? Worse, Annora’s spidey sense has been kicking up to indicate that trouble’s coming.
Another dead guy has been found with arms where his legs should be and legs for arms. And Calo is ready to pull a 23 skidoo. Cue: the arrival of a royal search party that rounds up Berber, Ash and Calo and takes them to Castle Ventris to receive judgment while the healer-witch stays hidden in her cave and the Dark Mute is nowhere to be found.
NEXT: Stephen Moyer sucker punches a nobleman