Director : Danny Cannon
Writer of Episode : Bruno Heller
Here it is the prequel tale of Alfred Pennyworth. What we do know about Alfred is how important he has been to Bruce Wayne/ Batman over the last 80 years. After my first watch of this episode I was impressed at the overall concept of this new television show. Its intelligent, mysterious, with great on screen chemistry between the cast.
The masterminds behind Gotham, Bruno Heller and Danny Cannon decided they wanted to explore who Alfred was before he was The Wayne’s butler. Heller and Cannon based Sean Pertwee’s Alfred on Michael Caine’s Alfred from Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy. Nolan gave Michael Caine’s, Alfred a history of being in the SAS and this is where the idea of Pennyworth has come from.
Cinematic looking is definitely a word I would use to describe the look of the new show Pennyworth and to be honest I would expect nothing less. Heller and Cannon have a great eye for making television shows feel and look cinematic. London has been given a twist by the talent team from CoSA VFX who won an Emmy for their work on Gotham. It definitely looks likes the 60’s but there are elements of the 70’s and even medieval touches as there are people who have been given a slow death in gibbet cages. The music is also very distinct as the episode opens with a fox hunt with the song “Paint It Black” by the Rolling Stones. The nightclub where Alfred works on the door later in the episode has the club singer singing an Amy Winehouse “Back to Black.”
Jack Bannon is our young Alfred Pennyworth. He has great screen presence and a twinkle in his eye that I have loved about the previous Alfred’s. A smart suit, slick hair is everything I expect, but you see Alfred disappear in his thoughts of sadness. Alfred comes across as a character who is calm in a storm and it intrigues me to know if this is his personality or developed because of his military training. Fresh out of the military he is self driven to run his own personal security business. Attending the funeral of a military friend who Alfred thought died in a car crash but he finds out from his two close friends, Deon ‘Bazza’ Bashford (Hainsley Lloyd Bennett) and Wallace ‘Dave Boy’ MacDougal (Ryan Fletcher) that he actually took his own life. We do see Alfred himself suffering with bad dreams and flashbacks of his own time in the military.
Alfred works the door at a London nightclub and this is where we are introduced to Thomas Wayne played by Ben Aldridge. It’s a genuinely an exciting moment as these two meet for the first time, especially as Alfred notices Wayne’s American accent. Thomas is there to collect his very drunk sister, which gives us the audience some more insight into another angle of this character. Patrica Wayne (Salome Gunnarsdottir) is attracting the wrong attention where Alfred and has to step in and show his impressive self defence and fighting skills. Alfred also uses this moment to give Thomas his personal business card maybe for any future help. Thomas Wayne is definitely a mysterious one as we have known him as a Doctor. Alfred thinks he is a spy until Thomas explains he is Forensic Fiance Analysts. He is checking through accounts of The Raven society.
Esme Winikus (Emma Corrin) plays Alfred’s love interest and it’s a genuinely nice romance. Esme is a dancer at the nightclub and aspiring actress. Alfred being confident asks Esme out on a date. The way Alfred and Esme meet reminds me of how Charlie Chaplin met his first love Hetty Kelly. Charlie also working in a nightclub fell for Hetty also a dancer and aspiring actress. Similarities in both these confident cockneys made the scene very real. A date in the park goes well and Esme is intrigued at how many people Alfred has killed as she is against war and killing. Alfred explains that the gun and the bullets belong to the Queen and it is clear thinking that way is his coping with what he did whilst in service. Esme acts out a scene from an upcoming play she is doing which is a funny scene as it freaks Alfred out, as the only play Alfred has seen is Peter Pan. The meeting of Alfred’s Parents makes Esme nervous. We do get a nice introduction of Mr and Mrs Pennyworth. Alfred father is a butler and thinks it’s a fine profession. Alfred wanting to start his own business with no wealth doesn’t sound like a success to his father as he believes wealth to start with gets you somewhere. Alfred being a grafter is determined to work in every way he can to make it work.
Esme is honest to Alfred as he makes her feel that anything is possible and makes her feel alive. Which is one of the nicest things anyone has said to Alfred. Mr Pennyworth ( Ian Puleston-Davies) is rude of her upbringing and critical of her acting career. Esme is well spoken and grown up in a different class. As Esme explains her father doesn’t approve of her career choice but is willing to let her pursue it, as he believes young people should to go on adventures. The lunch doesn’t go that well as Alfred walks Esme home she assumes Alfred will apologise for what his father said, he won’t but makes it clear that he is proud of his family but he isn’t his father. Alfred is keen to get a flat with Esme but she decides there is no future for them as they come from different worlds. Esme is kidnapped and taken away in a car by a blonde with a strong northern accent. She wants Thomas Wayne and throws a piece of paper out of the window with a number on when Alfred has him. Alfred has never seen this lady before but we have as the audience.
Bet Sykes is the first character we are introduced to in the opening of the episode. This is Paloma Faiths first television role and she is hands down brilliant. Strong, confident and terrifyingly calm in her delivery of what Bet has arrived to do a job for her gaffer. Bet’s connection to The Raven society is made clear when she arrives on the land of Lord Longbrass, he thinks she is another animals rights activist. Longbrass gets tortured for a name that the leader of The Ravens Lords Harwood (Jason Flemyng) needs, he goes to the length to find Lord Longbrass illegitimate son. The name Harwood gets is Thomas Wayne.
Bet has machine guns fired into Thomas Wayne’s hotel room. She is expecting to find Wayne dead when Bet picks the door lock. Thomas manages to escape but he leaves his overcoat behind and Bet finds Pennyworth Security business card in the inside pocket. Now Alfred is connected to Thomas Wayne without even knowing it.
