This Pennyworth review contains spoilers.
Pennyworth Episode 3
Enter Batman’s mom. While Pennyworth immediately introduced the dry Thomas Wayne, the third episode brings in Martha Kane, the future mom of Bruce, and a very cool photojournalist/spy/No Name League member.
But I digress, because can we talk about the dog-man who walks through the frame in the pre-credits scene?
Alfred meets the Esme’s vicar father in some posh gentleman’s parlor, only to be rejected his blessing for their nuptials. Why? Because Esme, an heiress, is drawn to darkness and other perversions. As Alfred exits, we’re treated to a walk-on by a man in an animal costume that reminds one of the dog-man from The Shining.
This blink and you’ll miss it detail never gets called out in the episode, but highlights how engaging and weird Pennyworth already is. This is how this story begins, and it ends with Harwood being dumped in the streets, horribly mutilated by the government to an unrecognizable degree.
Last week we had televised executions, and now there is kink on display in fraternal orders, and men mutilated by “The Barbers,” yet homophobia still runs rampant. Meanwhile, amongst all this bizarre theater, there are touching character moments in Pennyworth. For instance, there is all the stuff with Dave Boy this week, and the PTSD that’s causing his destructive behavior.
The scenes between these two SAS brothers Dave Boy (Ryan Fletcher) and Bazza (Hainsley Lloyd Bennett) is incredibly well executed, and almost feels like a one-act David Mamet play. These characters happily exist alongside criminals, and dole out violence with ease, but Bazza operates by some rules, and appears (key word: appears) to have his demons under control. But Dave Boy experiences the nightmares – the same Alfie has, and the same he tells Martha all men who have seen war experience. He is spiraling and touchingly reveals, “I don’t want to die … just trying to pass the time.” The dark humor of the bar scenes, Phil/Archie’s accidental death – to which Dave Boy dismisses with a “sorry” – really works. I especially love how Bazza leaves his friend to drown in the bottle, only to return a beat later and carry the wounded solder away.
Another authentic scene is Alfred’s homelife. There is something truly painful about the violence of the Pennyworth household, which comes to a head after Alfred tries to seek affirmation from his father. It is revealed that, even before he was in the military, Alfred went to war, surrounded by violence within the walls of his own home. Now, he is finally allowing himself to break away, and truly be his own man.
Alfred and Martha (Emma Paetz) together have a compelling dynamic as they set out to save scientist Ian Thurso, and his farmer’s son lover, Sam. Even though Martha doesn’t have the whole spycraft business quite down, and appears nervous at first, she gamely steps into the role of a lawyer to get the gay man out of the jail before he’s castrated, and locked away to do the bidding of the government. Her cause is noble, but she’s ultimately serving the No Name League, or the CIA. Alfred needs the cash to feel worthy of Esme (and afford that swanky flat), but I also think he sees someone he can trust in Martha. After all, he turned down Thomas Wayne’s similar offer for a job.
Also, I am shipping Alfred and Martha. Esme did you dirty, boy, and threw the ring in your face. Meanwhile, Martha is exciting, and smart. There’s plenty of time for Alfie and Martha to hook up without altering the Batman timeline. (Let’s begin work on the portmanteau now, shall we? MarFred? Alftha?).
We finally see an interaction between the Women and Men in Black of The Raven Society opposite the No Name League on the airfield. I am intrigued to see how the clash of these societies plays out, but it is becoming apparent that perhaps the government does indeed need to be toppled. Things feel precarious in this universe’s Great Britain. The fascistic Raven Society clearly aren’t the good guys in this scenario, so hopefully the No Names are a little better. I predict it’s this group who will attempt to recruit Alfie for their side. After all, Martha was impressed with his little stunt on the airfield bluffing the execution of Thurso, and then creating some firelight for the plane to land.
We didn’t spend much time with the newly-redheaded Bet Sykes, but enough to learn more about her sister Peggy’s lifestyle with Lulu. Even though both Sykes sisters know how to dish out pain, it would appear insanity is more restricted to Bet. Peggy wisely advises her sis to go home, and leave London behind. But Bet is determined to get back to Esme, with whom she crazily thinks there’s a connection (y’know, with the woman she kidnapped).
This was another strong episode of Pennyworth as Bruno Heller and Danny Cannon continue to build their world here. But it’s the performances by skilled actors like Fletcher, and the always alert Jack Bannon – as the show shifts between its colorful elements, and traditional drama – that keep Pennyworth compelling.
Pennyworth airs on Epix on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Find out more about Pennyworth here.
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