Now that Gotham has closed up shop, EPIX has taken the reins in telling the backstory of Bruce Wayne’s family tree.
In Pennyworth‘s pilot, “Alfie,” as he’s called by his mates, a former British SAS soldier possibly recovering from PTSD, has started up a security firm, but his friends think he is too “soft-hearted” to run a business. Nevertheless, Bazza (Hainsley Lloyd Bennett) and Dave Boy (Ryan Fletcher) don’t exactly realize what they’ve signed up for when they join him. Part crime story and part spy thriller, these three blokes have uncovered “a storm in a teacup,” which just happens to involve Thomas Wayne and a group of fascists who want to overthrow the government.
Jack Bannon plays a cagey Alfred, who always seems to know more than he’s letting on in every scenario that’s thrown at him. Emma Corwin, as Esme Winikus, is his love interest. And Lord Harwood (Jason Flemyng) is clearly a bad guy, as he wears a fur-lined flowing cape, looking for a “moral rebirth” of the country in the form of a coup d’état… in the name of patriotism, of course.
Filmed with ample hazy hues of gray, London looks great, although the exact timeframe of the series is a little unclear. Through two episodes, a conspiracy is slowly unraveling. After showcasing his qualities, Alfred has turned down Wayne’s multiple offers of employment, but I’m assuming there will still be more to come.
“Some hidden springs are winding; dark wheels are turning.”
Growing up, Batman was my favorite superhero and I devoured the character’s comics. Having a tortured, haunted hero with no superpowers other than being smart, being a great detective and being well trained in a variety of martial arts really interested me. However, I haven’t read a comic book or graphic novel in years, so going into this series, I really didn’t have much knowledge of Batman’s proper butler, other than he was well spoken, had medical training and was a killer neat freak. That’s why seeing him run around, acting like James Bond was somewhat a surprise. I don’t remember anything about the Raven’s Society or the No Name League and I definitely didn’t recall Alfred having a love interest or a family before joining the Wayne family.
So, either I missed a TON of comic canon in almost 20 years (which involved a reboot to practically every primary character in the New 52) or this television series is really creative in building a whole new world around a well-known supporting character. Either way, I’m in for the long haul. Bring on the rest of Season 1, Warner Horizon Television!
Creating origin stories for well-developed characters can sometimes be tough (see the recent backstory of Professor X in Legion) and so far, Pennyworth has felt like a real-world show, although there have been some comic book elements that took me out of the story (like how the wardrobe requirement for being a secret Society bad guy involves wearing matching top hats and overcoats in public, while being shadowy figures in the night for all to see). All of the characters look great, but they speak a variety of British jargon that would be best interpreted with Closed Captions.
Upcoming storylines involve a dominatrix looking for trouble and a criminal conspiracy in the name of honor and justice. But what’s a Batman-inspired TV show to do without a killer “granny” carrying an impossibly huge machine gun appearing in the same episode that the tunes of Amy Winehouse are sung at a topless nightclub, forever enshrined with this character’s mythology?
Now that, really, feels like a storyline appearing on the pages of DC Comics at some point, during the 1980s. And that is definitely an issue I’d be interested in reading, but it’s much better to see and hear it on EPIX.