What makes Pennyworth a cool spy show is when Alfred goes to the police station telling the officer at the desk his girlfriend has been kidnapped. Alfred shows the note to the officer who politely leaves, but so does the rest of the police station. A pay phone rings, Bet is on the other end and it quickly comes clear The Ravens have control over the Police. Alfred doesn’t recall the name Thomas Wayne until Bet threatens Esme life again “you have got until tomorrow to bring us the yank.” Which reminds Alfred who Wayne is.
Alfred gets Dave Boy and Bazza to help him find where Thomas is staying. A farm house that is in the middle of nowhere. Thomas quickly shows us just how smart thinking he is. If Alfred takes him to Bet then all four of them will be killed. I really like how we see good principle side of Thomas, because at dawn Alfred takes Thomas to the meeting point he arranged with Bet. Thomas wants Alfred to tell his parents he died in an honourable death. This impresses Alfred and promises he will do everything he can to keep Thomas alive and thinks he has been very decent about the whole situation. Alfred reintroduces himself to Thomas as The Raven Society arrives. They double cross Alfred by not bringing Esme for the exchange, using his SAS skills with Dave boy and Bazza they gun down the men.
Bet is fascinated by Esme, and sincerely in her weird way is trying to make her comfortable. By offering a cuppa and bicky Esme is scared as she doesn’t know why she has been kidnapped as she isn’t guilty of anything. Bet talks to Esme about her dancing as she loves to dance herself. With a new arrangement made with Alfred at Camden Town tube station, Esme agrees to dance with Bet but eyes the metal tea pot and whacks her across the head with it so she can escape. The ladies put up an impressive fight as Esme runs through a secret door into a dinner party hosted by Lord Harwood. Bet comes storming in and punches Esme in the stomach and apologises for the interruption.
The last 20 minutes of the episode moves along nicely and I can see why we get an extra long first episode. Alfred breaks his way in to The Raven Society/ Lord Harwood residence where he does get outnumbered. Tied to a chair and in conversation with Lord Harwood. Alfred gets to understand about this secret society as Harwood reads his cv and chuckles when reads Alfred was in the catering core of the British Army as it’s obvious that it is a cover for Alfred being ex SAS. Lord Harwood believes that country needs love to pull itself out from the corruption it has fallen into. He intends to take back the country from the weak in the name of the Queen. Alfred is curious if the Queen knows but she doesn’t yet. If the Queen isn’t in favour of the moral rebirth of the country there are other members of the royal family who certainly do. In a way Lord Harwood offers Alfred a job of violence against the criminals and he wants Alfred to bring him Thomas Wayne as proof of his commitment. Alfred wants Esme released first but Harwood would loose his only bargaining chip. Alfred doesn’t like Harwood or violence and knows he was going to tuck him up. Dave Boy gets fired upon outside as Alfred manages to escape his cuffs, finds Esme and the rescue is completed.
Definitely the surprising part of this episode is Mr and Mrs Pennyworth. Alfred gets dropped of home by police car to find his parents being held hostage by Bet and some members of The Raven society. Bet has unfinished business with Esme. Alfred doesn’t know where she is until inconveniently Esme knocks on his front door. Bet isn’t happy as Esme made her look like an idiot which Bet doesn’t understand why because she was nice to Esme. Bet hates snobby woman like Esme looking down on her and doesn’t accept Esme apology. Bet hits Esme around the face twice and Esme punches her back. Alfred takes the shot gun and from the Raven member, in a nice surprising turn in character Mrs Pennyworth (Dorothy Atkinson) punches Bet in the face. Mr Pennyworth knocks out the gunman with a glass bottle. Alfred sees for the first time that his parents are very handy in a fight and it’s a great twist in these characters. I loved it.
What does the Prime Minister (Richard Clothier) know about The Raven Society? After speaking to the USA ambassador and assuring the storm in a tea cup is over we see he has Lord Harwood in his residence, beaten up and hand cuffed. The Prime Minister now has to decide how to keep things quiet.
Thomas Wayne has been offered a permanent position and wants to offer Alfred a years contract for his security needs. Alfred thought there might be some resentment after abducting Thomas but he has nothing but the highest respect for Alfred and his skills. Esme intervenes as Thomas’ business nearly got them killed. Thomas reveals his business is with the USA government which makes Alfred assume he is part of the CIA. Thomas denies it but doesn’t reveal anymore what he does for USA government. Esme rejects the job on Alfred behalf as she believes that Alfred will get bigger job offers after he gets his next award from The Queen.
The Queen asks Alfred for only one thing his silence on why he has received his recent award. The Queen appreciates his loyalty as she fears dark times ahead. The Prime Minister looks on as he knows the recent events with the Raven Society will be kept quiet.
Lord Harwood is sent to The Tower of London and shouts “I will be back” as two beefeaters drag him to a cell.
Pennyworth is an extremely promising new show. It’s definitely more adult in the language and violence then Gotham, although Jerome Valeska stapling his face back on was always stomach churning point. I really liked the extra time we got in the episode as it really sets up who everyone is and how they fit into Alfred’s life. So many questions about the Raven Society, will there be an ongoing vendetta between Bet and Esme, when will we find out what Thomas Wayne does for a job?
I score this episode 8/10.
I had a sneaky peak at the titles of the future episodes. Episode 3 is titled Martha Kane, which i am assuming is the future Mrs Wayne. I have always had a feeling if Alfred had a romance with Martha before she married Thomas.
Episode 2 is titled “The Landlords Daughter.” Which will be directed by Danny Cannon.